Czech Republic: Approximately 30 % of children educated as mildly mentally disabled are Romani
Nursery schools in the Czech Republic will begin organizing "preparatory classes" as of September 2015 which all children age five will be obliged to attend. The Czech Education Ministry is planning to allocate up to CZK 100 million for the transformation and to use money from EU funds for it.
Many experts claim the "preparatory classes" will facilitate the children's transfer to primary school without any larger problems. However, parents very often do not understand the need for such preparation, which is why the ministry is introducing mandatory classes.
The classes will be mainly designed for children who have not attended nursery school at all and who are therefore not sufficiently prepared to transition into first grade. "This final nursery school year is to prevent children who have reached the age for classic primary school attendance being prematurely excluded just because they have been poorly prepared for entry into school," explains Czech Education Minister Marcel Chládek.
Martin Šimáček, director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion, considers this to be the correct step to take, but claims that the Government's current Action Plan will not introduce any positive changes to the way children are diagnosed during enrollment. "If the IQ tests yield results below 70, the children will be labeled mildly mentally disabled. In many cases, such an IQ test result may actually be due to problems related to a child's background and environment," he warns.
According to the ministry, more precise diagnostic arrangements "to meet the need to implement specific support measures for children, pupils and students" will be the focus of a decree to take effect in September 2016. The most recent investigation of this issue by the Czech School Inspectorate, however, has revealed alarming information for Romani parents.
At almost 500 schools nationwide as many as 15 000 children are being educated according to the program for mild mental disability, and the number of Romani children among them is more than 4 000. That means almost 30 % of the children attending special needs education and following a program for mild mental disability are Romani, and their chances at living a dignified life in Czech society as adults are minimal, therefore.
Several dozen measures in the Government's Action Plan are also part of a resolution that has been sent by the Government to the European Commission. Chládek has indirectly acknowledged that the document is supposed to prevent the country from being taken to the European Court of Justice in the future.
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