Roma people in Europe face many kinds of discrimination. Education systems need funding to respond


How can Europe best combat antigypsyism and discrimination against Roma people in education, employment and housing? The European Commission’s Report on the implementation of national Roma integration strategies finds that the most effective strategies prioritise prevention and early intervention.

ETUCE calls for clearer data on public funding, because schools will need money and teachers will need training if Europe really wants to dismantle structural antigypsyism and keep Roma children in education.

Since the adoption of the European Commission’s EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020 (2011), all EU member states have developed strategies or measures to better include Roma people in their societies. Every year the Commission issues a report on member states’ progress, and this year’s report focuses on trends in the four policy areas of the EU Framework (education, employment, health, housing), as well as the broader fight against discrimination and antigypsyism.

Education is the policy area with the highest number of interventions and evaluations, but the picture is still worrying. The report remarks that at 16 years old 29% of Roma children have only finished primary school and 14% have no school education at all. Meanwhile, 33% of Roma children attend schools where most of the students are Roma.

The most significant challenges named in the report include:

  • absenteeism
  • ensuring the development of human capacities
  • the transition from primary to secondary school, and the completion of secondary school

The report notes that a systematic and long-term approach is needed to fight school and class segregation. This should be accompanied by additional financial and professional support (for example covering costs of transportation, school materials, etc) and the employment of teaching assistants.

Nevertheless, some improvements have been made in recent years. Most member states invested in measures to reduce early school-leaving and made efforts to fight school segregation. Achievements include the development of kindergarten capacities, improved efforts to monitor and reduce early school-leaving, and including Roma inclusion and non-discrimination topics in teacher training or national curricula.

ETUCE welcomes the report’s recommendations, especially on the need for the visible, long-term political support and sufficient public financing to implement Roma inclusion strategies. Non-discriminatory, quality education and desegregation in education and housing do not only help to break stereotypes and combat hate speech and hate crime. They also contribute to eliminating poverty among Roma communities and prevent early school leaving and labour market discrimination. ETUCE also highlights that in order to have a successful inclusion of Roma people in education, teachers and other education personnel need professional support, including teacher training on inclusive education and the employment of teaching assistants.

Susan Flocken, ETUCE European Director, notes that “this report shows how vital education and teachers are in breaking down the barriers and discrimination which exclude Roma people from full participation in European societies. However, there is no concrete data on public spending. Government funding is of fundamental importance if Europe really wants to deliver on the warm words in reports like this. Unless we offer teachers training and support, for example by hiring additional teaching assistants, then it will be almost impossible to help more Roma children get the full education they need. We must also make space for Roma people themselves to lead this process, either through contributing to the design of educational programmes or by training as teachers and teaching assistants.”

To access the report in full please click here.

Image CreditRomani people in Bosnia and Herzegovina by Dans, used under CC-BY-SA-4.0.