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Czech Education Minister does not anticipate a "revolution" in the instruction of the "mildly mentally disabled"

15.2.2016 21:40
Kateřina Valachová  became the Czech Education Minister in 2015. (PHOTO: www.osf.cz)
Kateřina Valachová became the Czech Education Minister in 2015. (PHOTO: www.osf.cz)

The innovations that have been designed and adopted in the Czech Republic with respect to the education of children with "mild mental disability" may not even be significantly apparent in practice. Czech Education Minister Kateřina Valachová (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) has said she does not presume there will be any significant changes beginning in September as a result of the modifications.

The Education Ministry has completed its work on the modified program according to which primary schools will deliver education in the fall, the minister told the Czech News Agency. That program still includes a significant portion of the reduced expectations for children with "mild mental disability" that are now described separately.

The content of the so-called "Mild Mental Disability Appendix", which will be abolished in September, has essentially just been updated and combined with the program for regular pupils. "It's 11 years old, so naturally that was taken into account from a professional point of view," the minister said.

Formally speaking, children with "mild mental disability" will now be educated with everyone else in lower primary school, i.e., up to fifth grade, as of September. Given the procedure that the ministry has chosen to follow, after agreeing on it with experts, apparently no essential changes await those children.

"I do not see any significant changes either from the standpoint of the content of the education, or the way it will be delivered that might be disruptive for the children, or the parents, or the special educators in those schools," she told the Czech News Agency. The minister sees the main benefit of the changes as making it easier to implement any eventual modifications to the educational careers of these children that might prove necessary.

She also says it does not matter what type of school a pupil attends. "Any eventual transfers, should a parent decide to accede to them, will also be provided to the child with much more continuity. The interest of the child in accessing education will be much more respected," the minister said.

The current system of instruction will also be preserved for all children enrolling into upper primary school in September. "We did that because we respect children's rights. It is clear that if they began their education on the basis of a certain background material that we must maintain that continuity so there will be as little disruption to them as possible," the minister explained.

The vast majority of so-called "practical primary schools" where children with "mild mental disability" are educated also teach some pupils according to the regular curriculum. Such schools, according to the minister, will not have to make any essential organizational changes.

From a legal perspective, such schools are already now considered regular primary schools. The changes this year will affect the transformation of 17 schools that exclusively educate children with "mild mental disability", serve school districts that are more broadly distributed than average, and are usually established by a Regional Authority.

The vast majority of children with "mild mental disability" now attend classes or schools that do not provide mainstream education. Their education is usually closely associated with the education of Romani children.

Human rights organizations criticize the fact that this diagnosis is given to a disproportionately high share of children of that ethnicity, and that Romani children comprise more than 30 % of the pupils attending the so-called "practical schools". Those schools will not be closed. 

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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mentální postižení, Ministerstvo školství, praktické školy, školství



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