UNESCO IITE at the International Forum on inclusion and equity in education “Every Learner Matters”

On 11-13 September 2019, UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (UNESCO IITE) took part in the International Forum on inclusion and equity in education “Every learner matters” in Cali (Colombia). The major event commemorating the 25th anniversary of the World Conference on Special Needs Education in Salamanca was organized by UNESCO in cooperation with the Ministry of National Education of Colombia and the Town Hall of Cali.

The key goal of the International Forum was to build a common understanding and commitment towards reinforcing inclusion in education among policy makers, education practitioners, civil society organisations, NGOs, social development partners and private sector representatives.

The programme of the Forum was based on the core theme of inclusion and equity in education and pursued the following overarching objectives:

  • to foster political and technical dialogue around the new paradigm shift on inclusion;
  • to review progress in policy and practice since the Salamanca Conference;
  • to understand the potential of inclusion in education in bringing new opportunities in a digitalized and globalized world.

The International Forum brought together about 300 delegates from around the globe and provided a platform for debate, hands-on learning and active domain-specific communication. The format of the event included: plenary sessions, concurrent sessions, including panel discussions and workshops to share research findings, school practices, and lessons learned, and exhibition booths, offering an opportunity for partners to present their activities, and to interact with participants.

Mr. Tao Zhan, Director of UNESCO IITE, chaired the Plenary Session on Theme 2: Rethinking Teaching and Learning Processes to Respond to Diversity. Ms. Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director‐General for Education, set the tone of the session with the keynote address on the role of languages for inclusion. During the course of the session, the panel discussed the efficiency of appropriate curricula, organizational arrangements, teaching policies, practices, strategies and assessment methods, alongside equitable resource use and partnerships with communities for ensuring inclusive quality education.

In the context of the high-profile event, Ms. Natalia Amelina, Chief of the Unit of Teacher Professional Development and Networking at UNESCO IITE, organized and facilitated Parallel Session 4: Information Technologies and Artificial Intelligence for Inclusion in Education ‐Innovations, Partnerships and Best Practices.

The participants discussed how information and communication technologies, particularly Artificial Intelligence (AI) expand accessibility, improve teaching and learning, and create enabling environments. The panellists explored the system changes needed to harness the potential benefits of such technologies, including, assistive devises and personalized software, AI-based tools (translation services, distant tutors, text-to-speech convertors and voice-controlled assistants), cloud technologies, etc.

The International Forum in Cali enabled the stakeholders to strengthen the platform for fruitful cross-sectoral dialogue and inter-country cooperation on inclusion, as well as enhance awareness not only of policies and practices that are effective in promoting inclusion in education, but also of areas, where progress is sorely needed.

The Outcome Statement of the International Forum, titled “Cali commitment to equity and inclusion in education”, is available in three languages: English, French and Spanish, and deposited in the UNESCO Digital Library.

For more information about the International Forum “Every learner matters”, please visit the event’s section on the UNESCO website.