WHO ARE EXCLUDED
Each One Counts. The Convention on the Rights
of the Child (CRC) affirms the right of all children to
relevant and good quality education. It confirms and extends
the belief of many cultures that there is a social contract
and moral commitment of the part of States to ensure the equity
and well-being of all citizens. It brings the moral weight of
an international instrument to propel a major shift in perspective
for States and donors as they implement action to achieve 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 be such that it contributes 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
The exclusion of children constitutes a broadly-based
and intricate web of human rights violations. The exclusion
of children is in itself a broad-brush phenomenon. 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
corollary 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 which are excluding them.
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 dimensions or factors are involved
in this syndrome of exclusion; it is in the specific characteristics
and interactions of each of these where the causes, consequences,
the scope, severity and dynamics of exclusion in any one setting
will be found:
contextual: environmental and demographic pressures, institutional
structures and technological infrastructure, and especially
political and economic systems;
2 socio-cultural: belief and value systems, indigenous
knowledge and skills, family structures, community arrangements;
3 relational: decision-making systems and communication,
resource allocation patterns, negotiation and conflict resolution
mechanisms, gender and age relations.
Further, exclusion happens at every level of society:
children, their families and communities; schools and education
systems; national education policy communities; the society
as a whole. International agencies are also influential in
each of these, of course. Specifically:
within the family and the community
school within the education system
education policy within the society and international community
at the Micro Level: The School
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;
when they fail to take affirmative and uncompromising action
to end all forms of harassment, abuse and violence.
exclude when they do not reach out proactively to the families
of children who are most vulnerable.
exclude these children by not taking their families into
account; by not creating programmes expressly to link them
into the educational processes their children are experiencing.
exclude when they fail to concern themselves with those
children who do not turn up.
contribute to exclusion by not putting systems in place
for formally noticing and tracking the non-attender or truant.
happen to both individuals alone and to individuals as members
of groups or categories of children.
exclude by costing too much, directly and by implication.
exclude by not being sufficiently accountable -- to their
teachers, students or parents.
at the Meso Level: The Education Bureaucracy
The education bureaucracy excludes at the meso level by
failing to recognize the diversity of learners within its
education bureaucracy excludes children when it fails to
provide their teachers with the learning and professional
status they need to be effectively competent, responsible
systems exclude when they fail to provide teachers regular
in-service professional development and moral support from
qualified and learning-oriented supervisors.
failing to provide teachers on-going professional support,
education systems most seriously exclude through a message
that says "conscientious teaching is the least prominent
and most thankless of the activities they (teachers) are
expected to perform."
bureaucracies exclude by being "predicated on the achievement
of the 'successful', rather than on an inclusive education
which aims to improve the problem-solving and critical learning
skills of all pupils and not just a select few."
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.
education bureaucracy excludes children when it persists
in creating inappropriate and irrelevant curriculum and
materials of poor pedagogical quality.
at the Macro Level: National Education Policy
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; or failing to implement any pro-child policies
which do exist in serious, systematic ways.
government 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.
systems exclude when they purposively segregate children
with special learning needs.
Macro levels exclude by failing systematically to assess
variations in learning achievement across the country.
policy-making excludes when it segregates the formal "legitimate"
school system from the less-worthy "rest".
policies exclude by insisting on centralized and inflexible
control over standards, approaches and methods which are
not relevant to vulnerable communities.
education systems exclude children potentially concerns all
children, to some degree. The concern of this paper, and critical
for the 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 changethe
basic conditions of poverty and exclusion in their lives overall,
and to design and implement inclusive, effective education.
More specifically, they are children who:
are not considered 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 or broken family or life on the street
lead them to be stereotyped as children incapable or unworthy
of learning and appropriately 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 chronically poor urban and rural families
or for whom economic crises have created newly-jobless families;
working and street children; children who are the fall-out
are not free or available to participate: geographically
isolated children in coastal fishing communities or remote
mountain areas; child soldiers; unregistered migrants; children
of transients, seasonal workers and nomadic communities.
are living in the context of disaster: children in
war, refugee children and children displaced by destruction
of their physical environment.
What does exclusion look like? Somewhat arbitrarily, these
have been grouped according to who the children are, where they
are (i.e. the circumstances in which they find themselves),
and what they are doing. These categories are not mutually exclusive.
The excluded child is, for example, a girl who is working as
a flower seller on the street of an impoverished Brazilian slum;
he is an adolescent boy from a hilltribe community forced to
serve in one of the drug militias of the Golden Triangle. The
differentiation into the who, where and what of exclusion is
intended to provide perspective, to make the concept more accessible
and actionable in terms of thinking about specific focus, constraints
and entry points.
"Who" these children are, then, concerns those characteristics
which are effectively "given", the essence of the child: gender,
ethnicity and race; age (for that period); basic intellectual
and physical capacities; background experience and personal
history. These are the bases on which the child must be accepted
as a learner, and around which the society, education system
and school must organize to ensure a relevant and effective
learning experience. They are characteristics which cannot be
used as justification for exclusion.
"Where" concerns the context in which the child lives,
or has been placed. It concerns the surrounding conditions which
exclude children by failing to allow for their (and their families')
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 this and all children,
pursuant to the commitments of the CRC. It forces consideration
not of how the child must change to fit into school, but of
how the barriers presented by the school and the wider socio-economic,
cultural and political environment can be removed, or their
negative impacts mitigated, so as to ensure the child's does
"What they are doing" concerns both the who and where
of exclusion. It concerns how children, based on the individual
and social resources and personal interests they bring, are
managing or coping with the conditions of their lives. This
includes consideration of how ready the child is to engage in
learning and/or to participate in education, given the other
activities and concerns he or she faces. The focus here is on
collaboration. It concerns how those responsible for children's
well-being can most effectively know, and co-operate with, those
children to design and implement action appropriate to ensuring
their effective and relevant education (as well as health care,
social services, justice etc). A perspective on what excluded
children are doing forces situation analyses and interventions
to be more refined and tailored; to consider, for example, what
working children are working at and where, with what risk and
how much "space" they have for learning. It forces interventions
to consider specifically what a child is doing on the street,
in a conflict zone or in an isolated rural school. It forces
consideration of how education can be made to suit children
as they are now, and to help them move forward.
Globally, under all categories, the answer to this is
that, most frequently, the excluded children are girls.
Gender continues to be the major causal factor in children being
left out, and pushed out, of school. The denial of a girl's
right to education remains a pernicious and persistent characteristic
of many societies on a purposive basis, by reason of culture
and family choice-making.
The basic question of exclusion is simple enough: "why
is it that schools throughout the world fail to teach so many
children successfully?" (MONEE:52). Beyond saying that societies
are not trying hard enough, 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 other priorities
which 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 would seem only marginal. The questions
at least are clearer, and by extending the decade the world
has given itself more time to try to answer them. Some of
the more persistent threads of debate include:
focusing directly on excluded children and/or more broadly
on the disabling causal conditions.
high quality and accessible formal school systems and/or
broadening the framework to recognize early childhood and
nonformal programmes as integral parts of an expanded vision.
through national-level advocacy and/or through direct context-specific
action with families and communities.
within closely-controlled, well-resourced pilot programme
and/or venturing directly onto the level of open-ended,
In extending the EFA dead-line another 15 years, Amman gave
the world more time. It also acknowledged the world's failure
to respect the right of all children to an education. In effect,
the new deadline of 2015 legitimises the loss of another generation.
In addition to debates, then, there are challenges:
Deal seriously with poverty.
the affected children visible.
better analyses of what is happening in the field.
these analyses participatory.
the framework wide enough.
action is necessarily co-ordinated action.
in serious and sustained introspection.
24 November, 1999 .