Attended by more than 50 delegates, the NEQMAP Secretariat at UNESCO Bangkok organized the 6th annual meeting of NEQMAP on 13-14 December 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand. This year’s gathering was special as for the first time it was organized with a thematic focus – “Opening the dialogue: Promoting inclusion and equity through quality assessment”.
The Education 2030 Agenda brought a renewed focus on the quality of learning as reflected in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4. SDG 4 calls for countries to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’. As reiterated in UNESCO’s Guide for ensuring inclusion and equity in education, “the Education 2030 Framework stresses the need to address all forms of exclusion and marginalization. This includes efforts to enable education systems to serve all learners, with a particular focus on those who have traditionally been excluded from educational opportunities”.
In light of these, and as part of UNESCO’s overall support to Member States in the Asia-Pacific on SDG 4, the NEQMAP 6th annual meeting, which was supported by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE), was therefore organized with a theme of inclusion and equity.
At the meeting, the network members, policy makers, content specialists and representatives from partner organizations not only gathered to update each other on recent and on-going activities but also to discuss and exchange ideas and experiences on promoting inclusion and equity in education, with a specific focus on SDG targets 4.1, 4.5 and 4.7. The meeting reflected upon key issues and challenges as well as promising and innovative practices related to education for children with special needs, children from ethnic and linguistic minorities and gender equality; it also explored the kinds of 21st skills and competencies that were needed to ensure an inclusive and equitable society. Since the alignment between curriculum, pedagogy and assessment is critical to the enhancement of quality of education, the meeting also discussed the aforementioned issues from the perspectives of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment.
It was evident from the exchanges among participants that countries have made progress in addressing inclusion and equity in their respective education systems, yet a lot still needs to be done in order to achieve the SDG 4 targets by 2030. For instance, many countries have education policies/regulations targeting children from marginalized groups, but the implementation remains to be an issue. Also, whether all learners have access to learning environments that meet their needs was questionable. Lack of test accommodations for children with special needs is a big challenge for most of the countries.
The meeting discussion made us reflect on some key issues and left us with more questions: for example, is the development of curriculum, teacher preparation, and assessment done in full consultation with learners/advocates representing diverse identities? How can we prepare and train qualified teachers who are able to support learners with different needs? How can these teachers be deployed effectively throughout the country?
As for the 21st century skills and competencies, some of them are embedded implicitly and explicitly in the curriculum, captured through subject areas such as social studies, science, ICT and religion. These competencies are measurable but not easy due to its complex nature. Teachers are not skilled enough to teach and assess these competencies, as there is no proper training available in this regard.
The meeting was rich in content and filled with lively discussions. As a concrete outcome, the network members will collaborate to prepare a thematic paper based on the meeting discussions, which will form part of the regional contribution to the global forum on inclusion and equity to be organized by UNESCO in 2019.
Written by Tserennadmid Nyamkhuu [firstname.lastname@example.org], NEQMAP Secretariat, UNESCO Bangkok
Related links: A Guide for ensuring inclusion and equity
Photo credit: @rotsukon lam, Shutterstock