Inclusive education: policymakers, experts meet in Tirana
Thematic Area: Equality in education
The ETF’s network of inclusive education policymakers, practitioners and experts from the Western Balkan countries, Turkey, Israel, and EU Member States held a two-day conference in the Albanian capital Tirana on 15 and 16 March 2012.
The conference was opened by Myqerem Tafaj, Albania’s education minister, who stressed that education and training, apart from serving the goals of economic growth and competitiveness, should also be inclusive. The fact that the deputy ministers for education and labour, Halit Shamata and Kastriot Sulka, addressed the conference, illustrated the high commitment by Albanian officials to this topic.
Lida Kita of the ETF stressed that so far ETF interventions in the field of social inclusion have been aiming to increase participation and to encourage equitable access to quality education, training and decent work in the partner countries. The activities were also meant to highlight the potential of education and training in general, and of vocational education and training (VET) in particular, to combat poverty and exclusion in society.
The project on social inclusion through education and training (2007-2011) in the Western Balkan countries, Turkey and Israel is the major ETF intervention implemented in this thematic area. This multi-country project aims to provide evidence and promote the role of VET policy and systems for combating social inclusion and for contributing to building more inclusive societies.
The project will also focus on capacity building of national stakeholders in the region to establish policies and practices for enhancing the role of VET and its multi-dimensional contributions. These contributions work not only through the skills dimension, but also through its socialization, civic, social and equity dimensions. The ETF aims to acquire the knowledge and understanding of the situation in the countries on the role of VET in promoting employment, equity, social cohesion and active citizenship.
The programme of the conference in Tirana included plenary and working group sessions alternated with site visits to a Roma school, two vocational schools in the capital and the coastal town of Durres, and a training centre for adults in Elbasan.
The school directors and teachers presented their achievements, but also shared reflections with the conference participants about the challenges ahead. Their proposals included:
- further efforts to increase enrolments and retention,
- more budgetary and curriculum-related autonomy for schools to use their full potential,
- allowing students, parents and community members to participate in decisions about school affairs,
- support to individual learning and development through a common effort by students, teachers, instructors, psychologists, parents and community members,
- better linking learning to real-life or work problems, and
- enhanced collaboration with employers to ensure more internships.
The event was also an occasion to collect input from the participating countries stakeholders on the pilot schools to be involved in the regional action research "Mapping of VET Educational Policies and Practices for Social Inclusion and Social Cohesion". The research will produce nine country reports and a cross-country report. Its aim is to deepen the understanding of the main barriers and potential opportunities for building inclusive and equitable VET systems in the countries in the context of the current socio-economic challenges in the region.
Knowledge sharing and communication among the ETF network members will be kept alive through an ETF platform, until the next regional meeting. Israel, Iceland and Spain (Mondragon University) offered to be hosts of the upcoming events of the ETF-facilitated social inclusion regional policy network in 2012 and 2013.