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The five common myths about #InclusiveEducation



Education can provide opportunities for individuals to learn and realise their potential, giving them the tools to fully participate in all aspects of life – economic, social, political and cultural. But such opportunities are not guaranteed for everyone, and unfortunately, this disparity in education is prevalent even from the early years of life, write Susie Lee and Axelle Devaux.Rising levels of social inequality and diversity in Europe have made social inclusion a priority for the European Union. However, it remains a challenge to ensure access to quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) for all children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

RAND Europe’s new policy memo for the European Platform for Investing in Children, provides a context for understanding what inclusion means in education and why it matters from early on.

UNESCO defines inclusive education as a process that helps overcome barriers limiting the presence, participation and achievement of learners. There are a number of misconceptions, or myths, about inclusive education, which continue to hamper the discussion and implementation of inclusive practices in education. However, arguments for inclusive education are well established and deeply rooted in the notions of equity and human rights.

Myth 1: Inclusion (only) concerns learners with disabilities

Discrimination in education based on a child’s disability has been a key issue addressed by inclusive education. However, over time, the issue has been expanded to include discrimination based on multiple factors, such as racial/ethnic identity, gender, sexual orientation, social class or religious/cultural/linguistic association. Inclusive education does not set boundaries around particular kinds of ‘needs’ – rather, it is viewed as a process to reduce barriers to learning and to ensure the right to education for all, regardless of individual differences.

Myth 2: Quality inclusive education is expensive

In fact, there is evidence that the instructional cost of inclusive education is lower compared to that of segregated education. And adapting schools and systems for inclusive education does not have to use a lot of resources. Rather, an inclusive environment can be cultivated by redesigning training and practices, such as by including cultural competence in staff training or creating an ECEC setting that reflects the diverse needs of children.

Furthermore, according to evidence from low- and middle-income countries, including children with disabilities in schools leads to significant national economic gains, provided that inclusion is continued beyond school to post-school activities, such as higher education, vocational training and work.

Myth 3: Inclusion jeopardizes quality of education for other students

Research suggests there are benefits of inclusive education for all students, in terms of academic, behavioural and social, and post-secondary and employment opportunities. A recent meta-analysis, based on studies from North American and European countries, shows that students without special educational needs achieve higher academic attainments when they are in inclusive classrooms.

More similar research on inclusive ECEC could be needed to directly assess its effectiveness, not only in later academic achievements, but also for well-being and social relations with peers and teachers. Nonetheless,  research  has shown that inclusive ECEC services could be of higher global quality than non-inclusive services. This evidence, together with evaluation on case studies, suggests a close association between inclusion and aspects of quality that promote positive outcomes for all children.

Myth 4: Inclusive education will make special educators redundant.

Successful inclusive education relies on specialist teachers working with class teachers in an integrated way. We actually need more special educators than ever to implement inclusive education. In the United States, for example, overall employment of special education teachers is projected to grow by 3% from 2018 to 2028. 

Myth 5: Only schools are responsible for inclusion

Inclusive education is not without its challenges, as it involves changes in attitude and efforts from society. However, the challenge is less about defending the need to accommodate learner differences, and more about sharing a vision for inclusive education. For example, case studies on schools show that the commitment, agency, and a belief in collective efficacy (‘we can do it’) by school members, and society, are pivotal in successful implementation of inclusion in schools.

Inclusion in education is an ongoing process to remove the barriers that prevent some learners from participating in quality education. Giving more attention and support to current efforts to make learning more inclusive from early ages could help to dismantle those barriers. Quality early childhood care and education may be the critical step towards building a more cohesive and inclusive European society.

Susie Lee is a former analyst and Axelle Devaux a research leader in the Home Affairs and Social Policies research group at RAND Europe, which is conducting research for the European Platform for Investing in Children (EPIC).

This analysis represents the views of the author. It is part of a wide range of varying opinions published by but not endorsed by EU Reporter.


The future of Erasmus+: More opportunities



From a bigger budget to more opportunities for disadvantaged people, discover the new Erasmus+ programme.

Parliament adopted the Erasmus+ programme for 2021-2027 on 18 May. Erasmus+ is a flagship EU programme that has proven successful in creating opportunities for young people and increasing their chances of finding a job.

MEPs negotiated an additional €1.7 billion for the programme, helping to almost double the budget from the 2014-2020 period. This should enable about 10 million people to participate in activities abroad over the next seven years, including students, professors, teachers and trainers in all sectors.

The centres of vocational excellence, which were proposed by MEPs, are now part of the new Erasmus+. These international centres provide quality vocational training so that people can develop useful skills in key sectors.

A priority of the Parliament, the programme is now more accessible and more inclusive. This means more people who are disadvantaged can participate and benefit from language training, administrative support, mobility or e-learning opportunities.

In line with EU priorities, Erasmus+ will focus on the digital and green transitions and promote a healthy lifestyle as well as lifelong learning for adults.

What is Erasmus+?

Erasmus+ is an EU programme supporting opportunities for education, training, young people and sport in Europe. It started as a student exchange programme in 1987, but since 2014 it also offers opportunities for teachers, trainees and volunteers of all ages.

More than nine million people have taken part in the Erasmus+ programme over the last 30 years and nearly 940,000 people benefited from the programme in 2019 alone. The programme currently covers 33 countries (all 27 EU countries as well as Turkey, North Macedonia, Serbia, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and is open to partner countries across the world.

According to the European Commission, a third of Erasmus+ trainees are offered a position by the company they trained in. In addition, the unemployment rate of young people who studied or trained abroad is 23% lower than that of their non-mobile peers five years after graduation.

How to apply

Erasmus+ has opportunities for people as well as organizations from all over the world.

The application procedure and the preparation can differ depending on what part of the programme you apply for. Discover more information about it here.

Erasmus+ 2021-2027 


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Germany's lengthy pandemic school closures hit migrant pupils hardest




A foreign language children's book is pictured in the hands of Social worker Noor Zayed of the Stadtteilmuetter migrant integration project run by Protestant charity Diakonie in Berlin's district of Neukoelln, Germany May 4, 2021. Picture taken May 4, 2021.  REUTERS/Annegret Hilse
Social worker Noor Zayed of the Stadtteilmuetter migrant integration project run by Protestant charity Diakonie speaks to Um Wajih, a Syrian mother of two children, in Berlin's district of Neukoelln, Germany May 4, 2021. Picture taken May 4, 2021.  REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

When a teacher told Syrian mother Um Wajih that her 9-year-old son's German had deteriorated during his Berlin school's six-week shutdown, she was saddened but not surprised, writes Joseph Nasr.

"Wajih had picked up German fast, and we were very proud of him," said the 25-year-old mother of two.

"I knew that without practice he would forget what he had learned but I couldn't help him."

Her son now faces another year in a 'welcome class' for migrant children until his German is good enough to join native peers at a school in Berlin's poor neighbourhood of Neukoelln.

School closures - which in Germany have amounted to around 30 weeks since March last year compared to just 11 in France - have further widened the educational gap between migrant and native pupils in Germany, amongst the highest in the industrialised world.

Even before the pandemic the drop-out rate among migrants stood at 18.2%, almost three times the national average.

Closing that gap is crucial, otherwise it risks derailing Germany's efforts to integrate more than two million people who applied for asylum in the past seven years, mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, experts say.

German language skills and maintaining them - are critical.

"The biggest impact of the pandemic on integration is the sudden lack of contact with Germans," said Thomas Liebig of the OECD, a Paris-based grouping of industrialised countries. "Most migrant children don't speak German at home so contact with natives is crucial."

More than 50% of pupils born in Germany to migrant parents don't speak German at home, the highest rate in the 37-member OECD and compared with 35% in France. The figure rises to 85% among pupils not born in Germany.

Migrant parents who may lack academic and German language skills have sometimes struggled to help children with home schooling and to catch up on lost learning. They have also had to contend with more frequent school closures as they often live in poorer areas with higher COVID-19 infection rates.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government and the leaders of Germany's 16 states, which run local education policy, chose to close schools during each of the three coronavirus waves while keeping factories open to protect the economy.

"The pandemic amplified migrants' problems," said Muna Naddaf, who leads an advice project for migrant mothers run by the Evangelical Church's charitable arm Diakonie in Neukoelln.

"They suddenly had to deal with more bureaucracy like administering coronavirus tests on their child or arranging a vaccination appointment. There is a lot of confusion. We've had people ask us if it is true that drinking fresh ginger tea protects against the virus and if vaccination causes infertility."

Naddaf connected Um Wajih with Noor Zayed, an Arab-German mother and mentor, who advised her on how to keep her son and daughter active and stimulated during lockdowns.

Long-running flaws in Germany's education system like weak digital infrastructure that hampered online teaching and short school days which left parents having to pick up the slack, compounded the problems for migrants.


Only 45% of the 40,000 schools in Germany had fast internet before the pandemic, according to the Teachers Union, and schools are open until 1.30 pm compared with at least until 3.30 pm in France.

Schools in poorer neighbourhoods more likely lacked digital infrastructure and parents couldn't afford laptops or after-school care.

Between 2000 and 2013 Germany had managed to halve migrant school dropouts to about 10% by boosting language assistance in nurseries and schools. But drop-outs have crept up in recent years as more pupils from countries with lower educational standards like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sudan joined German classrooms.

The Teachers Union says that 20% of the 10.9 million pupils in Germany need additional tutoring to successfully complete this school year and the total number of drop-outs is expected to double to more than 100,000.

"The educational gap between migrants and natives will grow," said Prof. Axel Pluennecke of the Cologne Institute for Economic Research. "We are going to need massive investments in education after the pandemic, including targeted tutoring, to avoid a lost generation of pupils."

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Education: Commission launches expert group to step up investment in education in times of COVID-19



The expert group on quality in investment in education and training launched by Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel in February 2021 has met for the first time. The 15 experts, selected from almost 200 applicants, will identify policies that can effectively boost education and training outcomes as well as inclusiveness and efficiency of spending. Gabriel said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how critical teachers, schools and universities are to our society. Today, we have the chance of rethinking the EU's education and training sector, and put it back at the core of our economies and societies. Therefore, we need clarity and solid evidence on how to best invest in education. I am confident that this expert group will help the Commission and the member states to build stronger, more resilient and more equitable education and training systems than before.”

The group will focus on the quality of teachers and trainers, education infrastructure and digital education. Their evidence-based evaluation will help the Commission and member states to find innovative, smart solutions to current educational challenges. This work is key to achieve a sustainable recovery and complete the transition towards a green and digital Europe. The expert group was set out in the Communication on Achieving the European Education Area by 2025 to maintain focus on national and regional investment and improve their effectiveness. It will present an interim report at the end of 2021 and a final report at the end of 2022. More information is available online.

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