Inclusive education is an imperative for UNESCO. The 2008-2013 Medium-Term Strategy of UNESCO focuses “particularly on bringing all the benefits of education to the poor, the excluded, to indigenous people, to the marginalized and to those with special needs.” The United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit held in September 2010 also called for a greater focus of action to address exclusion and inequalities “by developing and operationalizing an inclusive education.”
The current priority for UNESCO is to ensure policies, programmes and practices that pave the way for inclusive education systems. The objective is to translate the right to education principles into action and support education for all, with emphasis on removing barriers to participation and learning for girls and women, out-of-school children, and those who are marginalized and disadvantaged in society such as Roma people, people with disabilities and indigenous peoples.
This objective is pursued through
Advocacy – intensifying dialogue with Member States on the need to respect and fulfill their legal obligations;
Catalysis – facilitating exchange and partnerships between Member States, key UN agencies, other aid agencies, civil society and international and local NGOs;
Capacity building – assisting Member States in improving the capacities of their Ministries of Education and other relevant Ministries to implement the right to education and to advance towards inclusive education;
Monitoring – tracking the progress in the implementation of the right to education, the state of exclusion in education and the advancement of inclusive education.
UNESCO concentrates its efforts in four main areas of interventions
- Policy development
- Curriculum reform
- Teacher training
- Promoting inclusive practices in communities and society
- UNESCO’s Policy Guidelines on Inclusion in Education and other guides provide frameworks for Member States to take concrete steps to ensure equal opportunities for quality education for all without discrimination and advance towards inclusive education.
- Trends in inclusive education at regional and interregional levels: issues and challenges developed by International Bureau of Education (IBE) provides a tool for users to understand and promote inclusive education, and to integrate it into curricula.
- Embracing Diversity: Toolkit for Creating Inclusive Learning-Friendly Environments, produced by UNESCO Bangkok, provides guidance on how to create an inclusive, learning-friendly environment which welcomes, nurtures, and educates all children regardless of their sex, physical, intellectual, socio economic, emotional, linguistic, or other characteristics.
- The database Inclusive Education in Action developed by the European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education and UNESCO, provides examples of policies, programmes and practices for inclusive education.