From February 1 to December 31 2013, the Dialogue-Pheniben Foundation was carrying out a project entitled Intercultural competence workshops for psychological and pedagogical counseling centers employees which was implemented by the Ministry of Administration and Digitization as a part of the Government Program for the Roma community. The aim of the project was to spread knowledge about the cultural diversity and the social position of the Roma in Poland among employees of psychological and pedagogical counseling centers from the following voivodeships: Małopolskie, Śląskie and Opolskie. Through a series of workshops organized as a part of this project for psychological and pedagogical counseling centres employees, we wanted to draw attention to the need of using alternative tools while diagnosing children of different cultures with particular emphasis on the Roma, and to equip them with the knowledge necessary to support Roma parents in making decisions about the further education of their kids. These voivodeships were selected in connection with a research project carried out in these areas by The Roma in Poland Association with the support of the Stefan Batory Foundation.
In the years 2010-2011 a psychological examinations of the Roma children were carried out in both special and state schools in the Małopolskie, Opolskie and Śląskie voivodships, the purpose of which was to examine their intellectual competences and the impact of the social situation of the Roma families on children’s educational path. We used non-verbal psychological tests (so called Raven tables) which, although available in clinics throughout the country, they used very rarely in diagnostics. Results of the research included in the report “Cognitive and linguistic functioning of the Roma children attending special and state primary schools – social contexts” highlighted the need for changes in the diagnostic process of children of different cultures, including the Roma, and also showed the need to support parents in making decisions about the educational future of their children. It is parents who make the final decision on the educational path of their children, often without basic information about the possible choices and consequences of each decision. It happens due to the lack of orientation in procedures but also because of the lack of education when it comes to large number of parents of the Roma children. The culturally sensitive test is currently being developed by the Psychological Test Laboratory and will probably be pilot tested in the nearest future.
However, there are still no activities that would improve communication between parents of culturally different children, including the Roma, and employees of psychological and pedagogical counseling centers. Employees often do not have knowledge about the socio-cultural specificity of the Roma community. It happens quite often – as the abovementioned research has shown – that children do not have mental retardation, and the basic problem is that they do not know Polish language as well as their peers. Therefore, the need to use nonverbal methods in testing is important in this case. Our project is the answer to these problems and its goal was to organize a series of workshops of intercultural competences for employees of psychological and pedagogical counseling centers in voivodeships where the research was conducted. Psychologists who were also qualified trainers took care of conducting the workshops and developing its program. The purpose of these educational activities was to sensitize the staff responsible for diagnosing children’s intellectual capabilities to cultural diversity in the area of norms and values recognized by the Roma community. It was also important to sensitize psychologists and educators to the needs of the Roma parents who make decisions about the educational future of their children. Six workshops were held for groups of 10 people from selected voivodeships.