Future directions in inclusive education systems

Co-convenors: Ricardo Sabates & Shrochis Karki

Educational discourse is increasingly shifting focus from issues of access to schools to learning within schools, from basic education to a full cycle of lifelong learning, from basic skills to 21st Century skills, from an input-based approach to a process-oriented approach that places teaching and learning at the heart of effective provision.  The shift has involved re-thinking what it means to provide effective education for all, moving beyond individualised programmes to consider how these programmes fit within the broad and complex education systems in which teaching and learning takes central place.  The shift has also implied moving beyond binary models for inclusive education, such as boys versus girls or disabled versus non-disabled, to an even broader understanding of inclusiveness within classrooms and thereafter.  It also calls for us to re-imagine the education systems of the future and to consider how these systems can promote inclusiveness and the formation of a broad set of knowledge and skills by dealing with the complex socio-political and economic contexts in which education systems operate.

In this theme, we welcome theoretical or conceptual ‘think-pieces’ as well as empirical research and lessons from practice. Proposals may address some of the following questions and topics:

  • What are the key debates over educational futures? Are there competing voices and values? How can local and marginalised communities participate in the debate?
  • How can a systems thinking approach support mediation of public and private objectives and goals for education?
  • What are the best or most innovative ways to apply systems thinking and research methodologies to understand and improve education systems?
  • How will future systems be inclusive and be cognizant of different education provision mechanisms?
  • In what ways can education systems of the future facilitate the emergence and diffusion of new education innovations as well as local knowledge?
  • How can education systems be better oriented to develop soft skills and socio-emotional skills?

For any questions on this theme please contact Ricardo Sabates

See the blog by Ricardo and Shrochis on the theme

Problematizing inclusive systems

Co-convenors:  Elizabeth Walton and Amy Parker

‘Inclusive education’. ‘Leave no one behind’. ‘Equity in learning’. These phrases have become common parlance – but what do they actually mean, and what will it take truly to achieve quality, inclusive education for all? Are there fallacies that need to be challenged? In this theme we welcome abstracts that explore and interrogate different components of the holistic ‘inclusive education’ system. What is working, what is not working and what has the potential to work?

At the institutional level, how does policy enable or constrain inclusivity? To what end can curricula and pedagogies work to include or exclude different groups of learners? What role does language of instruction play? What high leverage approaches address exclusionary pressures and practices that cut across identity and place – or do governments need to have a new and different approach for each group of learners – migrants, refugees, people with disabilities, girls and those from other marginalised groups? And in what ways do we include to exclude?

At the community level, how might parent/ caregiver engagement impact inclusive education? Community awareness-raising is often a key component of education programmes – what examples and evidence are there that demonstrate a shift from understanding to positive attitudinal change to lasting behavioural change? What learning can we take from initiatives that have not worked, or have resulted in unintended negative outcomes?

At the individual level, do systems consider voice and participation when policy and practice are developed, implemented and reviewed? What value is placed on different concepts and beliefs when it comes to inclusiveness, and how should context-specific limited notions of inclusiveness – where inclusion for some is accepted, but not for all groups – be understood? How might individual or locally-driven inclusive education initiatives be brought to scale?

This theme seeks to take a critical view of extant policies and practices, while also proposing generative ideas for taking the imperative for inclusive education systems forward. We welcome theoretical or conceptual ‘think-pieces’ as well as empirical research and lessons from practice.

For any questions on this theme please contact Amy Parker or Elizabeth Walton

See the blog by Elizabeth Walton on the theme

Education financing for global equity and inclusion

Co-convenors: Moses Oketch and Bronwen Magrath

Achieving equitable, quality learning outcomes for all requires more money be spent on education, but also in a smarter way.  While we can all agree on the need for additional funding, more controversial are questions of who is spending and who is (or is not) receiving. Aid has long been criticised for fuelling global power imbalances and for ‘donor-driven’ programming and reform; yet the staggering need for social spending in low- and middle-income countries begs the question of how these gaps can be filled. In the education field this tension has intensified with a flurry of interest in non-traditional donors including private and philanthropic funders, new bilateral aid donors, and a growing list of global financing mechanisms.

At the domestic level, there are myriad actors seeking to increase and influence education spending. Local and regional governments compete for limited education resources from national and international sources; provision is occurring across the private-public spectrum, involving government, NGOs, private enterprise and domestic philanthropy; civil society organisations advocate for more equitable and transparent financing and taxation. Clearly the current domestic as well as international education financing presents several equity and inclusion problems and will need to be reformed to ensure its long-term sustainability.

This conference theme invites presentations that explore current and emerging trends in education financing, with a particular interest in how these shape programming and policy from the global to the local level. We welcome theoretical or conceptual ‘think-pieces’ as well as empirical research and lessons from practice. Proposals may address some of the following questions and topics:

  • What are the different/complementary roles played by governments, bilateral, multilateral, philanthropic and corporate donors? How can these be better regulated and coordinated?
  • What role do/could local civil society actors, including schools, teachers, parents and communities, play in making education financing fairer and more equitable?
  • What new models and mechanisms are emerging for education financing? What are the potential benefits and risks in terms of education equity and inclusion?
  • What models are there for funding that is nationally and locally based, collaborative and accountable?
  • What reforms are needed, domestically and internationally, to ensure the long-term sustainable, equitable funding of education?
  • How can we ensure accountability and transparency in education financing?

For any questions on this theme please contact Bronwen Magrath

Read the blog on this conference theme

Education system actors: strengthening inclusive practice

Co-convenors:  Lizzi O.Milligan and Sharon Tao

Education system actors – which include educators working at all levels, from early childhood to higher education as well as ministry officials, regional/district/ward officers, inspectors, technical specialists, education managers and others – are central to providing educational opportunities for all, including the most marginalised. This theme will explore ideas and strategies that support system actors to do so across the education cycle.

In this theme, we welcome theoretical or conceptual ‘think-pieces’ as well as empirical research and lessons from practice. Proposals may address some of the following questions and topics:

  • What can be done to support system actors, who are often subject to the social norms and prejudices that underpin exclusion, to ensure inclusive pedagogies and practices?
  • How can actors, working at the district level best support school level actors?
  • How can education system actors respond to challenges of expanded formal education whilst including the most marginalised?
  • How can discourse and rhetoric characterised by differing interpretations on ‘inclusion’ be reconciled with the reality faced by educators on the ground?
  • How can small yet effective capacity development solutions be implemented at scale? Particularly by education systems that may not have the financial or human resource to do so?
  • How can the actual recruitment, training and deployment of education system actors be inclusive in and of itself?
  • What new roles, functions and organisational structures might we see in education and training systems in the future? What new skill sets are needed for these roles?

For any questions on this theme please contact Sharon Tao

Read the blog on this theme

Education technology and data science for inclusive systems

Co-convenors: Patrick Montjourides and Kate Radford

Much attention is given to the potential for education technology and data science in development settings to improve educational outcomes. As technology develops and spreads, education data becomes a new and valuable commodity with important consequences for education systems. The potential of education technology has attracted new private sector investment in education, but with the risk that commercial interests could conflict with equity goals.  Education technology has the potential to provide solutions to reach the most vulnerable, support teachers in under-resourced classrooms, enable wider participation in higher and adult education and provide real time monitoring data. However, the relationship between inclusion and education technology is not always straightforward. Education technology requires an enabling technological and social environment which might not be found where the needs are greatest, and those most in need, including marginalised girls and people with disabilities, may have the least access.  What evidence is emerging on the effectiveness and efficiency of technological solutions to educational ‘problems’?  Is there potential for education technology to transform the landscape of education systems? And if so, how?  Are education technologies contributing to exclusion and marginalisation of educational opportunities?

The use of technology in education demands a new set of skills from both practitioners and policy makers.  What efforts have or could be made to build competency with education sector actors? How has the global education development sector worked together to develop appropriate policies at national and international level which take into account competency development requirements, data protection, child safeguarding and research ethics in the digital age? What are the future recommendations for policy makers?

In academia the exponential increase in the production and availability of data has the potential to substantially influence research methods and cross-disciplinary collaboration. In other fields, data scientists have become a staple of methodological approaches at the knowledge frontier. Ability to handle big data, machine learning algorithms and advanced visualizations are becoming increasingly important with the development of computational social sciences and digital humanities. What are the implications of the increasing prevalence of education technology and education data for academics and the topics/issues they research? Does it favour specific topics and epistemological approaches over others? Do we see changes in agency among academics and education stakeholders? What are some of the new approaches that have been used? Has data science contributed to bridge between policy, research and practice?

We welcome theoretical or conceptual ‘think-pieces’ as well as empirical research and lessons from practice that address these questions and topics.

For any questions on this theme please contact Kate Radford

Read the blog on this theme by Patrick 

System responses to conflict and crises

Co-convenors: Tejendra Pherali and Susan Nicolai

This theme will engage with a broad range of complexities relating to the provision of education in times of violent conflict, natural disasters and mass displacement. Contributions will examine interactions between educational inequalities, violent conflict, extremism and education’s role in supporting peace, social cohesion and disaster risk reduction. There are urgent needs to strengthen systems through improved capacities, sustainable funding mechanisms and new policy initiatives in order to address the increased educational demand in contexts of mass displacement. While data on access to learning in contexts of protracted crises have become more extensive and reliable, there remains little evidence about the quality and outcomes of education and training. There are also concerns relating to some systems that are negligent or even hostile to minorities, refugees and the political ‘other’.

In this theme, we welcome theoretical or conceptual ‘think-pieces’ as well as empirical research and lessons from practice. Proposals may address some of the following questions and topics:

  • How can systems prepare for and meet the immediate education needs of the population during an emergency and recover from crisis?
  • What is the relationship between education and peace? How can education systems further promote critical political citizenship and tackle violent extremism?
  • How might systems differently respond and maintain flexibility to adapt to different types of crises?
  • How can coherence between humanitarian, development and peace and security actors be strengthened to support education systems?
  • How can systems better support education and training for refugees, IDPs and other groups affected by crises?

For any questions on this theme, please contact Tejendra Pherali

Read the blog on this theme