European influence on the Hungarian Special Education Policy

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The European context was primarily important in drawing the overall framework of the programs, both agenda and financing.

The Roma integration/inclusion had to be treated as one of the most important tasks of the country upon EU accession (2004). Right after, Europe served as a general framework, at least on the level of the imaginary: ―...Yes, here we are, member of the EU, we have to think differently from now on, we have to change the routines we are used to‖ More concretely, the EU Education Ministers, in a declaration made in 1990 stated that the main form is integration. Everything that is not integrated is of secondary importance, it can exist and be maintained even permanently but it cannot be of primary choice. Symmetrically, the EU ministers called for the transfer of pedagogical knowledges from special education to mainstream education (Halász 2004). Also, Hungary, in order to meet European expectations transferred SEN issues from the health sector to the educational sector, and, in order to build a lifelong model for treatment and integration, the Ministry for Social Affairs and Labour has become involved as well. This change in international conceptualisations of disability can be called a process of institutional ―Europeanization‖. But in fact, there is no such thing as a single European model: ―If you look at the different European educational systems, there is no such thing as a European model. In the middle belt of the European Union, so to say the Benelux states, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the ex-socialist countries follow the tradition of separated education, even today [...] in the North and in the South 91 there is integration though done differently. Basically because there are a lot of scarcely inhabited territories, from where they still have to go to school. And this is what they call integration.‖ The limits of benchmarks, or the (ab)use of the European good practice argumentare not only recognised by scholars, but also by key officials: "Before, the ministerial communication was the following: the rate of SEN is much higher in Hungary than in any other European countries. But this is not always a defensible argument in itself. For example what counts as SEN and what not is upon the countries‘ own decision: in Great Britain it is 30%. To that extent the Hungarian rate of 7 is relatively low. Or Finland which has the most successful educational system has a SEN rate of 17 %. In brackets, the difference is that in higher grades the rate is much lower because of effective early intervention; it is high around the beginning of the school ages. [...] Our problem with the high rate is that the rate of Roma children is extremely high in it. Practically they are all Roma" (Public Officer, Ministry of Education, member of the ―mixed tank).

Europe became a precious resource rather than a reference. While the initiation of the From Last Desk Program itself was financed by an improvised budget voted for the ministerial commissioner by the ministry, and was thus unrelated to EU funded programs originally, a few months later, the financial support of the EU Structural Founds (National Development Plans, HDR OP and SR OP projects) ensured the entire SEN integration/inclusion projects (test adaptation, trainings, etc.), just like the Roma/SDS programs. However, since EU-financed programs denote high amounts of money, they are often suspicious (like every big project) or criticised. European-level professional networks and forums also play a growing role, special education scholars participate and publish (Kőpatakiné Mészáros 2002) at the European Academy of Childhood Disability, Hungary as a country joined the European Agency European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education and exchange data, as well as ideas with European partners (European Agency 2008 and others). In addition, the elaboration of Local Public Education Equal Opportunity Programs (LPEEOP) became a pre-condition of receiving EU-support (in the framework of the HRD OP or the Regional Operative Programs, administered by the National Development Agency). This was an initiative of former ministerial commissioner G. Daróczi and his staff. The LPEEOP must include a Public Education Equal Opportunity Action Plan75, which consists itself of an analysis part and of an action plan part. It must obligatory deal with the SEN-issue; it should aim (1) a ―measurable decrease‖ in the number of SEN-students within one year if their number exceeds the national average (7%), (2) the access tosecondary education for SEN, and also the (3a) legal and (3b) quality control of SEN-education and SEN-services. ‗NATIONAL‘ KNOWLEDGE DIFFUSED THROUGHOUT EUROPE. National knowledge about the segregation of Roma children as falsely categorised SEN students was a message which was successfully disseminated in Europe by Hungarian activists and politicians, as it is reflected in the European coverage of the issue. V. Mohácsi, the former ministerial commissioner to initiate the FLDP became a Member of the EP in 2004, and considered it her task to disseminate information on the issue at international conferences and meetings. (From her EU allowances as a MP she paid the camp fees for children taking part in the test cases [Public interest litigations]). The Budapest based civil organisations (esp. OSI) had a similar role. The limit of such an influence is obviously the closure of post-communist central-European countries, their functioning as semi-closed knowledge-regimes.

Eröss Gábor, Kende Anna (2009), All against misdiagnosis - Sociologists, neurologists, economists, psychologists and special educators for inclusion, KNOWandPOL report, 90-92

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  • Halász, Gábor (2004) A sajátos nevelési igényű gyerekek oktatása. Európai politikák és hazai kihívások. In:Új Pedagógiai Szemle 54/2 pp. 28-37, available from: http://www.oki.hu/oldal.php++cs_INTERRO++tipus=cikk++cs_AMP++kod=2004-02-be-Halasz-Sajatos
  • Kőpatakiné, Mészáros Mária (2002) Different concepts about integration and/or inclusion of special needs children in Hungary. In: Abstracts of European Academy of Childhood Disability (EACD), Pisa.

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