All means ALL: Including LGBTQIA+ Learners in Education for All

Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)
Written by
Lauren Gerken
Right to Education

This Pride month, we celebrate the many positive examples of progress and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and agender (LGBTQIA+) individuals in education around the world. Some examples include:

  • In Pakistan, the 2018 Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act prohibits discrimination in education on the basis of gender identity. 
  • In 2016, the South African Department of Basic Education published a booklet to help educators address homophobic bullying and make school grounds safer for LGBTQIA+ students. Several Cape Town schools have taken steps to include transgender and gender non-conforming students by establishing gender neutral uniforms and lavatories. 
  • In Colombia, the 2013 Inclusive Higher Education Policy Guidelines highlighted the need to include the LGBTQIA+ community in ensuring that higher education opportunities are equitable and  inclusive. 
pride month blog image, flag

Progress, but still a long way to go

Despite considerable progress in legal protection and inclusion, many LGBTQIA+ people continue to face barriers to life and learning. It is still illegal to be gay in 69 countries, and 12 countries still impose the death penalty for consensual homosexual acts between adults. Violence and persecution on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression are major factors causing displacement and impacting the health and wellbeing of LGBTQIA+ people around the world. 

These challenges extend to schools and learning centers. LGBTQIA+ students routinely face bullying and discrimination. Globally, 42% of LGBTQIA+ youth reported having been ‘ridiculed, teased, insulted or threatened at school.’ 37% reported feeling rarely or never safe at school. This persecution and fear of persecution, combined with the stress of displacement, can become toxic, and result in lifelong learning impairments and physical and mental health issues

Like all students, LGBTQIA+ students deserve to feel safe and supported in their schools and communities. So how can we support them?

Inclusive, affirming interventions

In honor of Pride month, here are few resources you can use to inform your programming and ensure that it is inclusive of displaced LGBTQIA+ people:

All means ALL

If we are to truly achieve education for all, we need to ensure that education systems and programs are responsive to the needs of all learners, especially those at higher risk of experiencing violence. We need to ensure that displaced LGBTQIA+ students and teachers are safe in schools and learning centers, that they have access to accurate and affirming information, and that teaching and learning materials don’t perpetuate harmful gender norms. We need to improve monitoring of school related gender-based violence and harassment, and create a safe, supportive, and inclusive learning environments where all students can thrive. 

We’ll never achieve education for all if we don’t support ALL students. We still have a long way to go.