Czech School Inspectorate: One-third of "practical school" pupils are Romani
As many as 28 % of the pupils attending schools providing special education are of Romani origin. Those are the results of an investigation by the Czech School Inspectorate, which conducted a census of Romani schoolchildren at schools designed for children with light mental retardation this past September.
Some normal primary schools are doing their best to stop this trend and are seeking a way out of it by educating all children together. Czech Television reports that international research says such an approach is beneficial not only for children with light mental disability, but primarily for non-disabled children, who learn how to get along better with people from different cultural and social backgrounds.
The Czech School Inspectorate's research was in response to a judgment from the European Court of Human Rights which found 18 Romani children had been unjustifiably reassigned to "special schools". According to the results of this latest research, 28 % of the pupils attending "practical schools" are of Romani origin.
Ever since monitoring of Romani children in special education has been performed, their proportion in those schools has not changed much. "It is not possible for such a high percentage of children, from any ethnic group, to be lightly mentally disabled to such a great extent," says Klára Laurenčíková, chair of the Czech Professional Society for Inclusive Education (ČOSIV).
A large number of Romani children have been assigned to special education incorrectly. "With the use of the necessary support measures, they could acquire a quality education just like any other children do in the regular schools," Laurenčíková says.
Romani parents themselves enroll their children into the "practical schools" so they will not have problems as pupils in the normal schools. "Many Romani parents did not have a good experience with the education system and attended the 'special schools' themselves," Laurenčíková warns.
Today the education received in those schools does not much help Romani adults assert themselves on the labor market. It is therefore hard for them to view education as a valuable step toward a better future.
Moreover, Romani parents are concerned that the children might become the targets of bullying in the regular schools. The atmosphere in the "practical schools" is completely different than it is in regular schools.
Laurenčíková warns that Czech classrooms tend to be filled with children from very similar social backgrounds, with little variation. "[The practical primary] schools also get more financing per child, so it is therefore possible for them to offer a more individualized approach," she says.
That fact, however, does not excuse the current state of affairs. A great deal of international research confirms that inclusive education of all children together is beneficial both for disadvantaged children and for those not living with any significant social problems.
"Children develop high-quality social skills and experience heterogeneity as something natural [in inclusive arrangements]. All children learn through this process how to better collaborate, communicate and live together," says Laurenčíková.
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