In a recent survey, the European Commission asked for an assessment of the perceived changes in education, healthcare, employment, discrimination, housing and services. The results? In all the areas except education the “no change” was the dominant answer. On Human Rights Day we reflect on a public survey that may harm instead of help Roma education.
The results of the survey on Roma integration submitted to the European Parliament and to the EU Council were published last week. The survey was open to anyone living in the EU or enlargement country. Participants were asked to rate progress towards the achievement of the National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS). With a lot of space for criticism and a clear call for urgent improvements, the 240 respondents also perceived education as the area with the most progress, including early childhood education (here).
The danger of surveys
The European Commission had already published its own review of the implementation of NRIS in 2017. Back then, they saw “a clear improvement in early childhood education and care (ECEC).” Since ECEC is described as improving also in the above mentioned survey, we may be triggered to think that education is already on the right path.
Firstly, we must clarify that these are not official data on Roma education; the survey results reflect the opinions of a marginal number of respondents (only 240 people). Secondly, even when the data was used (as in the case of the 2017 European Commission review), the selection of information and the conclusions were still questionable. In fact, in their follow up to the EU-MIDIS II report on education and employment, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency contradicts the European Commission (page 10, here).
It is certainly positive to see the EU asking for people’s opinion. However, more talking about compulsory preschool attendance will not improve the situation of children. Neither will it a higher school access without quality. As long as Romani children will be sidetracked into non-mainstream schools and kindergartens, segregated ethnically or by disadvantage, we cannot speak about progress.
There is a way forward. Let them know about human rights!
There is already a list of promising practices, encompassing science and the state-of-art knowledge, not beliefs and ideologies. Many successful initiatives are backed by data and the only step we need to see is the adoption of systems that work for all, including children.
Human Rights Day, gives us a great opportunity to think about Roma inclusion and its validation. As experts often talk about the economic advantage of early childhood inclusion, some may stick only to economics and forget about the importance of rights in the first place.
Along with the specific measures targeting children, we cannot forget about human rights. All the countries that have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child must ensure the right to education and to a healthy and happy childhood for all children. Tell children that it is their right not to be discriminated and not to be sent to segregated schools. Then there will be progress.