tiistai 26. kesäkuuta 2018

Inclusion for Higher Education - A4A Final Conference in Romania

This morning I am in Bucharest, Romania, where the conference is talking of access and inclusion in Higher education. I have been working in EU Erasmus+ funded project ”Access4All”.
Audience had come internationally and all over Romania
Today is the time for the final conference of this project, looking at the results that we have achieved.

Access4All created tools for Higher Education Institutes to self-evaluate their access and inclusion strategies and policies and to raise discussion on these issues.

The toolkit includes:

These tools are all available online for free use of any higher education institute.

For the conference today, Prof. Luise Morley from University Of Sussex talked of the rather unresearched topic of Roma in Higher Education. In her key note speech on the inclusion of the Roma, she raised some of the key issues which Are true with many underrepresented groups:

Some groups do not have visible signs for belonging to this group - they Are so called ”invisible” underrepresented groups. Often those persons also want to remain invisible, as many predjudicis Are directed toward them from the majority. But how can ”help/attention” be directed to them unless we know who they are..?

The audience raised their voice at the Q&A session pointing out that more attention should be directed toward self-esteem of people in these groups. If they feel that they Are accepted as they are, they no longer will remain invisible and therefore also the awareness of their group will increase in the society.

Saana Mehtälä presents JYU Good practises of Inclusion
Personally I reflect these issues through my personal experience: AS a mother of an autistic child, I see often that some families do not want to get their children diagnosed. Sometimes the reason is that based on a this ”stamp” in the forehead of the child makes them feel shame or they believe that the child will be bullied for being ”different”. However, the stamps also result into different aids, help and benefits for dealing with the situation. My son for example gets theraphy for his learning challenges and the family gets various support to help him at home. So for us, it has definitely been more useful to be out in the open rather than invisible.

Yes, it sometimes it takes courage to do so: People do not always know many things about underrepresentative groups like the autistic... and like Luisa mentioned in her keynote - the discussion can often be rather negative. People feel sorry for you to be different... but this is not the full picture. There Are many positive sides of diversity - these aspects Are just rarely raised into public discussion. Minorities tend to have a bad reputation. This is something we can change: do we just focus on the problems and hard ships or do we see the richness of diversity of people in our world?

/Summary in Finnish:

Tänään Access4All -projektin loppukonferenssissa Bukarestissa. A4A-projekti kehitti viimeisen kolmen vuoden aikana korkeakoulujen inkluusion kehittämiseen tarkoitetun työkalupalkin, joka löytyy verkosta täältä. Tänään Bucharestissa esittelemässä Jyväskylän Yliopiston inkluusiopolitiikkaan liittyviä kokemuksia: mitä toimia meillä on tehty ja miten nämä ovat toimineet opiskelijoille ja henkilökunnalle..?

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