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Czech Education Ministry wants Romanes language to be taught in schools

Prague, 17.3.2010 16:01, (ROMEA)

Today’s Lidové noviny (LN) reports that the Czech Education Ministry wants Romanes to be taught at elementary and middle schools as an elective language. Teachers should also include instruction on Roma culture, history and language in the general curriculum.

"We support the education of ethnic minorities. We want there to be awareness of Roma culture and language at schools. Romanes is an integral part of these children’s lives. It is proper for it to be offered in the schools they attend,” Klára Laurenčíková, head manager of the special education section at the ministry, told LN.

The paper writes that the ministry’s aim is to bring more Romani children into mainstream elementary schools. At present Romani children are automatically sent to the former “special schools”, which are supposed to exclusively serve children with light mental disability. The ministry wants the culture and language of Romani children to be taught in mainstream schools. Experts say the introduction of Romanes into schools will be positive for non-Romani children as well. Non-Roma should know the history, language and origins of their Romani classmates, as it will improve their understanding of Roma issues.

LN reports that analyses and studies show Romani children have greater problems with the Czech language during pre-school and elementary school than they do, for example, with mathematics. Often Romanes is the only language spoken in their families, or a “mixture” of Czech and Romanes is spoken. As a result these children often have limited vocabularies. Teachers should learn at least the basics of Romanes in order to aid Romani children’s comprehension and guide them through the education system.

"If a German-speaking child attends school here, for example, everyone gives that child almost above-standard care. Nothing of the sort is offered to Romani children, even though they often do not fully understand what is being asked of them at school,” warns Ondřej Klípa of the Czech Government Council for National Minorities.

LN writes that a pilot test of materials and support services for Romanes language instruction should begin soon in selected schools with “a significant representation of ethnic Romani pupils.” The program materials have been translated from English into Czech and the two main dialects of Romanes spoken in the country. Future teachers will be exposed to the materials in college.

The paper reports that children will learn about Roma culture and history during history instruction and will be exposed to Romanes during civics instruction. "However, teachers should be able to use Romanes in all subjects. I know one mathematics teacher who uses it when giving the children word problems, for example," Klípa says.

Organizations focused on the issue welcome the introduction of Romanes into schools. "Elective Romanes is one possible auxiliary support route. However, what is more important is that Romani children enjoy learning Czech because they know it is the language of a society that accepts and respects them. They should feel this society provides them with a standard measure of safety and gives them an equal opportunity to succeed,” says Jan Stejskal of the Together to Schools coalition.

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