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The five common myths about #InclusiveEducation

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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.

Adult learning

#Coronavirus - British universities should not reopen in September, says union

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British universities should scrap plans to reopen in September to prevent travelling students from fuelling the country’s coronavirus pandemic, a union said, calling for courses to be taught online. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has come under fire over its moves to restart education, especially after a row over exam results for school students and a failed attempt to bring all pupils back to their classes earlier this year, writes Elizabeth Piper.

Johnson has been calling on Britons to return to something more akin to normality after the coronavirus lockdown, calling on workers to return to offices to help the economy recover from a 20% contraction in the April-June period.

But the University and College Union (UCU) said it was too early to send students back to universities, warning they could be blamed if cases of COVID-19 increased. “Moving a million plus students around the country is a recipe for disaster and risks leaving ill-prepared universities as the care homes of a second wave,” UCU general secretary Jo Grady said in a statement. “It is time for the government to finally take some decisive and responsible action in this crisis and tell universities to abandon plans for face-to-face teaching,” she said, urging the government to move all teaching online for the first term.

Stephen Barclay, chief secretary to the Treasury (finance ministry), said he did not agree with the argument. “I think universities like the rest of the economy need to come back and students need to be able to do so,” he told Times Radio. Several universities say they are ready to reopen next month after weeks of preparation and some students say they have already spent money on such things as housing in preparation for the new term.

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#Coronavirus - #Erasmus+ mobilized for a strong response to the pandemic

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The Commission has adopted a revision of the Erasmus+ 2020 Annual Work Programme, providing an additional €200 million to boost digital education and training and promote skills development and inclusion through creativity and the arts. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disruptive impact on education and training, with new ways of teaching and learning requiring innovative, creative and inclusive solutions.

Promoting the European Way of Life Vice President Margaritis Schinas said: “The European Education Area needs to foster digital education and skills to mitigate disruptions caused by the pandemic and to support Europe's role in the digital transition. The Commission will publish extraordinary Erasmus+ calls of €200 million that will offer more opportunities to learn, teach and share in the digital era. Effective, innovative and inclusive solutions to improve digital education and skills do exist and will benefit from European support.”

Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said: “I am delighted that the Erasmus+ programme is being mobilised to support key actors in education, training and youth in these challenging times. €200 million will be available to support digital education and training, digital youth work, but also creative skills and social inclusion. It is an important step, paving the way for the Digital Education Action Plan, which the Commission will launch this autumn.”

The Erasmus+ programme will support projects to enhance digital teaching, learning and assessment in schools, higher education and vocational training. It will also provide opportunities for schools, youth organisations and adult learning institutions to support skills development, to boost creativity and to enhance social inclusion through the arts, together with the cultural and creative sectors. Calls for proposals for projects in these areas will be published in the coming weeks. Interested organisations should get in touch with their Erasmus+ National Agency

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#Scotland axes downgraded exam grades in prelude to possible UK problems

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Scottish students will have downgraded examination results used to secure university places raised back to original levels set by teachers, as Edinburgh faces anger at a problem caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which could also play out in England. With almost no examinations taking place, teachers graded pupils in key subjects and the marks were then moderated by examination boards. To the dismay of pupils and parents, 75,000 young people saw their grades revised down, writes Costas Pitas.

Similar issues could begin to emerge on Thursday (13 August) when students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive their A level results, on which many university places are based. “All downgraded awards will be withdrawn,” said Scotland’s education minister John Swinney. “In exceptional times, truly difficult decisions have to be made. It is deeply regrettable that we got this wrong and I am sorry for that.”

While England and Scotland operate different systems, both saw schools shut for most pupils from March, forcing the cancellation of many examinations and prompting special procedures to be implemented. The regulator in England, Ofqual, has said it will weigh up a number of factors as it issues marks later this week, including ensuring that the grades allow pupils to fairly compete with previous and future cohorts.

“We have put in place special arrangements for this summer to make sure that the vast majority of students will receive calculated grades, so they can progress to further study or employment as expected,” it said in late July.

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