Historical archive

Inclusive Education – a means for Social Inclusion

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Education and Research

Inclusive Education – a means for Social Inclusion. Selected Policy Statements State Secretary, Ms Lisbet Rugtvet, Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, presentation at the ICE 48, Geneva, 26th November 2008.

Inclusive Education – a means for Social Inclusion. Selected Policy Statements State Secretary, Ms Lisbet Rugtvet, Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, presentation at the ICE 48, Geneva, 26th November 2008.

Link to the document in pdf-format

Dear colleague Ministers, UNESCO officials, education experts, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues and friends.

It is a great pleasure and honour for me to be given this opportunity to present on a theme that lies at the heart of the education and training policy in my country.

At this point of the Education for All process, half-way between the Dakar Conference and the 2015 deadline, we have definitely been making great progress. But at the same time, as the Global Monitoring Report 2009 reveals, we are still facing serious challenges in overcoming persistent inequalities in access to relevant education.

Inclusive Education is a philosophy and policy approach that aims to remove obstacles to attendance and ensure that every individual will get the opportunity and necessary support to identify and develop his or her talents to the full potential. These talents may be of theoretical, practical, cultural and social nature.

Norwegian education and training has for the last three decades been developed according to central Inclusive Education principles, under governments of varying political colours. Today, 13 years of education and training of high quality is an individual right, delivered mainly within a public system that charges no school fees.

There are restrictions on private schooling in order to avoid inequalities based on economy, and needs-based financial arrangements are in place to remove economic obstacles to attendance.

National regulations ensure universal access to public buildings for people with physical disabilities, and education is actively utilised for inclusion of vulnerable groups outside mainstream education.

Please see our national report for more details, including identified challenges and newly introduced policy responses to these.

Inclusive Education is a broad topic with many interesting aspects worth scrutinising. My contribution to the debates during this important conference will be 5 policy statements based on Norwegian observations and experiences. They are as follows:

1.   Inclusive Education must build on the human viewpoint that all individuals have the same, equal worth.

Inclusive Education complies with the principle of universality, education as a human right. Individuals are different, yet every individual has a potential for learning. Access to adequate quality education should be given to every individual regardless of personal features and gender, as well as ethnic, religious, sexual, social, economic and geographical factors.

2.   The development of inclusive education is a long-term process.

The Nordic countries have come a long way in developing inclusive education systems. But this has taken several decades and implied high investments. Whilst actively supporting the development of inclusive education under the EFA agenda, the international community must respect that also the developing countries will need time to develop their systems.

And let me underline that also the most developed systems have a potential for improvements. Inclusive education is a continuous process of adjustments and reforms to meet new needs due to changes in the environment.

3.   Early intervention is an important principle for successful Inclusive Education. 

Attitudes to learning, as well as basic knowledge and skills that constitute the foundation for personal development and learning throughout life are formed at an early stage of life. Similarly, specific challenges and needs of the individual child can often be identified at an early stage in life.

It is thus of vital importance for a country to develop a system of ECCE (Early Childhood Care and Education) that covers all children, and to allocate resources to ensure the early provision of relevant support to meet the specific needs of the individual child. (Norway is still striving to achieve this.)

4.   Successful Inclusive Education per se and as a means for Social Inclusion, depends on close cooperation between the education system and external public and private partners.

The role of education and training is to serve the society, to organise and provide the necessary resources for the development of knowledge and skills to the benefit of individuals, the various sectors and the nation in its entirety.

In the perspective of ensuring optimal education, stimulation and support to the individual child, a close contact and cooperation between the school and the parents is of great importance.

In general, relevance and quality in education and training can only be ensured by direct involvement and close cooperation with the stakeholders, including the community and labour market actors, on policy development and implementation.

Resources, regulations and arrangements that are vital for the removal of obstacles and realisation of Inclusive Education in mainstream education are often controlled by other authorities. Examples are building regulations for ensuring universal access to public buildings, and technical equipment and transport for the disabled.

If Inclusive Education is a means for achieving Social Inclusion, it must also cover vulnerable groups that are otherwise considered the responsibility of other authorities, such as labour, immigration and justice. These authorities control resources and regulations relevant for training of the unemployed, immigrants and prisoners, respectively, groups that are excluded or need new opportunities and support.

5.   Adequate governance is important for ensuring equity in both treatment and result.

Inclusive Education implies carefully adapted education to diverse individual needs in different local contexts. These diversified provisions must be organised and administered locally.

Good governance is necessary in a decentralised system in order to ensure equality in provision / treatment and outcomes.

It is furthermore important to allocate sufficient resources for ensuring high quality in education, particularly in the public education system.

Practicing inclusive education is a demanding task. It is thus important that the government organises teacher training so as to ensure that all teachers are properly equipped with pedagogical qualifications for adaptation of teaching to the individual learners’ needs.  

The importance of governance for ensuring equality in education is a central message in the Global Monitoring Report (EFA Report) 2009.

This issue, as well as the urgent need for qualified teachers, will be further highlighted during the EFA High Level Group Meeting in Oslo in December.

Thank you for your attention! And good luck with the further deliberations.