by Susie Miles

The Enabling Education Network (EENET) has been set up to establish an information-sharing network aimed at supporting and promoting the inclusion of marginalized groups in education world wide. Although membership is open to individuals and organisations in all parts of the world, EENET gives priority to the needs of countries in the South.


  • Believes in the equal rights and dignity of all children;

  • Prioritizes the needs of countries which have limited access to basic information and resources;

  • Recognizes that education is much broader than schooling;

  • Acknowledges diversity across cultures and believes that education should respond to this diversity;

  • Seeks to develop partnerships in all parts of the world.

Begun in April 1997, EENET aims to fill a networking vacuum in the relatively new field of Inclusive Education (IE). While Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) workers and Disabled People’s Organisations sometimes link into regional and international networks, there was little opportunity for teachers and policy makers involved in IE to share their experiences. Because UNESCO’s Special Needs in the Classroom project lacks a networking service, it gives EENET its full support. Although Inclusion International has begun to network on Inclusive Education, it focuses on children with learning difficulties and works mostly with UN agencies. The need was seen for a more independent body that would look at inclusion in its broadest sense and could supply much needed relevant information to the field. And so EENET was born.

Most EENET’s members are concerned for disabled children. However, EENET has deliberately defined its objectives very broadly, to include all issues of difference and discrimination, such as race, gender and poverty.

Sadly, awareness training concerning any one group of marginalized persons does not guarantee awareness in others. So, for example, a person may be race and gender aware, but be completely disability-unaware (Stubbs 1995). EENET will encourage a more holistic view of disability in order to promote a fuller understanding of exclusion in its widest sense.

Inclusion, as distinct from integration, is a process by which the school and the system has to change to include disabled children and other marginalized groups. In integrated education, disabled children are sent to mainstream schools and the individual child is adjusted to fit into the school. Basically, the school stays the same. Hence the successes of integration have been too few, and a large proportion of children remain marginalized, or accepted on a conditional basis. We therefore have to rethink the task and ask ourselves: How do we prepare schools so that they deliberately reach out to all children? (EENET ‘97)

The opportunity of inclusion is to challenge the status quo of traditional forms of schooling and to bring about meaningful and lasting changes to the whole school which will benefit all children. In this way inclusive education dovetails with the school improvement and effectiveness movement to provide a better learning environment for all.

In recent years there has been an increasing focus on and discussion about inclusive education as a strategy for responding to diversity. This strategy is gaining impetus globally. Sometimes this is from a rights perspective: “Disabled children and other marginalized groups have a right to be educated alongside their peers”. And sometimes this comes from an economic perspective: “We cannot afford or sustain segregated ‘special’ education, and so inclusion is the only option”.

The United Nations' world conferences on “Education for All: Meeting Basic Learning Needs” held in Thailand in 1990 and on “Special Needs Education: Access and Quality,” held in Spain in 1994 emphasized that many children are excluded or are not benefiting from current systems, such as disabled children, street children and ethnic minorities. It is therefore important to look at the systems, structures and methods within schools to bring about a schooling system which can benefit and include all children within a particular community. The Salamanca ‘Framework for Action' is being used to support policy development in several countries.

In the industrialised North the dominant model has been one of segregation, or institutionalised provision for separate categories of children. Attempts to adopt newer, more inclusive policies are hampered by a legacy of exclusion which can tie up resources and provide huge bureaucratic and attitudinal obstacles. By contrast, there is less legacy of segregation in Africa and Asia, and inclusive education is often more fully integrative and community-based than in the North.

However, seminars and publications tend to be biased towards the concerns of Northern countries because most funding resources and “experts” come from the North. There is a tremendous need in countries of the South to share experiences of the inclusion process.

The aim of EENET is to broaden the concept of inclusive education beyond the classroom to include community-based strategies and promote dissemination of useful information in accessible formats throughout countries with limited access to basic information and material resources. It promotes the positive identity of marginalised persons by encouraging and supporting self-help groups, and the involvement of positive role models. Individual differences are recognised and celebrated as part of the inclusion process.

Who is involved in EENET?

Members consist of parents, policy makers, teachers, academics and community workers. Partners include: Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), UNESCO’s Special Education Programme, and European research institutions. Funding agencies include: Norwegian International Disability Alliance (NIDA), Radda Barnen, and Associazione Italiana di Amici Raoul Follereau (AIFO).

How to contact EENET:

EENET, Centre for Educational Needs

University of Manchester, Oxford Road

Manchester M13 9PL

Tel: +44 (0)161 275 3510

Fax: +44 (0)161 275 3548


For more complete information on EENET see the web-site:

A newsletter, “Enabling Education,” is also available, for sharing of information.