Education policies and practices continue to fail girls over early pregnancy

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By Nicole Bella, Matthias Eck and Constanza Ginestra

Early pregnancy has been identified as a critical driver of school dropout and exclusion, especially for girls. Twenty-five years ago, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a landmark blueprint for women and girls’ rights, recognized this, calling upon governments to remove all barriers to accessing formal education for pregnant adolescents and young mothers. As we celebrate the anniversary of the Beijing Declaration, what progress has there been on this issue, and what remains to be done?

Credit: UNESCO/Arete/Victor Jules Raison

Globally, the prevalence of early pregnancy declined by one-third between 1995 and 2020, from some 60 to 40 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19. Yet, early pregnancy rates remain high in many countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where, despite an overall fall over the past 25 years, rates remain at levels higher than the 1995 regional average in countries including Chad, Mali and Niger. Although it is still early to assess the impact of Covid-19 on adolescent pregnancy, restricted access to reproductive health services and increased vulnerability of girls at home due to confinement measures may also threaten the progress made.

The GEM 2020 Gender Report released last month looked at progress on protecting young mothers’ right to education since 1995 in three countries, Argentina, Sierra Leone, and the United Kingdom. In Argentina, the adolescent fertility rate fell from 61 in 1995 to 49 in 2018. In the United Kingdom, this rate has more than halved, declining from 42 to 18 between 1995 and 2017. Similarly, in Sierra Leone, the percentage of young mothers fell from 34% in 2008 to 21% in 2019.

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Global Education Monitoring Report 2020: Education for all

By Senator Dr Gertrude Musuruve Inimah, Kenya Parliament, representing persons with disabilities, and co-chair of the International Parliamentary Network for Education

Inclusion, the theme of the Global Education Monitoring Report 2020, is another way of saying ‘Education for all’. Both the connotative and inferential meaning of this theme is that education is mandatory and a right for everyone and no child should be denied of it because of race, gender, abilities or socio-economic background. It is also the principle that I have dedicated my life to achieving as a teacher, university lecturer and author of books on sign language for learners and teachers guides. My latest book, my autobiography, which is yet to be published, titled: From Cancer to Disability to Parliament, is a tale that depicts that, whatever one goes through, education is a social, political and economic game changer. Acquiring a disability as a result of cancer treatment did not stop me from reaching out to the world to encourage, mentor and be there for those who might be going through the challenges and pains I went through.

As a Senator in the Parliament of Kenya, representing persons with disabilities, I have always legislated on inclusion of persons with disabilities in education and the world of work. I have lived in both worlds and I am alive to the discrimination and exclusion that people with disabilities face. I experience societal discrimination as well, despite the fact that I am a parliamentarian.

Image: J. Mcgeown/hi

Parliamentarians in partnership to deliver the promise of SDG 4

It is important to deepen parliamentarians’ understanding of the importance of leaving no one behind. Growing and deepening political understanding of, and commitment to, inclusive and equitable quality education for all will accelerate progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4. Parliamentarians help create policies and laws that could make the promise of SDG 4 achievable after all.

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Les écoles rurales en France : les oubliées de l’inclusion ?

English / Français

Par Jean-Luc Massalon, ex-directeur d’école, coordinateur d’Unités localisées pour l’inclusion scolaire (ULIS) avec la collaboration de Daniel April (Rapport GEM, UNESCO)

L’inclusion n’existe que par manquement ; ce n’est que parce qu’on a au préalable exclu que l’on peut envisager d’inclure. Dans le secteur de l’éducation, d’aucuns sont exclus pour leur sexe, leur origine ou leur obédience religieuse ou politique. D’autres le sont en raison d’un handicap physique ou intellectuel ou par le milieu socio-économique dont ils sont issus. Le lieu d’habitation peut aussi être un facteur d’exclusion et limiter l’accès à des services publics de qualité. Cela peut être vrai dans les zones périurbaines, dans les quartiers délaissés et les secteurs ruraux comme dans le cas à Ponthoile, dans la Somme (France), avec la fermeture de son école primaire en 2018.

Mobilisation autour de la fermeture de l’école de Ponthoile

Ponthoile est une commune française (615 habitants en 2017) située en région Hauts-de-France. Son école primaire a fermé ses deux classes en 2018 à la suite d’une décision de l’Inspection académique de la Somme. La raison officielle de la fermeture était le manque d’effectif, bien que le nombre d’élèves inscrits était en hausse entre 2017/18 (24 élèves) et 2018/19 (30 élèves).

Activité de mobilisation : Les élèves anonymes et uniformisés devant leur classe disparue. Photo : Karine Michaux

Suite à l’annonce de la fermeture, les parents, les élus et les enseignants ont multiplié les tentatives de médiations, déposé un recours au tribunal administratif et mené un travail de revendication à connotation culturelle. Ils se sont mobilisés pour emballer l’école à la manière de l’artiste Christo, avec l’objectif de « cacher pour mieux révéler » et écrire des slogans inspirés de l’œuvre de Magritte. L’ancien cinéma du village renaissait aussi symboliquement pour la projection du film « Cinéma Paradiso », qui met en lumière la disparition d’un espace culturel dans un village.

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Rural schools in France: how inclusive are they?

English / Français

By Jean-Luc Massalon, former school principal, coordinator of Localised Educational Inclusion Units (ULIS) with the collaboration of Daniel April (GEM Report, UNESCO)

Inclusion doesn’t exist by default, it is only when someone is excluded that inclusion becomes an issue. In the education sector, people are excluded because of their gender, origin, religion or political affiliation. Others are excluded because of their physical or intellectual disability or because of their socio-economic background. Location can also be a factor of exclusion and can limit access to quality public services. This is particularly true in peri-urban areas, neglected neighbourhoods and rural areas as in the case of Ponthoile, France, a village whose primary school was closed in 2018.

Mobilisation around the closure of the Ponthoile school

Ponthoile is a French commune located in the Hauts-de-France region. The town’s population stood at 615 persons in 2017. Ponthoile’s primary school closed its two classes in 2018 following a decision by the Inspection académique de la Somme. The official reason given was that there was a decrease in enrolment, although the number of pupils had increased between 2017/18 (24 pupils) and 2018/19 (30 pupils).

Protestors: Students protesting in front of their school. Image Karine Michaux

Following the closure, parents, elected officials and teachers made numerous attempts at mediation, filed an appeal with the administrative court and carried out advocacy work. They wrapped the school in the style of the artist Christo, with the aim of “hiding in order to reveal” and using slogans inspired by the work of Magritte. The old village cinema was also symbolically re-opened so as to screen the film “Cinema Paradiso”, which focused on the disappearance of a cultural space in a village.

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The call for proposals for the 2021 GEM Fellowship is now open

We are pleased to launch the third round of the GEM Report Fellowship programme, which started in 2019, thanks to the support of the Open Society Foundations. The GEM Report Fellowship Programme supports researchers who aim to bring a fresh perspective to comparative and international education. It offers an opportunity to be part of a select group of researchers and scholars who are advancing knowledge in this field, while working with the GEM Report team.

The call for proposals for the 2021 GEM Report Fellowship is now open: applications should be received by December 15. The Fellowships will be expected to start on 1 March 2020.

Credit: zwenzini

Since starting in 2019, seven researchers have been awarded GEM Report fellowships. Each produces a background paper that is either linked to a forthcoming GEM report and its theme or to other projects that support the Report’s objectives. The outputs may also include other deliverables, ranging from databases and programmes to materials to communicate the findings and help reach out to policy makers at the national, regional or global level. Each fellowship lasts between 6 and 11 months. Fellows receive a stipend and are allocated a mentor from within the GEM Report team.

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Why laws and policies matter for inclusion

Laws and policies determine the framework for achieving inclusion in education. Hence the reason for launching the Profiles Enhancing Education Reviews website, PEER, which contains country profiles of laws and policies on areas specific to SDG 4, starting with inclusion.

Last week we launched the 2020 GEM Regional Report for Latin America and the Caribbean. Analysing laws and policies on inclusion from the PEER website showed us that, in spite of continuing efforts and international human rights law obligations, building inclusive education systems continues to be a challenge in the region. About 60% of countries in the region have a definition of inclusive education, but only 64% of those definitions cover multiple marginalized groups, which suggests that most countries have yet to embrace a broad concept of inclusion. More commonly, countries’ inclusive education laws target people with disabilities or special education needs, rather than applying to all learners. We found similar results at a global level, leading to us calling our Report All means all; inclusion in education cannot be reached one group at a time, it must refer to all learners, no matter their background, identity or ability.

Similarly, mapping out laws on inclusion from across the region shows that many countries have adopted a broad perspective on inclusion, although most tend to focus laws on specific groups. In 95% of countries in the region, for instance, we found that education ministries have issued laws focused on people with disabilities.

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First generation graduate Mary Otieno: From rural Kenya to a PhD in education

This story is part of a campaign run by the GEM Report, #Iamthe1stgirl, to accompany the launch of the 2020 GEM Gender Report. The campaign tells the stories of many girls who were the first in their family to graduate, demonstrating progress in gender equality in education that the Report shows has taken place since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 25 years ago.  The campaign aims to amplify the message that an equal generation is an educated one.

My name is Mary Otieno. I was born in Kisumu County in Kenya. As a child, I lived with my parents and siblings in a small village in Kisumu County. I now work and live in Nairobi. I am the first in my family and the first girl in my village (of a population of 1, 200 households) to graduate with a university degree (Bachelor of education).  I used my education to start the Siprosa School in Nairobi, which provides high quality education to children regardless of their background. I am educating young girls, and also young boys, so that they may become the men that will not be intimidated to work with, marry, and live with these empowered and strong women!

This is my story:

I was the first born of a family of 6. My mum was a housewife and my Dad was a tailor and the sole breadwinner. I went to a primary school in rural Kenya. It wasn’t easy.  At the age of eight, I walked four kilometres daily to and from school. I struggled during my primary education because I had to juggle my schoolwork with the household chores. Sometimes I had to miss school because we couldn’t afford the school fees. 

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New GEM regional report on inclusion and education for Latin America and the Caribbean launched today

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A new GEM regional report, Todos y todas sin excepción, in partnership with the Laboratory of Education, Research and Innovation in Latin America and the Caribbean (SUMMA) and and the Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (OREALC/UNESCO Santiago) looks at inclusion and education in the most unequal region in the world.  Societies in Latin America and the Caribbean have come a long way towards healing past injustices related to colonialism, exploitation, oppression and discrimination, but they remain riven with fault lines. Their legislative and policy frameworks have quickly embraced a broad-based concept of inclusion in education and they have led the world in innovative social policies. But there is a lot of ground left to cover. And if there have been recent gains in poverty and inequality reduction, the ramifications of today’s global health crisis risk sending them into reverse.

Education does not exist in a void. Inequality and discrimination in societies impact the distribution of education opportunities and outcomes. Even prior to COVID-19, children from the richest households were five times as likely as the poorest to complete upper secondary school in 21 countries in the region. Learning outcomes were also low before the pandemic. Only half of 15-year-olds achieved minimum proficiency in reading.  In Guatemala and Panama, barely 10 disadvantaged 15-year-old students master basic mathematics skills for every 100 of their better-off peers.

In grade 3, students who do not speak the language of the test are three times less likely to reach a minimum level of proficiency in reading. The probability of Afro-descendants completing secondary education was 14% lower than that of non-Afro-descendants in Peru and 24% lower in Uruguay in 2015. Adolescents with disabilities were on average 10 percentage points less likely to attend school than their peers.

As per the global 2020 GEM Report, this regional report includes a set of key recommendations for the decade remaining until the 2030 SDG deadline.

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Together against bullying in school

Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO

Their names are Monica, Yamin, Jimmy, and Colette, just four of the millions of students across the world affected by bullying in school. In Zambia, Monica is bullied by her classmates for being pregnant, while in China, Yamin is bullied because she is seen to act like a boy. At a school in Mexico, Jimmy sees a boy bullied simply for being poor, and in France, some students tell Colette she is ugly so many times that eventually, she believes it.

Bullying affects students of all ages, in all countries and regions across the world. On the first International day against violence and bullying at school this 5 November, it’s high time to raise awareness on the extent of this scourge and how to tackle it. In recent research from UNESCO almost one in three students reported being bullied in the past month, making it the most prevalent form of violence in schools. One in ten students has been cyberbullied, and in the context of COVID-19, with many young people across the world spending increasing time online, it is expected that cyberbullying is on the rise.

Bullying, especially if left unaddressed, can have a devastating effect on learners. It can be a barrier to their learning and have serious consequences for their mental health.

Students who are frequently bullied are nearly three times more likely to feel like an outsider at school and more than twice as likely to miss school as those who are not frequently bullied. They have worse educational outcomes and are more likely to leave formal education after finishing secondary school. They are twice as likely to feel lonely, to be unable to sleep at night and to have contemplated suicide.

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Rhetoric versus reality of Indian education policies for children with disabilities

By Vibhu Sharma, Research Consultant, Disability and Inclusion, Theirworld

I was enthralled to read this year’s Global Education Monitoring Report, focusing on inclusion and education. Being, first, a person with disability, and, second, brought up in India, I had to pause to reflect on what the report’s recommendations meant for inclusive education for children with disabilities in my home country as I have done in this blog.

Credit: Pee Vee

Three decades of rigorous progressive policies on inclusion

It would be unfair not to mention the progressive and rigorous policy framework India has set over the past three decades on inclusion. The 1986 National Policy on Education aimed to extend literacy to everyone, including children with disabilities, by integrating them through the provision of special schools and voluntary, specialized programs. The 1992 Rehabilitation Act focused on enabling manpower to provide education to all children with disabilities. The 1995 Persons with Disabilities Act made yet another step forward in mandating states to make special provisions for the integration of persons with disabilities in mainstream schools. It also mandated that all educational institutions receiving financial aid from the Government of India should reserve 3% of their seats solely for persons with disabilities.

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