New English-teaching centres open at Czech ministries

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Two brand new English-teaching centres opened their doors to business on Tuesday, and both of them are located at government ministries - the ministry of interior, and the ministry of culture. The centres aim to improve the generally poor command of English among the country's civil servants. Olga Szantova was at the opening ceremony and brings back this report.

The computers, as well as all the rest of the equipment, and the teaching programs are gifts of the British Council. The Council's director, David Green, explained the project.

"The idea behind this project is to help civil servants in ministries to improve their level of English proficiency in preparation for when the Czech Republic becomes a part of the European Union. So, what we have done is we have implanted in both the Ministry of Education and also in the Ministry for the Interior small self study units with computers and CD-roms to make the learning fun and interactive so that people can really improve their English but in an enjoyable way."

Only these two ministries?

"So far. But we would be interested in extending it further, but we are trying with these two first. They were very keen to join and we'll see how it goes. We do a lot of English teaching across the world in a 110 countries, but I think I am right in saying that this is the first time that we have used this idea of a self-study access centre within a ministry."

Ms Irena Maskova of the Ministry of Education's international department is convinced the English language centre will be very well used, because there is a constantly growing stress on learning the language.

"I'm not sure whether I'm not too biased as an ex English teacher, but I think that it should be very important. Since the government resolution speaks about the necessity of government officials to speak and to prove the qualification with a document, the civil servants have to do that very quickly, within the end of 2003. So they might really use it because they need to pass the exam. These are the directors of departments, deputy directors and people above them, i.e. the general directors of the sections and the deputy ministers and so on. They have to prove their qualification."

Present for the occasion at the Education Ministry was the minister Edvard Zeman, who signed the protocol accepting the centre from the British Council. As you may have noticed, ministers are not included in Ms Maskova's list of officials who have to pass English examinations in two years' time - ministers are political figures, not career public servants. Mr Zeman himself, by the way, doesn't speak English. But he is taking lessons.

Author: Olga Szantová
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