In the last week of June, Gordon Brown spoke at the launch of the 2020 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report which has the theme of Inclusion and Education. In leading the launch with #AllMeansAll Gordon stated “Never was the theme inclusion for all more important. We need a campaign to save our future built around this report. We have to hold to the dream that in the next 10 years that every single child in the world has the chance of an education. We have to develop all of the potential of all of our children.”
Include all learners
The importance of inclusive education is shared by the SEAS and we continue to promote inclusive education across Scotland. The GEM Report includes its easy read version as well as a series of short videos and cartoons. You also have the chance to vote for your own personal choice of key message in a poll on the Report. Last checked over a third of respondents selected the statement “Widen the understanding of inclusive education: it should include all learners, no matter their identity, background or ability”.
The Report is well worth reading. It opens in its introduction with the challenging statement, particularly in the UK setting.
“It notes that debating the benefits of inclusive education can be seen as tantamount to debating the benefits of the abolition of slavery, or indeed of apartheid.”
In Scotland we have had three debates in the Scottish Parliament in the last three years. The debates about mainstreaming have tended not to be framed in terms of the abolition of slavery or the separate development aspects of apartheid!
Layers of exclusion
Emboldened and challenging statements do not just stop there. Inclusive education is placed within the struggle to tackle all inequalities
“All over the world, discrimination is based on gender, remoteness, wealth, disability, ethnicity, language, migration, displacement, incarceration, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion and other beliefs and attitudes; the Covid-19 pandemic has added new layers of exclusion.”
The Report considers that funding for inclusion has been inadequate
“Equity and inclusion will not be achieved without adequate funding reaching schools and students according to need.”
Challenges in bring about inclusive education
As UNESCO says the gem Report highlights the challenges in bringing about inclusion, many of which still continue to apply to Scotland.
“These include differing understandings of the word inclusion, lack of teacher support, absence of data on those excluded from education, inappropriate infrastructure, persistence of parallel systems and special schools, lack of political will and community support, untargeted finance, uncoordinated governance, multiple but inconsistent laws, and policies that are not being followed through.”
Scottish Labour’s response
In the Scottish Labour Party’s Education draft policy paper some, but not all , of the themes from the GEM Report can be found. The Policy Forum on education proposes
“We see the need for our schools to work in collaboration with their community to achieve better outcomes for our children and contribute towards achieving a more socially just and inclusive society in Scotland.”; and
“We will require every school to publish an annual plan to improve inclusive practices so that no child misses out. The Scottish Government and each education authority should have an inclusion strategy in line with the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy.” and in terms of an inclusive curricula
“We will ensure a zero-tolerance approach to violence, bullying and discrimination based on sexuality and gender in Scottish society. Labour supports the aims of the TIE campaign to develop LGBTI inclusive education in Scotland’s schools”
Scotland’s approach to LGBTI inclusive education within the curriculum is one of the few mentions of Scottish education within the GEM Report (p136). That lack of attention to Scotland and its self-proclaimed inclusiveness should lead some to question just how inclusive we are as a nation in terms of equity and inclusion.
Embedding equality education in curriculum, textbooks and teaching
At the recent Scottish Labour Party #After The Lockdown event on 29th June the SEAS emphasised the importance of embedding equality education throughout the curriculum. Barrington Reeves #BlackLivesMatter thought it essential that at the core the curriculum we should be
“teaching about anti-racism. I think that is something we need to actually teach to future generations… this country will only be stronger if we are all united and understand each other”
The GEM report devotes a chapter to curriculum, textbooks and assessment and their view of embedding equality education. This involves children and young people having an inclusive learning experience which requires an inclusive curriculum, textbooks and assessment practices. Barrington’s words were matched by the GEM report
“Curricula exclude when they do not cater to learners’ diverse needs and do not respect human and citizenship rights.”
The GEM report considered three concepts in the curriculum chapter that places inclusion as an exercise in democracy.
First, there are political tensions regarding the kind of society people aspire to achieve through education, for inclusion is an exercise in democracy. Second, there are practical challenges in ensuring flexibility in order to serve diverse contexts and needs without segregating learners. Third, there are technical challenges in ensuring that the curriculum serves equity by being relevant and in creating bridges that do not cut off some learners.
Call to Action
SEAS encourages you to read the Report and consider are we going to continue debating inclusion in Scotland or are going follow the report’s call to action
“Inclusion is not just a choice for policymakers. Imposed from above it will never work. So, the question you, as readers, are asked in the report is whether you are ready to challenge the current mindset and ready to decide that education is for everyone and must strive to be inclusive of all.”