Roma Early Childhood Inclusion (RECI+) Report Calls for Renewed Commitment from Czech Republic

Supported by the Roma Education Fund, the Open Society Foundations' Early Childhood Program and UNICEF Regional Office CEECIS, Roma Early Childhood Inclusion+ intends to aid the appropriate authorities in ensuring the development of unhindered and equal access to quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) services and provision for Czech Roma children, through advocacy rooted in credible and informed research.

The publication of this joint report is driven by the critical importance of ECEC for all children, particularly those from marginalized and economically disadvantaged backgrounds; the pressing need for a timely contribution to the ongoing legislative actions and important national debates surrounding Roma education and inclusion in the Czech Republic; and to assist and support the government and public authorities, and educational decision makers and practitioners tasked with fulfilling their responsibilities in a context of critical international scrutiny.

The need for a timely contribution is well illustrated within the recent European Commission’s evaluation of the Czech Republic’s National Roma Integration Strategy. The assessment stresses this particular need and priority by stating, “Ensuring access to, and promoting participation of Roma children in quality inclusive preschool education needs to be reinforced.” Such sentiments were also reflected in a 2012 report by the Czech Ombudsman, which cited “the lack of preschool education” as one reason for the failure of Roma children to do well in elementary school.

In any international comparison, the Czech Republic exhibits a relatively high level of educational inequality. The main equity-related policy challenges in the Czech Republic relate to the inadequate supply of ECEC provision, the delayed start of mainstream schooling, and a rigidly differentiated education system in which certain children, particularly Roma and children with disabilities, are structurally excluded from mainstream educational opportunities.

Among its recommendations, this report calls for the re-issuing of an affirmative statement on the Government’s commitment to ECEC in
the Czech Republic for all its citizens, and the initiative of a new national priority to bring informed coordination and reality to a comprehensive early childhood orientated reform program, and for this commitment to be reflected, fortified, and implemented by the establishment of a standing National Preschool (ECEC, age range 0 to 8 years) Working Group to be set up and Chaired by the Minister of Education.

Notwithstanding the recommendations, policy proposals, and actions stemming from the timely establishment of a National Preschool (ECEC) Working Group, further reforms shall include:

  • Continued national debates surrounding an agreed professional consensus on the definition and understanding of “inclusive education” and “pupils with special educational needs,” and for these to be compatible with international best practices and expectations and enshrine equal dignity, respect, and treatment for all children irrespective of their diversity of need, background, or ethnic heritage.
  • A Government commitment, based on an objective feasibility study and as a prioritised part of a national ECEC strategy, to increase support to families of young Roma children, including, but not limited to, increased access to crèches, together with a rapid and adequate expansion of kindergartens for ages 2/3 to 6; prioritised within a set timeframe.
  • All necessary legislative, legal, or administrative actions taken by the appropriate authorities within central government to ensure that any amendments to the preschool legal context take due cognisance of the important national debate (at the time of writing) concerning the compulsory preschool year. Irrespective of the outcomes of this debate and subsequent government decisions, it is strongly recommended that national policy developments secure for all children a universal entitlement to quality, equitable, and inclusive ECEC services, irrespective of their needs, socio-economic backgrounds, or ethnic heritage.

This special report on Roma Inclusion in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) has been developed by the Faculty of Education and the Institute of Research and Development of Education at Charles University in Prague, with additional contributions from Arthur Ivatts.

For further analysis and recommendations, please read the report in full here.

For Open Society Foundations' Voices article, please click here.

For more information on RECI+, please contact:

Szilvia Pallaghy l Roma Education Fund l szpallaghy@romaeducationfund.org
Iliana Sarafian l Open Society Foundations l iliana.sarafian@opensocietyfoundations.org
Deepa Grover l UNICEF l degrover@unicef.org