On 25 May 2018, the EFEE Peer Learning Visit (PLV) to Montenegro took place in Podgorica on ‘Promoting and improving inclusive education starting at early age’. The event was hosted and co-organised by the Ministry of Education of Montenegro. In total 12 EFEE members and representatives participated in the PLV from Belgium (Flemish and French speaking part), Ireland, Malta, and Slovenia.

The participants got insight in the education system of Montenegro by a presentation of Ms Vesna Gajevi?, Senior Advisor in Cabinet of the Minister. She touched furthermore upon the position of the Ministry of Education as employer in education and the cooperation with teacher trade unions to improve quality education. Subsequently her colleague, Ms Tamara Mili?, Head of Division for preschool and inclusive education of the Ministry, presented to the participants the national policies to create an inclusive education system for all. She explained that the policies are based on the four main principles of 1. Human rights; 2. Involvement of family, parents and partners; 3. Individualised support; 4. Special institutions in exceptional severe cases. This means that a ‘regular school’ is in principle always the first choice, also for learners with special educational needs.

The representatives from the Ministry shared their challenges in making inclusive education a reality. It was mentioned that the networking, cooperation and transition within the education system and other relevant systems (like health care, social & employment services, etc.) could be improved, early detection and support to children and their families could be ameliorated, education of personnal could be raised, and accessibility of equitment could be enhanced.

In order to experience how the policies work in practice, the participants of the PLV visited the primary school “21st May” in Podgorica. They talked to the principal, special education teacher, psychologist, teachers, technical assistants and visited classrooms. Moreover the participants visited two Resource Centres in Podgorica: one specialised in the support to children with visual and physical impairments, and one specialised in the support to children with for children with intellectual disabilities and children with autistic spectrum disorders. The participants experiences how therapists and pedagogues work with children with special needs and were informed by members of the assistive team how they provide support to children with autism, their parents, but also to their teachers at school regarding communication challenges. Furthermore the particants were informed by the director of the Resource Centres on the services that are offered to the children, parents, siblings, and teachers: including an early intervention programme (fo age 0 to 6), individual treatments (speech therapy, psychomotor re-education, special needs education, psychological therapy), cooperation/professional support/counselling and education for parents and families, social and medical services, and (education) tools and materials.

These national practices from Montenegro inspired members of EFEE to reflect on their own national systems and to discuss how employers in education can contribute to promoting the inclusion of all pupils in quality education from an early age onwards. It was concluded that early intervention is crucial in order to give children with special educational needs the right support and good basis to ensure their effective equal access to quality inclusive education. Furthermore it was agreed that it would be useful for EFEE and its members to further look into the different inclusive education policies that exist in the EU, as it became clear that in each country different definitions, approaches and implementation practices are being used. It was mentioned that it would be valuable for EFEE members to initiate for example a project to collect best practices in this regard and to promote further peer learning by exchanging local, regional and national practices.

The full report of the PLV is available hereNiklas Hjalmarsson Jersey