Prague conference highlights importance of teaching Czech children abroad about their roots

Photo: Magdalena Hrozínková

This week Prague has been hosting the 11th International Conference of Czech Schools Abroad. The regular event is organised by the Czech School Without Borders, an NGO that has been helping expand knowledge of the Czech language and culture for 15 years. This year the conference has featured an added tribute to the Velvet Revolution.

Photo: Magdalena Hrozínková

The Czech School Without Borders provides opportunities to descendants of Czech expats living abroad to learn the Czech language and about the country in general.

The NGO has a network of around 60 schools across Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

Many of these schools teach Czech according to the same curriculum as in their home country, and provide successful students with certifications also valid in the Czech Republic. Others are less rigid in their curriculum and focus on providing a basic knowledge of the language as well as Czech literature and culture.

Lucie Slavíková-Boucher,  photo: Magdalena Hrozínková
Lucie Slavíková-Boucher, the chairwoman of the organisation, says that maintaining this link is not only important to the expats themselves, but also for the Czech state.

“For the Czech Republic it is very important, because if it has a generation growing up aboard that does not speak Czech, its connection with the country will be minimal.

“Children will not visit the country as their homeland, but rather as tourists and the state will lose out on many people who might want to work in the Czech Republic, or create some sort of cooperation in the future.”

This philosophy is reflected in a government programme for the support of Czech language education in foreign countries, as well as in the regular International Conference of Czech Schools Abroad, whose eleventh edition has been running in Prague on Thursday and Friday.

Organised by Czech School Without Borders, the event is taking place at the Tuscany Palace under the auspices of Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček and the Ministry of Education.

Representatives from both government departments have also been at the conference, a fact welcomed by Ms. Slavíková-Boucher.

Photo: Magdalena Hrozínková
“Our ministerial partners take part, debating with us the progress of legislature in favour of educating Czechs living abroad."

Other speakers have included academics from some of the country’s leading institutions whose talks have focused on language and literature specific topics, as well as representatives from the DOX gallery, Post Bellum and the Václav Havel Library in Prague.

One of the focuses of this year’s conference has been the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, a “terribly important” date according to the educational organisation‘s chairwoman, because it resulted in people having the opportunity to go aboard.