23 SES 09 C, Inclusive Education
European Union has long stressed the need for better and real Roma inclusion. One of the most relevant policy efforts in this sense was the communication of the European Commission to develop “An EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020” (European Commission, 2011b). Since then, all member states should have National Roma Strategies to achieve the inclusion of this community.
Even though the situation of Roma has improved in recent years, the situation of this community is improving at a considerably slow pace, especially in the field of Education. In the case of Spain, for instance, only 30% of Roma students get a secondary education degree, while for non-Roma students this rate is greater than 60% (EU-FRA, 2014). Besides, only 1% of Roma arrive to the university, while almost 35% of the rest of the population have a university degree (Damonti & Arza, 2014). The reasons of this educational gap are multiple: stereotypes and prejudices against Roma students and their families, the segregation of Roma students in low-educational level classrooms and in “ghetto” schools, as well as numerous educational practices based on occurrences and not on the recommendations of the scientific community (Farkas, 2014; Santiago & Maya, 2012). Furthermore, many of the Roma in Europe face prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and social exclusion in their daily lives. Anti-Gypsyism, a specific form of racism suffered by Roma People, is a persist concern because is an important barrier to social and educational inclusion of this community (EU-FRA, 2018), especially in the last years where discourses and practices against Roma are increasing.
In spite of this, educational research has already demonstrated that the educational and social exclusion of Roma People can be overcome. This is the case of INCLUD-ED project, which was the only SSH project selected by the European Union in the 10 Examples of success stories from the Framework Programmes for Research (European Commission, 2011a). One of the main contributions of the project was the Successful Educational Actions (SEAs) approach (Flecha, 2015). In schools with a high concentration of Roma students, and after the implementation of these SEAs, important improvements are observed, as the reduction of absenteeism; the improvement of educational performance and coexistence; the improvement of family participation; and the increment of the number of students who complete secondary education successfully, among others (Sordé-Martí & Macías-Aranda, 2017).
Taking into account these educational research findings, the Integrated Plan for the Roma in Catalonia (IPRC), a public policy coordinated by the Catalan Government, started in 2014 to implement SEAs in 7 “priority schools”. These educational centres have been selected as a “priority schools” because the following criteria: a) schools located in disadvantaged neighbourhoods where a significant number of Roma are living; b) high levels of absenteeism and school failure; c) important problems of coexistence; d) low levels of family involvement and problems in the relation between Roma families and school; and e) the major part of the teachers agreed with the implementation of SEAs (Department of Labour. Social Affairs and Families, 2017). Specifically, family education (one of the SEAs) is being implemented not only in these priority schools, but also in other schools or institutions. Family education is a SEA based on the family involvement in learning activities, not only in the children’s activities, but also in activities focused on their own academic improvement (Flecha & Soler, 2013). Currently, the most important family programs developed by the IPRC is the “GAU25”, a preparation course for Roma to overcome the Official University Access Exam for people over 25 (Department of Labour. Social Affairs and Families, 2017).
This paper is based on two case study carried out under the H2020 Project SOLIDUS (2015-2018) “Solidarity in European societies: empowerment, social justice and citizenship”, and other case study analysed under another research finished in 2017 and financed by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness of the Government of Spain. Both researches have contributed to demonstrated how Roma People becomes an active and protagonist agent of its own social inclusion thanks to its active participation in Successful Educational Actions. Doing this, findings had been intended to show that Roma people is making important scientific contributions (theoretical and practical), especially to achieve its educational inclusion, but also to fight against anti-Gypsyism, a specific racism against Roma community. The scenarios of these case studies were 1) a Primary School located in one of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods of Catalonia, with a 65% of Roma students; and 2) a family education action called “GAU25”, a preparation course for Roma to overcome the Official University Access Exam for people over 25. In regards to the neighbourhood of the School, it is known for its situation of marginality and social disadvantage, and especially for its very high rates of unemployment and illiteracy, as well as for its residential segregation. In 2012, the school started to implement SEAs being selected as a “priority schools” by the IPRC. Regarding the family education course, it is free of charge and is being attended by Roma who are coming from the most vulnerable neighbourhoods of all Catalonia. The research has been developed under the principles of the Communicative Methodology (Gómez, Puigvert, & Flecha, 2011). This methodology has been recommended by the EU for its potential impact in research with vulnerable groups (The European Union Spanish Presidency, 2010), and engage Roma in all phases of the research, which has been traditionally excluded from research participation (Puigvert, Christou, & Holford, 2012). Communicative Methodology is used to examine social and educational phenomena and detect those components that generate exclusion and those that are helping to overcome this inequality situation. This methodology is based on an intersubjective dialogue and an equal relationship between the research team and the participants (Gómez et al., 2011). The data collection techniques used for this paper were: 2 documentary analysis, 6 standardized open-ended interviews to Roma and non-Roma professionals, 16 communicative daily life stories to Roma family members and 6 communicative observations.
The implementation of SEAs in the primary school since 2012 (implementation promoted especially by the IPRC since 2014), has achieved, for example, to reduce absenteeism drastically. In 2011, before the implementation of these SEAs, absenteeism was above 46%. In 2015, three courses later, this figure was 0.94%, which allows us to state that absenteeism has practically disappeared in this school (Macías-Aranda, 2017: 64). Besides, regarding the educational outcomes, if we look at the results of the official diagnostic tests of basic competences carried out by the Department of Education of the Catalan Government, the third grade students (8 years old) that has successfully passed these tests has gone from 18.18% in 2015-2016 to 91.66% in 2017-2018 (Departament de Treball. Afers Socials i Families, 2018a). The family education program “GAU25” is also achieving significant improvements. In terms of attendance, for instance, the course has progressively increased during the eight editions, from the 6 initial students regularly attending the course in the 2011-12 to 46 people regularly attending the course in the current 2018-19. Other social impact of the GAU25 is that, until now, the University Access Exam has been successfully passed by 19 Roma people. All of them are currently enrolled in different university degrees in Economics, Sociology, Politics, Education, Law and Psychology (Departament de Treball. Afers Socials i Families, 2018b). This paper highlights the key role of educational research to achieve Roma inclusion from public policies. Including this scientific knowledge in all phases (design, implementation, and assessment) allow more efficacy, utility and efficiency of public policies addressed to most vulnerable groups, as Roma People. Besides, Roma educational success is also contributing to transform the negative image of this community, fighting against anti-Gypsyism; a crucial aspect in the current European context where discourses and policies against Roma are sadly increasing.
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