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17.6.2015

New Minister will have to deal with the infringement

The Minister of Education Kateřina Valachová will have to face personnel stabilization of the Ministry, Amendment to the University Act, which is in the Chamber of Deputies and next Amendment to the Education Act, which is supposed to introduce one obligatory year of pre-school. Apart from these challenges, the Minister will also have to deal with the negotiations with the European Commission due to the infringement proceedings because of the discrimination against Roma children in schools. So far the Commission has not been persuaded by plans of the Ministry and its real impact.

Even though the Ministry of Education has taken several steps since the D.H. judgement in 2007, the number of Roma children in so called practical-special schools has remained disproportionately high to the number of Roma in the Czech Republic (32, 4 % against 2 %). The European Commission initiated the infringement proceedings due to the non-implementation of the Race Equality Directive, which is related to the slow implementation of the judgment.

When the infringement proceedings were initiated, the Ministry of Education chose to defend itself against the Commission with an argument that it does not have any competence over state education, despite the fact that “education” is explicitly named in the Race Equality Directive. This strategy was not successful and the previous Minister Marcel Chládek had to present the Commissioner Věra Jourová with the steps it would take towards making a more inclusive education system and tried to persuade her that the Czech Republic was taking the problem of discrimination in schools seriously. On the other hand, when Amnesty International issued its report that proved continuing problems regarding discrimination and segregation, Minister Chládek did not hesitate to condemn the report and said the Czech Republic does not discriminate against anybody. He defended the number of Roma in practical-special schools and blamed Roma parents, who “do not want to get up from bed”.

This argument of the previous Minister questioned his political will and worsened the position of the Czech Republic in its negotiation with the Commission. Slovakia is trying a similar strategy, meaning that they too are blaming the Roma minority. They used an “incest-argument” to justify the high number of Roma in special schools. Fortunately, the new Minister is not using this kind of argument, which is a good sign for the Commission.

Kateřina Valachová is coming to the Ministry at a crucial time. A new system of support measures needs to be implemented by September 2016 and all schools and school counseling centers will need to be able to work under it. The new changes within the educational system for children with mild mental disability are also expected to be in place by the same date. Furthermore the agenda of inclusive education should be separated from special education only and should become part of all departments. The above mentioned measures will not be easily executed, but it will be very hard to stop the infringement proceedings against the Czech Republic without them.

Štěpán Vidím Drahokoupil