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Social inclusion: a key issue in EU enlargement

Year/Date: 04/04/2011

Social inclusion: a key issue in EU enlargement

The ethnic, language and religious diversity, and the inequalities in the populations of South Eastern Europe make inclusive education, with equitable access to all, a crucial issue.

On 4-5 April 2011, the ETF and Directorate General for Enlargement of the European Commission held a workshop in Turin to support regional policies in the Western Balkans and Turkey on social inclusion through education and training.

Among participants were representatives of governments from the region, EU institutions and international partners.

Citing recent reports, Evgenia Petkova, an ETF expert, listed the challenges to social inclusion in the region:

    • High dropout rates among secondary school students; transition from primary to secondary school is the most critical point and many disadvantaged students don’t get through,
    • Ethnic backgrounds affect the educational choices of students and parents; there are many cases of segregation along ethnic lines,
    • Gender: girls, especially in Kosovo and Turkey, participate less than boys in education,
    • Limited skills and incentives for teachers to improve inclusiveness of schools,
    • Vocational education and training is underused as a channel to promote social inclusion,
    • Policies target the most disadvantaged—disabled, internally displaced and returnees, or Roma;
    • Social inclusion measures or projects often tackle one category of people at a time; there is a need for a more comprehensive approach.

Listen to Evgenia Petkova describing the challenges to inclusive education in Western Balkans and Turkey

The event was an opportunity for region’s stakeholders to contribute to the design of future activities financed by the European Commission under the EU Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance 2011-2013 in the area of Human Rights, Minorities and Vulnerable Groups.

The ETF’s experience, and the work it has done so far on inclusive education in the region, places it in a unique position to help the European Commission in this consultation.

Agota Kovacs of Directorate General for Enlargement at the European Commission said: ‘Social Inclusion is very important in the context of EU Enlargement and our strategy reflects it. Those societies go through changes and reforms, but as a precondition for the reforms they need to be more inclusive and more open, embracing all categories and groups in the society.‘

Listen to Agota Kovacs talking about importance of social inclusion in the context of EU enlargement.

At the event, the ETF presented its new report ‘Teachers for the Future’. The study was carried out by a team of researches of twelve nationalities from think tanks, EU institutions, the ETF and seven Western Balkan countries. It mapped the issues, challenges and opportunities in teacher development for inclusive education in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo (under UNSCR 1244), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

Lida Kita, ETF lead expert on social inclusion, said: ‘It will be impossible to introduce inclusive education with confidence until teachers are ready to engage with it and commit to it, and to develop competences for this work. Teachers are not just some individuals in classrooms. They have big role in their communities.’

The report gives a series of recommendations for policymakers, teacher educators, nongovernmental organisations and donors, as well as principals and teachers. It will be available on ETF website in April 2011.

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