The G20 2020 theme, Realizing Opportunities of the 21st Century for All, is supported by a global consensus that inclusive education should be a core policy priority.

The GHFP team have been working in collaboration with the G20 Interfaith Forum Education Working Group, to develop a policy brief that brings to the fore the urgent need for G20 leaders to review national policies to enhance the quality and equality of education.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed ever-widening gaps, with disadvantaged populations finding themselves further marginalised. Inclusive education can contribute to cohesive and thriving societies characterised by the wellbeing of all, in particular supporting the most vulnerable children and young people. 

Inclusive education offers paths to enhancing students’ motivation for participation and learning, raising self- and other-awareness, reducing biases, enriching relationships, increasing capabilities in team work, collaboration and conflict transformation, enabling a greater sense of belonging and community, reducing bullying and violence, and most importantly, improving wellbeing and opportunities for all. Without inclusive and caring approaches, vulnerable children and young people are not only discriminated against within the current systems, they are also excluded from broader opportunities for learning and wellbeing

Globally, during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, faith-inspired initiatives have played  distinctive roles in advancing a values-based discourse and promoting spiritually meaningful approaches to respecting all children’s dignity and meeting their diverse needs. Faith-inspired educational initiatives are working in many settings to empower local communities to close the gaps resulted from school closures, lack of public services, and isolation. They also provide practical support to address the acute social, emotional and spiritual needs of children during this time. By engaging with religious leaders and faith/interfaith actors, G20 leaders, national governments, and their international partners can strengthen the 2020 G20’s vision of “global cooperation to forge mutually beneficial solutions, face challenges, and create opportunities for all”.     

The G20i Education Working Group’s Policy Brief highlights an ongoing need exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It makes an urgent call for G20 governments to forge cross-boundary partnerships to jointly advance an agenda of inclusive education. It outlines the specific challenges confronting the global community at this time and draws on relevant literature, insights from a recent survey of faith-inspired organisations’ conceptions and approaches to inclusive and caring education, and proposals from a wider interdisciplinary consultation, to provide specific and implementable policy recommendations for the G20 leaders to consider at the G20 Summit in Riyadh in November 2020. 

The key recommendations of the policy brief are:

1. Advancing the Wellbeing of Every Child as the Core Aim of Education 

  • Promoting wellbeing of all students in the learning community
  • Introducing inclusive curricula
  • Prioritising collaborative and co-creative learning in the classroom  

2. Ensuring Participation of All in Inclusive Learning Environments 

  • Engaging [all] young people and empowering student voice and agency 
  • Forming partnerships among schools, families and faith communities to support all children 
  • Strengthening links between schools, faith communities, and wider society 

3. Aligning Teachers’ Professional Development with a Wellbeing and Inclusion Focus

  • Reviewing national capability frameworks for teachers’ professional development
  • Enhancing teachers’ awareness, sensitivity, and appreciation of diversity and inclusion 
  • Enabling teachers to facilitate transformative, collaborative and dialogue-based learning  

This year, the GHFP was invited by Beijing Normal University to teach a credit course on HCE. Dr Scherto Gill and Professor Kenneth Gergen, a fellow of the GHFP, provided the lectures together.

Participants are masters, doctoral and post-doctoral students. The lectures focused on the theories and practices of Human-Centred Education. The course concluded with a peer-evaluation day when students reflected on their own learning and discussed how they might take some of the ideas to their own research and work. A high note was reached when one of the students burst into tears about her awakening to this humanising view of students and the potential such human-centred approach might have in transforming lives of children and the society.

On 16th October, 52 school principals and their key members of staff travelled from different corners of the country to attend a one-day lecture on HCE provided by both Dr Gill and Prof Gergen. This lecture was likewise appreciated by the Principals, but they felt this was only a beginning. Schools in China are eager to learn how to integrate HCE practices in classrooms.

The GHFP’s HCE pilot in a school in La Tebaida, Colombia, is witnessing transformative experiences in their students. Mentoring sessions provide a safe space for students to share their lives in ways they have seldom done before. Students feel deeply touched by the care shown by the pastoral team; they feel their lives matter and their well-being is respected.

The teaching team engage in various ongoing professional learning and development activities, to support them to work together in a concerted way. These activities include:

  • Sharing their respective learning biographies as a basis for each teacher to articulate their personal ‘theorisation’ of learning and approaches to teaching. This sharing in turn helps bring teachers closer as their appreciation of each other’s narrative and life histories deepens. 
  • Forming mentoring partnership pairings. Pairs observe and provide feedback to each other on activity design, classroom teaching, and interaction with students.
  • Weekly meetings dedicated to reading HCE theories together and discussing how the key philosophical ideas might be relevant and applied to the school’s situation, especially in terms of how teachers relate to students. This weekly meeting is also a social time when the team share stories of the week over coffee. The message is clear: professional development is fun, enlivening and relaxing.