Education to foster inclusion and respect for diversity

The Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union has made High Quality Education for All a priority. Having a vast group of learners with different learning needs, inclusive education helps to meet diverse needs and address them in formal, non-formal and informal learning (NFIL) environments to enhance their life prospects. Levels of social exclusion, inequalities and poverty are rising in Europe, and there is a need to fight all forms of intolerance that individuals are exposed to. This can be done by applying policy change to put a stronger emphasis on fostering inclusion, and encouraging diversity by making sure that education and training systems equip learners with social and civic competences.

At its recent meeting, the Education, Youth, Culture and Sports Council adopted conclusions on “Inclusion in diversity to achieve a high quality education for all” and this was later endorsed by the EESC. This document underlines the importance of Lifelong Learning (LLL) and its accessibility of all. The EU28 average for 2016 shows that only 11,7% of people have participated in Lifelong Learning, while in some of the member states participation in LLL is below 5%. This directly hinders the opportunities for disadvantaged groups who benefit the most from inclusive education opportunities. Another important aspect raised is that the role of education should be to foster active citizenship and to equip people with social and civic competences, not simply to prepare for employment and acquire professional competences. Education systems should offer flexible pathways that accommodate the needs of diverse learners, also those who are far from education, and there should be a recognition of the learning outcomes of non-formal and informal learning.

SOLIDAR Foundation welcomes this initiative and encourages Member States to invest in Lifelong Learning since applying austerity policies in the field of education and training has a direct impact on people’s ability to participate in education or training, and benefit from the quality of its provision. Policy makers at all levels should recognise the essential role education plays in promoting inclusion and fundamental rights. It also supports and creates an environment for European society to uphold fundamental rights and values, and put democracy into practice. SOLIDAR Foundation would like to encourage all policy makers and stakeholders to foster the process of building inclusive learning societies, and SOLIDAR would like to support civil society organisations at the forefront of community work.

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