7.3.2 UNESCO’s 48th International Conference on Education

The UNESCO International Conference on Education (ICE) is an international forum for policy dialogue, held by UNESCO’s 153 member states to progress UNESCO’s overall strategy for fostering quality education. At the 48th ICE, held in Geneva in November 2008, inclusive education was emphasized in the conclusion and recommendations as a key strategy in achieving UNESCO’s Education for All initiative.175 The proceedings state that inclusive education is an “ongoing process aimed at offering quality education for all while respecting diversity and the different needs and abilities, characteristics and learning expectations of the students, eliminating all forms of discrimination.”176 The use of ICT is emphasized as a means of ensuring “greater access to learning opportunities.”177

Analysis of National Reports on the Development of Education

National reports on the development of education were submitted by 116 countries for the Conference.178 The reports show a mix of modest progress and interesting innovations being made by developing countries in the use of ICTs for inclusive education:

  • The Brazilian Ministry of Education views the provision of accessible ICTs as a means to “fight against poverty, social exclusion and culturalization.” To this end, the Ministry reports the installation of 1,251 multi-functional resource rooms equipped with “televisions, computers with printers, scanners and webcams, DVDs and software for accessibility, furniture and educational and pedagogical material specific to Braille, sign language, augmentative and alternative communication, among other resources of assistive technology for offering complimentary specialized educational services.” These rooms were installed between 2005 and 2007, with the aim of having 30,000 multifunctional resource rooms by end of 2011.179
  • The Tanzanian Ministry of Education reported having “managed to improve the conditions of the buildings of some schools that practice inclusive education, as well as purchasing materials like Braille machines and computers for the blind and others.”180
  • In Barbados, “the role that computer technology can play in promoting the education of children with special needs is important, not only in teaching new skills but in providing access to the curriculum through assistive devices. Particular computer applications and devices make it possible for students with disabilities to be educated in a regular classroom alongside their non-disabled peers.”181
  • In Uzbekistan, “children with special needs, who don’t have physical opportunities to visit school, will be provided with a computer and computer multimedia training programs […] ” These computers will provide access to basic educational packages and resources.
  • In Thailand, “education coupons are provided to assist towards the technology and special services needed, with each student with a disability entitled to a coupon of minimum baht 2,000 (USD 55) per year.”182

While some reports are encouraging, and all national reports make reference to some provision for students with disabilities, very few prioritize the provision or use of accessible ICTs. A keyword search performed on all 116 national reports for a variety of terms associated with accessible ICTs revealed that the provision or use of accessible ICTs, and in particular learning materials in alternate formats, were present in only a small number of reports.183

In 2010, UNESCO organized the ninth meeting of the High-level Group on Education for All, which took place from 23-25 February 2010 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The resulting Addis Ababa Declaration184 emphasizes:

“The six EFA goals and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will only be achieved if governments accelerate their efforts to guarantee education for marginalized populations. Opportunities in 2010, notably the MDG review process, must be utilized to revitalize efforts and support for EFA. Unless the global community takes determined and targeted action to reach the marginalized, there will be at least 56 million primary school age children still not enrolled in school in 2015.”

In 2010, UNESCO published the “EFA Global Monitoring Report 2010: Teaching the marginalized.“ The report indicates that children with disabilities are among the most marginalized and least likely to go to school.

"There are an estimated 150 million children in the world with disabilities, about four-fifths of them in developing countries. Millions more live with disabled parents and relatives. Beyond their immediate health-related effects, physical and mental impairments carry a stigma that often leads to exclusion from society and from school… Children with impairments that affect the capacity to communicate, and more severe impairments overall, typically have the most limited opportunities for education, especially in the poorest countries”.

UNESCO is launching a new project on “Development of inclusive information policies for use of ICTs in Education for Persons with Disabilities” (ICT4ED4PWD). The initiative aims to collect good practices in using accessible, adaptive and affordable ICTs in education for persons with disabilities. It also will examine existing ICT policies focusing on issues related to inclusive education, including persons with disabilities. A comprehensive set of recommendations will be prepared to enhance inclusive information policies around the world.
 

175http://www.ibe.unesco.org/en/ice/48th-ice-2008.html

176http://www.ibe.unesco.org/en/ice/48th-session-2008/final-report.html

177One of the themes debated was “The Role of ICTs in Curricular Innovation”. One of the concrete areas for action was on “Flexible teaching methods and innovative approaches to teaching aids, and equipment as well as the use of ICTs”

178http://www.ibe.unesco.org/en/ice/48th-session-2008/national-reports.html

179http://www.ibe.unesco.org/National_Reports/ICE_2008/brazil_NR08_es.pdf Page 44-45

180Ibid (page 43)

181Ibid (page 7)

182Ibid (page 17)

183Results of keyword search performed using Google on parent URL: http://www.ibe.unesco.org/National_Reports/ICE_2008

  • Assistive/adaptive technology/devices/equipment) – 8 times (Lith., Barb., Brune., Jamac., Tanza., Afghan., Brazil, Canada)
  • Universal design - 3 times (Eston., Afghan., Botswana)
  • Accessible ICT – 0 time
  • Braille – 28 times

184Ninth Meeting of the High-Level Group on Education for All, 23-25 February 2010 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
ADDIS ABABA DECLARATION. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001871/187149e.pdf