Bilingual schools made available to all children with special needs
Ljubljana, 22 September - The National Assembly passed on Friday legislative changes that enable special education bilingual Slovenian-Hungarian schools and schools with Italian as the medium of instruction to accept children with special needs who live outside the areas populated by the two ethnic minorities.
The government-sponsored changes to the Act on Special Rights of Italian and Hungarian National Communities in Education, which was fast-tracked in parliament, were unanimously passed with 77 votes in favour.
As Education Minister Darjo Felda told the MPs today, the existing regulation prevented children with special needs from attending schools that implement adapted and special programmes in the ethnically mixed areas if they did not reside in these areas.
Under the changes, parents who reside either temporarily or permanently outside the ethnically mixed areas will have the opportunity to enrol their children in special education schools in such areas under the law governing education of children with special needs.
The parliamentary group consisting of the Italian and Hungarian MPs endorsed the changes, with Hungarian MP Ferenc Horvath saying that they would make it easer for parents who resided outside the ethnically mixed areas, and who wanted to enrol their children in special education schools in such areas due to work obligations or other reasons, to reconcile work and family life.
He said that the changes had been drafted after years of calls from the Lendava II bilingual primary school, the Hungarian minority organisations in the northeastern region of Pomurje, and the local authorities in Lendava.
Horvath added that there were still some open issues in this field, including the possibility of foreigners attending the bilingual primary school.
The coalition MPs also noted reconciliation of work and family life, in particular for families with children with special needs, and added that the changes improved the efficiency of special need programmes and reduced the risk of their abolition.
Franci Kep of the largest opposition party, the Democrats (SDS), said it supported the idea as it came "from the local communities, i.e. people who know the situation and are facing challenges on the ground".