ETUCE Pre-Conference webinar on Inclusive education: Shifting diversity from challenge to added value


In the framework of the series of workshops that ETUCE is organising in preparation to the quadrennial ETUCE statutory Conference, on 23 November, the workshop on diversity in education brought together 55 education trade unions’ representatives from 28 European countries exchanging their views and experiences on the themes of inclusion and diversity in education.

Embracing the concept of diversity as “central idea of pluralism” that, according to the Council of Europe, “implies moving beyond the idea of tolerance to a genuine respect for and appreciation for difference”, the participants discussed the importance of diversity and inclusion in the education sector, and the contribution that education trade unions can bring to enhance inclusive and diverse education. As it emerged from the discussion, despite the many aspects of diversity in education (gender, migratory status, ethnic background, special needs, socio-economic background, etc.), several challenges hinder the enhancement of diversity as an added value in education.

Webinar gender equality

According to a live poll questionnaire organised during the webinar, more than 90% of the participants  agreed that student diversity is not sufficiently reflected among education personnel, and some unions explained that it was difficult to attract teachers with diverse backgrounds. While participants reported that schools witness an increase of students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, migrant and refugee students, as well as students with special needs, education trade unions underline that national governments miss coherent political plans to enhance diversity and inclusion in education. Instead, inclusive education often relies on teachers’ and families’ goodwill. Insufficient public funding is an additional significant obstacle in combating inequalities in schools. Consequently, inadequate infrastructures, disproportionated size of classes, as well as a shortage of supporting teachers and staff profoundly hamper inclusive education and the good coexistence of people with diverse backgrounds. Likewise, teachers and supporting staff lack adequate competences and pedagogical methods to deal with diversity.

The participants critically viewed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic which exacerbated  inequalities among students and worsened the work-life balance of teachers, especially women, who being responsible for taking care of  children and/or other family members, had to reduce their working hours and, in some cases, quit their work.

The participants expressed their commitment to fight for inclusive education and better working conditions for teachers and highlighted the need for additional funding to support diversity and inclusion. They made the point that teachers need proper initial professional training and continuous professional development to keep pace with the fast-evolving changes.

Among the good practices shared by the participants, the German union VBE presented a survey on inclusive education; the Norwegian UEN laid out its new Strategy Plan on implementing diversity in the union and the education sector, while Russian and Tajik trade unions are contributing with monitoring activities to a project on teachers’ mobility. In Romania, the union FSLE explained that it was organising trainings for parents and teachers on teaching in the context of diversity and special needs, while in France, SNUipp-FSU is organising two webinars on inequalities at schools, the professionalisation of teachers and lack of funding.

Learn more about the ETUCE Conference here.

For more information on the workshop:

Agenda:  EN, FR, RU

Background document:  ENFR, RU