A bumpy road: Inclusive and quality education in Europe in the context of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Year: 2018

Author: Spandagou, Ilektra, Quinn, Dee

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In 2015, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which outlines 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) covering the period 2015-2030. To date, this is the most ambitious international development project aimed to all countries regardless of their stage of development. Following previous development initiatives, the SDGs include a dedicated goal (Goal 4) to education, which aims to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. The SDGs are not legally binding, but the 193 participating countries are committed to their realisation, including an integrated follow-up and review framework. The SDGs include currently 169 targets and 232 indicators with a substantial project being underway to define and agree on methodologies on indicators for data collection and reporting. As part of the review framework, countries participate in voluntary and country-led reviews at the national and subnational, regional and subregional and global. In contrast to the very detailed framework of data collection, there is considerable flexibility in the format and content of these reviews which allow extensive scope for interpretation on behalf of the countries in deciding what to include and what to leave out.
This presentation discusses the reviews submitted by 22 European countries in the first two rounds of reporting in 2016 and 2017. These reviews were identified from the total of 65 available reviews using the Council of Europe membership as an inclusion criterion. The reviews by Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey were analysed using NVivo. The references to education, diversity, and disability and the extent that specific data were provided were examined. Almost all reports made reference to disability but less than three quarters of them refer to disability in relation to education. Almost all reports referred to broader diversity issues in education including gender, minority status with predominantly reference to Roma populations, and migrant students. Explicit references to inclusive education were made in less than half of the reports. The paucity of actual data, particularly disaggregated data, is also notable. The presentation concludes with a discussion of the significance of these findings, in particular the ways that the qualifiers for education, inclusive and quality, are understood and represented in the reviews, and the implications for the SDGs’ potential to enable change.