The Czech education system
The Czech school system is quite straightforward. Children older than two can start preschool, and parents have the legal obligation to place their kids in a preschool for at least one year before they start the first grade. After preschool, children are obliged to attend at least 9 years of schooling.
Elementary school is divided into two levels. The first level is made up of the first five grades, and the second level contains grades six through nine. After completing the first level, children may opt to sign up for an 8-year grammar school, which then continues through high school. Students that complete the mandatory 9 years of schooling can choose to continue their studies at 4-year grammar schools or different specialized high schools and technical schools. There are, of course, also special schools for physically and mentally disabled children.
Grammar schools have either general curriculums or specialize in fields such as natural sciences, languages, or the humanities. Grammar schools and other high schools are finished with the traditional “maturita” exams, technical schools with a practical exam. Students that complete the maturita can go on to university or so-called vyšší odborná škola or “higher school”, which is basically the Czech equivalent of community college. With the exception of fields such as law and medicine, study programs at university are divided into bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels. The biggest Czech universities are Charles University in Prague followed by Masaryk University in Brno, Palacký University in Olomouc, and ČVUT (the Czech Technical University), which is also based in Prague. Many Czech university students take part in the Erasmus exchange program. There also exists a system of art schools and conservatories at the high school level, after which students attend universities such as the Music and Dance Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (HAMU), the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU), and others.
Study programs taught in the Czech language at state universities are tuition-free for Czechs as well as for foreigners. State universities are in general thought of as more prestigious than private ones. Traditionally, the most valued degree is one from Charles University, the oldest institution of higher education in Czechia.