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Many Roma children in Czech ghettos only complete primary school

Prague, 29.12.2010 22:06, (ROMEA)
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The Czech Republic is continually criticized for segregating Roma children into "special schools" and "special classes" at mainstream elementary schools. Even if Roma children living in excluded localities complete a mainstream primary education, a different career awaits most of them than awaits most of their majority-society peers. According to a study by sociologist Ivan Gabal's GAC company, up to 16 % of Roma children completing ninth grade at a mainstream primary school located near a socially excluded locality will not continue their education.

Research covers only Roma children from ghettos

The sociological analysis presented by GAC at a press conference today concerns only Roma children living in socially excluded localities. The research covered 14 schools located near ghettos that are attended by such Roma children and mapped data for the past five years at those schools. The data come from the school records of 2 204 children, 723 of whom were identified by their teachers as being of Roma nationality. In some of the research areas the sociological data were not clear and therefore represent estimates only, as the areas concerned a very low number of children.

According to a previous GAC study, between 60 000 - 80 000 of the total number of 188 000 Roma in the Czech Republic live in excluded localities (GAC presented this data in its press materials without mentioning how those numbers were arrived at). This research, therefore, does not concern Roma children living outside of excluded localities; such children are often from families whose socioeconomic situations differ from families living in impoverished neighborhoods. The Roma children not included in the research are therefore from families which, according to GAC data, total around 110 000 people (i.e., the vast majority of Roma).

Out of thousands, three go on to academic high school

Roma children head to trade schools more often than their non-Roma peers, and many of them never graduate. Only 14 % of Roma transfer to studies offering the equivalent of a high school diploma as compared to the vast majority of non-Roma pupils. Karel Čada of GAC says fewer than 2 % of Roma enroll in academic high school. According to the analysis, eight Roma out of 1 000 make it to academic high school, six of them to a multi-year academic high school and two of them to four-year high schools. Of the non-Roma pupils graduating from schools located in socially vulnerable localities, the number enrolling in academic high schools or programs providing the equivalent of a high school diploma is less than the national average.

Children who leave school before the ninth grade are more likely to not apply to middle school. Almost 39 % of Roma children from socially excluded localities leave mainstream elementary school early. Roma children are approximately eight times more likely to leave primary education early than the national average. These Roma children also have greater absenteeism rates at elementary school than their fellow pupils. Over the course of their educations, the elementary schools have not been able to ameliorate the difference in the educations received by non-Roma children as compared to Roma children with respect to the Czech language. The research found that the Roma children being studied were much more likely to receive low grades in Czech or to fail the subject altogether.

Roma children most often go to trade schools

While 68 % of socially disadvantaged Roma pupils enroll in trade schools, many of them leave early. Of the 212 Roma children who were studied after their enrollment in trade schools between 2005 and 2007, roughly half graduated. The rest either transferred to different schools, left school temporarily, or left school altogether.

The authors of the research say this analysis confirms the results of an international study, published this year, according to which the Czech Republic is a country in which children from particular social backgrounds tend to concentrate at the same schools. On average, 28 % of those graduating from primary education also graduate from trade schools in the Czech Republic. From the schools located near socially excluded localities which were researched, more than two-fifths of children from the majority society went on to trade schools as compared to almost two-thirds of Roma children.

Reasons for leaving middle school

About 30 % of Roma students never graduate from middle school. One reason is that unlike elementary schools, middle schools do not make use of tools to increase the chances that disadvantaged pupils will complete their studies: "Middle school pupils have significantly fewer support programs implemented by nonprofit organizations available to them. For the most part, unlike elementary schools, middle schools are practically totally unfamiliar with the social backgrounds of their disadvantaged pupils. The transition to middle school, for some pupils from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, is a real shock."

The most frequently given reasons for Roma students leaving middle schools early are: Poor choice of a specialization; absenteeism (during studies or perhaps failure to begin study); social circumstances (the influence of peers who are not studying, domestic obligations, pregnancy, poor adaptation to the new environment); and economic reasons (difficulties financing the costs of study, a need for financial security). According to the middle schools, poor achievement is not the primary reason Roma students leave school.

Following their parents' fates

"A high percentage of these children will end up without qualifications and incomplete educations and will evidently copy their parent's fates," says sociologist Ivan Gabal. According to him, the study shows the unused potential of those children whose elementary school performance is above-average and who have what it takes to study further, but who do not make it in middle school. A significant part of these children quickly abandon their studies and never complete them.

Children from socially excluded localities are more likely to attend "special" elementary schools than their peers. A total of 28 of socially excluded Roma children end up in such schools. As Mr Gabal emphasized, "special" schools do not facilitate the transfer to middle schools providing the equivalent of a high school diploma. This is because such schools provide their pupils a reduced academic load compared to mainstream elementary schools. Based on the experience of their predecessors, therefore, children from special schools often never even apply to middle school. Last year a World Bank report estimated that high Roma unemployment rates and low Roma salaries, which are primary a result of their lower academic achievement, are costing the Czech state at least CZK 16 billion annually.

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