07 SES 05 B, Roma: Educational Approaches
For former communist countries wishing to apply to be members of EU, reforms of education were essential to meet EU accession requirements. It is well documented that these countries not only needed to transform their educational policies from a former communist style, but were also required to improve the social and educational inclusion of Roma children in accordance with the “Copenhagen Criteria” (Spirova & Budd, 2012).
The “EU Monitoring and Advocacy Program” (EUMAP) made a detailed study and evaluation of eight former communist countries, focussing on “equal access to quality education for Roma”. In their report of this, EUMAP praised Romania for having made “great strides in implementing policy”(EUMAP,2007:47). It might be expected, therefore, that Romania would have demonstrable success in improving access to quality education for Roma, yet little hard evidence supporting this has been forthcoming. Independent reports have even suggested that there has been little or no improvement in the education of Roma children, although they also agreed that more needed to be known about the situation. (Schvey et al., 2006; Fleck & Rughinis, 2008; Șandru, 2010). I determined that it was important to undertake detailed research into what was happening at classroom level in order to shed light on the situation. My on-going doctorate research focuses on the educational provision of a rural administrative district in Romania and looks in detail at classroom processes.
This paper focuses particularly on difficulties which disproportionally disadvantage Roma children following their transfer from primary to secondary sections of school because of their different ways of implementing school policy, including that of providing equal access to quality education for Roma children. Five school sections were studied, three primary and two secondary, which were organised as a single “school system” under the rural district’s schools’ director, who, together with the county education inspectorate, was responsible for realising national educational policy. Differences in understanding, when implementing a policy have been known either to lead to unintended outcomes or else result in the policy failing (Fullan, 2007; Liegeois, 2007b)
The relevant research questions were:
1. What are the perceptions of teachers, parents, county and national authorities of the policy to achieve equal access to quality education for Roma?
2. What are the practices of schools, or school sections which affect the realisation of the above policy?
The theoretical framework is largely based on Bourdieu’s sociological “theory of practice”. I found that his approach of subjective structuralism was a particularly useful way of being able to understand the dynamic nature of Primary and Junior Secondary School structures and the way they approached the education of Roma children. Similarly, what Bourdieu referred to as his “thinking tools” of ‘habitus’ and ‘capital’ (Grenfell & James, 2006: 152) provided a way of understanding the actions and reactions of those connected with the school community, whether teachers, pupils, parents or administrators.
Eumap 2007b, Equal Access to Quality Education Volume 2. EU Monitoring and Advocacy Program. Fleck, G. & Rughinis, C. 2008, Come Closer: Inclusion and exclusion of Roma in Present-Day Society, Bucharest, Human Dynamics. Fullan, M. 2007, The New meaning of Educational Change: Fourth Edition, Abingdon, Routledge. Grenfell, M. & James, D. 2006, Bourdieu and Education: Acts of Practical Theory London, Taylor & Francis e-Library. Liegeois, J.-P. 2007b. Roma education and public policy. European Education, 39, 11-31. Șandru, R. 2010. Roma and education in Romania: An analysis of educational problems and the actions taken to overcome them. Romani E Journal, 4, 30-45. Schvey, A. A., Flaherty, M. S. & Higgins, T. E. 2006. The Children Left Behind: Roma Access to Education in Contemporary Romania. Fordham International Law Journal, 29, 1155-1244. Schwartz-Shea, P. & Yanow, D. 2012, Interpretive Research Design: Concepts and Processes, Abingdon, Routledge. Spirova, M. & Budd, D. 2012. The EU accession process and the Roma minorities in new and soon to be member states. In: Pusca, A. (ed.) Eastern European Roma in the EU: Mobility, Discrimination, Solutions. New York: International Debate Education Association.
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