Let's celebrate diversity

The Dutch launch of the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report 2020 took place on Thursday 15 October. The Global & Inclusive Learning Centre of Expertise organised this online event in cooperation with the Dutch UNESCO Commission. The event was held in a studio in Zoetermeer with live connections to various national and international speakers, in a completely corona-proof set-up.

From a “culture of we” to a “culture of me” 

Kathleen Ferrier, chair of the Dutch UNESCO Commission, spoke in her opening speech about the importance of student-focused education. The COVID crisis has added a new dimension to this, according to Ferrier. ‘Online education literally gives you, as lecturer, a glimpse into the life of your student.’ Ferrier illustrated her story with a personal experience as an annual guest lecturer at The Asian University of Women. ‘I was now teaching online and saw students in refugee camps and at tea plantations. So I received much more information about their personal background. It also became clear that not everyone has access to online education.’ 

Investment required 

Anna D'Addio, senior policy analyst for the Global Education Monitoring Report, gave an online presentation from Paris of the main results of this year's annual GEM report with the overall theme of education and inclusion. An extremely current theme in the light of the COVID pandemic. One of the conclusions was that the COVID crisis has made the need to invest in inclusion even clearer. As an example, D’Addio mentioned the fact that in OECD countries, 1 in 20 students don't have internet access at home. In addition, due to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, financial support for education is expected to fall by $2 trillion. 

Sense of belonging 

Rick Wolff, a researcher at Risbo, an independent institution linked to the Erasmus School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, conducted research together with the Global & Inclusive Learning Centre of Expertise on the perception of lecturers during the lockdown in the Netherlands in March 2020, due to the coronavirus measures. Preliminary results show that 48% of the lecturers have no idea which students need extra support. It also appears that the connection between the lecturer and his/her team and the degree programme has an impact on the quality of online education. Wolff: ‘We see that lecturers with a higher sense of belonging are using more ways to shape online education. That has a direct impact on the quality of education.’ 

Other speakers 

Other speakers included: 

Jos Beelen, Global Learning professor, spoke on the importance of the professional development of lecturers in the area of inclusive education and action research. 

Mary Tupan, Director of ECHO, the expertise centre for diversity policy, made a plea for data collection. ‘Make your goal concrete and measure it. That's the only way we can check if we've done it right.’ 

Rajash Rawal, member of the Executive Board, emphasised that inclusive education is not an answer, but a process for which everyone — students and lecturers — is responsible. 

Saïd Touhami and Rishainy Bomberg are both members of the youth committee of UNESCO Netherlands and students of The Hague University of Applied Sciences. They called for a “culture of we” instead of “culture of me”. They produced a video about inclusive education at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, made especially for this event. 

Conclusion

The various speakers who called on others to embrace diversity also underlined that there has been progress in inclusive education: ‘Let's celebrate diversity!’ In her closing words, Ferrier said she was proud of the progress and had a positive outlook of the future. ‘There are still many challenges ahead of us and many opportunities also await us. We're doing this together.’ 

Did you miss it? 

You can watch the live stream of the event via 

You can watch the video made by the students at: https://youtu.be/wQYCJ5YY5bo 

The GEM Report 2020 can be downloaded from: https://gem-report-2020.unesco.org/ 

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