In each of the 49 pilot schools the country organizations from the Network of Education Policy Centers organized and conducted 4 focus groups in order to provide evidence for a more targeted and needs-based support for the creation of the school development plan and development of school projects. The focus group interviews were held with four target groups – school staff, students, parents and local community. Therefore in March and April 196 focus groups were held with more than 1300 stakeholders participating.
Main topics of the focus groups were questions related to:
- a) the extent of inclusive culture, policies and practices in the schools
- b) main problems and barriers to inclusion
- c) types of support needed for the schools to become more inclusive.
Some preliminary conclusions
The overall perception of most stakeholders is that the culture in their schools is either predominantly open and welcoming or on the whole inclusive and open, with some barriers not yet allowing the school culture to be fully welcoming and inclusive. However, individual FG reports do not support this overall optimistic view of the current condition of school culture. Persistent cultural and social stereotypes are listed in many FG as obstacles to full inclusion, prejudices shared by parents and students, but sometimes also by staff, among them.
Number of participants per type of FGs
School Staff 8-16
The cultural challenge to VET schools and primary schools in underprivileged areas/ serving underprivileged communities is particularly great and has to be paid special attention to.
Policy is traditionally the weakest aspect in schools in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe. Unlike the Anglo-Saxon countries, where it is normal to have policies in each school regarding all crucial aspects of how school life is organised, schools in the Western Balkans seem to operate more on the basis of external regulations (provided at the national or cantonal level) with very little initiative taken by the schools themselves to agree on rules and principles according to which they function as teaching and learning communities.
The Focus groups have rendered substantial information on practices in the schools, which can serve as valuable basis for developing and fine-tuning the project activities in order to support and develop inclusive practices. At the same time, most focus groups reveal a lack of a holistic, consistent and articulate strategy for inclusion that would be based in awareness shared by all groups in the school community – teachers, students, parents and administration.
Finally it has to be emphasized that overall in most schools teachers and school staff are extremely motivated for change and enthusiastic about the project activities which will allow for it.
Network of Education Policy Centers - NEPC is an international nongovernmental membership organization of education policy centers.
NEPC (www.edupolicy.net) in cooperation with 8 organizations from 7 Beneficiaries from South East Europe is implementing the project Support to Pilot Schools for implementing inclusive education policies and practices – Part of the Pilot School component – Regional Support for Inclusive Education.