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Agency eBulletin Special Edition:
2021 GEM Regional Report

This special edition of the Agency eBulletin brings you news of the 2021 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report covering 30 education systems in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was produced collaboratively by the GEM Report at UNESCO, the Agency and the Network of Education Policy Centers (NEPC).

The launch of the 2021 Central and Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia Report on Inclusion and Education

Image: GEM report coverThe 2021 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) regional report for Central and Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia was released on Friday 12 February via a public online event. Over 650 people from over 60 countries followed the live event, which was moderated by Nedim Krajišnik, Deputy Director of the COI Step by Step teacher network in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

The Head of the Department of Education for the Council of Europe, Sjur Bergan, provided a video input to the event. He explained how inclusion goes hand in hand with high-quality education, ensuring that all learners are provided with good opportunities. He also described how inclusion in education is also inclusion through education, as learners who experience inclusion will be more inclusive of others. This will lead to more inclusive societies generally.

Manos Antoninis of the GEM Report team began the presentation of the report findings. He described how the report addresses a central issue in progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 – inclusion in education. The regional reports explore the themes of the main report in more detail in specific geographical areas.

Mr Antoninis, together with Amanda Watkins and Verity Donnelly from the Agency and Lana Jurko of the NEPC, went on to highlight the report's main recommendations.

A question and answer session followed the presentation. In his concluding remarks, Mr Krajišnik emphasised that the report is a call to action, aiming for all education systems across the region to include all learners, collect better data, make public policies more inclusive and share best practice.

The full report and the recording of the launch event are available on the GEM Report website.

Image representing shift towards inclusion
'There is a shift towards more inclusive systems in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.' The new GEM Regional Report on Eurasia shows the share of children with disabilities in special schools fell from 78% in 2006 to 53% in 2016.

Findings from the report

Overall, the report finds that despite progress in education, exclusion persists particularly for learners with disabilities and those belonging to ethnic minorities. Segregation of learners with disabilities was historically considered the best form of action in the region. Efforts are being made to improve education systems, and the report urges governments to move towards inclusive education systems that more effectively meet all learners’ needs.

The analysis is based on in-depth profiles of countries’ education responses to inclusion challenges. It shows that there has been a move towards more inclusive systems in the last 20 years; for example, education access increased and out-of-school rates have fallen by half. But despite progress, there remains a legacy of segregated education and educational opportunities are still unequally distributed. In central and eastern Europe, a third of learners with special educational needs are in special schools. Learners with disabilities are still more likely to be out of school and excluded from mainstream education. Gender discrimination is also common, if not rising.

The report also warns that the onset of COVID-19 will set back moves towards inclusion in the region, due to school closures and the challenges of online learning. It asserts the need for psycho-social support for learners in general, but particularly during COVID-19 school closures.

Despite the challenges, Agency Director Cor J.W. Meijer points out: ‘All countries are on the journey towards more inclusive education systems. The regional report shows how different countries approach and implement policy developments around inclusion in education and offers an important source of inspiration for informing the necessary changes in thinking and action in order to move towards more inclusive education systems.’

10 key recommendations from the report

Image: barriers between learners
  1. Widen the understanding of inclusive education: It should include all learners – and all means all.
  2. Put students at the centre: Inclusion is not just a result; it is first and foremost a process and an experience.
  3. Engage in meaningful consultation with communities and parents: Inclusion cannot be enforced from above.
  4. Make space for non-government actors to challenge and fill gaps: Ensure that they work towards the same inclusion goal.
  5. Ensure co-operation across government departments, sectors and tiers: Inclusion in education is but a sub-set of social inclusion.
  6. Share expertise and resources: This is the only way to sustain a transition to inclusion.
  7. Apply universal design: Ensure that inclusive systems fulfil every learner’s potential.
  8. Prepare, empower and motivate teachers and support personnel: They should all be prepared to teach all students.
  9. Collect data on and for inclusion with attention and respect: Avoid labelling that stigmatises.
  10. Learn from peers: A shift to inclusion is not easy.

Events related to the report

To mark Zero Discrimination Day on 1 March 2021, the GEM Report team, the Global Student Forum, the European Students Union and the Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions convened an interactive webinar on the findings and recommendations from the report. The event focused on the activities of young people across the region advocating to protect the rights of every child, including their right to go to school and learn regardless of who they are and where they live. 

The event also produced a youth statement to national policy-makers, describing how young people could be more involved in designing and implementing inclusive education policies. You can download the youth statement on our news page and find out more about the event on the GEM Report blog.

The Agency’s upcoming bi-annual meeting on 26 May will also include a presentation of the findings and recommendations from the GEM regional report. GEM Report Director Manos Antoninis and Executive Director of NEPC, Lana Jurko will join the Agency to discuss the report with our 35 member countries and jurisdictions.

For more details, visit the GEM Report events page.

Download the full report on the GEM Report website
#AllMeansALL: Voices from Central and Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia
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