Education for all: pandemic threatens to increase inequalities

22.09.2020 - Press release

Presentation in Germany of UNESCO’s 2020 Global Education Monitoring Report: Inclusion and Education

Joint press release of the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the German Commission for UNESCO


On 22 September 2020, the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the German Commission for UNESCO held a digital event to present the 2020 UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report: Inclusion and Education - All means all. Senior politicians and international experts discussed the report’s implications for education in Germany and German development cooperation at this virtual gathering.

Although the international community set itself the goal of achieving inclusive and equitable education for all by 2030 in the Global Education 2030 Agenda, more than a quarter of a billion children and young people have no access to education. Millions of others are marginalised within the education system because of their background, their identity or a disability. The COVID‑19 pandemic threatens to exacerbate these inequalities yet further. By way of example, 40% of low and lower-middle income countries have not supported disadvantaged learners during the COVID‑19 crisis. That is the conclusion reached in the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report: Inclusion and education – All means all, which was presented in Germany today. UNESCO warns that, as a result of the COVID‑19 pandemic, the annual financial shortfall for education in low and lower-middle income countries will increase by up to one third from 148 billion US dollars to almost 200 billion US dollars.

Poverty is the main obstacle to success in education

Michelle Müntefering, Federal Foreign Office Minister of State for International Cultural Policy, emphasised that:

Education is the key to social participation. Everybody should receive the best possible support to achieve their full potential. It’s a matter of fairness. It is also a commitment that we, the global community, have made in international agreements. We are endeavouring to fulfil this joint responsibility as part of our cultural relations and education policy.

Global partnerships for education

Maria Flachsbarth, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, noted that:

In a crisis context such as the current COVID‑19 pandemic, existing inequalities are reinforced around the world. Over a billion children have been unable to go to school because of the pandemic this year. Everyone needs equal access to high-quality education. Global partnerships for education have to be strengthened now. We need global solidarity if we are to combat the disastrous impact of this pandemic on education.

In a quarter of all countries around the world, separate education for children with and without disabilities is required by law. In Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, there is legislation to that effect in more than 40% of countries. Minorities and refugees, too, are still not adequately guaranteed access to high-quality education in many countries around the world. In several Central and Eastern European countries, children from the Roma minority are taught separately from the majority society. In the OECD states, more than two-thirds of all students from immigrant backgrounds attend schools where they make up at least half of the student population.

Global steps towards inclusion

Thomas Rachel, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research stated that:

Our aim is to make education inclusive at all levels. We in Germany and the rest of the world must do more to gradually move closer to this goal. Everyone has a right to a good education, regardless of their gender, background, social status, religious or sexual orientation or a disability. With this goal in mind, we at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research are working to ensure strong, inclusive education in Germany.

Today’s event looked at the international perspective and global developments, but the focus was on the implications of the Global Education Monitoring Report for the German education system. Participants were briefed on the state of affairs and future perspectives of equitable education in Germany, largely with reference to the report by Dr Stefanie Hubig, President of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder.

Even if the international community still has a long way to go, there are many examples which show how inclusion can succeed. Earlier this year, before the publication of the Global Education Monitoring Report, UNESCO presented outstanding examples of inclusive education, including the Marie Kahle comprehensive school in Bonn under its head teacher Sabine Kreutzer. The school, established in 2009, uses the Dalton method which enables pupils to learn independently at their own pace. The Bonn school received the Jakob Muth Award for inclusive schools in 2019.

In many other countries too, UNESCO has found innovative approaches aimed at increasing participation in the field of education. For example, in Cuba, Malawi and Ukraine, there are resource centres which assist standard schools in teaching children with special needs. In the Gambia, New Zealand and Samoa, mobile teachers are deployed to reach disadvantaged groups. The Indian state of Odisha uses 21 tribal languages in its classrooms, while Kenya has adapted its curriculum to the calendar of the nomads living in the country.

Inclusion needs well-trained teaching staff

Walter Hirche, former Minister and member of the Board of the German Commission for UNESCO, commented as follows:

Many education systems are based on the assumption that everyone has the same learning needs. But just as people differ generally, they also differ in their approaches to learning. It is not the students who have to adapt to the existing school system, it is the education system that has to be adapted to them. We have already achieved much in Germany in the last few years. However, the majority of children and young people with special educational needs still learn separately and do not attend lessons in standard schools. We have to assist teachers during their teacher-training and provide them with tailored further training on catering to the needs of all pupils in equal measure.

Teachers have a crucial role to play when it comes to ensuring participation in the education sector. They are the key to more inclusion in everyday school life. However, they need the necessary tools. For example, a quarter of all teachers in 48 countries examined said that they would like to have more training on teaching pupils with special needs.

Background information

With the adoption of the global agenda for sustainable development, the international community undertook to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all by 2030. UNESCO coordinates measures to reach that goal, evaluates the progress made and publishes the Global Education Monitoring Report annually.

Further Information

Full text of UNESCO’s 2020 Global Education Monitoring Report


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