23 SES 12D, Minority Education
As in several other European countries, in Slovakia the enrolment of Roma children in kindergarten is significantly lower in comparison with children from the majority population. The attendance of Roma students in regular schools is also generally lower, which negatively influences their school performance and leads to early school drop outs. Roma students are also overrepresented in special schools and special classes of regular schools and are less likely to complete upper secondary education (Brüggemann 2012, World Bank 2012). There are several factors producing and reproducing the gap between the Roma and non-Roma people in the Slovak educational system. Undisputedly, the educational policies determining the mechanisms and processes that define experiences and transitions through the educational system are part of the most crucial factors. This paper is based on social constructivist theoretical premises and offers an explanation why certain public policies constantly fail to achieve their intended goals. Specifically, the paper examines how Roma students and parents in Slovakia are framed by pro-inclusive educational policy documents and the general public discourse. For this purpose, we analysed data from two educational policies and conducted focus group interviews in five different regions in Slovakia. Schneider and Ingram (1993) distinguish four types of target populations of public policies: (1) “advantaged” – politically strong and positively constructed; (2) “contenders” – politically strong but negatively constructed; (3) “dependents” – politically weak but positively constructed; (4) “deviants” – politically weak and negatively constructed. The allocation of political power and positivity/negativity of the construction determines the allocation of burdens and benefits to the different target populations in the public policies. In line with the various previous studies on the construction of the Roma (e.g., Castañeda 2014, Stăiculescu and Gherasim 2013, Walsh and Krieg 2007), the findings in this research demonstrate that the Roma in Slovakia are constructed negatively as irresponsible and incapable of making wise decisions about their lives. This negative construction positions them into the category of “deviants” (or in a better case “dependants”), which provides the policy makers with permission to punish and place burdens on the Roma while at the same time claiming an inclusive education policy rhetoric. Hence, this paper suggests that if negative social constructions of a certain societal group are embedded in pro-inclusive educational policies, these constructions may undermine the intended policy goals.
Brüggemann, Christian. 2012. Roma education in comparative perspective. Analysis of the UNDP/World Bank/EC regional survey 2011. Roma inclusion working papers. Bratislava: United Nations Development Programme. Castañeda, Heide. 2014. "European mobilities or poverty migration? Discourses on Roma in Germany." International Migration 53 (3):87-99. Schneider, Anne, and Helen Ingram. 1993. "Social construction of target populations: Implications for politics and policy." American Political Science Review 87 (2):334-347. Stăiculescu, Ana Rodica, and Mircea Gherasim. 2013. "Roma representation in the media." Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice 5 (2):947-955. Walsh, Christine, and Brigitte Krieg. 2007. "Roma identity: Contrasting constructions." Canadian Ethnic Studies 39 (1/2):169-186. World Bank. 2012. "Diagnostics and policy advice on the integration of Roma in the Slovak Republic: Economic cost of exclusion, employment and social protection, financial inclusion, education, housing, health, monitoring and evaluation, EU financing." World Bank.
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