Check out inspiring videos from the International Conference on Inclusive Education

At the International Conference on Inclusive Education, “A Way Forward In Slovakia,” experts from Portugal, Switzerland, Belgium, Greece, the USA, Serbia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia shared many important experiences, inspirations, and lessons from inclusive education. Recordings of insightful lectures, presentations, or workshops can be viewed in the videos in this article.

The conference took place on 4. December 4th and 5th in Bratislava , with 30 education policy experts and creators from both domestic and international backgrounds speaking. Over 160 guests attended, including representatives from ministries, public institutions, schools, and the non-governmental sector.

Together, they presented and discussed experiences related to policies, systems, and practices of quality inclusive education. They agreed that initial and ongoing teacher education is key to achieving the desired competencies for all children and next phases of educational reform in Slovakia. The event also aimed to discuss progress in inclusive education in Slovakia and identify persistent barriers to ensuring quality education for every child..

Conference Opening

Opening speeches addressed current efforts towards developing an inclusive society and implementing inclusive education in Slovakia, along with the associated challenges for our educational system. The key effort is for all children, including those with additional needs, to benefit from qualified teachers, flexible and inclusive pedagogy, educational materials, and individual support that facilitates their participation in education and enables them to fully develop their potential.

Status of policy reforms for education quality and inclusion in Slovakia

The curriculum reform within the Recovery Plan includes the introduction of inclusive elements into the educational process and the strengthening of teachers’ competencies. Part of this effort is the Catalog of Support Measures,which aims to help create a supportive system in schools for all children without distinction. Kálmán Petőcz (Ministry of Education of the SR) and Svetlana Síthová (NIVAM) discussed how these mechanisms will be implemented in practice.

Experiences from practice at the level of primary schools were shared by Jana Bavoľárová, the headmaster of a primary school in Budimír. Monika Fričová, the director of thePlatform of Families of Children with Disabilities, discussed the needs of children with disabilities within the educational process.

Inspirational examples from abroad on implementing inclusive education in Slovakia

How is inclusion approached in Portugal and other countries? In this video, guest speakers discuss foreign policies and recommendations from the European Union and UNICEF regarding the implementation of an inclusive approach to education. Maida Pasic, a UNICEF Regional Education Advisor, Mary Kyriazopolou from the European Agency for Inclusive Education and Special Needs and Filomena Pereira, Director of the Department of Special Needs Education, Ministry of Education, Portugal, shared experiences of providing quality inclusive education in their countries.

What is needed to advance inclusion in education?

How to support diversity in the classroom and how do various disadvantages of children affect their academic performance? These topics were addressed by Professor Judith Hollenweger Haskell from the University of Zurich. The headmaster primary school in Topoľčany, Mária Bezáková, shared examples of good practice in inclusive education from Slovakia. Peter Krajňák, Deputy Mayor, Municipality of Prešov, discussed school funding and the need for stable support for disadvantaged students. Watch this thought-provoking discussion in the video below.

Why are education and care in early childhood crucial?

What are the benefits of inclusive education in early childhood for society? What are the barriers within the EU to its implementation? These questions were answered by Ivelina Borisova, a UNICEF Regional Advisor for Early Childhood Education. Guest speakers Bjorn Martens and Hester Hulpia from the Belgian city of Ghent shared an example of good practice of an accessible and quality system of early childhood education and care. Katarína Vančíková from Matej Bel University discussed the situation of children from excluded Roma communities in Slovakia. Together with Eva Pupíková from NIVAM, they discussed the importance of professional development for teachers, who play a key role in implementing inclusion in early childhood education.

Outputs from working groups

Participants of the Conference attended working groups on the topics of Roma desegregation in education and support for new students from abroad in schools. See the outputs and conclusions from these working groups in a short video.

What inclusive approaches in education and child care work in Slovakia?

Representatives of six organizations in the field of education, local government, and the non-profit sector shared how inclusive approaches in education and child care in Slovakia work from their point of view and how they put them into practice with the support of the Together for Children programme from the Carpathian Foundation and UNICEF.

Discussion on inclusive education with Gautam Rana, Ambassador of the United States to Slovakia

The discussion on inclusive education should never take place without considering it first from the perspective of the child, their perceptions, and feelings, said Gautam Rana, Ambassador of the United States to Slovakia.

He also spoke about his personal experience with his own disability, emphasizing the contribution of inclusive education to his life.

Next steps for inclusion in Slovakia according to Kálmán Petőcz from the Ministry of Education of the SR

Kálmán Petőcz, Director General of Inclusive Education and National Minorities, Ministry of Education of the SR, spoke about further steps for implementing inclusion in Slovakia. He emphasizedthe need for the joint education of different groups of children with a focus on individual approach, while also highlighting the importance of creating an atmosphere in schools where children, teachers, and parents feel comfortable and eager to return to school.

Closing Speeches

The organizers of the International Conference on Inclusive Education, Veronika Miškech Fričová from the Carpathian Foundation and Tanja Rankovic from UNICEF, summarized the course of the conference and provided important and practical conclusions.