Fostering inclusive Roma education

Christian Brüggemann


Classroom of women
Adult literacy courses for women

Bratislava, Slovakia – 6 February 2013 –
Low levels of Roma education contribute to the ‘vicious circle of poverty and exclusion’ faced by Roma.


Recently, two political initiatives have highlighted the importance of education for Roma inclusion: the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015, and the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020.


The policy recommendations that emerge from a recent survey conducted in 12 countries of Central and Southeast Europe point to specific areas of intervention that governments might consider when designing educational policies, in order to narrow gaps in educational outcomes between Roma and non-Roma.


Key survey findings 

1.  Attainment gaps between Roma and non-Roma remain large.

2.  The self-perceived improved literacy rates among young Roma are not reflected in effective Roma participation in social, political or economic life.

3.  Roma lag behind non-Roma in computer literacy.

4.  Low pre-school attendance rates contribute to the long-term disadvantages of Roma students.

5.  Many young Roma have never been to school.

6.  Many Roma leave school earlier than their non-Roma peers.

7.  In many countries, Roma who attend school have higher rates of absenteeism than their non-Roma peers.

8.  Bi- and multilingualism are widespread among Roma.

9.  Many Roma attend ethnically segregated schools or classes.

10.  Many Roma attend special schools.

11.  In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, most Roma in special schools have mainly Roma schoolmates.

12.  In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, younger household members are likely to go to a special school if the household head has done so, as are students from certain regions.

13.  Support for affirmative action in education is high among Roma and non-Roma alike.

14.  On average, the aspirations of Roma are much higher than their educational outcomes.


Access to early childhood education and care.   The report shows that in most countries, Roma were much less likely to attend preschool than non-Roma living in close proximity.


Hungary is an exception – the distance between Roma and non-Roma there is less pronounced and preschool attendance rates of Roma are even higher than for non-Roma in the neighbouring countries (Croatia, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia).


the figure shows that in most surveyed countries Rome were much less likely to attend preschool than non-Roma living in close proximity
Preschool attendance. (AL (Albania), BA (Bosnia and Herzegovina), BG (Bulgaria), H (Hungary), HR (Republic of Croatia), CZ (Czech Republic), MD (Moldova), ME (Montenegro), MK (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), RO (Romania), RS (Republic of Serbia), SK (Slovakia). See EUROSTAT.)


School completion.  The report shows that although Roma educational  attainment  rates have  increased  since  2004  in  a  few  countries,  they remain low in much of Central and Southeast Europe.


the figure shows that severe discrepancies exist between Roma and non-Roma educational attainment levels across the surveyed countries
Percentage of Roma with at least lower secondary education across the surveyed countries.


Ethnic segregation in ‘regular’ schools and classes. The report shows that many Roma attend ethnically segregated schools or classes.


figure shows that in the surveyed countries high proportions of Roma attend ethnically segregated schools
Percentages of Roma and non-Roma in 'regular' schools and classes


Ethnic segregation in special schools. The report shows that in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, most Roma students in special schools have mostly Roma schoolmates.


high percentages of Roma attend ethnically segregated special schools in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary
Percentages of Roma in ethnically segregated special schools


Policy recommendations

Universal access to early childhood education is important for future educational progress. Efforts are needed to address barriers to education and thus help to decrease Roma exclusion and vulnerability.


Encouraging greater Roma participation in primary, lower secondary and  post-compulsory education by identifying the points in the education system at which early leavers are most likely to drop out.


Transitions from compulsory to post-compulsory schooling are crucial. The introduction of attendance subsidies could lead to better post-compulsory educational attainment rates.


The streaming of Roma pupils into special schools should be avoided, and inclusive schooling should replace  segregated  schooling. This can be achieved by abolishing financial and other incentives that channel Roma into special schools, serving to segregate children. Proven cases of direct or indirect discrimination against Roma students need to be sanctioned.


>> More on our Roma work


Policy brief - Roma education


Roma education in comparative perspective


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