Uniting partners for inclusive education
Exploring collaboration in inclusive education in CEE/CIS
Children with disabilities continue to be excluded from mainstream education across the region, where children with disabilities are commonly labelled as ‘uneducable’. The UNICEF Regional Office for CEE/CIS organised a roundtable meeting that brought regional partners together to discuss these challenges and others in inclusive education. Exploring Collaboration in Inclusive Education in CEE/CIS brought together nine organizations working in inclusive education from across the region and provided an opportunity for partners to informally exchange ideas and resources on inclusive education, to discuss the priorities for improving inclusive education in the region and to brainstorm potential next steps with a focus on collaboration. The meeting was held in Geneva from the 11-12 of May 2010.
The goals of the meeting were to strengthen communication and collaboration between regional partners working towards inclusive education through:
The meeting focused on seven major themes:
Presentation: ‘Overview of the Regional Inclusive Education Situation Analysis’, UNICEF CEE/CIS Education Regional Office, Hannah Page and Erin Tanner
Inclusive education must be informed by quality research and data, which can then be translated into sound policy. However, there is a severe shortage of quality data collection and existing research is often difficult to detangle because of conflicting definitions of disability and different terminology. During the session, Open University presented recent academic research in the region, followed by a discussion about current gaps in both research and policy. Participants emphasized that research must encourage the active participation of families, communities, and schools in inclusive research. This was followed by presentations of successes and challenges in policy in Russia and Romania.
• ‘Inclusion or Illusion? Inclusive Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Bulgaria’, Open University, UK, Monica Dowling and Majda Becirevic
Early assessment commissions in the region continue to direct young children to segregated education settings. Open Society Institute has four major inclusive education initiatives in the region; representatives of the Early Childhood Programme and the Education Support Programme provided an overview of their initiatives in the region:
Segregated educational settings continue to operate across CEE/CIS, including residential institutions, which became a recurring theme throughout the meeting. While very little reliable data exists about the number and rate of children institutionalized, it appears that the rate has increased in the last decade. Based on a presentation on the Armenian experience and a presentation on appoaches to child protection in the region, specific recommendations were discussed on how to best facilitate deinstitutionalization. The film, Including Samuel, was also shown as a model advocacy tool for the region.
• ‘Children with Disabilities and Childcare Reform’, UNICEF CEE/CIS Child Protection, Jean-Claude Legrand
The ultimate goal of this meeting was to better understand potential methods of collaboration on challenges of inclusive education throughout the region. Several partners presented how they have specifically built partnerships and networks with their own organizations and what has come out of those networks. For example, ISSA partnered with its members and other organizations to create an online regional database of early childhood resources. The following four presentations offered key insights into developing partnerships in four diverse contexts in the region:
• ‘Partnerships: Key Factor in Inclusive Education – Experiences from the ISSA Network’, International Step by Step Association, Liana Ghent, Natalia Sofiy
Presentation: 'IE Projects on the Ground and Partner Collaboration’, Perspektiva, Regional Society for Disabled People, Denise Roza, Director; Maria Perfilyeva, Sergey Prushinsky
To close the meeting, a working session was held to brainstorm about regional collaboration in inclusive education. Each group was asked: 1) What do you see as challenges in developing partnerships on inclusive education in the region? 2) What are the priority areas that should be addressed? 3) What are the next steps? The key challenges in collaboration included inter-agency organization and coordination between partners. Priority areas included negative societal attitudes, deinstitutionalization, and lack of comprehensive services for children and schools. In terms of next steps, all groups mentioned the need for regular regional network meetings to more effectively communicate between partners. Also, the need for an online database of resources specific to inclusive education would support inclusive education, improved data collection and sharing.