Lifelong Learning and the Roma Minority in Central and Eastern Europe

Cover of Lifelong Learning and the Roma Minority in Central and Eastern Europe


Table of contents

(13 chapters)

This introduction from Katalin R. Forray and Andrea Óhidy provides a brief overview of the social and education situation of European Roma and also about the structure of this book.

Roma are here described as a ‘hidden minority’ (see the country study about Italy from Valeria Cavioni in the book Lifelong Learning and the Roma Minority in Western and Southern Europe (2019)), because – although they are the largest minority group living in Europe for more than a hundred years – we still know very little about them. Although most of the Roma people have been living for centuries in European countries, their situation is still different from the non-Roma population; they often suffered from poverty and exclusion. There is a host of Roma, especially in Southern and in Eastern Europe, who is considered to be the most disadvantaged group in European societies; that is, regarding their (1) health situation, (2) on the labour, (3) on the housing market and (4) also in education. Questions of education are the central elements of politics making the situation of Roma better. To fulfil these requirements, some European countries have taken determined steps. As Natascha Hofmann in the country study about Germany wrote in the book Lifelong Learning and the Roma Minority in Western and Southern Europe (2019), we are in the phase of the ‘dawn of learning’ because there are more and more policies and programmes to develop attainment and success of Roma in European education and lifelong learning. This book wants to change this and gives an overview about retrospective and prospective tendencies in the situation of European Roma in education and lifelong learning.


In this chapter, Natascha Hofmann discusses the policy measures for improving the (education) situation of Roma in Europe. It concentrates on the post-war turning points and corresponding discourses before reviewing aims, outcomes and legacies of the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005–2015 proclaimed by the European Union (EU). According to Hofmann, the past decades reveal a shift in the discourse of how Roma living conditions and perspectives are perceived in Europe. Indications that underpin that argument can be found in processes referring to fields of bottom-up movements of Roma organisations, top-down approaches of the EU and its member states, shifting borders and the implementation of human rights. Outcomes of the Decade of Roma Inclusion show not only the importance of educational achievements, but also the importance of educational work of mentors and mediators within the communities and within the regional and national societies. Regarding the bottom-up movement of Roma organisations, there seems to be a generation change not only regarding educational achievements, but also by dealing with being visible as Roma and promoting new narratives of being Roma.

Education Situation of Roma in Selected Central and Eastern European Countries


In this chapter, Milena Ivova Ilieva describes the Roma minority in the education system of Bulgaria, where – according to data from non-governmental organizations working directly with the Roma community – the number of Roma people varies between 8-10% of the total population. The situation of the Roma community is characterized by its marginal position in the society at different levels, which stands out more clearly against the process of globalization. Ilieva shows the disadvantages in social situation and presents a general overview of the classification of the Roma Community about educational integration. She analyses the official statistical data and gives reasons for the low education level of Roma in Bulgaria and describes the policy measures for Roma integration after 1989. She concludes that at this stage of their existence, the programs which the Bulgarian State is trying to apply with regard to Roma, are not effective and do not conform to the specifics of the Roma community.


Roma in Croatia are spatially, economically and politically marginalised. There is a social gap between Roma minority and the majority of population. Prejudice and stereotypes against the Roma community are deeply rooted in the mind of the local community due to their insufficient knowledge of the Roma culture. The women of the Roma ethnicity are doubly marginalised, because of their Roma ethnicity and their gender. Roma women, more than Roma men, lack the basic elements necessary for self-realisation: education, healthcare, cultural and political participation. Roma generally have poor access to healthcare, and most of them do not have medical records. The Roma in Croatia most often speak Boyash (bajaški) or Romani chib. They speak both their mother tongue (Romani) and the language of the country they live in – standard Croatian. Students can study the Romani language and culture in higher education, at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Teacher Education at the University of Zagreb. Kali Sara, the Roma Association for the promotion of the education of Roma in the Republic of Croatia, organises courses for Roma children and young people on the Romani language, culture and life in general. As for the educational attainment of Roma, data show that Roma children are still rarely included in the preschool education system. A large number of Roma children do not complete compulsory education. They rarely attend secondary school. Very small number of Roma students graduate at the Faculty level.


In this chapter, Markéta Levínská, Dana Bittnerová and David Doubek show the situation of the Roma Minority in the Czech Republic. According to qualified estimates by regional coordinators for Roma minority affairs, a total of 245,800 Roma lived in Czechia in 2016, which represents 2.3% of the overall population in the Czech Republic. The Roma in the Czech Republic cannot be considered a homogeneous group, neither economically, nor regarding their social status. The authors describe the legal, social and cultural status of the Roma minority then analyse their attainment on different levels of the education system. After listing the most important policies and support programmes in the area of Roma education, they show current research results relating to the state of Roma education.


This chapter aims to provide a short overview about the situation of Roma in Hungary. Starting from the question ‘Who are the Roma, Gypsy in Hungary?’, this chapter introduces several researches on Hungarian Roma. The linguistic groups of Roma are briefly outlined to make it clear how much the Hungarian Roma are heterogeneous. The social situation of the Roma, as minority in Hungary, is also detailed by introducing geographical location and housing and employment regarding to Roma. Based on these general data on Hungarian Roma, this chapter aims to focus on educational situation of the Roma minority in Hungary, including – primary and secondary school education, education in special schools, education in college and university, adult education, school success supporting educational initiatives and programmes like extracurricular programmes. As a summary, this chapter introduces some further researches by short abstracts in order to provide a suitable starting point for those who are willing to get know more about this minority in Hungary.


Taking into account the statistical data from 2004, about 12,300 Roma citizens live in Moldova, which represents 0.4% of the total population. Gypsies call themselves Roma in the Romani language of Europe. Given the challenge created by the lack of reliable and accurate data on the Roma population available from existing Moldovan statistics, the United Nations Development Program in Moldova initiated, in 2005, the first quantitative study covering 600 Roma households and 600 non-Roma households in 81 localities. Conducting surveys on settlements occupied predominantly by the Roma population has allowed the follow-up of results that eventually led to highlighting the aspects of life conditions, health and education system of Roma population.

Speaking about the factors that condition migration, family reasons are mentioned most often. Although official statistics do not provide disaggregated data on life expectancy, infant and maternal mortality for Roma, statistical data show that life expectancy, infant mortality, morbidity and other major health indicators in the Republic of Moldova (as in other countries in the region) are substantial more precarious for the Roma than for the majority of the population. School education is an important aspect in terms of both school attendance and learning outcomes, as the chance of success in life is generally higher with a higher education level. Qualitative education implies not only inclusion in the educational system, but also family participation in socialisation and support for early integration of children.


The given chapter of the monograph presents the distribution and diversity of the Romani community in Poland, their current social situation in reference to the period of socioeconomic changes in Poland as well as the results of research conducted by the authors regarding the education of young Romani in Poland.

The authors analysed a number of determinants (especially economic, social and cultural ones) that are important in the process of an effective dealing with a social exclusion, supporting integration and even an implementation of the education of Romani children. Bad financial situation and a cultural diversity cause integrative problems of the Romani in Polish society, as evidenced by the results of the authors’ research.

A sociometric study in Polish–Roma classes showed that Romani students are not accepted by their Polish classmates. However, despite both the educational and integrative difficulties, Romani students are more and more actively involved in a school life.

The chapter likewise incorporates an evaluation of the governmental programme aiming at equalisation of knowledge levels and opportunities between Poles and Romani in areas such as education, employment, health, hygiene, housing conditions and the ability to function in a civil society. The education thus became a priority area of the programme and the most important activity that was implemented under the given programme was creation of positions of a Romani assistant and a supporting teacher.

Progress, which has been achieved in Poland over the last dozen or so years as far as organisation of the Romani education is concerned, is indeed enormous. An implementation of the compulsory education by Romani students has become widespread and their attendance at classes is satisfactory. Although the attitude of the majority of Romani parents and their children towards the institution of school has changed, the contact between parents and the school is still limited. Both difficulties in the education and a low level of education of parents stimulate a reduction in educational aspirations on the part of Romani students.

The current condition of the organisation of the Romani education indicates that despite these positive initiatives, the Romani education is now in the early stage of its development and it requires further support and monitoring.


The chapter provides information about the second largest ethnic minority in Romania, Roma people, and the way the Romanian educational system is open to inclusion. Based on factual data about number, groups and legal status, the chapter presents some peculiarities regarding the culture and language, social situation and the level of education. The main part of the presentation is focused on the educational issues, such as information about Romanian educational system and educational attainment of the Roma from preschool till tertiary education and lifelong learning programs. The last part include information about policies and support programs for Roma education and a short analysis of good practice initiatives within Romanian cultural and educational space.


Roma, as a poor group of people differing from the majority, have been mostly at the edge of society, both in people’s minds and spatially excluded. The Roma community in Slovakia is often among those groups that are most at risk of poverty, discrimination and social exclusion. It is necessary for adults to have a job and their children of quality education. But significant part of the Roma suffers from marginalisation in the labour market and is sometimes even completely excluded from the formal labour market. Roma children are lost in the educational system. Level of academic achievement is highly dependent on a child’s socioeconomic background, suggesting that the educational system still fails to provide social equality in education or a fair distribution of educational resources for all according to their needs. Several strategies for various areas of enhancement of status of Roma have been developed. Some of them have remained strategies, and some of them have been implemented and have been included also in the Slovak legislation. The most significant in education are the year 0 in primary schools, the addition of pedagogical assistants, and some projects with a focus on inclusion in education and institutional assistance through community centres.


In this chapter, Andrea Óhidy provides an overview of some central issues of the book. First, she shows the similarities in the challenges to increase the participation and success of Roma people in education and lifelong learning in the selected European countries; then, she discusses their policies and support programmes, which, on the one hand, try to improve the social situation of the Roma while promoting minority language and culture, on the other hand. She finds the reason for their similarities regarding the wording, defining and communicating and also concerning the main ideas and concrete projects for possible solutions, in the Roma inclusion policy of the European Union in the frame of the Open Method of Coordination, which has been introduced within the Lisbon Strategy, linked to the idea of lifelong learning. She considers the realisation of these policy measures at national, regional and local levels to have shown only unsatisfactory results until now.

Cover of Lifelong Learning and the Roma Minority in Central and Eastern Europe
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