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June 26, 2016
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Drahomír Radek Horváth: Romani children in the Czech Republic end up in "special schools" but thrive abroad. Why?

3.3.2016 18:45
Drahomír Radek Horváth (photo: Saša Uhlová)
Drahomír Radek Horváth (photo: Saša Uhlová)

I would like to permit myself the luxury here of describing something bluntly and straightforwardly, without beating around the bush. More than 30 % of the children being educated according to the program for the "mildly mentally disabled" (lehce mentálně postižené - LMP) in the Czech Republic are Romani.

That information comes from the "Romani pupil census" that was performed by the Czech School Inspection. So Kateřina Valachová, the Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, is setting out into the field to defend the idea of inclusive education to teachers who are bristling somewhat at the notion.

My friend Patrik has also expressed his view of inclusive education in a blog on iDNES.cz, and the discussion of this in society is running as fast as a cheetah after an impala. In our system, in order for it to be possible to enroll a child into a so-called "special school", what is needed is an assessment from an educational-psychological counseling center, and that assessment must be one of LMP at a minimum.

There are too many Romani children in the "special schools" - this is just a fact. The proportion of children from the Romani population enrolled into such schools is higher than the proportion of children from the non-Romani population enrolled into such schools.

I believe there is a great deal of specific data on this from regions with high concentrations of Romani people. The statewide statistics presented by the Czech School Inspection are alarming, but it stands to reason that the situation must be much worse than even they describe.

I don't have exact numbers, but I have personally visited such schools in this region and they are the same everywhere - Romani children are over-represented in them. On the other hand, in regions where the number of Romani people is negligible, the number of Romani pupils diagnosed with LMP and enrolled in the "special schools" is low.

It is necessary to include all of the so-called "special schools" in the country when considering the Czech School Inspection statistics - and if we do that, then the 30 % that has been described as so alarming is actually a rather flattering image, compared to reality. It is evident that these children have had to be assessed by the centers in order to be enrolled into these "special schools", and they all have been diagnosed with LMP.

It would seem to follow, therefore, that children of Romani nationality generally are mentally disabled, according to the assessments by the experts in these centers. That does not seem likely to me.

I do not believe such a relationship between an affiliation with a national group and a psychological disorder actually exists, even though it is being implied. I do not believe so many Romani children actually do have LMP, even if they are being diagnosed with it as if they were products coming off of an assembly line.

Much is being discussed here today about the common, inclusive education of the intelligent together with those diagnosed as LMP, but we need to reflect on whether all of these Romani children even are actually mentally disabled (even if they have been labeled with LMP since their youth). Romani children who have been assessed in the Czech Republic as pupils with LMP and enrolled into so-called "special schools" here surprisingly thrive in schools of a standard type when they move abroad, and to an above-average degree.

I have quite a few specific cases in mind when I make this claim. Personally, I see the basic flaw in the system as existing precisely in the routine that I have described here.

Let's be real - in the Czech prisons there is a high percentage of Romani prisoners compared to the overall number of members of the Romani nation in this society. This is my observation, but understandably I do not have a valid data analysis available to back that up.

I can deal with that. I surmise that many Romani people commit crimes, and therefore many of them are convicted and sentenced to prison - and I will leave a deeper probe of the causes behind that to another time.

There is a high percentage of Romani children in the so-called "special schools" in the Czech Republic compared to the overall number of Romani people in society. That is a situation I will never be able to accept, because I disagree with what it implies - I do not believe so many Romani children are "stupid".

I am of the opinion that the practice of hiding these pupils away in the "special schools" is based solely on these assessments of these children as allegedly having LMP - that's the catch. I do not believe so many children actually have LMP. 

Drahomír Radek Horváth, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Inkluzivní vzdělávání, praktické školy, Vzdělávání, disability



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