Czech Education Ministry wants to end funding for assistants to thousands of disabled children, expert says this will ruin inclusive education
The Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MŠMT) is planning to adjust the conditions for financial support to pupils with special educational needs. The ministry's draft amendment to its decree on inclusion, which is currently undergoing a commenting procedure, could deprive some groups of disabled children of the support of a teaching assistant.
If adopted, the proposed wording of the amended decree would narrow entitlement to an assistant just for those types of disability that concern behavioral disorders or mental disability. "Through this proposal, children who are physically disabled are extremely at risk of losing their teaching assistants. For many of them, the presence of that assistant is the condition for their being able to be in school at all. Children with profound speech disorders would also lose this support, who are also extremely at risk of failing school and of experiencing problems in the area of relationships with their schoolmates. Children with psychiatric diagnoses, with severe diabetes and other chronic diseases, such as cancer diagnoses, are also at risk, as are children with specific learning disorders," Klára Laurenčíková, the chair of the Czech Professional Society for Inclusive Education (ČOSIV) who is strongly objecting to these proposed revisions, told news server irozhlas.cz.
According to the expert, the ministry has presented no concrete data to explain this decision regarding thousands of children. Adoption of the amendment would, in her opinion, mean absolutely ruining inclusive education in practice.
"This proposal was never discussed with the parents of these children, most schools and professional associations know nothing about it, it was not preceded by a discussion in the profession," the expert said. ČOSIV has published a detailed standpoint on the draft amendment to the decree on inclusive education.
The ministry, according to news server irozhlas.cz, is defending the proposed revisions by saying it believes the modification proposed will not change the main aims and principles in any way whatsoever with respect to meeting the special educational needs of children, pupils and students, and that they are just adjustments aimed at effectively setting up such support measures. The proposal is welcomed by Jiří Pilař of the Association of Special Needs Educators.
Pilař said mainstream schools in the Czech Republic were not prepared for inclusion when it was instituted. "Unfortunately, that lack of preparation has taken a toll, and inclusion has been following a path that is not necessarily financially or professionally fully equipped," he told irozhlas.cz.
"I'm glad the ministry is gradually bringing everything in line with reality so that each Czech crown will be used," Pilař said. On the other hand, the proposed revisions to the decree are being criticized by the EDUin Information Center on Education, according to whom this development means that the ministry is moving away from figuring out how to ensure the individual assessment of each particular child's needs and is returning to "boxing" children into categories of diagnoses.
In the press release EDUin issued about the amendment, the group also points to the fact that the proposed adjustments involve the two support measures that are most frequently prescribed by educational psychology counseling centers, thanks to which they also represent the biggest financial burden on the state. "The new situation, according to the submitted decree, will be that pupils living with profound physical disability, profound learning disorders or speech defects, children whose mother tongue is not Czech, or serious cases of socially disadvantaged children will no longer be entitled to a teaching assistant. That directly contravenes one of the pillars of Strategy 2030+, as drafted, which is reducing inequality in the Czech education system. The kind of adjustments proposed by the ministry in its draft decree cannot be done ad hoc, but must be undertaken on the basis of data and in line with these concepts," EDUin emphasizes.
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