Belgrade, 22 November – The level of inclusion of children into the education system in Serbia is at a high level, but some children are still at risk of being excluded - children with disabilities, Roma children and those from the poorest families.
This was stated today at the beginning of a two-day conference “Inclusive Education – a Way Forward in Serbia”.
The conference was opened by UNICEF Representative in Serbia Regina De Dominicis, Minister of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia Mladen Sarcevic, Ambassador of Switzerland to Serbia Philippe Guex and the Head of Section, Operations II, EU Delegation Steffen Hudolin.
Addressing the audience, UNICEF Representative Regina De Dominicis sad that the results of the process of inclusive education that began more than 10 years ago in Serbia, through the collaboration between the Ministry of Education, international organizations and NGOs, were already giving visible results.
“Legal provisions are solid and the implementation capacity is continuously being improved. Yet, there is urgency to further strengthen the education system that is responsive to the diversity of our children”, said De Dominicis, and thanked Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) for its long-standing support.
Swiss Ambassador to Serbia, H.E. Philippe Geux, said that “Switzerland has been supporting education reforms in Serbia since 2012, with our key partners Ministry of Education, UNICEF and the Red Cross of Serbia within a Joint Programme on Roma and Marginalized Groups Inclusion”.
He stressed the need for exerting continued efforts within the education system in order to have the situation improved and said: “It is necessary to further develop inclusive education policies within new Education Strategy 2030, and to implement, manage and monitor inclusive education policies, at both local and national levels, for the benefit of all”.
The Minister of Education, Science and Technological Development Mladen Sarcevic reminded that inclusive education was the best way to achieve the rights of the child.
"Early inclusion into education is key for the full social inclusion of the child and his or her family, as well as for the development of human capital. The inclusive education process is a strategic commitment of our country, and the obligation is undertaken by the ratification of international conventions and the EU accession process", said Minister Sarcevic.
Steffen Hudolin, Head of Section, Operations II, EU Delegation said that “the European Union supports the improvement of the quality and accessibility of education, taking into consideration rights of every child and citizen of the Republic of Serbia”.
Intensive support to pupils, teachers and schools has been provided since 2009 through training, school grants and other forms of support.
Some 39,000 primary and 3,500 pre-school teachers have been trained on inclusive education related topics, pedagogical assistants have been engaged, and pupils have received adapted textbooks free of charge.
The conference gathered together policymakers, education experts, practitioners and representatives from the academic, research, international and non-governmental organizations, as well as parents and youth motivated to share and learn from examples of inclusion policies, practice and research.
During the next two days, the participants will be presented relevant international and national experiences related to quality inclusive education, discuss additional teacher training and define the next steps in the development of inclusive education policy and practice in Serbia.
The conference “Inclusive Education – a Way Forward in Serbia” was organized by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development and UNICEF, with support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/serbia