Czech teachers willing to take disadvantaged children but say back-up still lacking

Illustrative photo: archive of Radio Prague

The Czech Republic has had a poor reputation for relegating Roma children and children with disabilities to special schools for years. However, a recent survey carried out by People in Need and Palacký University in Olomouc suggests that the situation might be gradually improving. According to the outcomes of the survey, Czech teachers are increasingly more willing to include children with various handicaps in regular classrooms. But in order to do so, they need more finances as well as more guidance from the ministry.

Illustrative photo: archive of Radio Prague
I spoke to Tomáš Habart of People in Need, who has taken part in the project:

“Currently there are more than 60,000 children with disabilities in elementary schools the Czech Republic and 75 percent of them are already included in the mainstream elementary schools.

“However, the integration of children with mental disabilities has not been successful yet, so it means that the strategies should be focused on education of these children to help them to be included more at mainstream elementary schools.”

What about kids from poor social backgrounds?

“The official number is that there are 5,000 children with social handicaps but the estimates are much higher. There are at least 40,000 children who live in socially excluded localities.

“They are mostly Roma children from socially and economically weak families and this group of children needs to be supported in a very intensive way and it is a big challenge for the Czech education system.”

Tomáš Habart, photo: archive of People in Need
Your survey focused on class teachers and their willingness to include children with various disabilities. What are the main findings of the study?

“The research was carried out among more than 4,000 respondents and the results are quite surprising, because they show that teachers and headmasters generally feel well prepared for educating children with disabilities. However, they are calling for financial and methodological support.

“It means that they want to educate these children, they feel they are able to do it, but they need more systematic support from the state.”

What exactly prevents them from including these children? What tools do they need?

“They mostly need specific tools of support, they need help of additional teachers and pedagogical assistants, they need translators for children from different countries and they need special teachers and school psychologists. Only 15 to 20 percent of schools in the Czech Republic have these positions in their teams.”

It the Ministry of Education preparing some changes that would make inclusion easier?

Illustrative photo: Adriana Kratinová
“Definitely. An Amendment to the School Act had been recently approved and comes into force in September 2016, so the ministry has one year to prepare the whole system for these changes.

“Our team has provided the ministry with so-called Catalogue of Supportive Measures, which is one of the tools for promoting inclusion in the Czech Republic. There is definitely a lot of work that has to be done next year before this amendment is implemented.”