Chapter 10. Conclusions and next steps

This chapter discusses how diversity arising from international migration is just one form of diversity that teaching and support staff in schools, school leaders, education policy makers but also employers, trainers and community members more widely encounter on a daily basis. Migration also often interacts with other forms of diversity. As such, education and training systems should work in coordination with other providers of social, welfare and medical support, but also with the wider civil society to ensure that each and every individual receives the best support to thrive in terms of skills development, as well as socially and emotionally.

    

This synthesis report presented how the OECD’s Strength though Diversity project can help countries make the most of the OECD’s experience in providing a setting where governments can compare policy experiences, seek answers to common problems and identify and share good practices. With the lessons gleaned from the work of the Strength through Diversity project, countries have the tools to build strong communities in a context characterised by high levels of international migration. The report identified eight policy pillars that can help actors at different levels of decision making, be it policy makers, local officials, school leaders, teachers, teacher educators or school inspectors, design and implement effective policies and practices.

The report highlights the crucial importance schools, education systems and societies more widely play in ensuring not only that individuals with an immigrant background thrive in their new communities, but also that resident populations are able to process and deal with the social changes that accompany international migration. Identifying the potential risk factors that can prevent individuals from realising their potential is crucial for host countries to be able to provide adequate responses to ensure that individuals are well equipped and supported, so that risk does not translate into disadvantage and that individuals are able to overcome difficulties and thrive. Moreover, it is fundamental for education systems to identify the assets individuals have and can build upon. Strengthening such assets by working with individuals and communities can help to ensure that all individuals are put in a position where they can be of value to their communities.

A key contribution of the report is that it identifies the possible long-term effects that can arise when education systems and societies do not take adequate action to support the integration of individuals with an immigrant background for the well-being of all. These possible long-term effects include poor labour market performance, poor health and low levels of engagement in civic society organisations. Some of the economic and social consequences span more than one generation. This means that providing the tools and resources that heterogeneous communities need can have significant social and economic payoffs; however, social and economic costs of ineffective policies are steep.

For all its relevance and importance, diversity arising from international migration is just one form of diversity that teaching and support staff in schools, school leaders, education policy makers but also employers, trainers and community members more widely encounter on a daily basis. Migration also often interacts with other forms of diversity, such as cultural diversity, religious diversity, linguistic diversity, and special education needs due to disabilities, impairments, poor mental health or giftedness.

As such, education and training systems should work in coordination with other providers of social, welfare and medical support, but also with the wider civil society to ensure that each and every individual receives the best support to thrive in terms of skills development, as well as socially and emotionally.

Moreover, large-scale international migration is only one of the geopolitical and social features that characterise the new realities OECD countries are facing in 2019. Some of the societal factors that shape the demand for education and how it responds to diversity include: increased urbanisation; rising economic inequalities; evolving legal frameworks; recognising the rights of individuals with physical disabilities, learning impairments and who are suffering from poor mental health; evolving societal attitudes towards the rights of LGBTQA+ individuals and of men and women; and the challenges and opportunities offered by digital technologies.

In order for social diversity to become a strength for communities, such diversity should be recognised and taken into account in the formulation and implementation of education policy. The global education landscape has changed radically in the past decades. Anti-discrimination legislations and the momentum created by the millennium development goals means that fewer and fewer children worldwide are excluded from attending school. However, major challenges remain in ensuring that the schooling they receive is of high quality and that different groups and communities feel that education systems are relevant for them. Two non-mutually exclusive approaches to recognising and managing diversity exist: 1) the equity of educational opportunities approach and 2) the inclusive education approach.

The equity of educational opportunities approach aims to ensure that the educational attainment and achievement that an individual can expect to obtain does not depend on the social or demographic group to which he or she belongs. This means that although a large variability of educational outcomes can be observed in the population, the distribution of such outcomes should not differ systematically across individuals belonging to different social and demographic groups. It focuses on how resource allocation, assessment, evaluation, and the organisation and governance of education systems can ensure that the expected academic outcomes of different individuals do not depend on their belonging to different social groups. In practice, OECD work and the work conducted by researchers and national administrations has consistently indicated that education systems tend to be inequitable. Even in education systems that are generally defined as equitable according to this framework, differences in the distribution of education outcomes are generally present. What makes education systems “equitable” is that differences in students’ outcomes tend to be less pronounced than in other systems. For example, immigrant students and individuals who belong to ethnic groups that differ from the majority ethnic group in a country tend to perform less well academically than students without an immigrant background and students from the majority ethnic group (OECD, 2018[1]).

One way in which the equity of educational opportunities approach has traditionally aimed to achieve its goals is by disregarding differences and promoting the assimilation and homogenisation of individuals who differ from the majority. Unfortunately, this has often prompted convergence to the majority’s language, cultural references, educational standards and objectives, where no differences in the expected outcomes of members of different social and demographic groups can exist in the absence of different social and demographic groups. However, this approach negates individuals’ identity and sense of self-worth. It implicitly views diversity as a problem to be eliminated rather than an asset that can lead to positive outcomes with the right levels of recognition and investments.

By contrast, inclusive education is “an on-going process aimed at offering quality education for all, while respecting diversity and the different needs and abilities, characteristics and learning expectations of the students and communities, eliminating all forms of discrimination” (UNESCO, 2009[2]). More than a particular policy or practice related to a specific group of students/individuals, this definition embodies the ethos of inclusion (Rutkowski, Rutkowski and Engel, 2014[3]) and identifies communities of learners, shifting the focus of attention from the individual to the communal (Lynn Boscardin and Jacobson, 1997[4]). The development of inclusive education policies builds on anti-discrimination policies and the identification of compensatory mechanisms in education to create systems that are accessible, acceptable and adaptable to learners’ needs (Osler and Starkey, 2005[5]).

Inclusive education is a long-term, dynamic, and ever-evolving process. By default, it can never be expected to succeed in completely achieving a set of operational objectives because, while principles and goals can remain fixed, the ever-changing landscape of social and demographic diversity will require continuous adjustments in goals and standards. Moreover, the operational objectives and indicators used to measure success will perpetually shift and inevitably reveal imperfections. In this supposed short-coming, we are in fact provided an insight into one of the key strengths of inclusive education systems: its ability to adapt to new changes and needs, and reject rigid structures in favour of innovative responses.

References

[4] Lynn Boscardin, M. and S. Jacobson (1997), “The inclusive school”, Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 35/5, pp. 466-476, http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09578239710184600.

[1] OECD (2018), The Resilience of Students with an Immigrant Background: Factors that Shape Well-being, OECD Reviews of Migrant Education, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264292093-en.

[5] Osler, A. and H. Starkey (2005), Changing Citizenship, McGraw-Hill Education , UK, https://books.google.fr/books?id=dElFZtd-dCEC&printsec=frontcover&dq=osler+and+starkey+2005+Changing+Citizenship&hl=fr&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj5qu_ls4HhAhUK2eAKHe2UCNMQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=osler%20and%20starkey%202005%20Changing%20Citizenship&f=false.

[3] Rutkowski, D., L. Rutkowski and L. Engel (2014), “Inclusive schooling: fostering citizenship among immigrant students in Europe”, Intercultural Education, Vol. 25/4, pp. 269-282, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14675986.2014.926144.

[2] UNESCO (2009), Defining an inclusive education agenda: reflections around the 48th session of the international conference on education, UNESCO, Geneva.

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