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Czech experts to discuss children's equal access to education
Prague, 19.9.2012 23:00, (ROMEA)

Czech Education Minister Petr Fiala, Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Monika Šimůnková and ombudsman Pavel Varvařovský will jointly convene a panel discussion to aid in eliminating discrimination against children and creating an education system to ensure their equal access to education. The discussion will take place tomorrow, 20 September 2012, in the Lichtenstein Palace in Prague and is entitled "Children's Equal Access to Education". The panel will follow up on the results of the research into the ethnic composition of pupils attending the former "special" schools which was performed by the ombudsman during the first half of this year.
"This discussion will follow up on the results of our activities in the area of the right to equal treatment, primarily, the results of our research into the ethnic composition of pupils attending the former 'special' schools. The discussion has been designed to give room to participants from various areas who are professionally involved in the topic of education and equal access to it. The format of the discussion will provide space for a broad circle of actors to express their views and confront one another's opinions. The anticipated result is that a broader discussion will open concerning the education system in the Czech Republic," Jana Kvasnicová of the ombudsman's office told news server Romea.cz. She said the content of the discussion will be recorded for use in future related activities.

The first block of the discussion, starting at 9:30 AM, will focus on the question of inclusive education, its limits, the existence of systemic support for pupils with special educational needs, the effectiveness of inclusive measures, and the related question of removing pupils with special needs from mainstream education. The discussion will be moderated by journalist Jarmila Balážová, who is also the chair of the ROMEA association.
The second block of the discussion will focus on how children are recommended for enrollment into special education. On the one hand, there are rules that have been strictly established by law, while on the other hand, there is the reality that children of Romani origin are overrepresented in the "special schools". The experts will seek to identify the causes of this discrepancy during their discussion and will consider what kind of legislative, methodological and monitoring tools could be used to prevent indirect discrimination.
The third block of the discussion will appraise and clarify the roles played by municipalities, the state administration, and other stakeholders who can influence the guarantee of children's equal access to education. Speakers will include officials, politicians, NGO staffers and teachers.
The ombudsman (the Public Defender of Rights) intends to continue his involvement in the issue of the education system and the schools. "As the Public Defender of Rights, I can say that my activities in the area of education will not end with this research into the ethnic composition of the former 'special schools' and that I will continue to focus on this area in the future. As part of the report on our research I have formulated three recommendations, one of which is addressed to the Government, while the other two concern the Education Ministry, and I will follow up on their fulfillment," ombudsman Pavel Varvařovský told our editors by e-mail.
Registration for this event closed on 7 September. The original announcement of the panel can be found here:http://www.ochrance.cz/dalsi-aktivity/konference/?tx_odcalendar[uid]=26&cHash=2f1a35bc56fd88e8b0c60f206d92c596