United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

UNESCO Director-General opens 48th session of ICE on inclusive education in Geneva

On 25 November 2008, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, opened the 48th session of the International Conference on Education (ICE), focused on “Inclusive education: the way of the future”, in Geneva, Switzerland.

Also addressing the opening ceremony were the outgoing chair of the 47th ICE session, Ms D. Purandeswari, Minister of State for Human Resource Development of India, the newly elected chairperson for the 48th session, the Minister of Education of Yemen, Mr Abdul Salaam Al-Joufi, as well as Mr Charles Beer, State Councillor for Education of the Republic and Canton of Geneva.

“These ICE sessions are a necessity in our globalized world, where it is crucial to have platforms that enable genuine dialogue on the future course of education”, the Director-General said in his opening address. Mr Matsuura argued that with 10 percent of the world’s primary school-age population excluded from education – some 75 million children – the focus on inclusion was particularly timely. He highlighted three key issues: first, to develop policies that make learning accessible for the most marginalized and vulnerable; second, to improve the quality of education and ensure that learning methods and conditions respond to the diversity of student needs and aspirations; and third, to promote a holistic approach to learning, from pre-school care and education to literacy and skills programmes for youth and adults.

“Inclusion paves the way to a better shared future. It is crucial that the outcomes of this Conference translate into policies and practices aimed at attaining high-quality education for all learners. It is first and foremost a matter of political will based on a vision of society in which learning opportunities are within everyone’s reach”, Mr Matsuura said.

After the opening ceremony, the Director-General served as moderator for the introductory debate on the theme, “From inclusive education to inclusive society”. Five distinguished guests were invited to share their views of what education means today. Taking the floor were: Ms Yandong Liu, State Councillor of the People’s Republic of China, who spoke about how inclusive education can contribute to building more equitable and just societies; Ms Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who focused on the role of education in fostering respect, participation, equality and non-discrimination; Mr Xavier Darcos, Minister of Education of France, who highlighted the reform of secondary education as key to building inclusive education systems; Ms Naledi Pandor, Minister of Education of the Republic of South Africa and Chair of the Conference of Ministers of Education of the African Union (COMEDAF), who spoke of the importance of a rights-based approach to education; and Mr Lenín Moreno Garcés, vice-President of the Republic of Ecuador, who concentrated on the challenge of transforming public policies so that they promote diversity, tolerance and inclusion.

During the ICE, on 26 November, Mr Matsuura also awarded the 2008 Comenius medals, together with the President of the IBE Council, the Minister of Education of Ecuador, Mr Raul Vallejo Corral, and the First Deputy Minister of Education, Youth and Sport of the Czech Republic, Ms Eva Bartonova. The Director-General congratulated the ten laureates on their outstanding achievements and innovations in the field of education. “It is very fitting that the 2008 Comenius Medals should be awarded in association with this conference dedicated to inclusive education”, Mr Matsuura said. “While there is no off-the-peg solution, we can all learn and be inspired by programmes and policies that have succeeded in breaking down the barriers of disadvantage”.

On the margins of the Conference, the Director-General attended a ceremony with the Minister of Education of Bahrain, Mr Majid Bin Ali Al-Naomi, to mark the signing of an agreement to establish a state-of-the-art Centre for Information and Communication. The new centre, to be built in Manama, will contribute to the development of the Arab States region by harnessing the power of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) for knowledge creation and transfer. The Director-General welcomed the presence at the ceremony of Ministers and Ambassadors from the region, which he said “gave strong testimony to the common commitment to building inclusive knowledge societies”.

Mr Matsuura also hosted a lunch for Ministers and senior representatives of the E-9 high-population countries to address progress in follow-up to the Bali Declaration on teacher education and training (see Flash Info N°033-2008*) as well as plans for the next E-9 Ministerial Review Meeting, to be hosted by the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2010. Also present at the lunch was the State Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Research of Norway, Ms Lisbet Rugtvet, who discussed links between E-9 cooperation and the forthcoming meeting of the EFA High-Level Group in Oslo.

While in Geneva, the Director-General held bilateral meetings with: the State Councillor of the People’s Republic of China, Ms Yandong Liu; the Minister of Education of the Dominican Republic, Mr Melanio Paredes; the Minister of Education of Grenada, Ms Franka Alexis-Bernadine; the Minister of Education of Lebanon, Ms Bahai El Hariri; the Minister of Education of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mr Alireza Ali-Ahmadi; the Minister of Education of the United Arab Emirates, Mr Hanif Hassan Ali; the Minister of Education of Afghanistan, Mr Ghulam Farooq Wardak; the Ministers of Education and of Higher Education, Science and Technology of Kenya, Mr S. K. Ongeri and Ms S. J. Kosgey; the Minister of Education of the Central African Republic, M. Ambroise Zawa; and the Minister of Education of Mali, M. Amadou Toure. He also greeted the Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, Ms Micheline Calmy-Rey, as well as Ministers of Education from different regions participating in the Conference.

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Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 169-2008 -  Publication Date: 28-11-2008

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