Czech EdMin delaying changes to decree on inclusion that NGOs protested, review is underway
The Czech Education Ministry has not yet completed its drafting of an amendment to its decree on educating children together in the schools, an amendment which, among other matters, would limit the allowed number of teaching assistants working in mainstream classes. The new regulations had been originally proposed for implementation as of 1 March.
Several ministries and nonprofit organizations objected to the intended changes, saying they believe a part of the proposal contravenes international human rights conventions. The ministry is still negotiating the possible changes with them.
The ministry is also continuing its drafting of an amendment to the decree about selections procedures for school principals. The ministry's press department informed the Czech News Agency in writing about its work in response to questions about these possible changes.
"Currently the amendment to the decree (about inclusion) has undergone the internal commenting procedures and the comments have been addressed," the ministry stated. After the completion of those negotiations, the decree must still be assessed by the Government's Legislative Council.
"The next step will be clear after that," the ministry said. The new amendments to the decree on inclusion should, according to the ministry, lead to cost savings, lowering the administrative burden for schools and educational counseling centers, and improving the social inclusion of children living with disabilities.
The proposal, which the ministry published last November, counts on children sharing a single teaching assistant per class. Up until now it has been possible for there to be three assistants per class in addition to the teacher.
The ministry assumed the changes could apply as of March, but after the proposal was published an argument arose between nonprofit associations and special needs educators. The disagreements especially concerned the part of the proposal according to which "specialized schools" would be allowed to enroll children with extremely different kinds of disabilities, as well as a proposal to delete the article in the decree stating that it is preferable for all children to be educated in mainstream schools.
According to the Education Ministry, such a provision stating that mainstream schools are the preferred environment for all children is included in the Education Act itself, so removing it from this decree does not endanger the principle of inclusive education. According to nonprofit organizations, the proposed changes violate international human rights conventions and could lead, among other things, to a growth in discrimination against Romani pupils in particular.
Similar objections were expressed by some Government agencies as well. The Association of Special Educators (Asociace speciálních pedagogů), which has long criticized the current introduction of inclusion, considers the proposed changes beneficial.
The decree on educating children together in the schools has applied since September 2016 and, among other things, is a response to a European Court of Human Rights judgment. In 2007 the court found the Czech Republic had violated the rights of several Romani children to education and discriminated against them by reassigning them into what were then called "special schools" (zvláštní školy).
That decree has been amended twice since then, once in the summer of 2017, and then when these amendments were proposed at the close of 2018. The ministry is also continuing to draft its amendment to the decree on school principal selection procedures according to which school establishers will be obligated to choose the candidate who best fulfills the selection criteria and will not be able to recommend the hiring of a less-qualified candidate, as is currently possible.
The representatives of cities and municipalities, which are the most frequent establishers of schools in the Czech Republic, are against these changes. For the time being it is not clear as of when the amendment to that decree might apply.
"The legislative process is underway, this material still has to be assessed by the Government's Legislative Council. After that it should be published in the collection of laws," the press department of the Education Ministry said.
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