Education minister planning to do away with memorization-based teaching

Rote learning, the backbone of the Czech education system for centuries, may finally be on its way out. The new minister of education, Petr Gazdík, is planning a radical school reform where the emphasis will not be on memorization, but the ability to find information, verify it and use it creatively. 

Very little has changed in the Czech classroom for decades. The focus is on memorization, backed by standardized testing, with the aim being to cram as much information in pupil’s heads as possible.

Education Minister Petr Gazdík, who took over the education portfolio several weeks ago, says the accent on memorizing vast quantities of information is not what children need in the present day world. However in order to reform a centuries old education system, he will have to convert not just teachers but many parents as well.

“Many parents expect their children to be taught as they themselves were. They feel that if the kids don’t know Archimedes' law by heart in seventh grade, they are being robbed of a good education and general knowledge which will hurt them later in life. We need to explain that this is not the case at all, that it is exactly the opposite. “

Petr Gazdík | Photo: Office of Czech Government

Minister Gazdík says that in future students should have a better understanding of the context of the information gained, know where to find the information they need and how to use it. The ministry wants to complete the curriculum reform next year and introduce it in 2024. Minister Gazdík says he wants a broad debate with experts and the public and is preparing an information campaign for parents.

The reform is being prepared by a team of sixteen experts from various fields. The Ministry of Education also wants to involve various associations in the debate. Hana Chalušová from the Parents' Forum has a clear idea of what is lacking in the present education system.

“Mental health, communication, relationships, health, personal development – those are all topics that should be addressed in primary school and they are all more or less absent nowadays."

Due to distance learning, parents have got more involved in their children’s education and are also coming up with ideas, but Minister Gazdík says that overburdening the system could present new pitfalls.

"Everyone has a lot of great ideas. But there are only so many hours and classes in a day. There should definitely be more time for sport, because children today are not very active physically and also time for a proper media education, because the media influence us so much. I would also really like teachers to have time within the curriculum for project teaching or to discuss present-day events."

The president of the Association of Primary School Principals, Luboš Zajíc says that even with a well-balanced curriculum its success will depend on how well teachers will be able to implement it. Past attempts to reform the system have only ended up on paper, he says.

The ministry’s reform plan is to be ready by April.

Authors: Daniela Lazarová , Eva Šelepová
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