Non-native pupils dropping out of secondary schools due to language problems

The children of foreign nationals who have opted to settle in the Czech Republic, have the benefits of a dual culture, traditions and multiple language skills. However integrating is not always as easy as it may seem and the challenges they face can be daunting.

They have Czech citizenship, often speak Czech without an accent and call this country their home, but children from foreign backgrounds are often at a disadvantage when it comes to completing their education and doing what they want in life.

Many of them live two separate lives – one at home with their parents where they speak their mother tongue – and one with their schoolmates where they quickly pick up the lingo and habits, but still face an uphill task when it comes to competing with their native classmates. Statistics show that they are often at a disadvantage when sitting for entrance exams to grammar and vocational schools and of those who do get accepted only half manage to graduate.

Míša Bui, is a 20-year-old Vietnamese-Czech, who says the problems first appeared when he started studying at a vocational school for the gastronomy and hotel business.

"I've was born here and as you can hear I speak Czech like everyone else. But, surprisingly, the language can still present a problem in everyday life. I only speak Vietnamese at home and so there are areas where my vocabulary is poor or non-existent, because I never hear the words used. So, during my internships in the hotel kitchen I often didn't understand what they wanted from me. They explained it to me too quickly, and there were so many things I didn’t know the name of. I had no idea what they were talking about."

Kristýna Titěrová | Photo: YouTube

Despite the problems, Míša gritted his teeth and carried on. However, many children for whom Czech is not a native language are discouraged by the problems. More than half of them drop out of secondary school every year - about 4, 500. Others don’t even attempts to go to high school.

Although, since 2021 , primary schools are bound to provide Czech language courses for non-native pupils, they get little or no support after that.

Kristýna Titěrová from the non-profit organization META, says that the state is losing out in this respect.

"There is a fundamental lack of language training in the run up to secondary school and non-native speakers often run into difficulties in vocational schools. A lot of them just give up. The society is losing out on their potential – on educating a skilled workforce, which would be possible.”

According to META's calculations, language training of one non-native speaker would cost about 29,000 crowns a year.

The NGO is now negotiating with the Ministry of Education on how to improve language support for non-native speakers at secondary schools and also on special assistance ahead of entrance exams.

According Education Ministry spokeswoman Aneta Lednová, the issue is now being debated and the ministry will issue a special brochure for secondary schools with recommendations on what steps to take at the end of January.