Educational Inequalities and the Social Margin

Issue 9

Educational Inequalities and the Social Margin

Panagiotis Papakonstantinou



Expectations for improvements in education exist because this is inefficient and lacking in many respects. Among the priorities of the educational policy for Comprehensive Education are:
• A managerial control carried out by the most suitable persons
• Improvements in the university entry examination system
• Institutional changes in the distinction of technical and vocational training, along with the substitution of TEE into (Professional Lyceum and Professional Schools ΕPAL and ΕPAS)
• Changing of textbooks
The current educational system does not correspond to the needs of our days. It is characterized by exceptions, isolation, distinctions, inequalities, drop-outs of students attending etc. These educational inequalities make up for the existence of an educational margin, consisting of basically ‘sensitive’ social groups.
This paper examines the factors leading to the reproduction of the educational margin and is based on the application of the educational programme “Placing (not integration) of gypsy children to school”, used in this case as an example. The importance of this case study lies in the fact that it proves the recognizable isolation processes for gypsy children from school or the creation of educational inequalities which account for the coming into being of the educational margin, while the same study seeks to explain the social derivation of inequalities that reproduce the educational and social margin.
The programme “Placing gypsy children into the general education/ coherent school” is of an innovative character, aiming to fight against school isolationism, while it is classified along with inter-cultural education. It recognizes difference in students and focuses on securing equality of access to schooling for all children. The choice of the word ‘placing’ or ‘placement’ was made so as to differentiate from the concept ‘integration’. The former denotes that the individual is a functional member of the ‘group’ it is being placed in while the latter means turning one into an inseparable part of the already formed group. The programme finally focuses on facilitating the access of children to school.
The realization of the program’s aims depends to a high degree on coping with the contradicting aspects of education on a political level. A number of problems arise from the ways gypsy children are faced by the school, the school hierarchy and the educational hierarchy. School tolerates their not attending and finally their drop-out. Social segregation follows, as these children often find school doors closed. Local school authorities have also been negative towards having them at school, regarding them as lower status people. The programme insisted, making use of all means available and on whole grade gypsy children school attendance.
A second line of defense on the part of the school system to prevent the group’s entry was a partial acceptance of these children through the creation of separate classes for them (segregation), a fact which is not provided for by school legislation, although the separate classes did a good job in preparing the children for entry to the general schools.
The third way of coping with gypsy children had to do with a kind of host or supplementary teaching classes within the school framework, a kind of ‘special education school’. The advantage of this is the co-existence of gypsy children with the other children and the appearance of new communication opportunities and interaction in a shared school environment.
The fourth has to do with their typical integration in the classes of schools, which however involves the risk of the children being marginalized if the necessary supporting measures do not exist. This in turn will bring about their failure and drop out before completing elementary school.
The set-up of music-language labs also aimed at attracting gypsy children to school, while at the same time preserving traditional musical instruments that would be studied by gypsies. Besides, illiterate adolescents would be assisted in acquiring basic skills, that would enable them to find employment later on and be integrated in the social body by also coming in contact with non-gypsy people.
Results were positive in the sector of music, as well as with the language labs. In addition, seminars were organized to raise awareness in regard with the issue of gypsy educational opportunities, while train teachers of gypsy children to enable them facilitate the learning process for their students.
Finally, the level of gypsy school attendance is related to accommodation conditions. It must be noted that almost all of those with permanent residence (house) send their children to school who then go on to High School and the Lyceum. The state we believe will play a vital role in enhancing gypsy school attendance by solving the accommodation problem.
The final problem that must be seen to has to do with sources. The Ministry of Education is not consistent with cash provision/payments of teachers, a fact which hinders programme effectiveness.