In the last decade, fighting school segregation as a mechanism to favour equality of educational opportunities has acquired a notorious prominence in the recommendations of international and European institutions (European Commission, 2015; Council of Europe, 2017; UNESCO, 2020). In some countries, yet timidly, the question of school segregation has also begun to be present in national discourses to improve education equity.
School segregation is not an isolated phenomenon, but rather a structural problem of most education systems. This generates the need to reform central aspects over which European Guidelines to tackle school segregation 2 different levels of educational administration have competence or capacity to act upon. Consequently, it is essential to establish the foundations for the configuration of an educational systems that, regardless of the distribution of competencies in education and the different scales of governance, places educational equality and the fight against school segregation as priority objectives.
Education systems are complex and operate at national, regional and local scales. Different education systems respond to a different distribution of responsibilities and interactions among actors at different levels. However, recent trends in educational reform show that national governments transfer greater control over educational processes to local authorities, while maintaining responsibility for the quality (effectiveness, efficiency, equity) of the overall system (European Commission 2018).
Regardless of the particular attribution of responsibilities to each administration level, it is important that education policies prioritize equity and inclusion, allowing at the same time the necessary flexibility to meet the diverse needs of learners, both within and outside of mainstream education. Policymaking needs to involve all relevant stakeholders to achieve this objective and create shared ownership and accountability. Equally, in order to be effective – and to support schools’ development – policies need high quality feedback loops and access to information to support evidence-based action. Both are crucial for the motivation and engagement of all actors to enhance positive changes (European Commission 2018).
Objectives of the guidelines
This document defines Guidelines for national Ministries of Education of EU member states on key lines of action that should be developed to tackle school segregation. These are necessarily general recommendations that must be useful for all member states, regardless of their legal frameworks. The Guidelines contain relevant suggestions to carry out education policy initiatives oriented to reduce school segregation and increase educational inclusion.
Structure of the guidelines
The first section of the Guidelines starts with a short review of the legal framework that supports the need to develop political agendas at European, national, regional, and local governance levels to tackle school segregation. Following this initial section, three sections are presented for Planning action. These are: 1) Building a system of equivalent schools, 2) Funding and 3) Information for policies. Two main broad objectives are defined for each of these topics, together with a set of specific actions to achieve them.