Prague grammar schools top national school-leaving exam rankings

Photo: CTK

The new nationwide school-leaving exams concluded this week at around 1,300 secondary schools around the Czech Republic. According to overall results issued by the Czech Education Ministry on Thursday, Prague’s private PORG grammar school came in at the top of the national top ten charts, followed by other schools in the capital. Nearly 20 percent of students failed the exams, and will have to retake them in September.

Photo: CTK
After years of debates and preparations, national school-leaving examinations were held in the Czech Republic in June, for the first time since the early 1990s, when the liberalization of the country’s education system allowed schools to design their own exams.

Around 87,000 secondary school students sat the new exam in the Czech language and either math or a foreign language; these two parts were common for all the schools in the country. Each school also picked two to three subjects in the other part of the exam. Two levels of difficulty were available for students to choose from; the vast majority of them opted for the easier one. Some 20 percent of them failed the new national exams, and will have to take the test again in September.

While the authorities published overall results of the state exams, they declined to release a complete ranking of all schools. Education Minister Josef Dobeš explains why.

“We were saying from the start this was something we were not going to do. If we did, the exams would become a mere formality. This kind of information is important for the schools and their teachers, students and parents. However, with the approval of the respective schools, we put out two top ten lists, one for of the best grammar schools, and the other for vocational secondary schools.”

Josef Dobeš,  photo: CTK
Among Czech grammar schools, or gymnasiums, Prague’s private PORG gymnasium, managed by the Czech president’s son, Václav Klaus Jr., came at the top, followed by the public Jan Neruda Gymnasium in Prague, and the Catholic Church-run Archbishop Grammar School, also in the capital.

Among secondary vocational schools, Prague’s public Waldorf Lyceum finished first, followed by the Communication Technology Secondary School in Prague and the Masaryk Business Academy in Rakovník.

No other Czech region came even close to the capital, while schools in the Karlovy Vary and Liberec regions showed the lowest rankings. At some 30 secondary schools around the country, up to 70 percent of students failed the exams. Mr Dobeš said he would find out what went wrong.

“The Czech school inspection authority will ask the management of these schools about what they will do to improve their instruction process. When you look at schools with a fail rate of around 20 and 30 percent, there the feedback seems to be working fine. But there are schools with a fail rate of 70 and more percent, and there I see a lot of problems. I’m afraid those schools might have some severe systemic issues.”

Photo: CTK
The project of introducing national school leaving exams has also drawn a lot of criticism from students and teachers alike. While students pointed out some of the tests had basic mistakes in them, many teachers complained about the administrative workload. The Education Ministry promised that their objections will be taken into account so that in 2012, the school leaving exams can run more smoothly and efficiently than this year.