All Czech schools to have Internet access

Deputy minister of education Jaroslav Muellner (left), photo CTK

In February, 1992, the Czech Republic was officially connected to the world-wide computer network, the Internet, which, back then, was a purely academic project. Now - ten years after - the Czech Ministry of Education has launched an ambitious project to connect all Czech schools to the web. Vladimir Tax has the details.

Deputy minister of education Jaroslav Muellner  (left),  photo CTK
This Monday saw the official launch of a project called Internet for Schools which aims to provide all state schools in the Czech Republic with computers and a connection to the Internet. The project also includes a special network called school intranet. Deputy minister of education, Jaroslav Muellner, formally introduced the project:

"By the end of this year, we are planning to provide around 3600 schools with basic information technology equipment and internet access. This is the first stage of the project and it will continue until 2005 when all primary and secondary schools in the Czech Republic should be equipped with basic information technology. They should be able to effectively use it in the education process so that children gain the skills and knowledge they will need when they enter the job market."

That might lead one to assume that there are no computers and internet access at Czech schools at the moment. Actually, many Czech schools already have their own networks and there is a total of about a hundred thousand computers in the primary and secondary education system. Whenever possible, the current infrastructure will be integrated into the new school network. The first stage of the project focuses on schools which have either poor IT equipment or none at all. By the end of this year, they will receive more than 25 thousand workstations and more than 2000 servers as well as laser printers.

According to recent statistics, only about a third of Czech adults use the Internet. It is hard to imagine that the situation is better among teachers, who are now expected to teach children how to use the Internet and use the Internet themselves in the education process. I asked the spokesman for the project, Jiri Chvojka, how the Ministry of Education was addressing this problem:

"In the Czech republic, there are a lot of teachers who are let's say old fashioned who are used to working with paper books etc. and the project includes a program for education of teachers. By the end of 2005, all people working in the education system - which means more than 100,000 people - will be trained to use modern technologies, not only the internet, but also to use computers for accounting, school management etc."

When the first stage of the project is completed by the end of 2002, there will be at least 1 computer per 20 students at every Czech school. This, of course, is not much but as Mr. Chvojka told me, the aim is to achieve a more reasonable ratio of one computer for eight students in 2005.