Applying universal design to education policy and practice: NEPC and ARISE summer school conference

A recent Agency conference presentation outlined how the principles of universal design can be applied to policy and practice in teaching and learning.

The conference was part of the Summer School organised by the Network of Education Policy Centers (NEPC) and Action for Reducing Inequalities in Education (ARISE). It was funded by the European Union. The conference theme was ‘Bridging the Equity Gap in Education’. It aimed to inform participants about ARISE’s school development programme and help them to take part in the policy-making process.

The Agency was invited to present the principles of universal design and how they can be used in schools and in policy-making. Agency representative Diana Murdoch provided an overview of Agency work and described the history of universal design, which started as an architectural concept. The aim was to design buildings with a vision of how they would be used by all possible future users, without any need for adaptations.

She went on to describe how universal design has been adapted to a vision of a unified education system. In this system, policy impacts all levels and sectors and includes all stakeholders, from national levels to families and communities. All stakeholders work collaboratively towards a common purpose and learners’ needs are anticipated and incorporated in the design of education systems.

Ms Murdoch concluded her presentation with three key messages related to universal design in education:

  • Universal design of a unified education system can enable the hope of education for all to become a reality at all levels and for all learners.
  • Policy-makers and leaders at all levels must be dedicated and positive to this approach. They must support all sectors as they work collaboratively with all stakeholders towards the same goal.
  • Schools and teachers need appropriate training, support and time to develop the knowledge, skills and strategies to design and deliver teaching and learning for all learners. They must understand that diversity is a strength and a norm of human life.

For more information on the conference, visit the ARISE event webpage.

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