(Minority children and language education in the Czech schools)
Abstract: The paper is dealing with the issue of language education of the children of
‘traditional’ minorities and new-comers based on the analysis of current state of the Czech educational system. It’s primarily focused on selected urban ethnic communities:
Slovak, Vietnamese, Romani children. Language is considered as a basic tool of human identity constructing and general means of socialization as precondition of successful integration into society.
Key words: lingual identity; integration; language education of children; urban communities.
In a historical perspective, Europe has been for centuries a multicultural mixture; all European nations are in fact the result of ethnic and cultural mixture. And yet, the actual particularities of European multiculturalism can be summarized as follows: a) there exist liberal myths of a multicultural Europe;
b) there is a social reality of a multicultural Europe; and c) there is an actual lack of cultural exchange in Europe109. The distinction that has been recently gaining popularity between the concept of multicultural, as a description of a situation, and the concept of intercultural, as a description of a process, perhaps is most pertinent in this situation. Namely, whereas the description multicultural
109 Por. J. S. Nielsen, Muslims in Western Europe, Edinburgh 2004, s. 154.
Jelena Petrucijova, Marcel Meciar
corresponds to numerous situations in European cities, the term intercultural does not denote an actual case hardly anywhere; so, as a rule, new-comers and their children have to adapt to their new milieu. Their cultural and religious traditions and practices are tolerated as long as they do not influence lives of the dominant majority. The myth of national culture is still more powerful than the multicultural model – and so much more so if religion has a particular role in it.
The natural inclination of new-comers to preserve their mutual links continues to increase whereas the majority population continues to limit contacts with minorities to a minimum.
Humans have always been on the move, and cultures have proved fluid and flexible. So, it is not cultural diversity per se that causes “problems” dealing with migration and immigration “question” but the political meanings with which specific political context endow cultural difference.
Despite very significant historical, cultural and religion differences between immigrants, ethnic and national minority groups into particular society at large in the various parts of the European Union as well as between countries concerned, there are also important similarities.
In the opinion of Ross110, Euro pean society is characterized by its social and cultural diversity, which gives us great strength but also presents challenges.
European society can be seen moving towards a belief in equality, linked to a desire to challenge and counter inequalities, to promote social co hesion, and to work for distributive justice. But diversity also means that there are inequalities and disadvantaged groups - socially, economically and culturally - and Europe is, to some extent, addressing these inequalities whilst also preserving its diversity.
There are five particular areas in which European identity is distinct and positive - though within each there are practices that need to be improved, challenged and extended111:
→ essential and legal enshrined human rights;
→ a broadly common idea of social welfare and of the role of the state in this, and a shared belief that the disadvantaged are not to be blamed for
110 Por. A. Ross, A European Education. Citizenship, Identities and Young People, Staffordshire 2008, s. 41-42.
111 Por. Images of Europe: From within and beyond, red. K. Isaacs, Pisa 2008, s. 44-47.
their own misfortune, and that society has the collective responsibility to care for them;
→ education based on principles of free and universal access, with an open attitude towards knowledge, helping individuals to achieve both vertical and horizontal mobility;
→ increased levels of mobility, for study, employment and for leisure, breaking down barriers, decreasing skepticism and broadening views about the cultural values of others;
→ attitudes toward language and communication that seeks to preserve linguistic diversity and to improve understanding and appreciation of diversity.
Integration may be pursued in a variety of domains, of which the following have been identified as the most important:
→ the legal and political system;
→ culture, including education, religion and the media; and
→ the social and economic system, in particular employment.
Education predetermines children’s professional and social mobility, future success in labour market and their integration into society. Its importance is exceptionally stressed nowadays. Integration into educational system are markedly influenced by the gaining lingual competences of dominant language, therefore items c) and e) are the objects of special interest in the paper, as, in our opinion, language is a basic tool of human identity constructing and general means of socialization as precondition of successful integration into society.
European countries have become during the second half of the twentieth century urban societies. By 2001, Northern Europe and Western Europe are among the most highly urbanized regions with more than 83 per cent of their respective populations urban. Although Eastern Europe (68 %) and Southern Europe (66 %) have significantly lower levels of urbanization, these regions qualify for being urban with majority of their population living in urban areas112. In the following part of the article, an emergence of urban ethnic communities
112 Zob. World Urbanization Prospects: The 2001 Revision, New York 2002.
Jelena Petrucijova, Marcel Meciar
in the Czech Republic from the perspective of family and children adaptation strategies (language use, attitudes toward education) will be discussed.