Children with disabilities on track to take up their rightful place in mainstream schools

29 October 2019
Minister of Education and UNICEF Representative at table giving welcoming remarks to participants

Skopje, 24 October 2019: At a workshop to develop a “National Concept for Inclusive Education” which provides guidance on how to implement the country’s vision for inclusive education, North Macedonia kicked off important work to ensure children with disabilities take up their rightful place to learn side by side their peers in mainstream schools. 

The vision for the inclusive education was cemented in the recently adopted Law on Primary School, which among other things, foresees transforming special schools and special classes to serve as resource centres that support full inclusion. 

In his welcoming remarks the Minister of Education and Science, Mr Arber Ademi, highlighted that the new law on primary education introduces brave changes to improve the quality of education for all children. Emphasising that it introduces reforms based on evidence and not perceptions, he called on all to work together to ensure the vision is translated into reality so that all children in the country benefit. 

The workshop is part of a UNICEF supported reform initiative to improve quality inclusive education. It bought together representatives from the Bureau for Development of Education, State Education Inspectorate, teachers and leaders from mainstream schools and special schools, professors from Teacher Training Faculties, Civil Society Organization, parents of children with disabilities, and international partners. 

“Laws are not enough to ensure children’s rights are fulfilled and while there is a lot of experience and positive examples of inclusion in the country, making the vision a reality for every child in the country requires all stakeholders working together to remove the barriers that prevent children with disabilities from being included and fulfilling their potential,” said Patrizia Di Giovanni, UNICEF Representative.  

Evidence shows that children with disabilities, have greater overall gains in academic outcomes and behaviours in mainstream schools than their peers with similar disabilities in special schools. Research also shows that inclusion of children with disability helps all children in the classroom to learn more about empathy, fairness, collaboration and social solidarity and that these values in turn drive up grades and school outcomes. 

During the workshop participants had the chance to learn from experts from Portugal – a leader in inclusive education in European Union - and Serbia – a neighbouring country making progress with many lessons learnt.  

“Inclusive education is a process - it’s not a point to get to.  Access is not simply placement - it’s about participation. Inclusion needs a coherence set of services within and across phases of education – from early childhood through to higher education - and while services must respond to the child’s needs, they also need to consider environmental factors,” said Filomena Pereira, Ministry of Education in Portugal. 

The workshop resulted in the group agreeing on the common framework covering: 1) the vision and scope of inclusive education; 2) identification and provision of the additional support; 3) transformation of special schools; 4) intersectoral cooperation; and 5) school management and organization. Challenges and opportunities to be addressed in the new concept for inclusive education. With support from the international experts, the working group will continue to develop the National Concept for Inclusive Education through a participatory process before submitting to the Minister of Education and Science. 

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