The Agency has taken part in a conference on Inclusion and Equity in Education, organised by the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU). The event aimed to promote discussion on the right to quality inclusive and equitable education for all learners within the EU. It took place online on 19 April 2021.
Following a welcome from the Portuguese Presidency, the European Commission presented the European Toolkit for Schools and the Erasmus+ Programme for 2021–2027. Reflecting the importance of learners’ and teachers’ active participation in inclusive education, learners were invited to discuss strengthening democracy for young people, while head teachers considered school governance towards inclusion in education.
Later sessions focused on the Commission’s Technical Support Instrument (TSI), formerly the Structural Reform Support Programme. The Commission’s Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support (DG REFORM) manages the TSI. Raluca Painter from DG REFORM provided an overview of the TSI, which is currently supporting 60 education projects. Over 10% of these are working to make countries’ education systems more inclusive.
The Agency provides technical support for several TSI activities and was invited to deliver a keynote speech on monitoring inclusive education. Agency representative Victoria Soriano outlined the Agency’s work with DG REFORM to date, which includes supporting five countries to make changes to their education systems. She explained how the TSI activities provide ministries with a unique chance to prepare reforms and make changes to systems with support from DG REFORM and the Agency. For example, the Portuguese Ministry of Education requested TSI support to build a system to monitor the implementation of a new law on inclusive education. Monitoring involves all stakeholders, from ministry representatives, schools and teachers, to learners and their families. It is essential to understand the impact of changes on all stakeholders to determine how successful the reforms are. These insights enable the successful design and implementation of more inclusive education systems.
Ms Soriano’s speech was followed by a round table discussion between representatives from the ministries of education in Cyprus, Greece, Poland and Portugal, all of whom are currently undertaking activities with DG REFORM and the Agency. They acknowledged the challenges of the reform process, but highlighted the benefits of working with experts from organisations like DG REFORM and the Agency. They agreed that peer learning and learning from other countries’ experiences have helped their own countries in the change process. Ultimately, the representatives all stressed how increasing inclusion is enriching their education systems, with more diversity in their classrooms.
Details of the conference are available on the Portuguese Presidency events page. The TSI website provides more information about the programme and support available. More details of the Agency’s work with country ministries and DG REFORM can be found on the news pages.