23 SES 03 B, Education Policies and Social Cohesion and Development
This paper seeks answer to the question what was the contribution of EU policy’s principal instrument - European Social Fund - to mitigation of educational inequalities in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and the Slovak Republic. It focuses on the distribution of ESF money allocated to mitigation of educational inequalities among individual contractors, beneficiaries and NUTS3 regions. It explores the compliance between investments and neediness of individual NUTS3 regions. The analysis seeks answers to the following questions: Who were the main implementers of ESF projects? What were the main activities implemented? Which were the most incident outcomes? Which target groups were supposed to profit most from those projects? Does the regional distribution support the cohesion idea?
Good quality education is a prerequisite for good labour market opportunities, decent income, participation in polity. In this regard, the education of vulnerable groups like ethnic minorities is an issue of citizens’ rights in the term of expansion the social equality. East European countries Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and the Slovak Republic exhibit relatively high education inequalities (OECD 2010). At the same time, in these countries there are vulnerable groups that are strongly disadvantaged with respect to educational opportunities. They fail in providing their large proportions of Roma populations with good quality education: Roma children in these countries exhibit low participation in preschool education and are overrepresented in various forms of special education with reduced curricula. In the above mentioned countries, more than 75% of Roma children does not complete secondary education and enters the labor market unprepared (World Bank 2012). The European Commission (2010) stated that stronger efforts are needed to address education as part of an integrated approach which includes coordinated efforts in the fields of health, social affairs and employment. The EU 2020 Strategy highlights the importance of the involvement of the members of marginalised, vulnerable groups in mainstream society where education is seen as a crucial tool. Investing in early childhood development is both an efficient and equitable policy option (Burger 2010; Heckman and Masterov 2007; Young 1996).
The EU Cohesion Policy is one of the most visible EU policies, as the means of this policy are direct funds for development projects. This policy is important for the countries in Central and East Europe as the intensity of EU Cohesion Policy assistance calculated per capita in those countries is the one of the most intensive in the whole European Union (Barca 2009). If the resources are used by the appropriate means, they can bring many positive effects also in mitigation of educational inequalities. However, those positive effects are limited by several aspects including the weak personnel and financial capacities of the final beneficiaries in EE countries. The limitation is also caused by stakeholders’ unwillingness to plan and act in a strategic way. The effects of the EU Cohesion Policy also affected the understanding of absorption capacity as well as the spending of the allocated funds without achieving the actual effects (Potluka et al 2010).
Barca, F. 2009. An agenda for a reformed cohesion policy: A place-based approach to meeting European Union challenges and expectations. European Commission. 2012. Communication on the National Roma Integration Strategies, SPEECH/12/379, Date: 23/05/2012 Potluka, O. et al. 2010. Impact of the EU Cohesion Policy in the Central Europe. Leipzige Universitätsverlag. Burger, K. 2010. How does early childhood care and education affect cognitive development? An international review of the effects of early interventions for children from different social backgrounds. Early Childhood Research Quarterly 25: 140-165. Heckman, J., Masterov, D. 2007. The productivity argument for investing in Young Children. NBER Working paper 13016. Young, M. E. 1996. Early childhood development: Investing in the future. The World Bank:Washington, DC World Bank. 2012. Toward An Equal Start: Closing the Early Learning Gap for Roma Children in Eastern Europe OECD. 2010. PISA 2009 Results: Overcoming Social Background: Equity in Learning Opportunities and Outcomes (Volume II)
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