Learning for All: Teachers as Agents for Inclusion

Learning for All: Teachers as Agents for Inclusion

June 18 th, 2019.

By Line Kuppens, Senior Education Advisor Primary and Secondary Education, VVOB - education for development



By substantially increasing the supply of qualified teachers (Target 4.C), governments and development partners all over the world aim to reach Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) and ensure that by 2030 all learners have access to inclusive and equitable quality education. But what it means to be a qualified teacher varies per country.
Filling that void, VVOB’s efforts in teacher professional development are geared towards training teachers who (1) ensure that all learners acquire a critical level of competences, (2) create a safe and supportive learning environment for all, (3) use contextually relevant, inclusive instructional and assessment strategies, and (4) actively engage in learning with colleagues.


In many countries around the world, disadvantaged and vulnerable learners, who can benefit most from quality education, learn least. The challenges they face in school are manifold – social-emotional problems, bullying, difficulties in performing at grade level or accumulated completion delays. Equitable and inclusive quality education means that learners’ personal and social circumstances do not form barriers to learning. But how to prepare teachers for this responsibility? VVOB – education for development supports teacher professional development in Belgium, Cambodia, DR Congo, Ecuador, Rwanda, South Africa, Suriname, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia. VVOB works hand in hand with Ministries of Education to strengthen the institutions tasked with teachers’ initial training and continued professional development, and those responsible for the mentoring and coaching of new teachers.


Challenging norms and expectations

Learners’ wellbeing is an important indicator of their school performance. Many issues negatively affecting learners’ wellbeing are strongly related to societal roles, norms and expectations. Persisting traditional gender norms in Cambodia, for instance, continue to prioritise sons over daughters in education. And, in Ecuador and Suriname, a high proportion of adolescent girls are suspended from school because of adolescent pregnancies.


As role models, teachers have an impact on group norms and self-expectations that can make or break opportunities for their learners. VVOB raises awareness among teachers of the detrimental effects of biases and discrimination, and provides tools to create safe and supportive learning environments that consider learners’ wellbeing, help to keep them in school and ensure that they – and their peers – are effectively learning. In Cambodia, VVOB has developed an action guide and self-assessment tool to support teachers to teach in an equitable and gender-responsive manner. In Ecuador, teachers receive training to apply a protocol helping pregnant and parenting teens to stay in school; while teachers in Suriname experiment with the Flag System – an evidence-based tool developed by the Flemish member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation – to respond to unacceptable sexual behavior in a pedagogically responsible way.


Focus on classroom strategies

In South Africa, there is a significant learning gap between the poorest 60 per cent of learners and the wealthiest 20 per cent that widens throughout their school career. The country adopted a promising policy to screen, identify, assess, and support learners facing systemic, extrinsic or intrinsic barriers to learning. Yet, many teachers don’t know how to translate the policy into practice. Applying a two-track approach, VVOB supports South African primary school teachers to overcome the challenges disadvantaged pupils face by providing differentiated education. In pre-service training, we work together with leading teacher training institutes to embed inclusive teaching practices in education methodology modules. Once in service, we support newly qualified teachers to put what they have learnt into practice through in-school mentoring. To deepen learning, we have also set up Professional Learning Communities (PLC). In Free State, teachers discuss how to support learners speaking African languages at home to overcome mother tongue influence in the country’s English-dominated school environment. By actively engaging in learning with peers, teachers collaboratively gain the necessary reflective, social, and emotional skills to effectively teach for all.


Since teachers are unlikely to change their practices in an antagonistic school environment, VVOB is also committed to the professional development of school leaders to help them create an environment in which teachers provide equitable and inclusive quality education. In Rwanda, for instance, VVOB offers school leaders the opportunity to enroll in the diploma course on Effective School Leadership. Among other things, they learn how to create equitable and inclusive school environments, as well as how to lead school-based professional development for teachers. Together with the University of Rwanda College of Education and Rwanda Education Board, VVOB also offers a certificate course on coaching and mentoring to local education officers so the latter can support school leaders in turn.


The vision of a more equitable education system requires teachers equipped with the competences needed to meet the diverse needs of all learners; VVOB and its partners are happy to share further ideas and inspiration at the European Development Days to continue the journey to provide quality education for all learners.


This blog was written by an invited expert in the framework of the Teacher Task Force’s participation in the European Development Days.

Dr Line Kuppens provides support to VVOB interventions on teacher development for equitable and inclusive education in in two continents. She conducts research on teachers’ values for multicultural education. VVOB - education for development is a member of the Teacher Task Force and currently sits on its Steering Committee as a representative of the International NGOs and CSOs constituency. 

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