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Strategy sessions III.6 > Exclusion of Children
 
World Education Forum
Dakar, Senegal 26-28 April 2000
 
Including the excluded: enhancing educational access and quality
Issues Paper
 
Strategy Session III.6
 
Original : English
 
 
  Each One Counts. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) affirms the right of all children to relevant and good quality education. The CRC reconfirms the EFA imperative of an "expanded vision" of education: that all children have the right to learn at all stages of their development, and to do so in ways which are appropriate and easily accessible. It reconfirms that this learning must contribute to children's physical, psychosocial, emotional and intellectual development. It should enhance their capacity to earn a living, participate in the decisions of their society and live in peace and dignity. Increases in the percentage of children reached are important, but are no longer sufficient. Quality counts. All children have the right of access to effective opportunities for learning. Exceptions cannot simply be argued away on the basis of "especially difficult circumstances".
 
The exclusion of children constitutes a broadly based and intricate web of human rights violations. Millions of children are made vulnerable by living in circumstances of poverty, socio-cultural marginalization, geographic isolation, racial and/or gender bias. They are further encumbered with related burdens of disease and disability, sexual exploitation, indentured and injurious labour, or forced involvement in civil and military conflict. The exclusion of these children from education is simply one more manifestation of this web of rights violations. But it is a particularly tragic one. Without access to good quality education, children are denied the opportunity to acquire the knowledge, capacities and self-confidence necessary, as children and later as adults, to act on their own behalf in changing the circumstances are excluding them..
 
Exclusion is interactive and comprehensive. It touches all aspects of the lives of affected children, resulting either in their having no access to education or in their being poorly served when they are enroled. In consequence, they repeat, drop out or graduate without actually learning. Being excluded from education is not a single event in a child's life; nor is it a single process. Rather, exclusion from education involves a pattern of personal, socio-cultural, economic and institutional factors which together act to keep a child from participating in effective and organized learning experiences.
 
Three broad types of causes are involved in this syndrome of exclusion; it is in the specific characteristics and interactions of each of these where the specific causes, scope, consequences, severity and dynamics of exclusion in any one setting will be found. These include: i) contextual causes, such as environmental and demographic pressures and political and economic systems; ii) socio-cultural causes, such as belief and value systems, indigenous knowledge, and family structures; and iii) relational causes, such as resource allocation patterns, and gender and age relations.
 
Furthermore, exclusion can happen at every level of society: (1) children are excluded within the family and the community; (2) the school is excluded within the education system; and (3) the national education policy is excluded within the society and international community.
 
Exclusion at the micro level: the school
 

Schools exclude at the micro level when they are not learner-friendly, do not support their teachers as professionals and do not welcome families as partners.

Schools exclude when they fail to create a culture of peace or to take affirmative and uncompromising action to end all forms of harassment, abuse and violence.

Schools exclude when they do not reach out to the families of children most vulnerable and do not link them into the education of their children.

Schools exclude when they fail to concern themselves with those children who do not attend school and do not put systems in place for formally noticing and tracking those not in school.

Schools exclude by costing too much, directly and indirectly.

Schools exclude by not being sufficiently accountable -- to teachers, students or parents. Exclusion at the meso level: the education bureaucracy

The education bureaucracy excludes by failing to recognize the diversity of learners within its purview.

The education bureaucracy excludes children when it fails to provide their teachers with the learning and professional status they need to be competent, responsible and motivated.

Education systems exclude when they fail to provide teachers regular in-service professional development and moral support from qualified and learning-oriented supervisors.

Education systems exclude through a message that says "conscientious teaching is the least prominent and most thankless of the activities teachers are expected to perform."

Education bureaucracies exclude by focusing on achievement of the 'successful', rather than on an inclusive education which aims to improve the learning skills of all pupils.

Children already at risk are made more vulnerable to exclusion when the system's testing procedures fail to reflect their individual learning characteristics and home backgrounds and to accommodate teaching to these.

The education bureaucracy excludes children when it persists in creating inappropriate and irrelevant curriculum and materials of poor quality.

 
Exclusion at the macro level: national education policy
 

Government and education policies exclude at the macro level in two broad ways. By commission, they actively deny children's right to education through the regulations they apply -- restrictive enrolment criteria, for example, or policies which segregate children with disabilities into institutional arrangements without professionally competent staff, effective co-ordination with the mainstream education system or support to parents.

They also exclude by omission, failing to make "education for all" a broad societal philosophy and articulated priority.

National governments and education policy-making bodies exclude by not seriously or comprehensively identifying barriers to education for families and children at risk, or creating opportunities to enable their participation.

National systems exclude when they segregate children with special learning needs.

·Education policy-making excludes when it segregates the formal "legitimate" school system from the "less-worthy" educational activities out of school.

Education policies exclude by insisting on centralized and inflexible control over standards, approaches and methods that are not relevant to vulnerable communities.

 
Who are excluded?
 
How education systems exclude children potentially concerns all children to some degree. The concern of this strategy session, and a critical focus of global action in support of education during the next 15 years, however, are those children who are affected in a major way by these exclusionary forces. They are the children, chiefly (but not solely) in developing countries, living in conditions of extreme poverty and social marginalization. They are children who, whether on their own or through their families, are unlikely to be able to break the exclusionary downward cycle. They are, therefore, the children for whom national systems and the international community must take significant affirmative and persistent action both to change the causal conditions of poverty and exclusion and to design and implement inclusive, effective education.
 
More specifically, they are children who:
 

are considered not to "fit" into majority-based classrooms: ethnic minority and scheduled caste children; children of different cultures, speaking other than a national language; or whose dysfunctional family or life on the street leads them to be stereotyped as children incapable or unworthy of learning and therefore kept out of school;

contradict accepted norms of who can or should learn: girls in general, and pregnant girls in particular; children with disabilities or affected by HIV/AIDS

cannot afford the cost or the time of schooling: children from poor families and working and street children;

are not free or available to participate: geographically isolated children; child soldiers; unregistered migrants; children of transients, seasonal workers and nomadic communities;

are living in the context of disaster: children in war zones; refugee children; and children displaced by destruction of the physical environment.

 

What does exclusion look like?
 
Somewhat arbitrarily, the face of exclusion depends on who the children are, where they are, and what they are doing. The excluded child is, for example, a girl working as a flower seller on the street in an impoverished slum; or he is an adolescent boy from a hilltribe community forced to serve in one of the drug militias of the Golden Triangle. This differentiation into the who, where and what of exclusion is intended to provide perspective, to make the concept more accessible and operational in terms of defining a specific focus, constraints and entry points.
 
Who these children are, then, concerns those characteristics that are effectively "given", the essence of the child: gender, ethnicity, race, age, basic intellectual and physical capacities, background and personal history. These are the bases on which the child must be accepted as a learner and around which society, the education system and the school must organize education to ensure a relevant and effective learning experience. These personal characteristics cannot be used to justify exclusion.
 
Where they are concerns the context in which children live. It concerns the surrounding conditions that exclude children by failing to allow for their basic rights and needs, including access to good education. It shifts the focus from the child to those responsible for ensuring the protection and development of all children, pursuant to the CRC. It obliges us to change our thinking from how the child must fit into school, to consider instead how the barriers presented by the school and the wider environment can be removed to ensure that the school fits the child.
 
What they are doing concerns both the who and where of exclusion. It concerns how children, using their interests and meagre resources, are coping with the conditions of their lives. This affects how ready children are to engage in learning and to participate in education, given their other activities and concerns. This affects how those responsible for children's well-being can effectively know and co-operate with children to ensure their education, as well as health care, social services, protection, etc. A perspective on what excluded children are doing forces analyses and interventions to be more tailored. For example, that which working children are actually doing, and where, and with what risks, largely determines how much "space" they have for learning. Such perspective helps us to see more clearly how education can be made to suit children as and where they are now and to help them move forward.
 
Globally, whatever the perspective, girls constitute the majority of excluded children. Gender discrimination continues to be the major causal factor of children being left out, and pushed out, of school. The denial of girls' right to education remains a pernicious and persistent characteristic of many societies by reason of culture and family choice.
 
The basic question of exclusion is simple enough: "Why is it that so many schools throughout the world fail to teach effectively so many children?" But the answer is not so simple. Exclusion is a layered phenomenon. Underlying conditions keep children out: poverty, discrimination, communal violence. Systemic factors push them out: unsafe and insecure schools, unqualified or unmotivated teachers, inflexible schedules and irrelevant curriculum. Individual and family situations hold them back: values or immediate priorities that push formal education aside.
 
While there has been progress since Jomtien in extending the quality and scope of education to many children, progress for excluded children seems only marginal. At least the questions are clearer, and by extending the EFA effort, the world is giving itself more time to try to answer them. This extension, however, acknowledges the world's failure to respect the right of all children to an education and legitimises the loss of another generation. Some of the more persistent threads of debate focus on a number of dilemmas.
 

Should we:

focus efforts directly on reaching excluded children and/or, more broadly, on disabling the causes of exclusion? ·

create high quality, accessible school systems and/or broaden the framework to recognize early childhood and nonformal programmes as integral parts of an expanded vision?

intervene through national-level advocacy and/or through direct context-specific action with families and communities? ·

work within closely-controlled, well-resourced pilot programmes and/or seek to go directly to scale, involving changes in the entire education system ?

 
In addition to resolving these dilemmas, the world faces several challenges: how to deal seriously with poverty, make affected children visible, generate better and more participatory analyses of what is happening in the field, make the framework of inclusion wide enough to cover all children, ensure that focused action is necessarily co-ordinated action, and engage in serious and sustained introspection about what more needs to be done.
 
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