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Luca Viktória REGŐS: A Segregated Education or a Segregated Future?

Segregation in education – or otherwise unlawful segregation – is not new, several researches and studies have shown that this phenomenon has been present for decades if not centuries – just think about how long time women have not been allowed to study and how this situation could be called segregation, since an entire social group has been or is being excluded from the right to education. This brings us to the point of defining what exactly we consider to be educational segregation. This conceptualization is inspired by definitions or definitions that have appeared in various studies and articles[1], so educational segregation is, in my formulation, a broad category that encompasses a phenomenon whereby persons in education are in a materially different situation from one another, ethnic, racial, residential, biological, religious, or cultural and this difference results in discrimination, segregation, which has or may have negative consequences for disadvantaged or minority groups. In my opinion, all the preconceptions and prejudices that children bring with them to school from home, which are not usually expressed in ideas but in explicit behavior or even in acts, play a role in creating or reinforcing segregation. Some children from minority groups may, as a consequence of the treatment they experience, actually fulfill what others have assumed about them because it is easier to take on a role that others have predetermined for us than to constantly fight against it, especially if they are struggling with other problems and difficulties at one of the most sensitive and vulnerable times in their lives.

Although some authors draw attention to the fact that in the last decade – especially in Hungarian society – there has been a growing antipathy towards education and a culture of seeing education as something to be ignored[2], I believe that this is precisely the reason why we should pay particular attention to groups and individuals, especially children who have not been able to benefit from the principle of equal opportunities, either because of their irregular access to education due to their circumstances, or because they have to go to work instead of school to support their family’s livelihood and subsistence, or because they lack adequate learning tools, or maybe because they live in disadvantaged circumstances and in the case of a family with several children, one person’s illness can make them unable to participate for weeks at a time – or because they lack the help or support they need to get ahead and overcome their disadvantage.

The majority of studies focusing on so-called educational inequalities focus on Roma children but it is also worth investigating the situation of children with disabilities or children with special educational needs, not forgetting that immigration and migration can also play a role in the child’s education.

In relation to educational segregation, we can observe different groupings and concepts, so we can talk about:

– segregation and separation

– de jure and de facto segregation

– segregation within institutions and segregation between institutions

– active segregation and passive segregation

– desegregation and resegregation

– integration as the counterpart of segregation, and

– the so-called ghettoizing institution

Segregation, or otherwise conscious segregation, is the result of an artificial process while segregation, in other words spontaneous segregation, is the result of spontaneous and random decisions. A related pair of concepts is “de jure” segregation, which takes place because a legislative decision creates separation while in the case of “de facto” segregation, this situation is created by individual actions, natural social processes, or the characteristics of a given geographical region. For segregation within the school, some authors cite graded classes as an example but also the practice often demonstrated against children with special educational needs, according to which they initiate or recommend the status of private students. Segregation between schools mostly arises in relation to a given settlement, in relation to the institutions located there. Desegregation is described as the process that eliminates the conditions that create inequality and thus segregation, while we speak of resegregation when the previously eliminated segregated situation re-emerges.

And what is the answer to the question in the title? In fact, what are the consequences if we do not have the opportunity to participate in an education similar to the majority? Does it nuance the situation if we also include in our view that the rise of digitalization also appears in the field of education and if a child due to his social situation has not had the opportunity, for example, to buy textbooks, not to speak about getting the right digital equipment? Could the lack of digital equipment in itself cause a different, but actually perceptible, segregation in education? In my opinion, yes, especially for children living in smaller cities or in backward regions where there are constant interruptions in the electricity supply. In itself, the fact that there are children who have been disadvantaged in some way since birth and that this disadvantage is reflected in the provision of their education and the quality of the education they receive is a matter of fact. The consequence of this – contrary to the saying that a person learns for himself and not for the school – will show itself not only in the life of the individual but also in his immediate and indirect environment, as well as in society after a while. As long as they are still children, they have a chance to rise above their circumstances. Because of this and because of their age, extra attention is paid to them, but after a certain age, they have less chance of doing so. As one of the consequences of educational segregation, I would also refer to the lack of motivation, which is usually closely related to the ability to perform, which can also be closely related to the financial situation. In the long term, this has a significant impact on employment and quality of life after completing studies. Here you can refer to the so-called referred to as resilient children, students who perform well and are motivated during their studies regardless of their – usually financially – disadvantaged situation. However, when examining resilient children, in fact, the type of settlement they live in also plays a decisive role.[3]

I think that not giving someone the opportunity – even from the very beginning, for example in kindergarten or primary school – to exercise their right to education, which is a priority according to legislation and various national and EU or international recommendations and resolutions, just because they have a characteristic that makes them different from the majority, is like asking someone to play a board game without giving them a dice.

[1] For example: studies by G. Kertesi – G. Kézdi, Ferge, Rudnák, Dupcsik and Norbert Szűcs.

[2] B. Csapó (2015)

[3] Tóth Edit – Fejes József Balázs – Patai Jolán – Csapó Benő: Reziliencia a magyar oktatási rendszerben egy longitudinális program adatainak tükrében. Magyar Pedagógia 2016/3. 339-363. p.

Luca Viktória REGŐS is a law student at Eötvös Loránd University and a legal intern at a notary’s office. She was an intern with the presidential cabinet of the Hungarian Constitutional Court.

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