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Uniting partners for inclusive education

Exploring collaboration in inclusive education in CEE/CIS

Geneva, Switzerland
11-12 May 2010

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:
• An exchange of current research, activities and plans;
• An exploration of different approaches to inclusive education in the region; and
• Discussions about opportunities and gaps for future action, and the potential next steps for building stronger partnerships in inclusive education.

The meeting focused on seven major themes: 

1. Current Status of Inclusive Education in CEE/CIS

This session provided a synthesis of the major trends in the region based on the outcomes of a survey conducted in the fall of 2009 of UNICEF Education and Child Protection Specialists. The session resulted in consensus around a list of components identified as the most important for improving inclusive education in the region. Participants emphasized the particular importance of prioritizing two of the components - dismantling defectology attitudes and clarifying conflicting definitions within IE.

Presentation: ‘Overview of the Regional Inclusive Education Situation Analysis’, UNICEF CEE/CIS Education Regional Office, Hannah Page and Erin Tanner

2. The Role of Research and Policy in the Region

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
• 'Supporting the development of inclusive education through participatory action research’ Enabling Education Network, Ingrid Lewis (unable to attend due to volcano)
• ‘From Advocacy to Policy Development: Focusing on the Integration and Inclusion of Children with SEN’, UNICEF Romania, Eugen Crai
• ‘Education for Children with Disabilities in Russia: Opportunities and Challenges’, UNICEF Russia, Olga Remenets

3. Providing Support for Early Learners

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:

• ‘Strategic OSI Early Childhood Interventions in the CEE/CIS Region’, Open Society Institute, London, UK, Divya Lata
• ‘Open Society and Children with Special Education Needs’, Open Society Foundation, Krygyzstan, Kate Lapham

4. Linking Deinstitutionalization with Inclusive Education

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
• ‘Armenia: Focus on Deinstitutionalization’, UNICEF Armenia, Alvard Poghosyan

5. Models of Collaboration

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
• ‘Bridge of Hope: Establishing National Partnerships’, Bridge of Hope Armenia, Susanna Tadevsyon
• ‘Save the Children – Inclusive Education in Albania’, Save the Children Albania, Rodika Goci
• ‘Partner Collaboration with International Partners in Romania’, RENINCO, Adina Vrasmas

6. Partnerships: Mobilizing Civil Society, CBOs, and National Partners

Perspektiva, based in the Russian Federation, is recognized as a model organization in disability advocacy, specifically in developing positive attitudes about disability. In this presentation, they focused on awareness campaigns, teacher training campaigns, parent participation, public education campaigns, and building a national advocacy coalition. They also use film as an advocacy tool, as a method of capturing the lives and experiences of children with disability.

Presentation: 'IE Projects on the Ground and Partner Collaboration’, Perspektiva, Regional Society for Disabled People, Denise Roza, Director; Maria Perfilyeva, Sergey Prushinsky

7. The Way Forward in Collaboration

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. 








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