Roma Social Inclusion through Higher Education Policies in Romania

Roma Social Inclusion through Higher Education Policies in Romania

Delia Bîrle (University of Oradea, Romania), Daniela Crişan (Tilburg University, The Netherlands), Elena Bonchiş (University of Oradea, Romania), Laura Bochiş (University of Oradea, Romania) and Carmen Popa (University of Oradea, Romania)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7244-4.ch011
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Abstract

The chapter explores whether the educational policies introduced by the Romanian Government during the last twenty years are examples of good practice for other European countries facing the issue of Roma integration. The authors raise the question of whether the voices of Roma intellectual élites, who represent the “products” of those educational policies, are strong enough to drive the Roma minority towards common and sustained efforts for their social integration. What are the cross products of these educational policies? Additionally, they consider the case of Roma students within the University of Oradea in Romania and examine their attitudes towards academic learning, motivational factors, academic self-efficacy, faced difficulties, and potential ways to achieve higher rates of student retention. For a more in-depth analysis of the role and impact of those policies and the possible challenges/difficulties encountered, the authors interviewed several decision makers, such as academic staff, NGO representatives, and current/former Roma students. The chapter concludes with suggested solutions for detected difficulties.
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Introduction

The issue of integrating the Roma population within the European context is a topic that breeds a great deal of debate while politicians and non-governmental institutions often find themselves standing on different or even opposing positions. However, there is one thing they have reached consensus on, that the most certain way of facilitating the social integration of Roma population is through education. This view was supported at the conference called “Strategies for the inclusion of Roma people - from good intentions to actual results”, by Mariana Campeanu, the Ministry of Labor, Family, Social Protection, and Elderly (from May 2012-February 2014) who stated that:

Education is the only solution for the social integration of Roma people... As long as they do not benefit from an optimal level of education, this category of people will always be on a lower social level. If Romania and Europe would be focusing on solving the problem of education, their situation could get better” (Brebenel, 2013).

Moreover, the mission of Roma Education Fund Romania (a European NGO) is to “close the gap in educational outcomes between Roma and non-Roma” (Roma Education Fund Romania, 2014).

It has been more than twenty years since Eastern European and Central European countries have started to make the transition towards a market economy. Even though prior to 2007, when Romania entered the European Union, a law existed that granted funded places at universities to Roma students, there weren’t any systematic efforts for the education and integration of the Roma population, mainly due to lack of financing. Once Romania entered the EU, the non-for-profit organizations (NGOs) have had the ability to access EU funds for projects aimed at educating Roma people, starting with children, and continuing with youths and adults. O’Higgins (2009) argues that the Roma population has taken the least advantage of the transition towards a market economy - on the contrary, at the macro level they have been excluded both from the labor market and from the social services sector. This chapter aims to bring under discussion the Romanian higher education policies for the Roma students and their role in the formation of a Roma intellectual élite as an important actor in future promotion of the social integration of the Roma minorities.

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