The problems in relation to the education of Roma are constantly on the educational policy agenda in Hungary (Radó, 2002). It is because – as all available statistical data prove – that the majority of Roma students cannot succeed in the present Hungarian education system, while the school age population of Roma is increasing fast. The high drop-out and repetition rates also indicate the serious nature of the problem.
According to recent research findings (Havas-Kemény-Liskó, 2002) 15% of the Roma pupils do not continue their studies after the primary school, while 57% of those who participate in further education go to vocational schools and only their 20% learn at secondary level. 2% of Roma students study in higher education (Kóczé, 2002). These data do not indicate that all the students who enter secondary education stay there and finish their studies successfully. The drop-out rate among Roma students is much higher than among Hungarian pupils. Although in recent years the drop-out rate has decreased in the primary school, it increased in vocational schools and in secondary level education with a final examination.
The reason for this situation is of complex nature. While analyzing its causes focusing on questions of interethnic relations, minority and human rights, and equity in education cannot be neglected. If we concretize these phrases language and social disadvantages, inappropriate pedagogical practice, problems related to learning motivation, discrimination, the generally bad relationship between schools and parents, the inappropriate content of Roma education program can be mentioned. The different combinations of these reasons can vary in every community (Radó, 2001).
Using various techniques of in-class discrimination, operating segregated classes, or teaching Roma pupils in Roma-dominated, segregated schools, sending non-disabled students to special schools for disabled or exempting Roma children from going to school by declaring them private students are the most common institutional practices for “solving” the problem. These techniques are not only of highly discriminative nature but studies (e.g. Reger, 1978) clearly show that no matter how well-meaning it is, long-term segregation simply does not work, re-integration of students with time becomes more and more difficult.
It is worthy to note that in our conception segregation refers to all forms of education which do not contribute to the integration of pupils in boarder society and which are caused by non-voluntary action of the parents and students. In this sense separated educational forms, that are explicitly requested by parents, are not considered as a type of segregation (e.g. Ghandi Secondary School).
The purpose of the present paper is to reveal the basic features of segregation and introduce the principle of educational integration. Based on the ideas collected by the help of stakeholder workshops we try to define the objectives of “integration” within the Hungarian context, in order to identify reform options, as well as specific policy, legislative and school-financing changes needed to achieve these goals.
The issues covered in the paper include:
a) Description of the situation of Roma children at all the levels of education,
b) Description of the four types of educational segregation,
c) Analysis of data gained by stakeholder workshops,
d) Identifying policy options (legal changes, financing models, pedagogical services),
e) Offering recommendations for improving the educational level of Roma children.
2. Problem description
2.1. Nurseries and kindergartens
Sociological studies show that Roma children usually start their educational “career” with a serious drawback and their lag is increasing during the period they spend in formal schooling (Radó, 2002). This drawback originates mainly in the fact that the knowledge collected in a Roma family is incompatible and mostly unusable within the boundaries of the “white school”. So it would be the role of the kindergarten to make the two value-systems get closer, and prepare the child for his/her school-career but a considerable proportion of Roma children do not attend kindergartens. According to the representative research conducted in 1993–94 (Kemény –Havas–Kertesi, 1997) 40% of three-year-olds, 54% of four-year-olds and 72% of five-year-olds were registered members of kindergartens. 72% seems to be quite a high rate but it should be noticed that at the age of five nursery education is compulsory in Hungary, because this is a preparatory phase for schooling. So it means that more than 20% of children did not fulfill their obligations. The research data of Havas –Kemény–Liskó published in 2002 show a more positive picture. Only 6,5% of the sample of 1774 Roma parents reported that their children did not participate in school-preparatory education, while 88% of five-year-olds took part in it (Havas–Kemény– Liskó, 2002). Researchers feel the need to highlight that being registered members of a kindergarten does not automatically mean that they visit it regularly. Statistics show that only every second child is a real participant.
The causes of the situation can be the following:
a) There is no adequate infrastructural supply in kindergartens so they are compelled to refuse several applicants. In many disadvantaged families at least one of the parents is unemployed or inactive, thus the ”child-minder” role of the kindergarten becomes not so essential. Even more, one of the most common reasons for refusing the children is the parent’s unemployed status, with reference to the fact that non-working parents can look after the children all day (Vágó, 2002). It results in a smaller number of disadvantaged children attending kindergartens. Kindergarten attendance involves a considerable amount of costs (fares, meals, other expenses in the kindergarten etc.) All this can contribute to the lower proportion of kindergarten attendance in the case of disadvantaged families’ children. Costs can denote a strong limitation especially in places where there are no kindergartens.
b) Kindergarten supply can vary in each place. Presumably in small villages where the number of the disadvantaged is high – owing to the small size of the settlement as well as the unfavorable financial situation of the local government – there are fewer kindergarten rooms than in average kindergartens or there are no kindergartens at all.
c) Kindergartens do not provide suitable conditions for Roma children (such as attention, tolerance, pedagogical competence etc.) so they do not like going to kindergarten (Pik, 2002). There can be cultural differences between the disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged children as well.
2.2. Primary education
In 1993–94 90% of the whole 15-year-old or older population finished their primary education by the end of the eighth year of schooling as set in the law. According to the representative research on Roma students conducted by Havas–Kemény–Kertesi (1997) revealed the fact that only 44% of the 14-year-old Roma children did so. If we take those pupils into consideration, too, who finished their primary education not on time but later, we can say that 77% of Roma teenagers own a primary school-leaving certificate. So nearly 25% of Roma children cannot continue their studies at a secondary level. The proportion of those who finish their primary education has increased since 1993 but very often there is no real, utilizable knowledge behind their performance. Statistical data collected by the Hungarian Institute of Educational Research (Havas–Kemény–Liskó, 2002) show that educational segregation of Roma pupils has increased in primary education since 1990. In 1992 every 12th or 13th Roma child (7,1%) learnt in an institution dominated by Roma. Nowadays this is true for every 5th or 6th pupil of Roma origin (18,1%). Considering the research data it can be substantiated that there are 126 primary schools with Roma majority in the country. 40% of all pupils of primary schools of Roma origin attend these schools, while only 6,3% of non-Roma children attend such schools.
2.3. Types of segregation
2.3.1. Segregation between schools
The development of segregated Roma schools is closely related to segregation in housing – the schools reflect local ethnic divisions, so there is a strong link between the institutional segregation of Roma children and their isolated places of residence. The reasons for this are twofold, caused by economic problems and the prejudiced attitudes of non-Roma parents.
In the 1990s a process of spontaneous migration took place, when the proportion of Roma population significantly increased in small settlements located in the poorer regions of the country and in the deteriorating quarters of bigger cities. Non-disadvantaged families tend to move out of such areas mainly because of decreasing work possibilities, and the lack of proper infrastructure, so the proportion of non-Roma students at local schools radically dropped. When due to the migration process the number of Roma pupils started rising in the schools, prejudices begin to work, and even some of those non-Roma families took their children out from the school, who did not move away. Havas–Kemény–Liskó (2002) examining 192 schools found that in the case of 28 educational institutions it was clearly indicated that although the given school was the only one in the given village or town, most non-Roma children living there were sent to schools located in different settlements. Roma parents being discouraged by the costs of traveling and/or unaware of the importance of school-choice mostly chose the school nearest to their place of residence, supporting the development of ethnically segregated schools.
It has to be emphasized, that the schools of the ethnically segregated settlements are usually in a poor condition, thus providing no incentives for more affluent families to keep their children in these institutions.
The non-Roma parents’ efforts of separation can also be successful because schools receive state subsidies according to the number of children they teach. This means that schools have to fight for children and, as a result, they try to gain parents’ appreciation, they help creating Roma-free schools. As the Commissioner for the Rights of National and Ethnic Minorities (Report..., 2001) points out “the local governments and the schools often give in the pressure coming from the local non-Roma population and play an active role in creating such situations“. In addition to this, due to the normative per capita support (provided by the state for the purposes of minority education), schools and local governments (as their owners) are interested in organizing different forms of minority education in order to increase their income.
There are two basic forms in which such education may be organized: the educational institution may qualify either as an “educational institution participating in minority education” or as a “minority educational institution”. However, there are no clear-cut criteria as to what constitutes an “educational institution participating in minority education”. From the case law of the Minorities Ombudsman, we can conclude that an educational institution may be regarded as such if its deed of foundation contains reference to tasks related to national or ethnic minorities and if the school receives normative per capita support for minority education from the state budget (Report..., 2002).
The head of a minority educational institution may only be appointed and removed with the approval of the concerned minority self-government, whereas no such requirement is needed in the case of heads of educational institutions participating in minority education. The approval of the minority self-government is required for both types of institution with regard to – among others – the following: the establishment and closing down of the institution; the amendment of its scope of activities; the adoption and amendment of its budget; the assessment of the professional activity conducted in the institution; the approval of its rules of operation; the approval of the institution’s educational program or pedagogical program, and the assessment of the implementation thereof.
2.3.2. Segregation within school
Due to the per capita support system of education, schools (and local governments as their owners) are interested to have as many students as possible.1 Therefore, to prevent the above described ‘emigration’ of non-Roma children from schools where the proportion of Roma children starts to increase, some schools set up a class system making the segregation of Roma pupils possible. There are three basic forms of class segregation:
- special remedial classes, usually with a lower requirement level, poorer educational work and a disproportionate number of Roma pupils;
- special faculty classes offering extracurricular education (e.g. language teaching, advanced mathematics etc), usually reserved for non-Roma children; and
- classes set up by misusing the institution of “Roma minority education”.
The 2000 research by the Institute for Educational Research examined the proportion of Roma children in remedial and special faculty classes at the 192 surveyed schools. It showed that while the proportion of Roma pupils was 45,2% in normal curriculum classes, their percentage in mathematics faculty classes and language faculty classes amounted to 16,2% and 17,5% respectively. In the light of the above it shall also come as no surprise that their proportion was 81,8% in remedial classes (Havas–Kemény–Liskó, 2002).
There is also strong evidence that segregation is in part institutionalized by the misuse of funding for special measures for Roma education. Before the significant amendments of late 2002, state funding was available to local governments on an ‘ethnic per student grant’ basis to establish special classes for the Roma in the framework of so-called “Roma minority educational programs”. The program was supposed to contain two elements: strengthening the children’s Roma identity on the one hand and a catch up element on the other. In his 2000 report the Minorities Ombudsman bitterly summarized his main experiences concerning Roma minority educational programs: “We would not like to fall into the error of exaggerating generalization but we must say that in several cases the local governments – in cooperation with the schools – only organize Roma minority education to obtain the supplementary normative support and exploit this form of education to segregate the Roma pupils in a – seemingly – lawful manner” (Report..., 2001).
A fundamental problem of the per student grant financing is that the amount of the grant, destined to reach the desired goal, is difficult to be determined (Varga, 1998), furthermore, the financing system is unable to manage the school specific cost differences. Moreover the cost differences are negatively correlated with the size of the schools/settlements, and the ratio of the disadvantaged within schools. Therefore the education of the disadvantaged would be more expensive per student in small settlement schools. The per-student grant financing is not able to handle such differences.
Another problem consist of the above-mentioned misuse of funding. If the aims of the financial assistance are not clearly defined, there are no incentives for the local governments to use the grant for the given purposes.2
Children may be placed in separated remedial classes within “normal” schools on the basis of the expert panel’s opinion (in the case of the child’s slight mental disability) – detailed description of the expert panel’s work is in Special schools section – or on the basis of the opinion of the educational advice center if the child is not mentally disabled but finds it hard to cope with school due to learning or behavioral difficulties, or other problems with fitting in.
With – theoretically – strong parental involvement, the expert panel conducts an examination and in its expert opinion it may conclude that the child’s mental disability is of the extent that it does not require attendance in a special school, however, completely integrated education is not recommended either. In such cases the child may be sent to a normal school, where special remedial classes are organized.
Similar to the activity of expert panels, the procedure conducted by educational advisory center is also legally safeguarded against abuses. The examination may only be launched upon the parent’s request, or his/her consent. These legal guarantees cannot fully prevent misuse: remedial classes are also often used to justify segregation of Roma pupils. The legal guarantees do not take the limitations of parental involvement into consideration. The parents of the Roma children relegated to the special class did not make use of their right to remedy. It is obvious that due to their educational disadvantages and restricted assertive abilities, the majority of Roma parents find it difficult to utilize the legal safeguards. Therefore, the provisions pertaining to the professional supervision of educational institutions at the local and institutional level are of outstanding importance.
Supervision can be initiated by the local government and the minority self-government at the local level, and the owner of the educational institution (most often the local government) has the right to initiate supervision at the institutional level. The possibility that the local minority self-government may request supervision is very important as the Minorities Ombudsman points out – “the local government is often counter-interested in a professional supervisory procedure” (Report... 2000). It is often the local government that we find behind discriminatory educational practices, whereas the right to initiate professional supervision could provide minority self-governments with another useful instrument in acting against segregation.
2.3.3. Special schools
Roma children go to special schools in a proportion that is much higher than their proportion among school-aged children. The percentage of Roma children increased in special schools from about 25% in 1974–75 to 42% in 1992 (Data of the Ministry of Culture and Education, ‘MCE’, 1993). Due to the rules of data protection, no official statistics are available after this date, but numerous sociological studies have dealt with the issue. A 1997 survey involving 309 special schools estimated the percentage of Roma pupils to be over 40% (Radó, 1997), whereas a 1998 survey in Borsod-county showed over 90% of students attending schools with special curricula to be Roma (Loss, 2001). According to Havas–Kemény–Liskó (2002), about every fifth Roma child is declared to be mentally disabled. Most experts agree that a good number of Roma children attending special schools are not even slightly mentally disabled and are only relegated to such institutions due to the negligent failure to take into consideration their specific socio-cultural characteristics and owing to – conscious or unconscious – discriminatory considerations (Report..., 2000).
The reasons for sending these children to special schools are usually articulated according to the following: due to socialization defects in the family and to insufficient kindergarten attendance, children are socio-culturally disadvantaged and, as a consequence, they are unable to study at the same speed with the other children, so they require the use of special pedagogical tools and methods, within the walls of a special school or a remedial class. In practice, special schools and special classes generally mean low expectations, low-level teaching and segregation, due to which catching up with the others becomes impossible. Teaching in Roma-dominated or in a special school is a low-prestige job accompanied by more than the average work and less than the average sense of achievement. Most teachers do not regard this kind of work as a challenge and they are often ill-equipped to handle it, which leads to a contra-selection of teachers. As a result of the contra-selection the proportion of teachers having no degree at all is much higher in special schools and in special classes than elsewhere. Research findings show that in those schools where the proportion of Roma pupils is over 75% the average of unskilled teachers is 30,8%, and at schools with Roma students with less than 25% this percentage is 17,4 (Liskó, 2001).
The selection of children sent to special schools is made by an expert panel, a selection committee by the request of local schools and kindergartens. Where doubts emerge about the ability of students to cope with normal school, the ‘expert panel’ examines them for possible attendance at a ‘special school’, intended for children with physical or mental disabilities with lower requirements for pupils. Children remain at these schools until their abilities are considered to be sufficient for elementary education, and may continue through the auxiliary system throughout primary level, with practically no chance of continuing to secondary schools afterwards. Roma are disproportionately represented at both the testing and selection stages (Interview, November 2000). ECRI3 reports that “such channeling, which in principle is carried out by an independent board, is often quasi-automatic in the case of Roma children”. Every child who did not go to kindergarten has to be examined.
As we described above Roma children go to kindergarten in much lower proportions than their non-Roma peers. While the importance of kindergarten attendance is emphasized by many and research (e.g.: Havas–Kemény–Liskó, 2002) shows that in the case of Roma children there is a strong link between regular kindergarten attendance and school success, it is difficult to measure the direct effects of kindergarten attendance to school success, since it is viable to suppose that children whose parents consider regular kindergarten attendance important have a different family background from those whose parents might even be late to send their children to school.
The other reason for Roma children ending up in special schools is that experts examining children still use measures that are inadequate to decide about the abilities of children socialized in poor and/or minority families.
If the child goes to kindergarten it is the nursery teacher’s task to establish whether the child is suitable for school attendance. If he/she believes that the child has some physical or mental disabilities that would pose a problem in this respect he/she shall contact the parent and suggest that the child has to be examined by the expert panel on rehabilitation. If the child does not attend kindergarten, his/her suitability for school attendance shall be established by the educational advisory center. If the educational advisory center comes to the conclusion that the child is physically or mentally disabled it shall suggest to the parent that the child has to be examined by the expert panel. If doubts about the child’s capacity to cope with “normal school” emerge in the course of school education (if the child has learning, behavioral difficulties or problems with fitting in), the educational advisory center conducts a preliminary examination.
The expert panel examines the child and prepares an expert opinion. The expert opinion shall – among others – include the statement of disability, the description of the facts supporting this conclusion, a conclusion on whether the child shall attend a special educational institution or may participate in integrated education, and a list of those educational institutions where – taking into consideration the panel’s conclusion concerning the learning capacity of the child – the child can fulfill his/ her educational obligation.
The procedure is based on parental involvement. As a reaction to the indications concerning the disproportionate number of Roma children in special schools, a Decree regulating the work of the expert panels was amended in 1998 and 2001 with the aim of strengthening the role of the parents in the process. At present the parent’s most important rights are the following:
- Upon the voluntary request of the parent, in the course of their examination the educational advisory center and the expert panel shall take into consideration the special linguistic and socio-cultural characteristics of children belonging to minority groups.
- The examination of the expert panel shall be launched upon parental request or with parental consent.
- If the educational institution believes that the child ought to be examined by the expert panel, it contacts the parent and suggests the child’s participation in the examination. The reason for the suggestion shall be communicated to the parent.
- If the parent consents, he/she shall sign the request for expert examination, which is then sent to the expert panel by the educational institution.
- The examination of the expert panel may not be started in the absence of the parent, unless the parent’s whereabouts are unknown or he/she is permanently prevented from attending the examination. (The parent is obliged to participate in the examination.)
- The expert opinion of the expert panel shall contain a warning that if the parent does not accept the opinion, he/she has the right to request the competent notary for a review of the opinion.
- The expert panel informs the parent of the possibilities in accordance with which the child may fulfill his/her educational obligations. From among the educational institutions suggested by the expert panel it is the parent who chooses the so-called “designated” educational institution.
- The parent shall be informed about the contents of the expert opinion. A copy of the opinion shall be handed over or sent to the parent. In the course of the information process, the parent’s attention shall be drawn to the fact that the implementation of what is included in the expert opinion is only possible if he/she agrees and his/her consent is verified by his/her signature. The parent’s attention shall also be drawn to the fact that if he/she disagrees with the contents of the expert opinion, he/she may initiate its amendment by launching a public administrative procedure with the competent notary.
- If the parent agrees in writing with the expert opinion, the expert panel sends it to the designated educational institution.
Besides parental involvement, a further guarantee against potential mistakes in the procedure is that in the case of students with slight mental disabilities the expert panel shall review its opinion one year after its initial decision, and then in every second year until the child reaches the age of 12. After this time the review shall be carried out every three years.
2.3.4. Roma children as private students
A relatively new method of separating problematic Roma children has evolved recently: declaring them private students and exempting them from going to school. Private students must be exempted from all class attendance and the private students fulfill their educational obligation by taking exams at the end of each semester before an independent panel.
There are two ways in which a child can become a private student, depending on the parent’s choice, the child’s educational obligation may be fulfilled by school attendance or as a private student. The other case is when the child has some kind of disability, learning or behavioral disorder, and the expert panel decides that he/she shall become a private student. In the former case it is the parent’s obligation to prepare the child for the exams, whereas in the latter, this obligation remains with the school.
In 2001 the Minorities Ombudsman started receiving complaints claiming that in some schools the parents of “problematic children” are persuaded to request that the child be declared a private student. Sometimes parents are even threatened that they either do so or the child will be sent away from the school. Therefore, the Minorities Ombudsman requested the Ministry of Education to introduce safeguards that may prevent such abuse. In accordance with the request, Ministry of Education inserted a new provision which claims that if the parent claims that the child wishes to become a private student, the school’s principal shall request the opinion of the local child care service within three days, which shall respond within 15 days.
In his 2002 report the Minorities Ombudsman states the following: „In spite of the amendment, we still receive complaints from this field. The local government, the school and the childcare service usually stand on the same side. Numerous complainants claimed that the childcare service [...] contributed to the pressure from the school and the local government with its consenting opinion. The reason behind the phenomenon is to be found in the often helpless situation of the Roma parents and in the approach that can only handle differences through the means of segregation” (Report..., 2002).
2.4. Secondary education
According to research findings (Liskó, 2002) two thirds of Roma pupils finish their primary education by the age of 16, while 14-15% of them finishes it by the age of 18. 85% of those students who finish the primary school in their lower age enter secondary educational level. Students gaining primary certificate at special schools can continue their studies at institutions of special vocational training.
The proportion of Roma and non-Roma students participating in secondary education can be seen well by examining the following table:
|Secondary education||Roma (in %)||Non-Roma (in %)|
|Do not continue studies||14,9||3,2|
|Special vocational training||9,4||3,2|
|Secondary school with school-leaving exam||15,4||38,1|
So 57% of Roma students continue their studies at vocational schools, while 19% of them go to secondary or grammar schools ending with final examination.
At the grade of 9 and 10 the 50% of Roma students drop out, which means that only 32% of them enter 11th grade. It can be supposed that dropping-out is also continuing in this grade, so the proportion of those who finally finish their secondary education is about 24%.
According to statistical data and research findings the majority of Roma students of the upper secondary level study at institutions of vocational training, and this regards to Roma parents, too (Havas–Kemény–Liskó, 2002). The majority of responding parents, who own secondary qualification, had taken part in vocational training.
There is no consensus concerning the function, requirements of the grades 9 and 10 of vocational schools, the function of the examination of public education, the frameworks and financing of programs preparing for vocational education in grades 9 and 10 of vocational schools. In grade 9 of vocational schools the proportion of failures and drop-outs is very high. A part of the teachers work according to secondary schools requirements. Students are unmotivated, parents do not understand what this school is for, and they believed their children would get vocational education. Local governments maintaining these schools operate the grades 9 and 10 according to the ‘remainder’ principle, forcing schools to organize classes of 30-35. In the marketed in-service teacher training system there is no appropriate supply of courses on the methods serving the support of those who drop behind. Especially high is the drop-out rate of Roma students in the grades 9 and 10 of vocational schools, thus this educational phase cannot be regarded as an organic element of inclusive school, either.
In the vocational education grades of vocational schools students with different previous qualifications are trained for qualifications that give various opportunities to them. The competitive trades of commerce, services, electro-technology, woodwork, light industry can be studied after completing grade 10, the majority of trades of metal industry, agriculture, food-processing, chemical industry, construction, construction material industry can be learnt in two years after the successful completion of grade 8. The majority of Roma students of 16 or more years of age can only choose from among the latter trades. Especially narrow are the opportunities for Roma girls, as the majority of trades in commerce, services, light industry that are chosen by girls in Hungary can be studied only after the successful completion of grade 10.
In the last 3-4 years the erosion of vocational schools has continued. Today this institution is the school of “the rest”, the least advantageous quarter of the pupils of a given year attending them. The unsettled conditions of grades 9 and 10 further damage the motivation of students. Due to low salaries a major part of vocational trainers are old, burnt out, and also unmotivated. Thus on the one hand the vocational school is unsuitable for inclusion, nor does it provide such opportunities and perspectives that would ensure that exacting educational policy and minority policy take them into consideration while defining the scenes of integration.
The only initiative in the last four years for introducing second chance-type programs is the catch-up training regulated in 27. § (8) of the Act on Public Education, which would provide opportunities for the students not being able to get to the former primary schools for adults to enter the vocational year of vocational schools. This regulation made it possible that practically each pupil can study all traditional trades. Influential representatives of public education policy, however, did not accept the positive discrimination element of catch-up training, i.e. the regulation that those of over 16 years without a primary school qualification are allowed to learn the functional elements of the closing stage of primary education that are required for starting vocational training. The conditions of starting to learn a trade have changed as well and according to present regulations catch-up education makes it possible for the student to enter vocational training if it prepares for the exam of the given year of primary school, i.e. it takes the role of the former evening primary schools for adults. Catch-up programs have been launched in about 20 schools, the number of participants is less than 400.
3. Results of focus-group discussions
Prior to writing the policy note we were conducting focus group discussions with various actors involved in the process of integration. Eight discussions were conducted in so-called homogeneous groups (parents, teachers, pupils, self-government representatives, heads of special schools and members of committees assessing mental abilities, civil organizations, ministry officials responsible for Roma issues and representatives of the academic sphere). The suggestions formulated in these groups were brought up again in a new, this time a mixed group (where persons from each of the previous eight target groups were present) to be discussed in the form of another focus group discussion.
Each focus group-discussion was designed and moderated by one of the research team members. The members of the groups were selected very carefully, reflecting the reality of the Hungarian society; inviting people from different geographical areas where Roma are over-represented or where Roma are very few teachers from different types of schools, from elite schools, “Roma-schools”, special schools, integrated schools, segregated schools etc .
Members of the focus groups were invited by National Institute of Public Education but participation was entirely voluntary. Before the discussions we had been in everyday contact with 10 to 12 persons per group to ensure participation. In the actual discussions, however, not everybody turned up, the lowest participation rate was that of the representatives of the academic sphere with only three persons being present.
At the same time it has to be taken into consideration that participation was due to some degree of commitment, activity of those taking part in the discussions, therefore those present cannot be considered totally representative of the target group. In this respect it can be said that it was the parents with the lowest degree of interest-assertion that could not be present, among the teachers the actors of the extreme segregation cases were not present and similar absences could be identified in all groups.
In analyzing the discussions we identified so-called thematic issues, which were reduced or narrowed down to main dimensions on the second level of analysis. The ‘rankings’ formed after the first eight discussions can be seen in the appendix. The theme integration-segregation, which is highly important from the aspect of the policy note, was highlighted everywhere and in the following we wish to go over this theme within the separate groups while mentioning group-specific dimensions as well.
Integrational educational policy serves the interests of pupils, of future adult citizens, the whole society after all.
It was fascinating how much pupils perceive the importance of integration and the harmful consequences of segregation. Segregation or negative discrimination was frequently brought up during the discussion, the same words were used and the pupils were fully aware that adults, parents and teachers could also be blamed for various forms of discrimination (segregation): parents, teachers “have the huge task not to discriminate children…” or: “You should not escape somewhere else, into another school, into another community where there are only Roma people because in this way you get even more isolated from the non-Roma population or non-Roma pupils… But in this case it was not the fault of the Roma pupil but of the teacher.” Another example: “in the first grade I had a horrible row with my physics teacher and at the beginning of the second year this teacher made me sit in the back corner, in the last row and told me that from that time on s/he did not bother about what I did.”
Sometimes they gave an exact picture of the potential failure of Roma minority being or life. Just an example for some kind of “accepting a course of life” or of making themselves aware of the potential dangers: “it is much harder to get onto a higher level of education from a Roma school than from a Hungarian one … but even when they get admitted to universities it is much harder to get an appropriate job because a much less talented non-Roma student will get the job”.
Parents in general showed a positive attitude to integrated education. In their opinion integration is aimed at successful involvement in the society, avoiding a kind of ‘feeling ashamed’ and in their view successful integration starts at birth, in the kindergarten. They regard integrated education important because it gives positive, driving-force type examples for Roma children.
The participants in this group, however, accept that some kind of individual intention, the acceptance of the values of the majority society is also necessary for integration as children must not be brought up “with blinkers” on. This denotes some sort of assimilation but the intention to clarify the concept of assimilation is also present as such expressions are used like ‘intercultural’ or ‘educating together’.
Some parents are disturbed by talking about integration; they blame the media for distorting the picture by speaking too much about it: “Before” (1989) there was not any problem with it (“if it had remained as it was, there would not be any problem now”).
As it can be seen in the table, the major part of thematic issues is related to the relationship of school and parents, families. There should be an operational communication sphere, nevertheless in this communication sphere parents from disadvantageous background are less likely to participate. Important elements of school success are: a stable family background (family love: “they who love their families will cope with everything”) and a servicing function of school (“teachers help”). That is exactly why it can be said that maintaining communication is not merely a financial or social issue.
In the view of the parents one of the reasons for the failure of continuing studies is unequal evaluation among schools or finance-based structural ‘permissiveness’ (“in primary schools there is more permissiveness than in secondary schools as it is the primary schools that have the ethnic normative support”).
Integration is not a central issue among teachers, it rather appears as a problem embedded in educational methods.
In connection with integration and segregation, segregation in a settlement is often mentioned as well as the attitude of parents representing the majority society (“some schools seem to be ‘gipsy schools’ as majority parents take they children away and ‘pack them’ into another school”).
They argue for integration saying that “this is how we can bring up tolerant people that accept each other”, they know such type of international practice (e.g. the method of learning together – England), but they often think that there are situations when it is hardly realizable (“it is not that we do not want to integrate but we cannot as 98 to 100 percent of our pupils are Roma”).
Schools where Roma children are in majority find the introduction of integrational normative support a loss (“we are absolute losers because we have only Roma children”) and they think this system should have been prepared better and the percentage level should have been reconsidered. Schools that according to the rules may get integrational normative support think: “we will make good use of the money but we miss the promised methodological packages”.
Teachers also raised the issue of Roma children who are mentally not handicapped, nevertheless have to attend special schools. What will happen to them?
3.4. Local governments
During the discussion conducted with representatives of local governments the issue of integration and segregation was often raised. Among causes of segregation the inner segregation of a settlement was most often mentioned but other social and demographic causes were also brought up. While speaking about segregation a kind of shifting responsibility could be recognized (“a certain segregation is taking shape among schools against our will” or “we have fixed the building but it is a ‘gipsy’ school and the reality is that it was not built like this”) and it was also mentioned that this issue should not be ethnicized so much and “we shouldn’t always speak about integrating Roma pupils”.
As an obstacle to achieving integrated education, the attitude of majority parents and free choice of school were mentioned. There is also a demand for clarifying concepts because integrated education, as an educational method aiming at combating disadvantageous situations should be differentiated from the integration of handicapped pupils. As a result of the previously mentioned attitude of shifting responsibility – “integration should not be used for Roma only” and it is not the teachers who can be blamed for segregation.
The members of the group accept that experimental educational programs are necessary but they believe that these programs will fail unless long-term financial support is ensured.
In connection with the integrational normative support it was asked (again) what will happen to the institutions where Roma pupils are in majority (‘Gypsy’ schools) but there was also determination shown to use this normative support: “Some way of using it can be found in any case (e.g. formal merging of schools) but this will not solve the problem of genuine integrated education”.
3.5. Special schools
A frequently heard charge related to special schools was that the percentage of Roma children is very high there. There was no consensus among the members of the group concerning the rightness of this charge. Some say this proportion is high, others find – partly driven by not wanting to lose professional prestige – that it is natural: “our pupils, I think, are mentally handicapped; if other – sociological, social, medical (!) – aspects are taken into consideration I believe selection is good”. Also a certain ‘family tradition’ is added here. If one of the children of the family goes to a special school, the others should go there too, as children are treated much better here: “parents would like their children to experience success in a special school and do not want them to be excluded in a normal school” where they are pushed onto the periphery both by their peers and teachers, whereas in a special school they get love and care, “we hug them and kiss them as we do with the Hungarians”.
Among the causes of segregation a new element appears here: Roma pupils segregate themselves: “In our school gipsy pupils are integrated from the very beginning but they segregate themselves”. As an example they mention a group of pupils, where 6 of the 15 children are Roma and they sit at a separate table, they are together during classes and even in breaks, “and what is really painful they are together even in spare time activities”. In this argumentation the strategy of looking for a scapegoat and not reflecting on the role of the teacher can easily be identified.
The members of this group consider the creation of personal and material conditions and of appropriate educational methodology essential for the success of integration. In methodology they think the education of handicapped children should be given a greater role (external support system) as it is where expertise can be found: ”differentiated organization of teaching in class should be learnt in majority primary schools as well”. If differentiated teaching methods were widespread in primary schools (“conditions were improved”), children with partial ability problems would not get to special schools so often after an unsuccessful primary school career.
3.6. Academic sphere
In this discussion as well, the issues of segregation in the settlement, segregation inside school and the question of voluntary segregation were raised.
They believe that the condition for successful integration is the introduction of a new educational view i.e. “the more or less Roma school should be attractive for non-Roma children as well”. True, it will only be possible when social conditions in the broader sense of the word change as well, when equal opportunities become reality and when maintainers do not misuse money. Moreover, educational methods are necessary by which children help each other in integrated education. Other conditions of successful integration are: training school social workers and extending experiences existing elsewhere onto this area.
In their view the fault of the present integrational initiative is that it is not communicated properly, and it can be regarded as a first step only, whereas the further steps are unknown.
3.7. Civil organizations
In the discussion conducted with the representatives of the invited civil organizations the theme of integration and segregation was in the center as well as school success.
They see children-centered education in schools with high Roma majority an essential condition for integration. Here teachers should get in-service training and cooperation should be started at local levels with local governments, Roma organizations, professional organizations.
As a condition for facilitating further studies a pedagogical task (and examples) were mentioned in relation to helping those who failed in third or fourth grades so that they can get into upper primary (lower secondary) education.
Children directed to special schools can be integrated into “normal education” by a complex educational, methodological program of institutional development. The elements of this program are: children-centered education, cooperation with parents (“there is no successful education without families”), using normal curricula and prejudice decreasing trainings for teachers and pupils. This latter element is usually missing from government programs.
In relation to integrational normative support the opinion was formed that the scope of those affected is relatively well defined as “this limit is … low enough”, but the condition for successful integration is that the existing public education system should be made suitable for Roma integration; the contact systems of teachers should be expanded by local governments and other educational institutions.
In this group it was also mentioned that integration should be started in kindergartens and the elements of a successful system of conditions are: changes in teacher training, in-service training, higher education and financing as well as managing prejudice at local and political levels. If all the elements are not known, or not formulated or communicated, the whole educational policy initiative may become a source of conflicts.
3.8. Ministry officials
From the discussion conducted with ministry officials it can be drawn that in their view integration means equal knowledge, marketable knowledge. If somebody possesses marketable knowledge, it is all the same whether they are Roma or not. The objective should be that Roma children finish primary school successfully, get into and stay in secondary education, appear in higher numbers in higher education and join the process of lifelong learning.
Integration, however, is unsuccessful if its subjects have no income, are socially deprived and live in misery. If there are no parents who can pay, there are problems with the education of the children because they cannot buy the extra services necessary for increasing the chances of their children to get into and stay in secondary education. An essential condition for integration and school success is demolishing slums or making them suitable for life as well as cooperation of minority local governments, Hungarian Roma Self-government, civil organizations and families.
It would also be beneficial if education and labor market corresponded so that educated Roma youth could be guided back to the Roma community by creating job opportunities for them there because “if human capital does not stream back into the community, it will become weaker”. At the same time the historical process – that knowledge is getting valued in Roma families - has to be supported as well. “It is very important that Roma parents also make every effort so that their children can learn and move forward.”
In the discussion it was mentioned that although officials responsible for Roma issues appeared in the ministries in 2002, their job is not coordinated (the Roma State Secretariat of the Prime Minister’s Office does not fulfill this function) and various Roma programs run parallel with each other and the spheres of authority are not well defined. “We could experience that they have a minimum of authority, minimal tasks and they work at the border of politics and profession.”
3.9. The mixed group
One or two representatives (but not the same persons) were invited from all the targets groups for this discussion. The discussion was centered on the issues of integration and financing.
Apart from the major themes mentioned above (lack ok preparation, in-service teacher training, identifying those affected, free choice of school, Roma schools not getting support, etc.) the following new elements were mentioned regarding integration:
- central regulation will be unsuccessful unless it takes into consideration the size of the settlements (capital vs. the country);
- the relationship of integration and assimilation should be clarified (is integration aimed at assimilation?);
- it is difficult to determine the number of those getting schooling nearly a year before the beginning of the next school year (1 October);
- integrational normative support should unambiguously be linked with in-service teacher training;
- a new type of segregation should be given more attention (segregation in secondary school halls of residence in Budapest).
4. Policy Options
Since 1989, governments have developed separate strategies for the development of Roma education. Although after each election new strategies were articulated the appropriated programs had recurrent, common elements. These are the following:
a) development and operation of catch-up and talent-care developmental programs,
b) development of the system of scholarships and tuition fee support,
c) promoting school integration of Roma students,
d) increasing the proportion of Roma students achieving basic education within compulsory schooling,
e) fostering participation of Roma students in secondary education,
f) supporting teacher training including basic romological attainments,
g) organizing and supporting in-service training of teachers, social workers and educational advisors.
The elements of the above list have not been fully implemented. So far no Hungarian government has been able to develop a coherent strategy that is designed to address all of the underlying reasons for the school failure of Roma children. Roma education policies were marginalized, the design of mainstream policies and the Roma educational policies were not always harmonized (Radó, 2001). Although statistical data show positive changes compared to the data of the beginning of the 1990s there are huge problems with the educational success of Roma.
The aim of our paper is to contribute to the fostering of integrated education of Roma children in Hungary. In our approach, from the point of view of human rights and equity any form of (non-voluntary) segregation is not acceptable. However, we know that beside the prejudices existing in society some times the base of discriminatory actions is the lack of information and knowledge.
We are convinced that along with making changes in the legal framework and in the financing system and with developing new pedagogical view and practices the measure of segregation can be decreased.
According to our legislative analysis we feel the need to give voice to our criticism and express the necessity of legislative changes in connection to the following topics:
4.1.1. The reform of the anti-discrimination legislation
After long years of professional debate the Government formed in May 2002 committed itself to reforming the Hungarian system of anti-discrimination. The government program explicitly contained the promise of the adopting a comprehensive anti-discrimination law. In accordance with the plans, the Ministry of Justice prepared a concept paper in late November 2002. Although the process suffered some delay, the Draft Bill of the Act on Equal Treatment and Equal Opportunities (Draft Bill) has to date been finalized. Its passing is scheduled for the fall of 2003.4
4.1.2. Special schools
The legal framework concerning special schools is relatively detailed and seems to contain safeguards that could in theory prevent the wide-ranging abuse of the institution. Violation emerges primarily in the course of implementation. The main reason for this is that if the parents are undereducated and unable to assert their rights, their involvement in the process means no real guarantee against abuses. They do not understand the procedure and – even if the information on available remedies formally takes place – they do not know whom to turn to. It often happens that they simply acknowledge the expert opinion on the question of disability and they do not know that by signing the statement concerning the fact that they have been informed, they in fact decide about the future fate of their children.
This kind of problem is of course very difficult to tackle through legislative measures. A closer control on the operation of the expert panels seems possible though. One field in which (legislative) improvement may be achieved is the determination of criteria for qualifying children as slightly mentally disabled. At present, the picture is not very clear in this regard.
“According to the World Health Organization’s pertaining convention, only children with an IQ under 70 should be sent to special schools for the mentally disabled. […] If we draw the line between normality and disability at IQ 70 and we took only the psychometric aspect into consideration, then only 48,3% of the special school population would qualify as mentally disabled, 50,7% would be on the line and 12% would be regarded as normal” (Report..., 1999).
Experts draw attention to the fact that – obviously – it is the IQ 70–95 zone with regard to which the most abuses and misjudgments may occur. In the lack of strict legal criteria, it may solely depend on the discretion of the members of the expert panel which children falling into this category are relegated to special schools and which are sent to normal primary schools. And this is exactly where discriminatory patterns may emerge. We therefore suggest that the Minister of Education – based on the authorization contained in Article 94 Paragraph (1) point (d) of the Public Education Act – issue a decree on this question.
4.1.3. The role of minority self-governments
Minority self-governments can be interpreted from legal aspect as kinds of guarantee against segregating processes. The approval of the minority self-government is required for both types of institution with regard to – among others – the following: the establishment and closing down of the institution; the amendment of its scope of activities; the adoption and amendment of its budget; the assessment of the professional activity conducted in the institution; the approval of its rules of operation; the approval of the institution’s educational program or pedagogical program, and the assessment of the implementation thereof.
This right of approval could serve as an effective tool in the hands of minority self-governments in the struggle against school segregation supported by local governments. However, some deficiencies of the legislative framework hinder its effective use.
a) Contains no provisions as to how the acquisition of the approval shall take place and what shall be done if the local government fails to acquire the approval of the minority self-government.
b) No provisions are in place to dissolve problems arising from the minority self-government’s refusal to give its approval.
c) Neither the Minorities Act, nor Act LXV of 1990 on Local Governments (Local Governments Act) contain appropriate sanctions for the event that the local government fails to acquire the minority self-government’s approval .
A severe problem of the legislation in force is that it contains no provisions as to how the acquisition of the approval shall take place and what shall be done if the local government fails to acquire the approval of the minority self-government. The only procedural rule is set forth by Article 29 Paragraph (3) of the Minorities Act, which claims that “the entity vested with the right of approval shall make a statement within 30 days of the submission or the announcement of the request. Failure to comply with the deadline shall lead to the loss of this right.”
No provisions are in place to dissolve problems arising from the minority self-government’s refusal to give its approval. The Minorities Ombudsman suggested in this regard that a mediation procedure similar to the one set forth by the Public Education Act be prescribed by law for such occasions. A further problem is that neither the Minorities Act, nor Act LXV of 1990 on Local Governments (Local Governments Act) contain appropriate sanctions for the event that the local government fails to acquire the minority self-government’s approval – such a sanction could be that decisions brought without the minority self-government’s approval shall be null and void.
4.1.4. Question of integration
In order to make schools interested in integration instead of segregation, OM Decree 57/2002 introduced new educational form with a per capita support. Such a training may be organized for those students who participate in the skills development training and attend the same class (or group) as those students who do not participate in such training. This form of education may be launched at first and fifth grades (and at the ninth grade of vocational school), and the rules pertaining to it are identical with the provisions regulating the skills development training (e.g. with regard to the conditions of participation).
The legislative framework of the new approach separates the catch up element from the cultural element in the education of Roma, or to be more exact, makes the catch up element completely independent from the Roma origin of the students who may need it due to their social disadvantages.
Let us now examine what criticisms are voiced in connection with the new solutions and what further problems may arise. In November 2002, the Minorities Ombudsman organized a national forum on minority education. At this forum it was emphasized that the conditions set for participation in skills development training and integration training (i.e. that the student may participate if /i/ his/her parents’ highest level of education is elementary and /ii/ the parents are entitled to receive a supplementary family allowance after the child) and thus also for requesting the related normative support may undesirably narrow down the scope of implementation, since – from the point of view of the way of living and employment opportunities – there is no big difference between parents with elementary education and parents who accomplished vocational school. Furthermore, there are several families, which would be entitled to receive a supplementary family allowance, but do not know about this possibility or fail to acquire the allowance due to their low ability to assert their rights (Report... 2002). We have to see how the practice evolves to assess the validity of these concerns.
In our view there are three possible financing models dealing with the education of disadvantaged students:
a) a supplementary per student grant,
b) project based financing, and
c) the market-type financing models (voucher system and quasi-market financing).
Due to practical problems – such as identification of Roma children – it is easier and more logical to focus on the disadvantaged children, as long as the financing is concerned.
Note that all three systems would require a proper monitoring system that could reflect on the performance of the schools, and on the use of the taxpayers’ money. In order to reach the preferred integration the government has to provide incentives for each child to stay at or to go to the given schools by supplying proper infrastructure, transportation, teaching methodology, surrounding.
4.2.1. Integration grant – a supplementary per student grant
The major difference between the recent “special learning group grant” and the forthcoming “integration grant” is that the former orders additional tasks for the schools, while the latter rewards the integrated education as such. Therefore the “integration grant” does not necessarily increase per-student costs.
It must be noted that none of the additional per-student grants provide incentives for the elimination of the spatial segregation. The wealthier families will still have the motivation to seek for more illustrious schools, thus separating their children for the less well-off students.
Another disadvantage is that the “integration grant” does not account for the different school specific costs. It supposes that the disadvantaged students are equally dispersed in the whole education system, so the cost of instruction is similar everywhere. It seems to be far from reality; different per-student costs mean that at some schools the additional amount received will not cover the costs, while at others it will be more than sufficient.
In the case of supplementary financing per student grant the addressee of the central financial assistance is the school owner local government, thus the local political accountability and the central regulation stimulates schools to improve results. However, it supposes clear, easily enforceable requirements from the central government. If these are not clearly stated the school owner very often can use the grant for other purposes and the “integration grant” will reach the schools only in a certain extent.
The advantages of that model consist of its transparency, simplicity, and the low administrative costs, therefore the bureaucratic channels need not be reformed. It is also an advantage that it requires no special efforts from the schools or the teachers, and still promises to eliminate the segregation within and between schools.
4.2.2. Project based financing
The main feature of this system is that the target institute is the school itself, which is able to promote certain (anti-segregation) projects. This financing system can only work successfully in the long run. It definitely needs a solid central government commitment, to encourage the institutions to apply for the grants.
By “eliminating” a level (the local government) from the financing system, it could be guaranteed that the government money will be spent on the proposed goals, and the school specific cost differences would be taken into consideration.
It gives the opportunity for the central government to set its requirements, and a monitoring system, that could enforce the proposed projects. It is a definite advantage – if the government prefers a centralized policy – compared to the “integration grant”, where the basis for providing more resources is only the number of disadvantaged (It is helpful if the government prefers autonomic local government based policy). The project based financing would definitely higher the administrative costs. The process of judging the competing projects will always be a political issue, but this could also guarantee the clarity of the judgment system.
The project based financing of the disadvantaged children seems reasonable, while the majority of the disadvantaged study in a well-defined set of schools.
4.2.3. Market type financing
The two possible market type financing models are the voucher system – where parents receive an additional voucher that they can spend on their children’s education – and the quasi-market system – where the institutions receive a per-student grant, and have an option to stay under the local government coordination, or “opt out” and choose the central government as maintaining body.
Both of these systems would lead to a fierce competition between schools for students, and – depending on the amount of the additional disadvantaged student grant – for the disadvantaged students as well.
The model supposes that well-informed parents are actively involved in their children’s school choice. Parents and students are consumers of the educational services and their best choice is based on the quality of that services. It has to be noted, that the disadvantaged families are usually less informed about the quality of the schools.
The role of the government is only to provide controllable information about the competing institutions, and to set the proper amount of the additional per-student grant or voucher. The overshooting of this amount would lead to separated schools for the disadvantaged, because it would be profitable for institutions to specialize themselves on disadvantaged students. While if this amount is lower, that the real additional costs of instructing, no institution would serve disadvantaged children.
The major drawback of this system is that it can only be successful, if the whole education financing structure is reformed this way. None of the market-type financing can be used only for the disadvantaged students.
The advantages are clear: the competition between schools would substitute the local or central monitoring; this would lead to lower administrative costs and more effective use of taxpayers’ money.
4.2.4. Additional means of financing
Besides the basic financing structure the government has to place a special emphasis on the additional means of financing.
For the disadvantaged children need not only the possibility to study, but also help form the adults, the central government has to subsidize programs for developing pedagogical methods, and the training of the teachers of the disadvantaged.
Beginning with the kindergartens the infra-structural capabilities need to be improved, so no children would be refused, and every student would be presented the best environment to study in. This includes repairing and building of new kindergartens, the development of proper infrastructure. In case of pre-school-education it is not the problem of segregation, but rather the problem of non-participation that has to be solved. So it seems to be reasonable to use the already in use additional per-student grant to finance the owners of the pre-primary education.
At the secondary level of the public education it is not the segregation that has to be reduced, but the low percentage of the disadvantaged who continue their studies in the upper tracks of secondary education. This appears to be an individual, rather than an institutional problem; therefore it seems to be reasonable to finance it at the student level. The governments need to establish individual long terms scholarships and/or loans for the disadvantaged, and possibilities to use these (such as the Arany János program). That includes dormitory places at secondary level, proper transportation between home and school and other vital additional materials for education (computers, books, etc.)
Formulation of our pedagogical strategy is based on the conviction that “it is the educational system that must change to meet the needs of Roma children, rather than blaming the children for their lack of success” (Lorand, 2001). In order to increase the proportion of those Roma children who successfully finish their primary education and not only continue but finish their higher education we should think over the tasks of the school.
In the course of a recent research on the Roma in primary schools, teachers of Roma students were asked that according to them what it is that makes Roma children so much different from majority children (Havas–Kemény –Liskó, 2002). The most common answers were focusing on: linguistic disadvantage caused by insufficient vocabulary, cultural differences, low level of culture due to poverty, material conditions of studying at home and lack of school equipment, insufficient hygiene, lower than average motivation to learn, due to low expectations of parents and minor chances at the labor market, not obeying school rules and rejecting the demanded behavior, early sexual maturity, aggression, strong group solidarity.
By analyizing the above description it can be realized that there is not a single attribute among the ones listed that could be typical of Roma as an ethnic group. These are much more attributes of children growing up in poverty, of teenagers in general and of defensive behavior of any minority, so in our opinion the failure of Roma students in nowadays education system should not be changed by introducing teaching methods especially for Roma children but the whole educational practice, the traditional role of the school should be transformed.
During our focus-group discussions teachers of primary schools stated that according to their experience the traditional pedagogical methods does not function at teaching Roma children. Havas, Kemény and Liskó (2002) also observed that the majority of teachers who teach Roma children use traditional methods, give “frontal” classes and are very few who would try to activate the children in any way or who would try to exploit their natural curiosity. During the interviews conducted with the same teachers, however, it turned out that a great number of teachers were aware of the burdens and the imperfection of their pedagogical methods but did not have the necessary knowledge and abilities to change them.
In the light of the above comments it should be emphasized that if the schools would like to address successfully not only a narrow stratum of children but the most of them the basic principles of nowadays education should be changed. Our suggestion for solution is transformation of the traditional school into a kind of “open school”. While forming the main principles of this kind of school not only the above listed facts have been taken into consideration but also research findings saying that those educational initiatives that strive to integrate and (/or) raise achievements of Roma students are strikingly similar in some respects. The most important common points are the following:
- the use of project method or other, similar close-to-life approaches as opposed to traditional methods, frontal teaching,
- children-centered, flexible schools,
- organizing free-time activities,
- relationship with the family and/or the community is considered to be of great importance,
- in-service training for teachers.
4.3.1. The characteristics of an “open school”
- School without strict time-limits
In order to decrease the high drop-out rate of Roma pupils the primary school should undertake a kind of pre-school training and follow-up tasks. Pre-school training means that for two or three months children would make two-hour-long weekly visits to their future school. This would enable them to become familiar with the atmosphere of the school, and get an insight into school-work. This kind of practice differs from kindergarten-work in two aspects:
a) it does not imitate school-work, the school-setting gives children a more realistic picture of what is waiting for them,
b) the teachers who will work with these children can become familiar with the family background of their pupils-to-be.
The follow-up method would be a kind of “mentor program”, an institutionalized support of children participating in secondary level of education but having difficulties in meeting certain requirements. This kind of help would be more successful than a correpetition at the secondary school because the primary school teachers could use their “long-period knowledge” of each student.
- School without strict boundaries
In order to be effective in pedagogical work and insure quality in teaching cooperation with various local and non-local authorities and institutions is of utmost importance. School should work together with local self-governments, local minority governments, Roma organizations and governmental and non-governmental organizations working as educational service institutions. Schools should rely on others’ experience.
- Partnership with parents
School should establish a kind of partnership with the agents of education. Pupils, their parents and teachers should work together according to a principle of equality. A kind of “learning together” model should be introduced. It means that according to pre-arrangement the teacher visits the child at home, and together with the pupils’ parents they direct the child’s preparation for the next day’s lessons. In this context directing means a kind of help referring to effective learning. The teacher introduces various techniques of methodology of learning to the child and his/her parents. This kind of support is not only for one occasion but it is a year-long continuous help. Adapting this kind of model has several advantages:
a) influences the school-achievement of a pupil in a positive way,
b) makes it possible to create an informal relationship with the parents,
c) enables the teacher to have an insight into the learning conditions of the pupil.
- Partnership with students
School as a service institution should treat its subjects as partners of equal rights. Teachers should support and strengthen the self-image and identity of the pupils and establish a kind of relationship based on confidence. The experience of teachers at summer camps for failed students should be implemented into everyday practice. According to them their pupils can be successfully prepared for their re-take exams if only they start their subject correpetition with self-image building exercises. The self-image of the majority of the participants is destroyed in such an extent that it impedes the pupils participation in an effective learning process. Children do not believe in themselves, in their abilities.
Pedagogical work should be child-centered, achievement of children should be assessed in the light of individual development. The class-curriculum should be completed by individual curricula, curriculum shaped by the personal needs of each child.
- School insuring quality education
The role of a teacher should be transformed, he/she should be removed from a position of instructor and knowledge-owner, he/she should become a kind of supporter. The methodology tools of teachers should be also renewed. The “frontal” teaching should be exchanged by other forms, e.g. by project-method, which proved to be very successful because pupils can see the problem in context, realize the real “meaning” of the task. Instead of conveying lexical knowledge the emphasis should be put on skill-development, problem-solving and comprehension.
- School giving equal chances to all of its participants
Teachers and the leaders of the school should take part in anti-discrimination training, they should become conscious about their attitudes toward children of different ethnicities.
- Renewal of teacher training
In order to be permanently successful all these above described principals should be implemented into the current practice of teacher training. During their training the future teachers should become familiar with skill-developing techniques, various pedagogical tools, their curriculum should have multicultural content and they should take part in anti-discriminatory trainings. They should understand the new position of the teacher, the role of supporter one of whose main role is to work successfully together with the several agents of the learning process.
4.3.2. Principles of vocational training for disadvantaged youth
- Rehabilitation, catching-up, training of margin groups is very expensive, therefore prevention should be aimed at (principle of prevention).
- As it is not allowed to create a new institutional system for one quarter, one fifth of the students of a given year as in spite of the high costs it may become the scene of segregation and thus cannot provide real opportunities, we have to strive for integrating them into the “normal” system of training. Therefore second-chance schools are “bridge-programs” that focus on short, intensive development.
- Experience shows that disadvantaged students fail in the knowledge-transfer type school. Activity-centered education is effective, which always links theoretical information to practice (the principle of practice-centered education).
- According to the principle of adaptivity, the content, methods and requirements have to be defined in a way taking into consideration previous education and to what extent these students can be loaded.
- In grades of vocational training there should be opportunities provided for obtaining the missing general qualification parallel with preparing for the vocational exam.
- In teaching disadvantaged youth the well-tried European educational instruments should be used, such as projects, producing school, social pedagogy, working in small groups, individual development plans, agreements, leisure-time pedagogy, family pedagogy.
- In the phase of modernization ahead of us the share of jobs requiring low qualification is diminishing, and youth having this narrow qualification find it difficult to get employed. Therefore competitive training should be provided for disadvantaged youth as well, which extends to the especially important key qualifications of future jobs – communication, creativity, informatics, foreign languages, teamwork, etc.
- Young people of 16 or over are considered employees as well, and in compliance with their life situation in most countries employment policy provides for catch-up, career counseling programs and programs facilitating employability; and appropriate training support and normative social allowances are provided for the youth. It is obvious that “second chance” programs organized by schools and assuming a student status provide real opportunities for only those who are supported by their families. For youth and young adults who get employed, have their own families it is the employment policy that has to create the conditions of institutional provision (Farkas, 2003).
- We suggest that the Minister of Education – based on his statutory authorization – issue a decree on the criteria for qualifying a child as slightly mentally disabled, in order to put an end to the existing situation, when due to the lack of strict legal criteria, it may solely depend on the discretion of the members of the expert panel (vested with the task of forming an expert opinion on the mental capacities of problematic children and the educational institution, in which such children should continue their studies) which children falling into the IQ 70–95 zone are relegated to special schools and which are sent to normal elementary schools. The establishment of clear-cut criteria may contribute to the decrease of the number of Roma children relegated into special schools due to the negligent failure to take into consideration their specific socio-cultural characteristics and/or owing to – conscious or unconscious – discriminatory considerations
- For the same purpose, the elaboration of a procedure through which – in the framework of professional supervision – the Ministry of Education could monitor and assess the work performed by expert panels on a regular basis would also be desirable.
- Although the procedure through which the expert panels form their opinion on the child’s mental capacity includes numerous safeguards entailed by strong parental contribution (such as the obligation to obtain the parent’s consent, to inform the parent in writing about the decision and its reasons and to inform the parent about his/her right to appeal against the decision), practice shows that due to their educational disadvantages and restricted assertive abilities, the majority of Roma parents find it difficult to utilize these legal safeguards.
- Therefore, a mechanism ought to be involved to ensure that parents involved in the procedure of the expert panel clearly understand their rights, the procedure and its consequences. The minority self-governments (bodies elected on a local and national level every four years and vested with the task and right to protect minority interests and contribute to the preservation of minority culture) may take a role in the process.
- Local governments are by law required to acquire the approval of the minority self-government for decisions concerning minority education. However, the law contains no provisions as to how the acquisition of the approval shall take place, what shall be done if the local government fails to acquire the approval, no provisions are in place to dissolve problems arising from the minority self-government’s refusal to give its approval, and no appropriate sanctions exist against local governments neglecting their obligation. This greatly weakens this tool that may function as a safeguard against discriminative educational decisions of local governments. Therefore, legislation ought to be adopted to regulate the process through which the local governments acquire the approval of the minority self-government for decisions concerning minority education and special attention should be paid to conflict resolution.
- As a result of the legislation in force, members of the majority population may vote on candidates running for membership in local minority self-governments. In a recent case triggering wide-ranging public outcry, the Roma minority self-government of a small town tried to prevent the segregation of Roma pupils, so in the course of the elections, the town’s majority population elected a new Roma minority self-governments, in which four out of the five members were admittedly non-Roma. To reduce the chances of such abuse and decrease the number of majority votes cast on minority representatives, measures should be taken to separate – in time and/or space – the local government elections and the local minority-self government elections, or use other legal techniques (such as limited registration) that could prevent such violations.
- In order to create real independence for local minority self-governments, the present budgetary arrangement that forwards their state support through local governments ought to be altered, because the present system enables local governments to undermine the independence of the minority self-governments through withholding – unlawfully – their state support.
- In the present system, the Ministry of Justice and/or the future Equal Treatment Committee are not authorized to launch institutional level professional supervision of educational institutions if the suspicion of discrimination arises. We believe that such an authorization may contribute to the efficiency of the struggle against educational discrimination, since the local governments (which as school owners are entitled to initiate such supervision) are often to be found behind discriminative measures and are therefore counter-interested. Furthermore, minority self-governments could be exempted from paying the costs of professional supervision if it is launched due to the suspicion of discriminatory practices. This might be useful because according to the law, it is the initiator of the supervision who is obliged to pay the fees of the experts and the costs of the procedure, and thus, although they are obviously interested in efficient supervision, minority self-governments cannot afford to initiate the procedure.
- In order to eliminate the abuses of the so-called “Roma minority education programs” that were designed to reduce the disadvantages of Roma pupils and assist them in learning about their culture but were in fact misused to segregate them from non-Roma children, the Government established two new forms of education which are supported from the state budget on a per capita basis after each student participating in it. In the framework of skills development training, the student is assisted in developing his/her talents and catching up with the others. It is important that the education of students participating in the skills development training shall be conducted in an integrated manner, together with other students. In order to prevent abuses, the student may participate in the training with the parent’s written approval, if (1) his/her parents’ highest level of education is elementary and (2) the parents are entitled to receive a supplementary family allowance after the child. The other new educational form is the so-called integration training. Such training may be organized for those students who participate in the skills development training and attend the same class (or group) as those students who do not participate in such training. The rules pertaining to participation in this training are identical with the provisions regulating the skills development training. Some criticism was voiced in connection with these new forms, saying that they may undesirably narrow down the scope of implementation, since – from the point of view of the way of living and employment opportunities – there is no big difference between parents with elementary education and parents who accomplished vocational school. Furthermore, there are several families, which would be entitled to receive a supplementary family allowance, but do not know about this possibility or fail to acquire the allowance due to their low ability to assert their rights. Therefore, in due time it ought to be reviewed whether the conditions of skills development training and integration training have been determined widely enough to reach all the concerned children.
- If the government prefers a strong centrally managed education, the project based financing gives more space for regulating, and monitoring school processes. But if the local autonomy were preferred, the “integration grant” would provide less chances for central intervention, and also less bureaucratic costs for the governments’ budget.
- It is essential for the elimination of segregation to provide incentives – e.g. better infrastructure, more quali fied teachers – for the non-disadvantaged students to stay or go to schools that are considered segregated today.
- In case of pre-school-education special emphasis should be placed on infra-structural development, such as buildings, and transportation of children.
- In case of secondary education individual scholarships need to be launched or widened, and more proper dormitory places should be built.
- In the field of vocational education the necessary steps are as follows:
- defining the requirements of the programs of grades 9 and 10 at “normal” vocational schools, the function and requirements of basic public education, settling the professional, technical, financial conditions of vocational preparation-funding, career orientation.
- modifying the conditions of entering skilled trade training so that the youth in the most disadvantaged situations can enter the vocational grades and can obtain general basic education parallel with preparing for vocational exams.
- introducing modular, multi-level vocational qualifications that make it possible that the obtained qualifications are recognized after completing some of modules and that pupils that complete only some modules can also enter the labor market.
- improving the working conditions, technical equipment, the qualification of trainers so that vocational schools do not become dead-end streets, the scene where opportunities are lost but ones that provide really marketable, perspective qualifications.
- introducing new, flexible, modular, credit-type programs preparing for the school leaving exams for students who completed vocation schools, similar to English, Austrian, German models.
- launching small-group modular, project-based or producing school type programs of vocational training for the most disadvantaged students, based on Swiss, French, Danish, German experiences and employing social educators as well.
- An effective and efficient monitoring system should be developed to inspect the performance of schools.
- As a part of bottom-up implementation model successfully educational initiatives should be disseminated: the use of project method or other, similar close-to-life approaches as opposed to traditional frontal teaching methods; children centered, flexible schools, free-time activities, fostering relationship between the family and/or community, in-service training for teachers.
- Anti-discrimination training should be introduced into teacher training institutions, and similar trainings should be organized for practicing teachers, too.
- Integration of Roma children should be implemented in an integration package, based on the following principles:
a) special concern on pre-school level,
b) involve parents in the school work,
c) school-development with conscious strategy, well-articulated mission, project-orientation, PR and marketing strategies for appealing pupils,
d) minimize regulation, in order to be able to take the local specifics into consideration,
e) program and project-financing, continuous and long-run support of special projects,
f) organizing in-service trainings for teachers (anti-discrimination and new pedagogical methods),
g) the regional specifics should be considered as well, (smaller settlements can provide less money for education, the school-conditions are worse).
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