Czech children return to school
After nine weeks away, Czech school children and secondary school students have returned to their classrooms. Among the 1.4 million pupils are also 93,000 first graders - the number is up again after several years of stagnation or decline and reflects a slight increase in the birth rate in 2000.
Compulsory primary education was introduced in the Czech lands by the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa in 1774, even though primary schools existed long before that even in small villages, often founded along with local parishes. In many cases the teachers were church wardens or retired soldiers, often lacking any qualification for the profession. It was not rare that the children left school without having acquired even the most elementary knowledge.
Almost a hundred years later, in 1869, compulsory education was extended from six to eight years and attendance was more strictly monitored. After several changes were introduced between 1945 and 1989, it was established in 1995 that children in the Czech Republic are obliged to complete nine years of schooling.
The starting school year 2006-2007 is the last time when primary schools use old curricula. The trial run of a new system will be completed this year and as of next September, all schools will follow a new set of courses. The aim is to reduce the central role of the state and give more leeway to the schools themselves, which can choose how to teach certain topics. However, there will be a number of given frameworks so that the knowledge mastered by children by a certain age could be comparable and compatible.