There is support of inclusive education, but desegregation is still lagging behind
About a year ago, the Ministry of Education introduced the First Action Plan to the Strategy for Inclusive Access to Education for year 2021, which included many important measures for achieving desegregation and inclusion in education. The plan thus raised expectations that in the upcoming year, access of children from marginalized Roma communities or children with special educational needs to education would improve(1).
During 2021, more conceptual materials related to education have been adopted such as the Recovery and resilience plan for the Slovak Republic(2), which is relatively ambitious in the area of inclusive education. Apart from measures aiming to create conditions and tools for improving education of children with special educational needs such as the introduction of eligibility for support educational measures and the reform of counselling and prevention system, it intends to focus also on desegregation of education. A definition of segregation should be introduced to legislation, a monitoring of segregation should be carried out together with pilot projects focusing on desegregation and methodical and financial support of the desegregation process should be set up(3).
In March this year, the Slovak government also adopted a new Roma equality, inclusion, and participation strategy till 2030(4). The strategy concludes that quality education is still inaccessible to children from marginalized Roma communities who are still facing segregation in special schools or separate classrooms in grammar schools. Even though the prohibition of segregation is anchored in the legislation, it still occurs in practice. Children from Roma communities repeat school years far more often than children from majority population, they end the compulsory school attendance prematurely, are educated in a separate education stream and complete, if at all, high school courses with little perspective of employment. Therefore, the strategy aims to improve access of children from marginalized Roma communities to quality education by carrying out desegregation activities and introducing inclusive education, without which desegregation would not improve the situation of Roma children.
We undoubtedly have enough conceptual documents emphasizing both aspects of improving education of children from marginalized Roma communities – introduction of inclusive education and desegregation of the education system. However, when we examine the actual steps taken with a view to improving education of children from marginalized Roma communities in 2021, we must conclude that the process of gradually meeting the intended objectives is rather slow. During this year, many of the measures intended in the First Action Plan have not been introduced yet. For example, the school districts have not been redefined. A more accurate definition of segregation and the legislative framework for desegregation are missing in the amendments to the Education Act adopted this year.
On the other hand, some progress has been made in the field of promoting inclusive education. The Education Act amendment adopted in October introduces this term into legislation, it also details the counselling system, operation of school support teams and higher levels of counselling system(5). Draft strategy for inclusive approach to education has been submitted for interdepartmental consultation process(6).
The Ministry of Education has clearly been focusing on promoting inclusive education, which can clearly be seen as positive. Nevertheless, the inclusive education concept does not only imply the necessity to take into consideration individual needs of children and provide adequate support to them, but it also emphasises that diverse groups of pupils should be educated together. When applied to Slovakia, children from majority population should be educated together with children from minorities, Roma children, children of foreigners and children with health or other impairment in any grammar school. In this area, the steps taken are lagging behind the ambitious objectives of the above conceptual documents so far. The Ministry of Education has even stated that it was not planning to cancel special schools or to reduce their number(7). This raises questions about how sincere the ministry’s intentions to desegregate schools are. We are left to hope that in the upcoming years, the ministry will pay more attention also to this issue and will create conditions for as many children as possible to be educated in the mainstream education.
- Kadlečíková, J. (2020), ´The First Action Plan raises great expectations´, Minority Policy in Slovakia, 3/2020, available at: https://mensinovapolitika.eu/nulty-akcny-plan-vzbudzuje-velke-ocakavania/
- Government of the Slovak Republic (2021), Recovery and resilience plan for the Slovak Republic, adopted by the Government resolution of 28.4.2021, available at: https://rokovania.gov.sk/RVL/Material/25932/1
- Government of the Slovak Republic (2021), Recovery and resilience plan for the Slovak Republic. Component 6 – Inclusive education, Reform 6, adopted by the Government resolution of 28.4.2021, available at: https://rokovania.gov.sk/RVL/Material/25932/1
- Government of the Slovak Republic (2021), Roma equality, inclusion, and participation strategy till 2030, adopted by the Government resolution of 7.4.2021, available at: https://rokovania.gov.sk/RVL/Material/25860/1
- National Council of the Slovak Republic (2021), Government Bill amending Act no. 245/2008 Coll. of laws on education (Education Act) as amended – approved text, available at: https://www.nrsr.sk/web/Default.aspx?sid=zakony/zakon&ZakZborID=13&CisObdobia=8&CPT=640
- Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic (2021), Strategy for inclusive approach to education – draft submitted for interdepartmental consultation process, available at: https://www.slov-lex.sk/legislativne-procesy/SK/LP/2021/659
- Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic (2021), ʻSvetlana Síthová: Special education is our priority´, 23.9.2021, available at: https://www.minedu.sk/svetlana-sithova-specialne-skolstvo-je-pre-nas-prioritou/
Picture: Tim Mossholder, www.unsplash.com
This article was written thanks to a financial support of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada represented by the Canadian Embassy in Bratislava.