Czech Republic rolls back on inclusive education for children with disabilities
Validity is concerned that the Czech Republic is rolling back on its commitments to ensure inclusive education for children with disabilities in the country.
This week, the Minister of Education signed a regulatory amendment reducing the support made available for children with special educational needs to receive a quality education in mainstream schools. The amendment reneges on previous commitments to increase the inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream schools and will likely push them towards segregated educational establishments. Currently, approximately 25% of children with disabilities are attend special schools or special classes within mainstream schools.¹
Commenting on the developments, Forum for Human Rights Managing Director Maroš Matiaško said: “Despite previous declarations, the amendment shows that the Czech Ministry of Education is still not committed to inclusion. This is symbolised by the retraction of the statement of prioritisation of education in mainstream schools, as opposed to special schools. Although the Ministry claims such priority stems directly from the School Act, the explicit commitment in the regulation had significant symbolic impact on the approach of various actors in the education system and influenced their awareness that no child with disability can be denied education in a mainstream school.”
The amendment of regulation no. 27/2016 Coll. is scheduled to come into effect in October this year. It removes an obligation to prefer the placement of children with disabilities into mainstream schools over special schools. It also significantly limits the access to support teachers for children with disabilities at mainstream schools, only allowing one support teacher and two regular teachers to be present in classes. The same limit does not, however, apply for special schools or classes prioritising therefore higher levels of support in special educational settings. The regulation also introduces limits on access to advisory centers, which are central in assessing the support needs of children. Now, the parents will only be able to seek their help under limited circumstances, either after two years after the previous assessment, or in case change occurred in the child´s educational needs.
Validity´s Lawyer Šárka Dušková commented: “Ensuring greater support for children in special schools and retracting the support from mainstream schools, is really not a way to implement inclusive education, and the Ministry is surely aware of that.”
The developments are retrogressive and conflict with human rights commitments made by the Czech Republic under international law, specifically Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). Last year, Validity joined a consortium of organizations, arguing against the adoption of the regulation: “The Czech Republic is obliged to implement inclusive education, and although it is clear that such implementation takes time, all changes in the legislation or education system must move towards that end. Steps, which undermine the implementation of inclusive education, including steps which pull away the support for children available at mainstream schools, are impermissible and contrary to international law. We are concerned that the amendment is precisely such a step.”
The regulation was adopted in the face of strong dissent from civil society, the Ombudsperson and the Ministry of Social Affairs. Validity calls on the Czech Republic to uphold its commitment to inclusive education and remain consistent in their educational policies. Children in mainstream schools must be provided the appropriate level of support. It is not acceptable to prioritise special schools by allocating more support there. The Ministry of Education should consider retracting the amendment before comes into effect.
1. Data available at: http://www.statistikaamy.cz/2018/09/deti-se-specialnimi-potrebami-ve-skolkach-i-skolach-pribyva/