Regional Conference: "Embracing diversity through education"

Tirana, 6-7 November 2013

"Every child learns. Children learn in a safe and happy environment. Inclusive education is an integral part of school development. Every school, every teacher, every child, every parent is valued and supported. Diversity is recognized, appreciated and valued from everyone in the education system."

This paragraph depicts the vision of South East Europe for an education that embraces diversity. It is the summary of the discussions at the conference held in Tirana on 6-7 November 2013. Some 130 representatives attended, from Ministries of Education, Ministries of Social Welfare, schools, parents, experts, universities, civil society organisations and international organisations working in all aspects of education. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, the "former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" and Kosovo§ were all represented. The conference was organised by the Joint European Union and Council of Europe Project "Regional Support for Inclusive Education".

The objective of this conference was twofold:

  • (1) to foster dialogue about diversity in education among policymakers and others involved with education in South East Europe, and
  • (2) to explore and learn from best practices of inclusion in educational policies, schools and teaching.

The conference was hosted by the Albanian Minister of Education and Sports, Ms. Lindita Nikolla, who addressed the importance of quality education for all and reiterated the commitment of her Ministry towards an open and friendly school to all children. Representative of European Union, Mr Yngve Engstroem emphasised the importance of strengthening social cohesion and inclusion as priorities for South East Europe's journey towards European integration. Council of Europe representatives, Mr Villano Qiriazi and Ms Sarah Keating, pointed out the need to ensure compliance with Council of Europe standards with regard to quality education.

Through an interactive and lively model adopted by the moderators of this conference, all participants had the opportunity to contribute with thoughts and ideas. The conference was divided in three parts dedicated to each of the phases of the model: depicting the vision for inclusive education, describing the current reality and formulating specific action steps for achieving the desired state or vision. Three topics of smaller discussion groups were "Policies and Diversity", "Schools and Diversity" and "Teachers and Diversity", each moderated by experts in the area, who ensured that the joint input was captured. 

The Conference served as the launch of the Inclusive Schools Network, composed of 49 pilot schools from across the whole region that were present in the Conference and were active part of the working sessions. The Joint Project action is based on the close collaboration with the pilot school teams and communities.

A brief report summarising the vision, reality and steps for action will be disseminated to all partners and participants following the Conference. While the conference helped to build the joint understanding among stakeholders, the Joint Project will follow up on how the steps will be implemented. Learning, best practices and proposals from the conference will feed the content of the upcoming events and activities of the Joint Project on inclusive education. The follow up efforts will make use of the conference results as a mobilising tool. Through disseminating good practices and clear focus on the aspirations for the future, continuous commitment will be obtained by stakeholders in SEE in making education systems inclusive to all.

§This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.

You'll find here some quotes about Inclusive Education from participants to the Regional Conference "Embracing Diversity Through Education"

  • Inclusive school is a place where diversity is seen as a value, not as a punishment.
  • Inclusive school is a happy place for a child to be in.
  • Inclusive education is when a child comes home from school and says to his parents: "I learned a lot, and had a great day!"

Conference report completed!!!

The full report from the inclusive education conference in Tirana is now finalised and ready for you to download. Apart from summary of discussions and action steps, we have also prepared for you the full moderators' reports from each of the panels.

We hope you will enjoy reading the report and don't forget to take a look at the photos and other documents available for download on this page.

+Conference report
+Report from Panel 1: How inclusive are schools?
+Report from Panel 2: How inclusive is teaching?
+Annex for the report for Panel 2
+Report from Panel 3: How inclusive are policies?

Also during the conference

The regional network of inclusive schools (Inclusive School Net) has been officially launched on 06th November 2013 in Tirana, at the project's regional conference on "Embracing Diversity through Education" hosted by the Ministry of Education and Sports of Albania. The project team invited pilot schools in the network to nominate one school team member to attend the official launching of the network as well as the conference itself. You can read more about the launching here.

Live from the conference

News report published by the Albanian Public Television on first day of the conference, 6 November 2013