Since 2002 UNESCO has published the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report annually. At the beginning of June 2017 the GEM Report’s Advisory Board met in Paris to discuss the success of the 2016 report. During the meeting they discussed plans for the 2017/18 and 2019 GEM Reports, and decided on the future theme of the 2020 report. A consensus was reached on the theme: Inclusion and Education. This is perhaps not surprising since the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) calls for inclusive, equitable and high quality education and lifelong learning for all by 2030. This is a laudable goal. But even a casual glace at some statistics brings into sharp focus the job that is still ahead of us in achieving this goal. Take, for example, the Education for All report from 2015. It reported, “in 44 of the 74 countries analysed, there is at least a 50-year gap between when all the richest boys complete lower secondary school and when all the poorest girls do so. And, if recent trends continue, girls from the poorest families in sub-Saharan Africa will only achieve this target in 2111, 64 years later than the boys from the richest families” (UNESCO, 2015: 13-14). These trends can be changed. It will take a concerted effort on the part of governments, teachers, parents and the international community, but it can be done.
But what of the gifted within these statistics on inclusion, equity and high quality education? Are these girls from the poorest families just not as clever as the richest boys? Or have the boys had access to good nutrition, literature, varied experiences, high expectations, values and systems that support boys and education in a way that the poor girls can only dream of and so these boys are able to flourish within the school system? If we are serious about tackling this inequality then we have to consider how we view learners and the diversity they bring to the classroom. In addition, we have to examine how systems and structures might routinely and systematically perpetuate inequity and/or inequality.