Lida Kita works at the European Training Foundation. She has two roles – she is country manager for Turkey & Israel and is a specialist in inclusion in education and training for the Western Balkans and Turkey. She is also on the project’s steering board
DA: Tell me how the project came about:
LK: Our team was asked by DG Enlargement to facilitate and coordinate the discussions in Western Balkans and Turkey on social inclusion in education and training to support the enhancement of partner country capacities in promoting education and training as one of the key dimensions for reducing social exclusion in culturally heterogeneous societies, and facilitate the development and implementation of long-term, sustainable strategic policy approaches. The main activities focused on facilitating the networking, mutual learning among and between the Western Balkans and Turkey (WBT) stakeholders, including evidence generation for the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of inclusive and ethnically sensitive education and training policies. As a result ETF was asked by the countries to be a member of the Steering Board because we had institutional memory of the development of inclusive education and social inclusion issues.
DA: So this is your child that you have watched grow up?
LK: It’s true. When we had designed the project it was like a baby growing up. I lead the ETF team working with the country teams on addressing the key challenges and policy issues in the area of inclusive education and training, as well as exchanges on policies, good practice and innovative approaches, originating either from the Western Balkans and Turkey, EU Member States, or beyond. The ETF expertise and in-depth knowledge on the issues earned its place as one of the institutional partners for the project.
DA: So it makes sense to have this link between the project and the ETF?
LK: Yes, because this is a small part of what the ETF is doing with the countries. ETF is an EU Agency that works in the context of EU external relations policies, to human capital development, defined as work that contributes to the lifelong development of individuals’ skills and competences through the improvement of vocational education and training systems. We work very closely with the countries and follow them over the years. We have in-depth knowledge and analysis of what is happening. This project fits in very well with the bigger picture and the work we are doing in the countries.
DA: Do you think people only started to be interested in inclusive education relatively recently.
LK: The complex human diversity of people in the Western Balkans impacts on educational provision; many languages, ethnic communities and religions – highlighted in recent conflicts - but also polarisation between: the relatively wealthy small minority and the great majority of poor; those with ability, talent and opportunity and those with disabilities and at general disadvantage, sophisticated urban societies and isolated undeveloped rural hamlets; securely settled communities and those of people who are unsettled or transient, some by choice and tradition but most through internal migration, post-conflict displacement or return. The challenge remains how education and training can contribute to inclusive societies. The European Commission is working with the partner countries on this issue as part of the pre-accession agenda. ETF support aims to enhance partner country capacities in promoting education and training as one of the key dimensions for reducing social exclusion in culturally heterogeneous societies, and facilitate the development and implementation of long-term, sustainable strategic policy approaches for all not just some groups.
All countries agreed to work at regional level on the common understanding that the process by which schools attempt to respond to all pupils as individuals by reconsidering and restructuring curriculum organisation and provision, and allocating resources to enhance equality of opportunity. This process enables schools to increase their capacity to accept all those pupils from the local community who wish to attend and in so doing reduce all forms of exclusion and degradation of students on the basis of disability, ethnicity, or anything that could render the school life of some children unnecessarily difficult.
DA: What is the role of the Steering Board and of your role on it?
LK: The steering board has several roles: it represents high level policy-makers from the beneficiary countries, it is a sustainable regional platform for policy decision and implementation for the project in line with and as support to the country policy in the area of social inclusion in education and training in the region. It also provides policy support to roll out the results and outcomes of this project to the bigger picture.
As a member of the Board, my role is to bring into discussions for Board decisions the key EU developments and policy issues in the area of inclusive education and training, as well as exchanges on policies, good practice and innovative approaches, originating either from the Western Balkans and Turkey, EU Member States, or beyond- we are an institution with a long memory of all these developments in the countries. I can build bridges between countries; ETF can be a critical friend.
DA: It seems that inclusive education is very close to your heart.
LK: Beside my institutional role, I am enthusiastic about the things that I believe in and I am a believer in inclusive education. I come from the region and even as a young person I was engaged in human rights and inclusiveness. I have been part of the technical and political arena and I can see that unfortunately the elite class have not yet created inclusiveness for everybody in education and training and I can fight for it. I have learned a lot and have grown by fighting for this cause. I am convinced that our credibility is enhanced if we have enthusiasm and good will as professionals.