The European struggle to educate and include Roma people: A critique of differences in policy and practice in Western and Eastern EU countries

Christine O'Hanlon

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Multiculturalism is an established feature of the UK and other European States since the establishment of the Treaty of Rome in 1959. Enlargement has brought EU membership from six (1952) to twenty eight members since its foundation, and allowed free migration across its borders. However, many countries, in spite of agreements to adhere to ‘democratic’ practices, deny minority citizens their full rights, particularly in education contexts. Some recent accession EU States have education systems that are less adaptive to expected policy responsibilities. It is a more unstable aspect of Eastern Europe because of the failure of many of these countries to reduce social and educational inequalities and to establish rights for minority groups, particularly the Roma. An educational focus is used as a platform to highlight issues re the segregation, and discrimination against, Roma children in Europe, typically through the use of special education, which is not suitable for them. Europe generally, both East and West has failed to fully integrate the Roma. Often, institutional blame is placed on Roma communities, rather than situate them socially and economically due to ingrained structural inequalities. Stereotyped categories are often used to ‘label’ them. Countries with high Roma populations, four in Western and five in Eastern Europe are evaluated and compared in relation to the education of Roma children.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Inclusion
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2016


  • education
  • EU
  • inclusion
  • minority rights
  • Roma
  • structural inequality
  • Western and Eastern Europe

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