Rights Groups Press Czech Government on Roma Education
BUDAPEST, 16 September 2008: Despite changes in legislation and a landmark ruling from Europe's highest court, racial segregation of Roma children remains a fixture of education in the Czech Republic, a coalition of rights groups said today.
The Czech government must take significant steps, including enacting new legislation, to desegregate the country's schools, the groups said in an official communication to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The statement was signed by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), the Roma Education Fund, the Open Society Justice Initiative, and the Open Society Institute.
The Czech Republic's School Law of 2005, curriculum modification of 2007, and the European Court of Human Rights' landmark decision in D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic have all failed to end a segregated education system in which the vast majority of Roma students are still assigned to "special" schools with sub-standard curricula. The full text of the communication is available here:
"Czech authorities have relabelled special remedial schools' as practical primary schools,' but the reality of unequal educational opportunity for Roma children has not changed," said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative.
Research conducted by the ERRC during the first half of 2008 found that despite assurances from the Czech government, the situation of Roma students had not improved. In fact, curriculum modifications of 2007 have actually made it harder for Roma students to move into the educational mainstream.
"We found that while overall enrolment in regular schools is declining, enrolment in special schools has remained the same; this indicates that Roma students are not moving into regular schools," said Savelina Danova, acting executive director of the ERRC.
The communication to the Committee of Ministers outlines several steps the Czech government must take to end segregation of Roma students, including:
- Enacting national legislation requiring public authorities to desegregate the educational system.
- Declaring publicly the goal of providing equal access to educational opportunities for all by 2015, creating a comprehensive strategic plan for achieving that goal, and allocating funding for enacting the plan.
- Revising the process of testing and assessing students to bring it into line with European standards and eliminate anti-Roma bias.
- Providing better information to Roma parents on the benefits of integration.