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  

As part of the preparation for the 2020 G20 Summit, the G20 Interfaith Forum Education Task Force, sponsored by the GHFP Research Institute, carried out a survey with over 50 interfaith-inspired organisations, conducted a literature review, and explored case studies with a view to understand better how these organisations and educators conceptualise inclusive education.

The result was an extremely rich vista in terms of how we might understand inclusive education, including:

  1. recognising and respecting the intrinsic worth of all children
  2. being available and accessible to learners of all backgrounds, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, caste, religion, ability, sexual orientation, economic status, language, or beliefs
  3. focusing on the whole child, and nurturing their holistic well-being, including the physical, social-emotional, intellectual, moral, cultural, and spiritual dimensions of development
  4. honouring students’ diversity, valuing their difference, and being responsive to their evolving needs in all aspects of learning, development and wellbeing
  5. creating safe and caring learning spaces and promoting cohesive learning communities
  6. cultivating students’ agency, and attending and responding to students’ voice respectfully, appreciating what everyone brings to the educational setting, and advocating solidarity
  7. empowering all learners to participate transformative collective actions in the community and beyond
  8. supporting all children to thrive in the face of increasing uncertainty

Such understandings have provided the basis for G20 Interfaith Forum Education Policy Recommendations aimed at meeting the challenges of social cohesion and collective well-being and flourishing during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.