The European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) launches its Salzburg Education Declaration “Towards more inclusive learning environments in Europe”. The text acknowledges the necessity to strengthen efforts in order to make real the principle of inclusive education, which is highlighted in several International and European legal and policy frameworks.
If we look at international estimations, over 90 million children have a disability in the world and almost one-fifth of students may present additional educational needs during their schooling years. Inclusive education, as enshrined in article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, is a fundamental step towards an inclusive society and needs to be a founding principle of any education system.
The EASPD Declaration presents the key lines of action to make education more inclusive:
- Adapting the education system to the individual needs of students by developing adequate means and adapting teaching methods and the way the education results are measured.
- Changing attitudes and understanding towards students with special needs in particular for teachers, school staff and families.
- Understanding education as a pillar providing the foundation for any community and therefore requiring the involvement of different sectors and services.
- Adopting strategic investment to overcome the negative impact of the financial crisis by allocating adequate resources to individualised support and inclusive lifelong learning. Of particular importance is the effective transfer of resources from segregating to inclusive learning environments.
- Leading by example at the European level. The EU must start by adopting inclusive practices in the European schools and strengthening the mandate of the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education.
- Having a comprehensive approach to education. National and local authorities should work in partnership with civil society and professionals to develop an adapted education with adequate support. The willingness of decision makers to support the transition from segregating settings to an inclusive mainstream educational system is another key element.
- Providing adequate training and developing knowledge and skills among mainstream teachers.
To reach these goals, the Declaration also makes targeted recommendations for European, national and regional policy makers as well as for professionals, trainers, teachers and staff working in the education sector.
The new EASPD Declaration is the result of several months of consultations with EASPD’s members and stakeholders, in particular the members of the EASPD’s Standing Committee on Education. It was enriched with the conclusions of a dedicated conference on education held in Salzburg in October 2015. The main objective is to support EASPD’s member organisations into securing the complex process of implementing the UN CRPD.