Czech Education Minister insists on abolishing curriculum for "mild mental disability"
Czech Education Minister Kateřina Valachová confirmed to the Czech News Agency on 3 July that nothing will change with the plan to abolish the use of reduced curricula for "mildly mentally disabled" pupils. Abolition of the curriculum is an important step toward an inclusive education and overcoming discrimination against Romani pupils in the Czech schools.
It is precisely the disproportionately high number of Romani children educated according to the reduced curriculum, the so-called "LMP Appendix", in the "practical" (previously the "special") schools that is the target of repeated criticism of the Czech Republic by EU bodies and nonprofit organizations. More than 30 % of the children in such schools are Romani even though their proportion of the population is estimated at less than 3 %.
Abolishing the reduced curricula, as well as inclusion in and of itself, still has many criticis and opponents. The Special Educators' Association, which has long fought to preserve the "practical schools", recently delivered a petition to the Education Ministry against abolishing the LMP Appendix with 70 000 signatures.
The recently-formed Professional Teachers' Assocation (Učitelské profesní sdružení) also took a stance in an open letter to the Education Ministry recently against the introduction of "hasty inclusion" and against abolishing the LMP Appendix. "We do not want across-the-board, untransparent inclusion to be introduced at schools that are not prepared for it: They lack the material conditions and their teachers lack the professional preparations. There is a risk that functioning special schools will be closed and that parents' options to freely choose the most appropriate care for their children are at risk of being limited. The risks of hasty inclusion and its devastating impact on public schools are intentionally being ignored... Meaningful inclusion requires big investments on the one hand (we estimate dozens of billions of crowns) and gradual, sensitive introduction on the other. The opinions of parents and teachers are being overlooked and criticism is being ostracized," the letter reads.
The minister told the Czech News Agency that the preservation of the LMP Appendix is a non-starter: "Abolishing the LMP Appendix figures in all of the obligations the Czech Republic has formulated for itself. That must be undertaken, it is a given. My task is to undertake it in such a way as to make sure no harm comes to any children from the perspective of their educational careers and their experience in the field. "
The Education Ministry is now designing an implementing regulation to introduce the inclusive principles of a recently-approved amendment to the Schools Act into practice, but their preparations to date have encountered harsh criticism. Experts consider another key task for the successful introduction of inclusion to be changing the way primary schools are financed.
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