Roma and Travellers in Public Education

The report provides an overview on the situation of Roma and Travellers in education across the EU.

The Agency has released an overview report on the situation of Roma and Travellers in education across the EU. The report gives evidence that Roma and Traveller pupils are subject to direct and systemic discrimination and exclusion in education.

"Our report shows that education systems across the EU are failing Roma pupils", said Beate Winkler, Director of the Agency. "As a result, Roma pupils tend to leave education early, which deprives them of the qualifications that would enable them to compete later in the labour market." She continued: "Much remains to be done, particularly regarding segregation, which, in all its forms, remains the major obstacle for Roma and Traveller children in the education system. While the necessary legal and policy instruments are now in place, we need action on the ground, particularly at local level, to apply measures more efficiently."

The report finds that segregation in the education of Roma and Traveller pupils still persists in many EU countries - sometimes as the unintended effect of policies and practices, and sometimes as a result of residential segregation. Wrongful assignment and hence over-representation of Roma pupils in special education for mentally handicapped remains particularly common in some Member States. Albeit enrolment and attendance rates of Roma pupils have somewhat improved, they remain low. In most countries transition to secondary education is particularly poor.

To improve the situation, the Agency's calls for comprehensive strategies designed and implemented with the involvement of Roma representatives. These should among others include removing administrative requirements for enrolling, providing truly free access to education for Roma pupils, establishing parent-teacher programmes, reducing adult illiteracy, and focusing on pre-school programmes.

Where segregation of Roma and Traveller children exists, the authorities should deploy desegregation strategies. The assignment of Roma to special education must be closely monitored. Intercultural education should be integrated into national education programmes and curricula. Such measures could include mother tongue teaching in the Romani language, the inclusion of Roma and Traveller history and culture in textbooks, hiring more Roma teachers, and specific inter-cultural training for teachers. Finally, an official system of data collection in line with standards on data protection to document the implementation of policies on Roma must be put in place.

The report lists a variety of innovative projects implemented in several Member States, often with the support of EU education programmes, such as Comenius or Leonardo. Also the PHARE programme was successfully used for Roma projects during the accession phase of the ten new Member States.

Beate Winkler concluded: "The educational situation of Roma and Traveller pupils shows how critical it is that the EU and the Member States accelerate efforts to address the discrimination faced by Roma. Poor educational attainment directly relates to precarious conditions of life, high unemployment, substandard housing conditions and poor access to health services. We need more vigorous implementation and adequately resourced policies so that Roma will finally obtain equal opportunities in Europe."