Enhancing the capacities of policymakers for designing and implementing inclusive education policies

The Project will support and facilitate a multi-level, cross-sectorial regional network (Inclusive PolicyNet) with a constant composition, representing a broad range of stakeholders (policymakers - from education, social protection and healthcare sectors, from the central and local level; practitioners – school principals, members of school boards, representatives of education inspectorates, researchers and teacher educators, civil society representatives, parents) to exchange experience and discuss inclusive education issues, as well as common challenges and promising policy approaches or examples of good/bad practice from the European Union and the region.

Improving the enforcement mechanisms of laws and policies, financial affordability and cost-effectiveness of inclusive education, avoiding politicization of inclusive education, cooperation of education with social care systems, etc. are among the relevant issues that will be discussed by the network.

The Inclusive PolicyNet will meet twice a year and will act as an overarching platform that will bring together representatives of both the Inclusive SchoolNet and Inclusive TeacherNet and other additional stakeholders, in particular from the policy sphere.

Policy makers will be encouraged to consider incorporating inclusive education approaches into their policies and systems based on the experiences and best practices from the pilot schools.

Regional policymakers identify regional priorities

Greater parental involvement, developing a more holistic teaching approach, ensuring constant capacity building of the school and teaching staff and improved monitoring and evaluation of the inclusiveness in schools. These are some of the regional policy recommendations that the members of the PolicyNet working group on secondary education in South Eastern Europe identified as priorities on the first meeting of the group in Ljubljana, Slovenia on 16-18 October 2014.

These recommendations were extracted out of the evidence based suggestions coming from the Baseline study on inclusive policies and practices and should later on result in policy amendments.

The participants of the meeting also had the chance to get a deeper insight into Slovenia’s experience through study visits to several secondary schools in the country, so that they could see for themselves how inclusive education is put into practice, in this particular country.

Snežana Vuković, member of the Steering Board and Policy Team, from Serbia, was impressed with what she saw at the Second Gymnasium in Maribor.

The school has such a holistic approach, that the students’ orientation to high achievement does not eliminate the need for emotional and social support to young people who are separated from their families, who experience the cultural differences, and often do not speak Slovenian. Commitment is present at every step. One teacher said: We, as a community are better, because we have them!”, she says

Borislava Maksimović, Focal Point for Serbia went to the School Centre in Ljubljana where as she says saw a lot of great energy and lots of ideas.

Students recognize how the school invests in them, so they give back. They are accepted well by all with great care. Attentiveness on each step is present within the school and also with those who come as guests. The same goes probably for the children’s parents too. The motto of our Regional project reflects what can be seen in this school!”, noted Maksimović.

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Societies work best when all its members are fully included

Societies, like businesses, function best when all resources are fully used and inclusive education is the only mechanism available that ensures all human resources to be fully used for the sake of the whole society, said Sophie Beaumont, Task Manager for Education and Gender issues at the Delegation of the European Union in Skopje, during the second regional PolicyNet meeting that took place in Skopje on 27-28 May 2015.

The goals of the meeting for the members of the PolicyNet were to endorse the Regional Policy Recommendations on inclusive education by the PolicyNet and to develop action plans for inclusive education at the Beneficiary level. During the meeting, members also signed a pledge to advocate the implementation of the policy recommendations on inclusive education in their national policies and systems.

“This pledge is only a very small part of what we are trying to achieve through our project, but at the same time it is an important symbol of dedication and a symbol of the need for a truly comprehensive approach in creating inclusive school environments”, said Vesna Atanasova, Senior Project Officer for the Joint EU/CoE Regional Support for Inclusive education project.  

Seven workshops in each of the seven Beneficiaries covered by the project were organised as a final evaluation for Regional Policy Recommendations by all actors involved in their creation. Teachers, principals, schools and parents, representatives of education ministries, state education inspectorates and other institutions and agencies took part in a fully participatory process for drafting these recommendations.

With the regional PolicyNet meeting in Skopje, the endorsement process concludes, and the recommendation will now be submitted to beneficiary-level policy makers, who should translate them into policy actions. For this to be achieved, members of the PolicyNet developed beneficiary-level action plans which will facilitate the process of advocating and adopting these recommendations. 

The Policy Recommendations include measures for increased schools’ capacity, improved teacher competences and for developing mechanisms for monitoring and supporting the inclusive process. Methods of redefining enrolment policies and improved inter-institutional cooperation are also part of the recommendations. The goal of these recommendations is to stimulate the creation of more inclusive school environments in the South Eastern Europe region.