Mixed results for Czech Republic in OECD education report

Tuesday saw the release of the latest OECD "Education at a Glance" report, which came out simultaneously in all member countries. The report, which uses a wide variety of factors to compare levels of education, was presented in Prague by Michaela Klenhova of the Institute for Information on Education.

"In many ways our education system is on the average level in comparison with other OECD countries. We are better in education attainment, especially in upper secondary education attainment, but we are worse in the financing of education and in teachers' salaries."

Teachers' pay may be lower than average in the OECD, which takes in countries from Switzerland to Mexico. In general terms, however, Czech education is on a par with other states in the region.

"Our country is very similar to other post-communist countries, such as the Slovak Republic, Poland, Hungary and others."

One of the factors used to compare education in different countries is the number of pupils per class, which in the average Czech elementary school is 21.3. Petra Zieleniecova also works at the Institute for Information on Education.

"I think it is quite average, you know. It is a little bit higher than the OECD average, but not very much higher. In this respect I don't think there is a problem in our country. Compared to the numbers which were usual some 15, 10 years ago, the numbers are much better."

Do you think it's a pity perhaps that this OECD report doesn't compare other things, such as respect for teachers, which I think is maybe higher here than in some countries?

"There is no indicator which is measured in OECD countries dealing with dealing with the respect of students to teachers. I think the situation here is - compared to other countries - a little bit better. But the situation is changing to the negative side of the problem."

One thing that stands out in the report is the fact only a third of Czechs go through third-level education, compared to the OECD average of half the population. And given the fact that there are very few places to study, for instance, philosophy, but relatively many to study economics, I was curious if the Czech Republic still had a kind of "planned economy" attitude to higher education. Petra Zieleniecova says that is not the case.

"You should know that the universities have 100 percent autonomy here. I feel somehow that there is not enough will from universities to change this situation."