Public Hearing of the National Report for Inclusive Education 2019-2021
Your excellencies Mr Atlagić, Minister Ružić, Ambassador Giaufret, Members of Parliament, State Secretary Viček, ladies and gentlemen,
At the outset I would like to thank the distinguished MPs for their invitation to jointly present the National Report on Inclusive Education, together with the Ministry of Education.
This Report is especially timely as the topic of this year’s World Children’s Day that we celebrated on Sunday is inclusion!
Let me start my intervention with the basic question: What does inclusion in education really mean? It means all children in the same classrooms, in the same schools. When all children, regardless of their differences, are educated together, everyone benefits. This is the cornerstone of inclusive education.
When we enrol a child in school, we provide access to a fundamental right that every child has - the right to an education. And for some children fulfilling this right also requires supportive learning environment, teachers who understand their needs, and tools to help them learn.
But inclusive education goes beyond the framework of the education sector. It must include public authorities, health, social and other institutions, families, and the private sector. Only through this synergy inclusive education can be fully implemented.
Allow me to commend Minister Ružić and the Ministry of Education for their commitment to inclusion. And to thank Ambassador Giaufret for the support of the EU Delegation to the education system for the benefit of every child in Serbia. As for UNICEF, we have extensively supported education reforms since they began back in 2009. We will continue to do so in the future, including through the Learning Together project we are jointly implementing, with the support of the EU Delegation in Serbia.
The Report on Inclusive Education that we are presenting today represents a statement – a statement that Serbia makes to fulfill its commitment. Much has been achieved, but that there is still a lot of room for improvement.
For example, the National Report findings show the need to analyse the decrease in the coverage of children with primary education, which dropped to 95% in the last three years, and to address the lower rate of primary school completion for children from substandard settlements.
Our additional efforts are also needed to continue to decrease the number of students with disabilities in special schools and to continue to create conditions for their smooth transition into mainstream schools.
Furthermore, we must address the decrease of coverage of children with secondary education, which is now below 90%, and to continue to increase the enrolment of vulnerable children in secondary schools. Currently, only 28% of children living in substandard settlements and 79% of children of low socio-economic status enrol and stay in secondary education.
These steps are already recognized in the Education Development Strategy, which will facilitate our joint efforts.
The Report is in fact a good guide for how to proceed. Improving the capacities and empowering teachers and schools as agents for change is the first step. When teachers are motivated and skilled to include all children into their classes, the level and standard of learning increases – both for children with and without disabilities. When children learn in a mainstream class in mainstream schools where diversity is celebrated, education delivers its best outcomes for all students. In this way, social inclusion is enabled, while discrimination and education segregation are prevented, resulting in a decrease of school drop-out.
UNICEF will continue to support further reforms aiming inclusiveness, openness, quality, and equity for every child.
Let me conclude by reminding us all that every child with disability or vulnerable child is a child of Serbia and it depends on us and the measures that we implement today whether this child will become a full-fledged citizen contributing to the socio-economic development of the country.
Prisutni smo u više od 190 zemalja i teritorija, a kroz sve što radimo promovišemo prava i dobrobit dece, posebno one koja su najugroženija i isključena. U potpunosti se finansiramo od dobrovoljnih priloga pojedinaca, država i vlada, fondacija i kompanija.