[Blog]: Thinking about the links between girls’ education and climate change

What do we know about the links between girls’ education and climate and environment change?

In 2021, representatives from around the world met in Glasgow for COP26, with the year being heralded the ‘make or break’ year to avert irreversible impacts upon our planet.

In this blog, Camilla Pankhurst, Education Adviser for the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office reflects how for billions of people, climate change is not a future problem but a lived reality. It is the poorest households in the poorest regions hardest hit, with women and girls disproportionately affected due to existing gender inequalities. As experts grapple with these challenges, the question of the relationship of climate change with girls’ education has been building momentum.

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[Blog]: How schools in Nepal are including children with disabilities

How schools in Nepal are including children with disabilities

The Inclusive Futures project (a consortium of specialists and global leaders in disability and development from 23 international organisations) works to tackle inclusion issues to ensure children with disabilities, including those with multiple disabilities and other learning support needs, can go to school.

This blog highlights the story of Sandip in Nepal, who lost his leg when he was 14 years old. As Sandip’s story shows, children with disabilities can struggle to attend school. They face a number of barriers, such as not having accessible transport, facing stigma and discrimination, and not being able to access learning environments that support their specific needs.

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[Blog]: UNESCO – Launch of the global report on boys’ disengagement from education

Launch of the global report on boys’ disengagement from education

On 7th April 2022, UNESCO organised a webinar in partnership to launch the new report: ‘Leave no child behind: Global report on boys’ disengagement from education’.

This article summarises some of the key points from the panel discussions and provides links to the report, the video of the launch event and other supporting resources.

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[Blog]: Localising power and responsibility for education

The Girls’ Education Challenge have launched a thematic review – localising power and responsibility for education through community-based structures

NGOs have long understood that meaningful community engagement makes education projects more relevant, successful, and sustainable. But the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought sudden school closures and disrupted INGOs’ and national NGOs’ work, catapulted communities into leading roles.

A Thematic Review by the Girls’ Education Challenge explores how structures from within the community – or community-based structures – contributed to the successful implementation of interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic. It identifies six key factors which were present in projects which successfully adapted to this new way of working.

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[Blog]: It’s not girls versus boys, it’s ALL children against gender inequality

It’s not girls versus boys, it’s ALL children against gender inequality

This blog provides an insightful response to the UNESCO report on boys’ disengagement in education – it argues that it is important to contextualise enrolment, learning and completion data within the larger situation of girls and boys.

Girls’ education remains a compelling entry point to tackle deep-seated inequalities in the education system, particularly in countries furthest from achieving SDG4 and especially as a response to COVID school closures. The blog proposes that gender equality in and through education is a more productive banner than boys’ education or indeed, girls’ education.

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Call fo**Deadline expired** Articles – Enabling Education Review – Issue 11 (Deadline 30 June 2022)

The COVID-19 pandemic turned education upside down during much of 2020 and 2021. Schools have reopened in most places, but our education systems will never be the same again. We all experienced not just disruption and challenges but innovations and achievements that can shape the future of education for the better.

The theme for the 2022 edition of Enabling Education Review will be:

 “Inclusion in the new normal”

The deadline for submitting first drafts of articles is 30 June 2022. Details of suggested topics and how to submit articles are provided below.

Contact info@eenet.org.uk with any questions and your submissions.

We want to share your experiences of transitions back into school, what the situation is like in the ‘new normal’, and what we have learned that could help us rebuild education systems better and more inclusively. For example:

  • What has been done to support learners transitioning back into schools?
  • How have approaches to teaching and learning changed because of the pandemic?
  • As a teacher, what did you do to reach and support all your learners when schools reopened? What challenges and opportunities have you experienced? Who has helped you?
  • How have adaptations to the new normal been financed and managed, and by whom?
  • As a parent/caregiver/learner, how have you advocated at the local or national level for approaches to education to be more inclusive after schools re-opened?
  • For learners who were already learning at home before the pandemic, how has their home learning been affected (positively or negatively) by the changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • How has the pandemic affected the mental and physical well-being of learners, parents, families, and teachers? What has been done to support them?
  • What lessons have we learned that we could use to improve the design and inclusivity of education systems long term?

Home learning for children with disabilities in a pandemic: an analysis of the EENET home learning survey, 2020

This is the first of a series of posts about the 2021 UKFIET conference. Here, we provide an overview of the research presentation that Su Corcoran, Helen Pinnock and Rachel Twigg delivered as part of a panel on disability.

Background to the project

When schools were closed across the globe in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of learners had to learn at home. Their parents and caregivers became responsible for delivering this education. There was an increase in the number and variety of home learning resources available through online platforms, but less focus was put into supporting learners with disabilities, especially in low-income contexts where access to the internet is limited. In partnership with the Norwegian Association of Disabled, EENET set out to develop easy-to-read resources and guidance to support learners,  their parents and caregivers with home learning.

We wanted to make sure that these materials matched a need. Therefore, we sought to understand what support and materials were already being provided for children’s home learning and the barriers learners faced trying to learn at home.

Two surveys were conducted. Over 1000 parents, teachers and other education system stakeholders from 27 countries completed an online survey. A second telephone survey reached 97 parents in Zambia and Zanzibar who had no access to the internet. In our UKFIET presentation, we explored the findings of both surveys, highlighting the major challenges identified by the respondents.

Challenges

The respondents raised the following concerns:

  • They mentioned the additional risks faced by children who were already living in poverty. Families who relied on the informal labour market found that their income-generating opportunities decreased as non-essential businesses closed and they struggled to provide for their children.
  • The focus on delivering education using radio, television and/or the internet may have provided quick and easy countrywide coverage. However, learners without access to radios, television or the internet were unable to use this provision.
  • Parents mentioned uncertainty about how they were expected to take responsibility for their children’s learning. They wanted access to useful guidance, especially on adapting home learning materials.
  • Not knowing when schools would reopen caused additional stress and worry for caregivers, indicating a need for mental health support during the crisis.
  • Home learning provision did not always consider learners with disabilities. They were often invisible. For example, television programmes did not feature sign language; some mainstream schools stopped their additional rehabilitation and learning support provision; and school closures in some areas meant that access to medication ceased.

Successful experiences

A number of respondents described home learning support they perceived as successful. Despite the challenges mentioned above, lessons disseminated through television and radio broadcasts reached large numbers of learners in some countries such as Eswatini. Elsewhere, there was a focus on the distribution of hard copy materials that families without access to television, radio, or internet appreciated.

The most innovative use of online platforms came through teachers’ and parents’ use of social media. For example, teachers shared short videos through WhatsApp groups and used the platform to make regular contact with children (and their parents). Parents shared resources and other advice with each other through locally established peer-support WhatsApp groups.

In addition:

  • In Jakarta, Indonesia, a stipend was available to families through the schools, enabling them to access the internet.
  • In England, learners with educational health care plans were allowed to continue attending schools and other education programmes provided by disability centres.
  • In northern Syria, electricity was more reliable at night. Night schools were set up that took advantage of this electrical supply.

Recommendations

The respondents suggested that when schools are closed good home learning for ALL learners requires: safe, healthy homes; local support networks for sharing resources and caring for each other’s children; access to electricity and the internet or to reading materials if this is not possible; input and/or support from educators to either provide home learning lessons or adapt general provision to make them accessible to learners with disabilities or additional needs. There is also a need to repair, strengthen or develop existing educational frameworks to improve on the conditions in which children may be expected to learn at home.

From the survey, we have identified five key recommendations:

  1. Catch-up education, good nutrition and health support, and effective disability rehabilitation should be a focus to prioritise and encourage recovery from widened equity gaps when schools reopen.
  2. Where possible, national human resource development strategies (such as education sector plans and donor support programmes) should prioritise electricity supplies and internet access for schools and wider neighbourhoods.
  3. Teachers, schools and other local agencies providing education programmes need autonomy, access to appropriate (e.g. hard copy) resources and the ability to distribute these through their network to reach more children.
  4. Learners experiencing crisis are under additional pressure. Learning resources should be designed to fit around the patterns of their lives. Parents need guidance to set up learning routines and adapt resources for children with disabilities and additional learning needs. The content of our home learning resources was therefore designed to integrate learning activities into daily routines.
  5. Where possible, plans should be developed to support the mental health of young people and their parents. Such support could be integrated into the process of distributing educational content. It is also important to keep parents up to date on existing plans and possible changes.

More information about the home learning project is available on EENET’s website. Project reports and copies of the home learning resources and guidance can also be found there.

 

This blog post is based on data analysis conducted by Su Lyn Corcoran, Helen Pinnock and Rachel Twigg. The wider project team involved in developing the data generation, language translation, and project management for the surveys and the creation of the home learning resources includes: Sandrine Bohan-Jacquot, Hasmik Ghukasyan, Cotilda Hamalengwah, Alexander Hauschild, Mustafa Himmati, Said Juma, Moureen Kekirunga, Khairul Farhah, Khairuddin, Polly Kirby, Ingrid Lewis, Oleh Lytvynov , Duncan Little, Emma McKinney, Aubrey Moono, Alick Nyirenda, Ayman Qwaider, Paola Rozo, Hayley Scrase, Anise Waljee, and Jamie Williams.

Call for Articles: Enabling Education Review, Issue 10, 2021

Over the last year we have all found ourselves in an unusual situation. Our theme for the next edition therefore draws on the work being done to support children’s learning as we have adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures. It will also look at the broader context of what it means to learn at home.

The theme for the 2021 edition of Enabling Education Review will be:

 “Home learning”

The deadline for submitting first drafts of articles is 31 March 2021. *EXTENSION – new deadline now 30 April 2021*

Details of suggested topics and how to submit articles are provided below.

Contact info@eenet.org.uk with any questions.

 

Why have we chosen this topic?

Many children learned at home before the COVID-19 pandemic for various reasons. For example, they may have been denied access to school, or their parents may have chosen home schooling as their preferred approach. Plus of course most children experience a great deal of informal learning at home, even if they also go to school.

Learning at home has often been seen as separate from mainstream education and not part of the movement towards inclusive education. EENET has always argued that, with the right strategies, approaches and support in place, learning at home can be considered an integral contribution to an inclusive education system.

Over the last year, COVID-19 school closures meant millions of children suddenly had to learn at home, and their teachers and education ministries had to work out how to facilitate that. One of the biggest challenges has been ensuring that learning at home is inclusive of every learner.

In early 2020 EENET, through our partnership with Norwegian Association of Disabled, launched a project to explore home learning and the education experiences of stakeholders during the widespread lockdowns. Using evidence from a survey, we developed a home learning guidance poster and booklet for families. These resources recognise that home education can be extremely stressful for learners and families, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. They also show that home learning is always relevant, whether or not schools are open, and we can do more to weave effective learning at home into high quality inclusive education systems.

What has been your experience as a teacher, parent, family member, learner, or other stakeholder involved in education? Was home learning a new experience for you during the pandemic, or is it something you have been involved with for a long time? How do you cope with or support learning at home? What works well and what is challenging? What support did or do you receive, or would you like to receive?

 

What could you write about?

There are many aspects of home learning that you could write about, including but not limited to:

  • What has been done to ensure emergency-response or long-term home learning initiatives promote inclusion and are inclusive for all learners?
  • How are inclusive home learning initiatives financed and managed?
  • As a parent/caregiver/learner – how have you advocated at the local or national level for home learning provision to be more inclusive.
  • As a teacher – what did you do to reach and support all your learners when schools were closed? What problems did you solve to help you reach and support more/all learners? Who helped you?
  • For learners who were already learning at home before the pandemic, how has their home learning been affected (positively or negatively) by the changes in the education system resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • How have approaches to learning changed as a result of responsibility for learning shifting heavily onto parents and families for prolonged periods?
  • How does home learning affect the mental and physical well-being of learners, parents, families, and teachers?
  • What lessons have we learned from the COVID-19 home learning experiences that we could use to improve the design and inclusivity of education systems long term?

Enabling Education Review helps people share and learn from each other’s experiences. We therefore welcome articles that offer practical insights, to help others who are looking for ideas that they can adapt and try. We like articles that provide a little background to the context, project or programme, and then explain in more detail the activities that happened (what, where, when, with or by whom, and why). We also like to read about the results, if possible.

For more information on how you can submit an article please download the full call for articles.

Call for Articles (Arabic).

Schools are re-opening – but this is not the end of learning at home

Author: Ingrid Lewis

This is a presentation given at a webinar for GIZ Jordan, July 2020.

 

What is this presentation about?

Inclusive education is not just about schools. Genuinely inclusive education systems look at a continuum of learning experiences and support, from home and community, to non-formal settings, through to formal education institutions. Often, inclusive education programmes focus narrowly on schools. The Covid-19 crisis reminds us that education is – and has to be – about much more than the formal school system. In this presentation I’ll share some thoughts on how to position home learning in the discussions on rebuilding and improving education systems.

How did we get here?

 When Covid-19 caused schools around the world to close, it was hard to predict the full implications – for learners, their families and communities, and for education systems and countries as a whole. The speed, complexity and rigour of government responses and reach varied massively, even within countries.

In many countries, schools are now re-opening, often in phases, such as exam-year students returning first. Some have decided not to re-open this year. Some are attempting to follow social distancing rules, such as limiting the numbers of children allowed in classrooms, and breaking classes into smaller groups who attend at different times or on different days. Thousands of schools around the world are asking: how can we stay safe with 60+ children per class and no water for handwashing?

Re-opening schools presents multiple challenges:

  • how to help learners ‘catch up’ with months of missed education;
  • how to teach classes of learners who are now probably more academically diverse than ever;
  • how to deal with the ongoing absence of many learners, because of their own or other family members’ health or vulnerability;
  • the inevitable growth in drop-out rates where families need or want their children to work or get married instead of returning to school;
  • the ever-present risk that the pandemic will force schools and society to shut down again.

While it feels wrong to talk about positives in a situation that has been devastating for so many people, I do want us to think about the potential positive inclusion-oriented opportunities that now exist.

Lessons from the home learning experience

EENET believes that to develop an inclusive education system, we need to be reflective and critical – learn from every experience; think how we could do better next time; and listen to colleagues, learners, families and communities.

To rebuild and reform education systems now, we must reflect critically on the experiences of home learning during Covid-19. What can we learn that will help us move forward with a more inclusive, higher quality education system?

There are various clear messages emerging from this experience – I’m focusing on just a few that feel particularly relevant to inclusive education.

  1. Persistent interpretations (mis-interpretations) of what education is undermine inclusivity.

The crisis highlighted in many places the obsession with seeing education only as a highly academic, exam-driven process.

EENET’s rapid global survey revealed that parents, caregivers and family members in diverse countries felt under immense pressure to maintain high standards of academic learning at home. Sometimes this pressure came from the government, schools and teachers who provided complex instructions for how parents could – overnight – become multi-subject, multi-grade teachers. Sometimes the pressure came from friends, neighbours or from parents themselves – like it was a competition to see whose child would be furthest ahead when schools re-opened.

Such pressure probably emerged because a pressurised academic system is all that most people have ever experienced in their life – so they had nothing else to use as a template for planning learning at home.

  1. Equality in learning is not just about equal access to school.

Many families and learners have been overwhelmed by the quantity of online learning materials available, and many more have been demoralised by having no access to any such materials. Families have felt despair because they could not offer the time, support, or materials they wanted for their children whilst learning at home. Such inequality of learning opportunities and support of course happened all the time before the crisis, but this really hit the spotlight when schools closed.

  1. Education systems do not provide what learners really need in order to participate and learn.

Many crisis responses – from government and non-government sources – focused on advising parents how to teach every topic in the curriculum, how to make a timetable covering every subject, how to motivate children to learn all day. Worryingly there was even a growing discourse on how parents could assess and grade their children’s work. This followed the established school-based exam-oriented formula, but arguably was not what most learners (or their families) actually needed during this crisis.

By contrast, we were encouraged by examples of innovations from some teachers, families and learners who rejected high-pressure academic expectations and chose to ‘go with the flow’ – throwing away timetables and curricula and responding flexibly and spontaneously to what was happening in the home and to how families and children were feeling each day. This is the kind of flexibility that characterises inclusive education; the kind of flexibility that the formal education system in many contexts did not offer during this crisis.

  1. To build an inclusive education system we must acknowledge that the system is the problem, not the child.

This is a key concept in inclusive education. It is not the child’s fault they struggle to learn, but the teacher’s responsibility to teach better or the curriculum developer’s responsibility to create a more accessible and flexible curriculum, and so on. Throughout the crisis a lot of discussion has focused on how education systems can help children – especially the most marginalised – ‘stay on track’ with the expected learning programme at home, or get ‘back on track’ when schools re-open. This discourse seems rooted in ‘child-as-problem’ thinking – based on an assumption that the system will be the same when schools re-open and the child will have to do something special to keep up or catch up.

In developing our own response, EENET (through its partnership with Norwegian Association of Disabled) chose to offer families simple accessible materials that prioritise family and learner mental wellbeing whilst highlighting accessible learning opportunities available in day-to-day life. Our message was “everything you are already doing at home can be a relaxed and fun learning opportunity. Use what you have in the home and community, use what feels comfortable right now, use what interests you. Value real-life learning and skills-building not just information retention.”

Building inclusive education systems that value the home learning experience

Of course EENET’s response was not unique. Around the world many individuals and groups have promoted similar responses. But the big question is, to what extent will education systems endorse such messages? Will they value the real-life lessons children have learned during lockdown? Will they recognise the importance of the social, physical, intellectual, communication and emotional skills that learners have developed through their home learning experiences, if such skills and competencies are not measured through the existing exam system? When schools re-open, will education systems want ‘business as usual’ as fast as possible, or will they embrace change and do what the learners really need?

If education systems stick rigidly to pre-crisis ways of organising, facilitating and examining learning, they will build a barrier to millions of children who did not – and had no possible chance to – ‘keep up’ during school closures, or who cannot now return to school as quickly or regularly as their peers, due to health or other reasons.

‘Building back better’ after Covid-19 has to involve developing an education system that values a much wider interpretation of what learning, competency and skills development is about, and that responds to the individual child’s needs instead of expecting the child to keep up, catch up, or adapt in some other way.

Education systems have to recognise the learning that happened in homes and acknowledge that what families achieved has real value and contributes positively to children’s education and futures. As schools re-open, millions of parents and caregivers feel nervous about what is going to happen to their children. They don’t just fear for their children’s safety at school, they are scared that their children will now fail and that everything they as parents tried to do during lockdown will be considered wrong or inadequate by teachers and officials.

The best way now to say “actually we do value your home learning experiences” would be to work on properly embedding learning at home into the education system. By this I certainly do not mean we should dump more work and responsibility on parents or exclude more learners from school!! I simply mean we need to focus on the idea that an inclusive education system is a continuum of learning – from birth and home, through community-based informal learning opportunities, through to more structured non-formal learning and formal school-based learning.

Given that for months learning was a home and community-based process, we now need to ask how schools and the curriculum can more effectively connect with the community and learners’ home lives.

Why bother?

Why should we radically redesign the education system when we could just treat the home learning period as an unfortunate blip in history and return to normal as fast as possible?

For a start, the crisis is not over yet. Schools are not all open full time, for all year groups, and in some places the need for social distancing and quarantine will keep many children out of school for months to come. Home learning is not history yet.

Sometimes big changes only happen after a crisis. A crisis gives us an opportunity that socially, economically or politically might not have been possible before.

But home learning is not just something that is necessary as a crisis response. At all ages, children learn huge amounts at home and in the family and community. Some children rely more than others on opportunities to learn at home, such as children with disabilities, chronic health conditions, behavioural challenges, mental ill-health, children living in poverty or remote places, etc – all of whom may start school late or be unable to attend as much as their peers. If we had a system that valued learning at home – and invested in supporting home and community-based learning opportunities – imagine how many more children could benefit from education. I do not mean as an alternative to attending mainstream schools, but as an extra option on a continuum of flexible learning opportunities.

Crises like Covid-19 are predicted to become more frequent. We owe it to future generations to become better prepared. If we have education systems that value home and community-based learning, focused on real-life relevant skills development and not just school-based, academic knowledge retention, then future crises like this will be less of a shock. We’ll have mechanisms in place that can more easily be scaled up; teachers will already be used to supporting formal and informal learning in and beyond the classroom; families will be more familiar with supporting learning at home, and they’ll feel more confident that whatever support they can give is valuable to their children’s futures.

Inclusive education has never been a simple checklist of school-based actions. It’s never been as simple as building ramps in schools, providing Braille books and hearing aids, and sending teachers on a few training courses (although sadly many programmes have operated on that basis!). Inclusive education has always been about innovation, finding different ways to approach teaching and learning so that everyone joins in and benefits. The home learning experience has handed us a wealth of potential ideas to feed inclusive education innovations

How many countries will take the opportunity to learn and change, and how many will simply fall back into the old routine as quickly as possible – oblivious to the fact that ‘business as usual’ is now excluding more leaners than ever?

A life-saving message from Aytan, age 6, in Syria

This short video was recorded by a 6-year old Syrian student, Aytan. She is a 1st-grade student living in the Syrian capital of Damascus. Like her peers, Aytan lives every day with the unfolding news around the COVID19 pandemic worldwide. She is determined to help stop the spread of the virus. Aytan, with support from her mum, looked for ways to learn about the virus and share this with others. Aytan therefore organised this short video with a message to raise awareness of the virus.

Her video doesn’t just have a life-saving message. It was a very important child-led learning activity at a time when schools are closed, and it was fun for Aytan to organise. Having some fun while learning at home can help reduce stress for the child and their family.

This activity used drama, body language and a public speaking skill, all of which contribute to a child’s development and learning. A key component of quality education is when there is consistency between what is happening in the real world and the learning environment. Education is also about learning values, not just learning facts. Through preparing for and organising this video, Aytan learned about how humans can help each other.

The important takeaway message from Aytan’s video activity, is that there are always learning opportunities for children, and these can always involve having fun, even in the most difficult circumstances.