With Covid-19 wreaking havoc on the global education scenario in a big way, an international expert has highlighted that recovery strategies must emphasise on inclusion and fairness for every child.
“I emphasise the importance of equity in education and the recovery strategies must include fairness and inclusion of all the students. Ensuring that all children receive effective support from their families, schools and communities is essential to the promotion of equity. These principles are explained in a recent Unesco report titled ‘Every learner matters and matters equally,’ Prof Mel Ainscow told Gulf Times.
He was the keynote speaker at the Teaching & Learning Forum organised by the Pre-University Education at Qatar Foundation recently. Ainscow is a professor of education at the University of Glasgow, Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Manchester and adjunct professor at Queensland University of Technology, Australia as well as a long-term consultant to Unesco.
“Throughout the world the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown light on challenges that we knew were there before. In particular, it has shown how certain groups of students are disadvantaged as far as educational progress is concerned. These groups vary from country but those from economically poor backgrounds are a matter of particular concern,” he explained.
The academic was also highly appreciative of the educational initiatives by Qatar and the leadership being provided by the Qatar Foundation in this regard. “There is no doubt that this kind of strategic leadership is vital in order to bring stakeholders together in addressing the challenges schools face in supporting the learning of all students,” he said.
He noted that the teachers in this scenario have to focus on ensuring the presence, participation and progress of all students.
“The implication is that teachers have to develop their practices in ways that will ensure that every child attends school regularly, feels valued and is engaged in their lessons. At the same time, schools have to be organised in ways that provide support to teachers as they address this challenge. This has significant implications for school leaders, who must make sure that this happens,” Prof Ainscow said.
According to the professor of education, there is not one single model of what an inclusive school looks like.
“What is common to highly inclusive schools, however, is that they are welcoming and supportive places for all of their students, not least for those with disabilities and others who experience difficulties in learning and socialisation. When schools are successful in moving in a more inclusive direction, there is usually a degree of consensus amongst adults around values of respect for difference and a commitment to offering all students access to learning opportunities,” he said.
The education expert also felt that in the emerging scenario, there is likely to be a high level of staff collaboration and joint problem-solving, and similar values and commitments may extend into the student body, and amongst families and other community stakeholders associated with the school.
Quoting certain findings in a research, he maintained that ‘schools know more than they use’.
“This means that the starting point for strengthening the work of a school is with the sharing of existing practices through collaboration amongst staff, leading to experimentation with new practices that will reach out to all students. The use of evidence to study teaching within a school can help foster the development of practices that are more effective in reaching hard to reach learners. Specifically, this can create space for rethinking by interrupting existing discourses,” he added.