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Commentary by Karel Holomek: Special educators' lobby has tried to convince us for years that inclusion can't happen yet

12.1.2016 8:00
Romani activist Karel Holomek speaking at the memorial to the former concentration camp for Romani people at Hodonín u Kunštátu Czech Republic. (PHOTO:  ROMEA TV)
Romani activist Karel Holomek speaking at the memorial to the former concentration camp for Romani people at Hodonín u Kunštátu Czech Republic. (PHOTO: ROMEA TV)

Among some of our educators the conviction predominates that inclusive education would be equivalent to the Czech schools planning to commit suicide. This has already become a kind of obsession, and some members of the special educators' lobby have been doing their best to convince us for at least 15 years that the time has not yet come for children with varying degrees of mental backwardness (mainly social backwardness) - or even for some children without any such backwardness - to be included in mainstream education.

This lobby compares inclusion to interfering with the curriculum, which is just not an applicable comparison. It also puts out false information about the gradual destruction of the "practical schools" (previously called the "special schools"), which does not actually correspond to what the Czech Education Ministry is planning, as the "practical schools" will not be closing.

The members of this lobby also predict that inclusion will just be the starting line for bullying among children and the beginning of dangerous confusion. Nothing but catastrophe and horror!

This lobby says nothing about how to deal with the stain on the face of our society that is centuries of inequality for Romani pupils (yes, that is what we are talking about) or how to deal with it in a polite, 21st-century European society. To say nothing of our significant democratic handicap.

Inclusion, as it is being proposed today, may not be able to be fully implemented in the programs now outlined, but it is a way for us to rid ourselves of the steretoypes of the Czech schools, among them our pride in our traditional system of "special education". Nothing against those efforts, my hat is off to them, but the time when that system could unequivocally carry on is long since past!

For God's sake! Maybe in these 26 years of democracy we have managed to change the mindset of Romani families so that they desire decent educations as a result of the work of hundreds and thousands of people from the civil sector working on the program of Romani uplift and assisting with the entry of these children into good schools.

There is also the ongoing work of those teachers who are free of prejudice! This is simply a rational matter concerning the financial prosperity of the entire country.

Without resolving this, we will never move forward. Indeed, of the 18 000 children to be included that is now being quoted, just one or two of them will end up in each Czech classroom, which does not pose a problem for any Czech school - and if it does seem to pose a problem, that only means it really is high time for a change!  

Karel Holomek, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Inkluzivní vzdělávání, speciální školy, Vzdělávání, zrovnoprávnění



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