In many countries around the world, disadvantaged and vulnerable learners can benefit most from quality education, yet learn least. Equitable and inclusive quality education means that learners’ personal and social circumstances do not form barriers to learning. But how to prepare teachers for this responsibility? Thanks to an invitation from UNESCO’s Teacher Task Force, VVOB explored this challenge with experiences from the field at the 2019 European Development Days.
Teachers can make or break opportunities
Learners’ wellbeing is an important indicator of school performance. Many issues negatively affecting learners’ wellbeing are strongly related to societal roles, norms and expectations. Persisting traditional gender norms in Cambodia, for instance, continue to prioritise sons over daughters in education. And, in Ecuador and Suriname, a high proportion of adolescent girls are suspended from school because of adolescent pregnancies.
As role models, teachers have an impact on group norms and self-expectations that can make or break opportunities for their learners. VVOB raises awareness among teachers of the detrimental effects of biases and discrimination, and provides tools to create safe and supportive learning environments that consider learners’ wellbeing, help to keep them in school and ensure that they – and their peers – are effectively learning.
Focus on classroom strategies
In South Africa, there is a significant learning gap between the poorest 60 per cent of learners and the wealthiest 20 per cent that widens throughout their school career. The country adopted a promising policy to screen, identify, assess, and support learners facing systemic, extrinsic or intrinsic barriers to learning. Yet, many teachers don’t know how to translate the policy into practice. Applying a two-track approach, VVOB supports South African primary school teachers to overcome the challenges disadvantaged pupils face by providing differentiated education. In pre-service training, we work together with leading teacher training institutes to embed inclusive teaching practices in education methodology modules. Once in service, we support newly qualified teachers to put what they have learnt into practice through in-school mentoring. To deepen learning, we have also set up Professional Learning Communities (PLC). In Free State, teachers discuss how to support learners speaking African languages at home to overcome mother tongue influence in the country’s English-dominated school environment. By actively engaging in learning with peers, teachers collaboratively gain the necessary reflective, social, and emotional skills to effectively teach for all.
Since teachers are unlikely to change their practices in an antagonistic school environment, VVOB is also committed to the professional development of school leaders to help them create an environment in which teachers provide equitable and inclusive quality education. In Rwanda, for instance, VVOB offers school leaders the opportunity to enrol in the diploma course on Effective School Leadership. Among other things, they learn how to create equitable and inclusive school environments, as well as how to lead school-based professional development for teachers. Together with the University of Rwanda College of Education and Rwanda Education Board, VVOB also offers a certificate course on coaching and mentoring to local education officers so the latter can support school leaders in turn.
Exactly! School and policy environments should be especially conducive for teachers to freely and autonomously stimulate every child in their classroom so they can reach their unique and full potential.
— VVOB - education for development (@VVOBvzw) June 19, 2019
Sharing expertise on inclusive education at #EDD19
This year’s European Development Days was themed ‘Addressing inequalities: Building a world which leaves no one behind’. Zooming in on education’s catalytic role, UNESCO’s Teacher Task Force organised a compelling debate on the second day: ‘Creating equitable and inclusive schools: How to prepare teachers for the future we want?’. The Teacher Task Force invited three of its members and a Young Leader with expertise on the topic.
(Read on below the picture)
From left to right (© UNESCO Liaison Office in Brussels):
- Dr Robert White outlined school reform policies that are necessary for inclusive education
- Young Leader Akosua Peprah joined the panel to share experiences from the field. Through her foundation, Mmaakunim Foundation, Akosua engages with peers and experts in underprivileged communities and works with government officials to influence policies to make education accessible and available to children in rural Ghana, with a special focus on marginalised girls and young women.
- Dr Line Kuppens from VVOB – education for development introduced VVOB’s research and work on teacher professional development for equitable and inclusive education.
- Inès da Silva from UNESCO’s Teacher Task Force moderated the debate.
- Dr Dennis Sinyolo from Education International delved deeper into teacher professional ethics and standards regarding inclusive education.
VVOB is proud and thankful to UNESCO’s Teacher Task Force, the European Commission and the fellow speakers for this opportunity to share our context-specific experiences on inclusive education from different corners of the world.
A big thank you to @LineKuppens @RMWhitePhD @dsinyolo Akosua Peprah and our wonderful audience for a lively interactive debate! Lots of great insights and ideas shared today on how to support #teachers when it comes to inclusion in education. #EDD19 #ThinkTwice pic.twitter.com/VbtRgvvbnq
— Teacher Task Force (@TeachersFor2030) June 19, 2019