OECD puts Czech education system to the test


Some time ago 250 thousand students from 41 countries around the world were given identical exam papers - nothing unusual in that - except that in this case the idea was to grade education systems rather than individuals. The results of this OECD study came out this week and gave the Czech education authorities plenty of food for thought. Daniela Lazarova has been following the story. So, Daniela how did Czech kids do?

Petra Buzkova and Lubomir Zaoralek,  photo: CTK
Daniela Lazarova has been following the story. So, Daniela how did Czech kids do?

"Well, this kind of comparative exam is always good at detecting the flaws of an education system -and this one detected it very easily - Czech kids excelled at maths and sciences, but at the same time they were very poor at comprehension skills. Which reflects the reality in Czech schools, most of which still operate on a "drill" system, with lots of memorizing and written and oral tests, but very little debate or projects in which kids can do some research on their own. There's a tendency to prepare kids for exams rather than teaching them where to look for information and how to apply it. Having said that, it is not totally bleak - Czech kids came 9th out of 41 in the sciences, 13th in maths and 15th in problem-solving. The worst result was in text comprehension where they came 24th which is below average. This it is a serious set back because that is a skill that is vital for most jobs in the present day."

So, is anything being done to rectify this?

"Yes, a new amendment to the law has just come into effect and here's what the education minister Petra Buzkova had to say about it:

"My expectation is that it will give schools much more freedom in deciding how they are going to teach and that in adopting their own teaching plan they will be in a better position to respond to the needs of their students."

So, as we heard the legal framework is there but the change will depend very much on individual teachers and individual headmasters. Which is not as easy as it sounds, because teachers also need to acquire new teaching methods - and although courses and seminars are available - if you have taught in a certain manner for 30-40 years it is not easy to change overnight. The problem is also in that few young people want to be teachers because of the low pay and they would certainly bring a new, fresh approach. So it's not going to happen overnight but minister Buzkova is hoping that the next time the OECD team hands out exam papers Czech kids will be much better prepared."

So in what countries would you find the best teachers?

"Well, if this OECD test is to be believed, then for the best education you'd have to go to Finland, Hong Kong or Korea."