School has started

School has started

For one and a half million primary and secondary school pupils the summer holidays ended this Monday. As always, while first graders were full of enthusiasm and expectations, those who already knew what school was all about, had mixed feelings as the school bell at 8 am announced the beginning of the first lesson. Olga Szantova reports.

A poll carried out towards the end of the two months' summer holiday suggested that 40 percent of pupils were not looking forward to school. Their verdict was simple: "school is boring". One third said teachers had no understanding of their pupils and one in four said that school teaches them things they will never need. This attitude seems so widespread that education minister Eduard Zeman felt it necessary to react to it in his annual speech to mark the beginning of the school year.

Education minister Eduard Zeman
"Last year was a very busy one. We finished the general blue print of our educational system, the ministry also had the new school law prepared, but it failed to pass through parliament by two votes, so I'll be submitting a new bill in the autumn."

And so the majority of pupils came back to pretty much the same classes as they had known in previous years, and to the same teachers, in most cases women teachers. Salaries in schools are such that most men look for employment elsewhere. That, of course, is not a problem unique to the Czech Republic, but one problem which is very specific, is the system of education beyond the age of 15. Only half of those hoping to continue at academic secondary schools were accepted this year and many were rejected not because they lacked ability but because there were simply not enough places. On the other hand, September 1st once again saw numerous vacancies in specialist schools where teenagers go through a practical apprenticeship. This lack of interest is hardly surprising. For example, in the area around the eastern city of Zlin, one in three young people who have completed an apprenticeship fails to find a job, but only one in twenty secondary school graduates has the same problem.

The problems faced by the school system are numerous. There is a lack of computers and modern technology in general, to name just one example. The new school year is certainly full of challenges for all concerned, even bigger challenges than those faced by the wide-eyed first graders who'll have to master the three Rs before next year's summer holidays.

Author: Olga Szantová
run audio