Wednesday, 16 April 2014

EduMin to improve equal access to education following court verdict

28 November 2012

Prague, Nov 27 (CTK) - The Czech Education Ministry will introduce some measures to prevent socially-disadvantaged healthy children from attending practical schools together with children with a health handicap, in reaction to a five-year-old verdict by the European Human Rights Court, Jiri Nantl said yesterday.

The court decided that 18 Romany pupils were unrightfully placed in special schools as current practical schools used to be called.

"We want to issue a decree abolishing this possibility of 'inside-out inclusion' allowing placing children without any handicap in classes destined for the handicapped," Nantl, first deputy education minister, said.

He admitted such "mixing" of pupils happened in the past years.

Nantl said one of the prepared measures is a more frequent testing of children. Children who already attend practical schools will be regularly tested to see whether they should continue attending the schools, or not.

The changes will cost five to ten million crowns, according to the ministry's previous estimates.

To know more precisely the numbers of pupils of various ethnicities in practical schools, the ministry will start collecting data on them as from autumn 2013.

"However much surprising it may seem..., the state does not have the data now," Nantl said.

He said the ministry will apply aggregate methods of finding out information on ethnic origin that will by no means aim to identify the origin of individual pupils.

The state will use the results to be able to prove before Council of Europe bodies that the school system is ethnically neutral and that it does not discriminate against any ethnicity.

The preparatory classes in practical schools and "diagnostic" stays are to be abolished within two years.

Practical kindergartens are now often attended by pre-school children from socially excluded areas where only few children attend traditional kindergartens. Children get used to school attendance-connected duties.

"Children educated in pre-school classes attached to practical elementary schools may loosely follow up their education at the elementary schools, which is not desirable," the ministry said in a document approved previously.

A survey conducted by the ombudsman's office has shown that 32 to 35 percent of pupils in special schools are Romanies while the estimated portion of Romanies in the Czech population is 1.4 to 2.8 percent.

The Czech School Inspection said in a document in August the number of Romany pupils being educated as mentally handicapped has dropped in the past two years, from 35 percent to 26.4 percent now.

Amnesty International and Open Society Fund have said recently the situation did not change much in the past five years.

Representatives of the practical schools have stood up against the outflow of children from their classes. They said children do not attend them over their Romany origin, but because the problem pupils receive adequate support there.

More than 22,000 people have recently signed an Internet petition against closing down practical schools.

($1=19.507 crowns)

Copyright 2014 by the Czech News Agency (ČTK). All rights reserved.
Copying, dissemination or other publication of this article or parts thereof without the prior written consent of ČTK is expressly forbidden. The Prague Daily Monitor and Monitor CE are not responsible for its content.