The 2021 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) regional report for Central and Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia launched online on Friday 12 February. The report, which continues the theme of the main 2020 GEM Report on Inclusion and education: All means all, is the result of a collaboration between UNESCO’s GEM Report team, the Network of Education Policy Centres (NEPC) and the Agency.
The report outlines the progress made towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4, based on evidence gathered from across the region. It highlights many positive steps made by countries in the region towards inclusion such as the out-of-school rates, which have fallen by half in the last 20 years. Most of the region’s education systems now include multiple marginalised groups in their definitions of inclusion, and school support systems are much wider and more flexible.
However, the report also indicates that there is still a way to go to achieve SDG 4 across the region. Many learners with special educational needs in the region are still placed in special schools, and many from minority or lower socio-economic groups do not complete secondary education. There is also evidence of some countries reinforcing gender stereotypes and failing to stamp out bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The report urges countries to further strengthen their inclusive education policy, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is widening gaps in equality and creating new ones. It uses the evidence in the report to develop ten key recommendations aimed at policy‑makers and other education stakeholders, to aid them in improving their education systems for inclusion. The recommendations are:
- Widen the understanding of inclusive education: It should include all leaners – and all means all.
- Put students at the centre: Inclusion is not just a result; it is first and foremost a process and an experience.
- Engage in meaningful consultation with communities and parents: Inclusion cannot be enforced from above.
- Make space for non-government actors to challenge and fill gaps: Ensure that they work towards the same inclusion goal.
- Ensure co-operation across government departments, sectors and tiers: Inclusion in education is but a sub-set of social inclusion.
- Share expertise and resources: This is the only way to sustain a transition to inclusion.
- Apply universal design: Ensure that inclusive systems fulfil every learner’s potential.
- Prepare, empower and motivate teachers and support personnel: They should all be prepared to teach all students.
- Collect data on and for inclusion with attention and respect: Avoid labelling that stigmatises.
- Learn from peers: A shift to inclusion is not easy.