The importance of the policy dimension in the ARISE: Action for Reducing Inequalities in Education project for successfully supporting the students from low socio-economic status (SES) background has already been presented, as well as the main policy components and related activities. In this article, the Policy Coalition (PC) established in Albania within the ARISE project will be presented.
ARISE Consortium member, Children are the Future, published an open call for participating in the policy coalition, looking for associates interested in contributing to inclusive education and with expertise in the field, as well as in education equity, issues of poverty, inclusive policies, inclusive school leadership, teacher professional development, etc. They were interested in involving representatives from national and local education authorities, policymakers, researchers and experts in the field of education, poverty and social welfare, as well as the policymakers, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Grassroot Organizations (GROs) representatives working with groups recognized as vulnerable (particularly children and parents from low SES background, with special needs and/or from a rural area, minorities), teachers and school leaders. The Call resulted in gathering about 20 representatives from different levels of government (national, local), universities, CSOs, schools and an informal parent council representatives’ network ready to work on support to students from low SES background in Albania.
Albania has undergone several reforms in the education system during the last three decades aiming at a better quality and more equitable education for all, which have had a positive impact on access to compulsory education and student performance.
However, research shows that there is still a gap between policy and practice. More particularly, the Education Policy Review and similar studies show that Roma children, children with special needs and children in rural and remote communities remain vulnerable in attaining the quality education entitled by Law and there is still a high dropout rate. Therefore, more strategic investment is essential to the improvement of the education system and to the social, economic and overall development in Albania.
The main problems identified in the national report developed within the ARISE project are closely related to the low socio-economic status of students, including those living in poor families, rural areas, minority groups and students with special needs, as well as the low public spending on pre-university education (2019 – 2020 = 2.38% of GDP for preuniversity education). These resources are insufficient for better school infrastructure and facilities, teaching materials and continuous teacher training and it doesn’t support the successful implementation of national policies aiming at a quality and equitable education for all.
Setting the Goals
At the first and constitutive Policy Coalition meeting, the main issues identified through the national report were strongly supported by all the participants. They recognized that poverty has a very negative effect on the well-being and educational progress of children coming from low socio-economic background, especially Roma and Balkan Egyptian students, students from remote rural areas and students with special needs.
Key causes identified at the Policy Coalition meeting were:
- the poor economic situation of marginalized families,
- lack of proper conditions in schools to provide additional support,
- low level of professional development of teachers and school leaders on inclusive education, effective communication and cooperation, inclusive and interactive teaching methods,
- low level of parent involvement and partnership with various stakeholders;
- lack of budget that each school can use to support the implementation of programs tailored to the needs and interests of their school community, and other related ones.
Identification of key issues was followed up by a wide discussion through various means of communication with all the Policy Coalition members in order to come up with three of the priorities to be addressed. Based on the main issues identified during the meeting and through the report, the main policy goals set are as follows:
- Increasing the capacity of school leaders, teachers and psycho-social services for the development of inclusive schools, where diversity is valued and promoted, parents’ involvement is enhanced and cooperation of all stakeholders is strengthened for the well-being and success of all children.
- Increasing partnerships with families, with a special focus on families from low SES groups, in their children’s education, in the decision-making process and in the whole school life.
- Advocating for an increased budget for pre-university education and for the provision of a defined budget for each school.
The Policy Coalition members agreed to share the information about the coalition meeting with their institutions’ representatives and also use their social media platforms for raising awareness about the issues that were identified. In addition, after the selection of the issue/s with the highest priority, and further elaboration during the Regional Policy Lab activities, the coalition will work more specifically on identifying the main steps toward effectively addressing the priority issue/s.
It is important to emphasize that all the members expressed a high interest in the project as a whole and in the coalition as an initiative, as well as their commitment to its success.
 UNESCO, Albania: Education Policy Review; issues and recommendations, extended report (2017) https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000259245