Consider the problem and the context of education for Roma children and youth. Let's explore the process by which a Roma student may be placed in a remedial special school and how this process is flawed?
Despite being the largest ethnic minority in Europe, Roma have been continuously discriminated against for centuries. While discrimination has evolved over the years, education remains a critical concern.
Context of Education
Eurocities report summarizes the context of education for Roma children and youth, revealing that Roma are less likely to attend secondary or higher-level education. Those children who do enroll typically have higher rates of absenteeism and drop-outs (2017).
Problem of Education
Across cities, the education of Roma children is associated with weak learning outcomes, high absenteeism, dropouts, and overrepresentation in special education (EuroCities, 2017). These factors lead to a lower level of education, which further contributes to unemployment and the repetitive cycle of poverty and stigmatization as Roma struggle to find jobs.
While (some) cities have attempted to correct the social exclusion of Roma, it has become apparent that prejudice and discrimination are deeply ingrained within the social and political culture of European cities.
The under-representation of Roma in the education system, including teachers from Roma communities, feeds into distrust in the school education system. Distrust combined with Roma cultural factors, such as high mobility, and socio-economic difficulties, places Roma children at a disadvantage in their early development compared to other children (EuroCities, 2017).
Delayed development without proper intervention has led to the over-representation of Romani children in special schools. By disproportionately placing children in special remedial schools, the education system becomes guilty of discrimination.
This form of discrimination has become another emerging problem for the education crisis among Roma children, as emphasized by the landmark case D.H. and Others vs. the Czech Republic, which determined that Roma in the Czech Republic were subject to unlawful discrimination due to disproportionate numbers of Romani children being placed in remedial special schools for children with mild special educational needs (SEN) (Cashman, 2017).
Even attempts at educational reform by the government have fallen flat. For example, implementing “practical schools” for Roma children that offer a standard primary curriculum is void of any modifications to assist the ability of individual students. In another example, the definition of SEN is loose at best. Ingrained prejudice is also apparent in how teachers refer Romani children for psychological testing when they start struggling rather than implement strategies to help them.
Critical Race theory
Cashman uses the Critical Race Theory (CRT) to argue that institutional racism persists in the Czech Republic to shape attitudes and practices at all levels, leading to the misdiagnosis of Romani children. CRT highlights “the social construction of racial identities, critique of color-blind policies, and the interrogation of intersections of race and class in the formation of identity” (Cashman, 2017).
Bruneau takes CRT one step further to suggest dehumanization as the source of ethnic-based discrimination, even among teachers who were lowest in prejudice (2020).
With this in mind, governmental policy attempts to end segregation will continuously fail due to deeply-rooted institutional discrimination that directly (and indirectly) asserts the power and privileges of the majority (white) population.
- Bruneau, E., Szekeres, H., Kteily, N., Tropp, L.R., & Kende, A. (2020). Beyond dislike: Blatant dehumanization predicts teacher discrimination. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 23, 4, 560-577.
- Eurocities. (2017). Mapping_of_the_situation_of_Roma_in_cities in Europe. The European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation "EaSI" (2014-2020).
- Cashman, L. (2017). New label no progress- institutional racism and the persistent segregation of Romani students in the Czech Republic. Race, Ethnicity and Education 20, 5, 595-608.