The year 2013 was an exceptional year in Lebanon especially for children with special educational needs and Disability (SEND). It was the year when the journey of inclusion in Lebanese schools started following a series of global, regional and national inclusion conferences organised by the British Council. I was fortunate enough to witness the signing of the memorandum of understanding on the 22nd of April that year which marked the first commemoration of this special occasion. It was also the onset of a long collaboration between the British Council, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in Lebanon and SKILD Center which was established a couple of years earlier.
In celebration of this achievement, an unforgettable evening brought together key people, educators and government officials who pledged to give their best and work hard to realise full-fledged inclusion of children with learning difficulties in their communities. Since 2013, year after year, SKILD Center, MEHE and the British Council have dedicated 22 of April to raise awareness, support and remind everyone in our beloved country, officials, professionals, communities, and parents, of the rights of children with special needs and our obligation towards them.
Equality of opportunity is the cornerstone of British Council values and central to our work across all our programs. We advocate that the inclusion of children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) in education systems is an entitlement and a fundamental human right. All children and young people should expect to receive an education that enables them to achieve their goals, become confident, and prepares them to make a successful transition into adulthood. We believe that by promoting inclusive education, we are not only providing equal access to education, but we are also building a more cohesive and resilient society. Inclusive education can help break down barriers and promote understanding among individuals and communities. This demands that countries develop resilient and sustainable policies and strategies on which to build efficient, relevant and transformative education systems.
Governments, teachers and school leaders who are in charge of fulfilling the potential of thousands of boys and girls who need access to quality education have a big responsibility towards challenged individuals; namely to provide them with necessary knowledge they will need to pursue further studies or work opportunities, skills and values they need to be prepared for the work challenges of a future global economy which we do not yet fully understand. Policy makers and business leaders know how important it is to make adequate investments in education and learning that hold value in the labour market and prepare young people for the world of tomorrow. For the schoolchildren of today will be the innovators, the workers, the teachers and the scientists who will be responsible for our future.
We know that we still have challenges, but we also know that, as a result of the work we’ve done together, a lot of progress has been made. Many agencies and organizations have been doing extremely valuable work for decades, focusing on specific areas under the umbrella of inclusive education. And so we are very much looking forward to having a joined-up approach with all partners across the public sector and beyond so that inclusive education can be systematised with more students benefitting across Lebanon. Inclusive education is key for schools to incorporate diversity principles in a more systematic and comprehensive way which changes the lives of all students and teachers. It is this process that strengthens the quality of their work, by building engagement and trust for the schools and the people connected with them.
The journey of integration in Lebanese schools began 2013 after a series of global, regional and national integration conferences organized by the British Council. Inclusion is a basic human right for all children and it leads to acceptance of others who are different as well as diversity.
I am delighted with what we have achieved to date and I look forward to working with all on new initiatives that will continue to secure the future of young people including children with SEND and those of the generations to come. With all my heart, I tell you on behalf of the British Council and our partners that inclusive education will remain one of our top priorities and will support whenever we can.