A recent study commissioned by Education International, Action Aid International and Light for the World highlights the importance of well-trained and qualified teachers and staff in supporting education as a foundation for inclusion. Today, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Education International is calling for an educational equity review and is releasing a guide to support education unions efforts in this endeavor.
It is widely recognized that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities around the world and increased the risk of exclusion for the most marginalized. Education is no exception. Schools and educational closings, affecting nearly 1.6 billion students, have been especially hard to feel for disabled students if they have had access to education at all.
Distance learning and the lack of daily face-to-face interaction with teachers and staff in support of education have been costly for these students as many education systems did not provide them with quality inclusive education prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Students with disabilities are the least likely to benefit from distance learning or to return to schools and educational institutions when they reopen.
"The Foundation of Inclusion: Why Investing in the Education Workforce is Critical to Delivering SDG4”Is a study commissioned by Education International, Action Aid International, and Light for the World that highlights six key lessons from Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Tanzania regarding the need for teachers and staff to support education invest to deliver quality inclusive education for everyone, especially children and young people with disabilities. With a financial crisis on the horizon that risks reducing education budgets even further, these lessons hold true today more than ever.
1. Actions are needed to mainstream inclusive education commitments into plans, budgets and monitoring
The study shows that many inclusive education policies and strategies are inadequately paid for and adequately resourced and budgets are extremely small compared to needs. Significantly, in the five countries surveyed, none of the costs of inclusive education strategies, if any, took into account the need to train and pay more teachers, including teachers with disabilities – a key factor in ensuring a workforce equipped to support inclusion.
2. The lack of robust and accurate data prevents adequate planning and budgeting for inclusive education
This is even more important in the context of the pandemic in order to understand what impact it is having on children, adolescents and teachers with disabilities and how they can best be addressed. Reliable data is essential at all levels of an education system, from robust sector analysis to planning, budgeting and monitoring. The study found a serious lack of data on both children with disabilities and their involvement in school, as well as education workers and willingness to engage in inclusion.
3. Teachers are not receiving adequate training to practice inclusion
Given the variety of experiences students had during lockdown, both in terms of learning and in terms of socio-emotional needs, it is both critical and extremely challenging for teachers and educational support staff to respond to the diverse Addressing student needs while providing distance learning and attending to their needs when returning to school. It is important that preparation and training opportunities are available to ensure high quality education for all.
4. High student-teacher ratios prevent integrative education in practice
In many contexts, the existing teacher shortage has been an obstacle to creating suitable conditions for a meaningful learning experience during lockdown and a safe return to school. The African countries south of the Sahara are confronted with the world's largest teacher shortage and a very high student-teacher ratio, which prevents different learning needs from being mastered in the classroom and integrative teaching is guaranteed. The increase in the number of teachers requires an appropriate increase in resources.
5. Inclusive education plans and strategies have no credible cost
Better cost models for inclusive education are needed and based on a clearer view of real needs based on more credible, disaggregated data taking into account the impact of the pandemic. All costs must be converted into the total annual budget of the education sector.
6. Despite the progress, there are already insufficient educational resources to achieve inclusive education
The pandemic was set to serve as a wake-up call for governments after decades of chronic underfunding of public services, including education, which has resulted in millions of children and young people with disabilities being denied their right to quality inclusive education. The transformation of education systems required for high quality inclusive education for all will not be possible without:
- Allocation of at least 20% of the national education budget and 6% of GDP to education;
- Enhance the sustainable funding of the education sector through advanced strategies to mobilize domestic resources (i.e., reducing or eliminating harmful incentives for corporate taxes, combating tax avoidance, tax evasion, corruption and illicit financial flows).
- Greater focus on equality of human and financial resources and, in particular, the allocation of resources to address serious funding gaps in the recruitment, training and equitable use of teachers (including reviews of remuneration, incentives, pay structures and professional progress);
- Enabling more transparency into allocations and spending on inclusive education.
Against this background, Education International mobilizes member organizations worldwide and Call on governments, together with trade unions and other educational actors, to examine educational equity So that the equity gaps, enlarged and deepened by the Covid-19 pandemic, are urgently addressed and remediedThrough equality tests, educational institutions and systems can adapt more effectively and fairly to a “new normal” of Covid-19 and help to eliminate the structures of inequality that have so far prevented countries from realizing the universal right to education for all.