Bedrock of Inclusion: Lessons and Recommendations Learned
On Monday, October 5 -- World Teacher’s Day -- ActionAid, Education International, Light for the World, and others facilitated a discussion regarding a joint study that looks at the current state of inclusive education, and the realistic requirements for investing in an education workforce that can support disability inclusive education systems in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria and Tanzania. Investing in the education workforce is the bedrock of inclusion and critical to ensuring that all children, especially those with disabilities, are given access to education. A wider scope of analysis has allowed assessments to take place that determine if the broader education workforce is currently prepared to include all children and deliver on the goal of meeting United Nations Sustainable Development 4: Quality of Education, for all children.
David Archer, Head of Programme Development, ActionAid, addressed the importance of financing education and mentioned that most countries are spending less than 20% of their budget on education. With these points, he emphasized the need to push for more spending progressive microeconomic policies where investment in public services is prioritized. There are “four Ss’s” to be mindful of when looking to call for more spending:
1. Share of Budget
2. Size – the government budget overall which relates to how taxing occurs or if people are evading taxes
3. Sensitivity – how much spending for disabilities is included in education budgets and how is the money being spent? Are equity and inclusion being considered?
4. Scrutinize – how much is being spent and what are the practices of spending?
These goals are a challenge due to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) constrains public sector spending and discourages governments from spending on wages for workers in this sector. Archer concluded by calling on governments to spend more on teachers so that schools can have more educators and staff and are able to access better training that will help to reach all students of all backgrounds.
Asmara Figue, International Project Coordinator, ActionAid, reported on the current status and realistic requirements for investing in an education workforce and to support disability-inclusive education in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Tanzania. Based on the current state of affairs, especially with COVID, Figue mentioned that these countries’ GDPs are insufficient to address real needs in education.
There are six lessons that were learned from this research:
1. Action is required to mainstream inclusive education commitments into plans, budgets, and monitoring.
2. Lack of robust and accurate data prevents adequate planning and budgeting for inclusive education.
3. In all countries, teachers do not receive sufficient training to practice inclusion.
4. High pupil-teacher ratios prevent inclusive education in practice.
5. Inclusive education plans and strategies currently lack credible costings.
6. Despite progress, current education resources are insufficient to achieve inclusive education.
Unless substantial new funds become available for education, the level of financing required to transform education systems and the education workface to deliver inclusion is likely to remain out of reach. COVID-19 has only exacerbated issues in the educational sector including worsening budget problems, as countries have to use more resources to ensure that learning continues while keeping students safe. As countries are having to spend more for debt relief, fewer funds are allocated towards education, thus making the goal of reaching UN Sustainable Development Goal #4 more difficult.
Nafisa Baboo, Director of Inclusive Education, Light for the World, closed the event by emphasizing that all the points made were just a small glimpse of the global reality and all findings were validated by each countries' government. She said, “Teachers are the bedrock of inclusive education. They are ready and willing, but don't have the pay and training that they need."
In conclusion, investing in education is investing in the future. Thank you to all speakers and participants including Dennis Sinyolo, Jo Walker, Josephine James, and Anna Daddio. We must ensure that schools, teachers, staff, and students have access to the necessary materials needed for continuous and quality learning. As the world continues to battle COVID-19, investing in the future is now more crucial than ever.