Ensuring equal access to quality education for all learners is key to achieving more cohesive societies. This is why Member States should intensify their efforts to provide all children – including those of migrant origin, those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, those with special needs and those with disabilities – with access to early childhood learning and care systems and high-quality education. This was one of the key conclusions from the conference “Towards a European Education Area – Promoting Common Values and Inclusive Education”, which the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council organised together with the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education on 21 June 2018 in Brussels.
The conference gathered ministers and representatives of the education ministries of Bulgaria, Belgium, Germany, Slovenia and Portugal; policy-makers from the European Commission; Members of the European Parliament; and stakeholders in the education sector. Ms Denitsa Sacheva, Bulgarian Deputy Minister for Education and Science, opened the conference on behalf of the Bulgarian presidency, while Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, joined the discussion via a video message.
In her opening message, Ms Sacheva said:
“While aiming at excellence in education, we need to make sure that every citizen has access to high-quality education from early childhood and throughout life, and according to their individual needs. If we want to generate the best ideas, we need diversity of thought and an inclusive educational environment in which everyone feels welcome to participate and to offer different perspectives.”
The conference falls within the sustained efforts of the Bulgarian Presidency to promote the topic of inclusive education. This issue has a central place in the Council conclusions on moving towards a European Education Area which EU education ministers adopted at their meeting on 22 May 2018. Via the conclusions, the Member States took ownership of the Commission proposal for a European Education Area. Ministers also contributed to delivering on the commitment of EU leaders to do more in the area of education in Europe, as expressed at the Gothenburg summit and in the European Council conclusions of December 2017.
In its work on the topic of inclusive education, the Bulgarian presidency has built on its experience at national level. In July 2017, Bulgaria’s Ministry of Education and Science started an interinstitutional initiative to keep all children and pupils in the formal education system. As a result of this initiative, 22 000 pupils are back in classrooms so far.
Pictures from the event are available here.