The Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, prepared an Analysis of the Legal Framework and Current Status and Practice of Pedagogical Assistants. The initiative was started to strengthen systemic support to social inclusion through the development of educational potential and improvement of the framework for the activities of pedagogical assistants.
The goal of the analysis is to examine the relation between the daily practice of pedagogical assistants and their role and activities regulated by law. The analysis of the data obtained will help define recommendations for amending and harmonizing legal regulations, improve the support system for students and improve the status of pedagogical assistants.
The analysis contains data on the profile, competences and employment status of engaged pedagogical assistants, an analysis of the legal framework, practice and scope of their work, a projection of needs for pedagogical assistants, as well as recommendations to improve the status and activities of pedagogical assistants.
The Law on the Fundamentals of the Education System introduced pedagogical assistants into the education system to: provide help and additional support to children and students in accordance with their needs and to help teachers and expert associates to improve their work with children and students requiring additional educational support. In their work, pedagogical assistants cooperate with parents, and/or caregivers, and in cooperation with the principal they also cooperate with competent institutions, organizations, associations and the local self-government unit.
The role of pedagogical assistants, formerly Roma assistants, now pedagogical assistants, developed significantly through trainings and practical daily work with children in institutions and in accordance with the needs and changing situation in the field. In parallel with the evolution of the status of pedagogical assistants, the list of their tasks increased, along with the effects of their work. Data obtained during consultative meetings and through an analysis of the results of surveys implemented show that pedagogical assistants today are a significant form of support for children, students, their families, teachers and institutions in general. The institutions that have pedagogical assistants today value this systemic measure highly.
All research to date indicates that inclusive education of Roma children would be hard to achieve without the support of (Roma) pedagogical assistants and that they represent one of the key pillars of social inclusion for the Roma national community in Serbia. Likewise, the contribution made by pedagogical assistants during more than a decade of activities aimed at increasing the accessibility of education, preventing drop-out, stimulating equal quality education for all children, improving school success and attainment for children, as well as indicating the harmfulness of discrimination and segregation, confirms that pedagogical assistants today are an important resource of practical knowledge, experience and skills.
Pedagogical assistants have an important role in increasing inclusive culture and practice within institutions, accessibility and increasing the quality of education and educational outcomes, stimulating social cohesion within the institution and at the community level, developing democratic values within and outside the institution (such as accepting and understanding differences, tolerance and non-violence). Pedagogical assistants support both the child and the institution – they help sensitise the collective for the needs of children from sensitive social groups.
One of the key contributions of the work of pedagogical assistants is that they have shown that inclusive education is not intended only for “inclusive children” (meaning children with development disabilities and children from socially vulnerable groups), but all children – this way, instead of a society of exclusion, an inclusive society, i.e. a society of equal opportunities for all children, is being continuously promoted.