1st International Conference on Inclusive Education and Children’s Rights, co-organized by UNICEF, the Ministry of Education and the Institute for Education Policy

On April 11-12 in Athens, government officials, academics, experts and policy makers discussed challenges, good practices, current trends and reform efforts to strengthen inclusive education

15 April 2024
Κυβερνητικά στελέχη, ακαδημαϊκοί, εμπειρογνώμονες και υπεύθυνοι χάραξης πολιτικής συζήτησαν προκλήσεις, καλές πρακτικές, σύγχρονες τάσεις και τις προσπάθειες μεταρρυθμίσεων για την ενίσχυση της συμπεριληπτικής εκπαίδευσης στις 11-12 Απριλίου στην Αθήνα.
UNICEF/Greece/Mpaltas

ATHENS, 15 April 2024 - With 98 speakers  from 12 countries and over 200 in person participants , the two-day International Conference on Inclusive Education and Children’s Rights, organized by UNICEF’s Country Office in Greece, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Religious Affairs and Sports and the Institute of Education Policy, was successfully concluded on 12 April, in Athens, Greece. The conference covered a variety of topics, such as current policies and reforms on inclusive education, formal and non-formal quality education, professional development for teachers, as well as the role of schools and Child Right Centres in partnership with universities in promoting inclusive education.[GK1]

Participants took stock of the international and Greek experience in developing and implementing inclusive education reforms and programmes, documenting emerging trends, models, obstacles and best practices, aiming to shape a holistic and inclusive education system that ensures quality education for every child in and out of school.

The conference was addressed by high level representatives of the Greek government, including Head of the Directorate of Special Education Ioannis Bousdounis who gave a welcome remark on the part of the Deputy Minister of Education Zetta Makri,  Secretary General of Primary, Secondary Education and Special Education and Training of the Ministry of Education, Religious Affairs and Sports, Ioannis Katsaros, Deputy Minister of Migration and Asylum Sofia Voultepsi, the Vice President of the Institute of Education Policy (IEP) Konstantinos Lolitsas,  UNICEF Representative in Greece Ghassan Khalil, and Monica Ekström, Policy Officer with the Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs of the European Union (DG HOME) in Athens.

UNICEF’s Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, Regina De Dominicis, also addressed the conference via a video message.

On the part of the Ministry of Education, Religious Affairs and Sports, the Head of the Directorate of Special Education Ioannis Bousdounis conveyed on behalf of the Deputy Minister of Education Zetta Makri, competent for primary, secondary education and special education, the following statement:

"Under the title "Let's learn together", the International Conference dedicated to Inclusive Education and the Rights of the Child, sets the tone which we ought to encourage and the possibilities we ought to consolidate in the field of inclusive education.

The co-organization of the Ministry of Education, Religious Affairs and Sports, the Institute of Education Policy and the UNICEF Greece Country Office, comes to join forces and guarantee our commitment to the full inclusion and accessibility of all students to quality inclusive education services, without discrimination and exceptions. As Deputy Minister of Education, responsible for primary, secondary and special education, I share with you the responsibility and vision for an educational framework that will ensure, safeguard and strengthen inclusive education in our country through meaningful reforms and global orientation."

Inclusive Education is one of the cornerstones of the Child Rights agenda, as stipulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and it should be at the heart of policy planning in every country. This pioneering conference with experts from around the world, sets a strong foundation for innovative opportunities that can be applied in Greece and across the region. UNICEF works harmoniously with the Greek State, ensuring the progress and well-being of every child. We would like to thank wholeheartedly the Ministry of Education, Religious Affairs and Sports and the Institute of Education Policy, as well as all the participants who travelled from different countries to support this significant initiative”, noted Dr. Ghassan Khalil, UNICEF Representative in Greece.

Deputy Minister of Migration and Asylum Sofia Voultepsi stated: "Together with UNICEF we have managed to put into practice inclusive education for refugee children, thanks to a programme called "All Children in Education", which helps children to have a smooth transition from non-formal education to formal education and public school. A child alone on the streets, without a plate of food, a bed to rest on and no education is an easy target for organised crime and radicalisation, forced labour, trafficking and all kinds of criminal activity. We are taking weapons away from organised crime and adding weapons to the struggle for protection, equality and equal opportunities in education."

The conference was also well attended by institutional representatives, including the Head of the Department of Special Education, Ioannis Bousdounis, the Head of the Independent Department for the Coordination and Monitoring of Refugees, Galina Altuhova, executives of the Institute of Education Policy, the Deputy Ombudswoman for Children's Rights, Theoni Koufonikolakou, representatives of European Ministries of Education including Portugal and Serbia, representatives of the European Agency for Development in Special Education and Inclusive Education, academics from leading international universities, research centres and institutes, as well as representatives of schools and NGOs involved with issues of integration and inclusion for refugee children, as well as teachers and educators

Conference participants reiterated their commitment to the promotion of a common strategy for effective inclusive education policies and an evidence-based joint Action Plan, aiming at upholding children’s rights on every level.

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