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Czech Government takes up plan to include disadvantaged children in schools

Prague, 15.3.2010 23:40, (ROMEA)

Today the Czech Government is taking up a plan for including more disadvantaged children in schools. Not only should more disabled children attend regular schools, but more Roma should as well. The Czech Republic has long been criticized by international organizations over the disproportionately high number of Romani children in special schools. Schools should do their best to meet the special needs of these children and prevent their social exclusion. The National Action Plan is being submitted to the government by Czech Education Minister Miroslava Kopicová.

As far as pre-school education is concerned, more children should be enrolled in it. The plan also mentions the possibility of making the last year of nursery school mandatory. Even children whose parents do not give them much attention are better able to join a regular school after attending nursery school.

The plan says more teaching assistants dedicated to children with specific needs should be added to elementary school staffs. A system should also be established to clearly define what materials and support a child should be entitled to given the level of his or her disability. Teachers should also be educated further in order to manage the demands of working with a diverse student body.

The plan says special needs schools, where most disadvantaged children are currently enrolled, should either focus more on working with very severely disabled children who cannot be included into mainstream education or should gradually be transformed into consultative/didactic workplaces. School counseling facilities should also change so their decisions will be made according to a unified system. An oversight authority to review their decisions should also be established in future.

The Czech Education Ministry has designed this plan in response to a European Court for Human Rights verdict from 2007. According to the verdict, the Czech Republic violated the right to education of 18 Romani children by inappropriately assigning them to special schools. Officials have allocated one billion Czech crowns in EU funding to support equal opportunities in education during the past two years. Schools will be able to draw on money for these purposes in the years to come as well.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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