According to UNESCO, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to school closures in more than 190 countries, affecting the schooling of nearly 1.6 billion learners. The ongoing crisis should not make us forget the girls and boys who were out of school due to poverty, gender, ethnicity or other reasons, even before COVID-19 disrupted access to education. Education stakeholders must continue to mobilize for inclusive education that meets the needs of all, so that millions of children and young people are no longer left behind, without prospects for a better life.
The concept of inclusive education draws attention to groups most likely to be excluded from education or training, such as girls, children with disabilities, refugees and IDPs, children affected by conflicts, and children from families affected by poverty or from ethnic or religious minorities. Exclusion from education reflects social inequalities and is context-specific.
The 2020 UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report will be launched in Switzerland on 30 June 2020, with the participation of the Director of the Report and a panel of experts (see box below). The report analyses the barriers to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education (ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all and promote lifelong learning). It also provides concrete examples of public policies that have successfully addressed these challenges.
Inclusion and equity in education: an SDC engagement priority
Basic education is a fundamental human right. For SDC, promoting education is a way to improve inclusion and social cohesion, economic empowerment and resilience, while strengthening sustainable development.
In many countries where SDC operates, certain segments of the population face sometimes considerable obstacles in gaining access to basic education and training. SDC is working to prevent discrimination against vulnerable groups and to improve inclusion and equity in education. Around 80% of Roma in Europe live below the poverty line, have a lower life expectancy and experience discrimination and social exclusion on a daily basis. With Switzerland's support, 4,335 Roma children, including 2,147 girls, were able to go to school in 2019. Tutoring and mentoring enabled 1,106 schoolchildren to do better at school, avoiding dropping out of primary school and allowing transition to secondary school with better job prospects. In the Gaza Strip, an SDC-supported project gives 320 children and young people with Down's syndrome and autism access to basic education and vocational skills development adapted to their specific needs. This project empowers young people and help them transition from beneficiaries and promotes their social inclusion and economic integration.
Education offers prospects for the future throughout life. It enables gender equality and equal participation in society and the economy. Today, many girls and boys are deprived of their right to quality education. The Global Education Monitoring Report calls on all stakeholders to rethink their education systems in order to include all children and young people regardless of their identity, background, gender or ability. This is a particularly important message, as governments rebuild their school systems following the upheaval of the COVID-19 crisis.