Despite progress, UNESCO report finds that education inequalities persist in Eurasia

10 June 2021

UNESCO urges governments to move towards inclusive education systems that meet all learners needs.

On June 7, the Russian language version of a new UNESCO regional report All Means All covering 30 education systems in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia was presented. During the meeting an overview of the Reports messages and recommendations for the Caucasus and Central Asia were provided.

All Means All, produced by the Global Education Monitoring Report at UNESCO, the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education and the Network of Education Policy Centers , shows that exclusion from education persists, particularly for children with disabilities and those of ethnic minorities, despite overall progress in access to education over the past 20 years and a 50% reduction in out-of-school rates.

According to the report, there has been move towards more inclusive systems. The percentage of children with disabilities in special schools fell from 78% in 2006 to 53% in 2016. The percentage of children in residential institutions in the region also fell by 30% over that period. But there remains a legacy of segregated schooling, once wrongly regarded as efficient.

Despite progress, children with disabilities are still more likely to be out of school and excluded from mainstream education. In several countries, the share of children with disabilities in the out-of-school population is on average twice as large as the share of the in-school population. One in three students identified with special education needs in Central and Eastern European countries is still placed in special schools.

The Report warns that the onset of COVID-19 will set back moves towards inclusion in the region. Online education was a challenge for an estimated one in four secondary school students without a laptop and one in ten who has no access to the internet. Only 43% of countries designed learning materials for speakers of minority languages.

The COVID-19 pandemic represents a set-back for inclusion in education. The momentum will be lost if governments do not urgently prioritize inclusion challenges that can reconstruct a better education system valuing the diversity of all learners, said Manos Antoninis, Director of the Global Education Monitoring Report.

Gender discrimination is also common, if not rising. Just 7 of 23 countries have policies explicitly addressing and prohibiting school bullying and discrimination for reasons of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

As part of the sub-regional launch, the report's authors showcased the countries' progress in strengthening inclusion in Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus and drew the attention of education stakeholders to the challenges that hinder the provision of quality education to all children and youth equitably.

The overview of the main messages and recommendations of the report was followed by the discussion among the participants of the meeting. Ms. Lilia Gaynutdinova, Director of the Republican Center for Professional Guidance and Psychological and Pedagogical Diagnostic of Students of the Republic of Uzbekistan, shared the experience on the introduction of experimental inclusive education at the primary education level in 42 schools across the country. There is also a Laboratory for Inclusive Education, designed to create an environment for inclusive education in secondary schools, including, technology development, research, exploring the best world practices, methodological guidance, and psychological and pedagogical support for students in Uzbekistan. Participants were particularly interested in Uzbekistan's experience in ensuring education for children with disabilities. Thus, since the outbreak of the pandemic, 4 online schools for students with various forms of disabilities have been launched.

Tajikistan representatives noted the important role of the Ministry of Finance in implementing the principles of inclusive education when introducing per capita financing in the countries of the region. Furthermore, participants agreed on the need to widen public policy understanding of inclusive education to include all learners, no matter their identity, background or ability.

At the conclusion of the meeting, moderator Elena Lenskaya from the Network of Education Policy Centers encouraged all participants to take action to collect better data, without which we cannot understand the true scope of the problem, improve public policy, and share best practices and expertise, on how we can make our societies fairer and more humane.

This call becomes especially relevant today, when the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated educational inequalities and countries should learn from the new tactics of distance learning to build a new education system, finding new ways of adapting to the needs of all children.

To download the full report in Russian please use the link.

Twenty-six language versions of the regional report summary, including Azerbaijani, Armenian, Georgian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Russian, Tajik and Uzbek , are available at the Regional Reports webpage.

Recordings of the meeting in Russian and English are available here.
Global education monitoring report
Central Asia
Southern Caucasus

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