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Poll: Most Czechs support inclusion in education

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Prague, Jan 20 (CTK) – Most Czechs consider the inclusion in education, or joint classes of healthy children and those with slight health or social handicaps a right path to follow, according to a poll the IPSOS agency has conducted for the Czech Society for Inclusive Education (COSIV).
The inclusion in education was supported by 57 percent of the respondents.
Among the respondents aged from 36 and 53, which is the usual age of schoolchildren’s parents, the idea won 62-percent support.
According to 60 percent of those polled, the inclusion of handicapped children in mainstream classes may also benefit their healthy classmates.
In the Czech Republic, conditions for inclusive education will change in September, when an “inclusive” amendment to the school law will start to be implemented as from the new school year.
The Education Ministry says the schools with handicapped students in mainstream classes will be entitled to having the costs of the relevant necessary supportive measures covered from the state budget.
A number of disabled children attend mainstream classes together with healthy kids already now.
The COSIV says, referring to the Education Ministry’s statistics, that 81 percent of children with physical disabilities and 61 percent of those with impaired sight or hearing attend mainstream classes.
The situation is different with the kids with slight intellectual disabilities, as 90 percent of them attend other than mainstream classes, most often the “practical” schools for children with this type of disability.
“However, a number of surveys and analyses point out that the diagnosis of a slight mental disorder is frequently applied to socially handicapped or Romany children, whose family environment handicaps them in education,” the COSIV says in a study.
It says there is an excessive share of Romanies among the children who are diagnosed with a slight mental disorder and taught based on a reduced curricula.
Romanies make up almost one third of this group of schoolchildren, while the share of Romanies in the Czech population is estimated at 3 percent, the COSIV says.
The largely separated education of Romanies has a negative influence not only on their volume of knowledge but also their ambitions, the COSIV says.
It says children with low education ambitions accumulate in “practical” classes, as a result of which they confirm or even further lower each other’s low ambitions.
The attendance of mainstream classes raises the education goals these children would like to achieve, the COSIV says.
As a result of the present situation, the leavers of “practical” schools end up enrolled in the simplest apprenticeship programmes of all, which eventually restricts their chances on the labour market and for a decent pay.
The planned change in support of inclusive education have been subject to passionate discussions in the Czech Republic. Commentators express doubts as to whether the change will be sufficiently secured from the methodical, personnel and financial viewpoints. Calls for a postponement of the launch of the new system have been intensifying, but Education Minister Katerina Valachova (Social Democrats, CSSD) is resolutely opposed to it.
Valachova says handicapped children in mainstream classes are entitled to state support within the present system already. The new amendment only means a better financing and no revolutionary change at schools can be expected from its implementation, Valachova says.

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