Why are Czech students less happy to be back in school than their global peers?

Photo: ČTK/Radek Petrášek

Most children in the Czech Republic returned to school on Monday following the summer break. Compared to their peers worldwide, however, fewer look forward to being back in the classroom. This stems in part from a lack of positive feedback and individual attention from teachers, but also a lack of support from classmates, various studies show.

Photo: ČTK/Radek Petrášek
According to the latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, fewer Czech pupils say ‘Yes’ when asked “Do you like to go to school?” than in most countries surveyed. In Portugal and Turkey, 95 percent of kids said they liked their schools compared to 68 percent of Czech schoolchildren.

The global survey ‘Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children’ (HBSC), done in coordination with the World Health Organisation every four years, confirms the phenomenon, says Dr Petr Baďura of Palacký University Olomouc, who has helped compile and studied the data.

“The HBSC study investigates the health and health behaviours of children and adolescents in the social context – this means school, family and peers.

“We are not primarily focused on school, as such. In general, the research topics include physical activity, eating behaviour, health and well-being, body image, violence, and so on.

“We study these in the social context of adolescence, which includes the school environment.”

And there seems to be kind of a disconnect, in that Czech students are performing well in science, mathematics, a bit less so in reading – but they don’t feel good about themselves and don’t look forward to school.

“Exactly. Officially, our last data comes from the year 2014, and it states exactly this – that Czech children, in the context of all the countries in the HBSC study, are below average regarding school engagement.

“There are very few students who enjoy going to school in the Czech Republic, compared with other countries. And the second problematic indicator that we found is that Czech children rate their classmates’ support as very low.

Photo: ČTK/Václav Pancer
“This is something we found problematic already in 2014. Preliminary results from 2018 indicate that there has been a decrease in school engagement as well as in classmate support.”

“We were already at the bottom of the HBSC ranking, and there has been a decrease in both of these indicators since then.”

The Czech School Inspectorate argues that both students would be far happier if the system allowed for greater interaction within the classroom, rather than ‘sage on the stage’ style lectures, and more space for individual support.

That would require pumping a lot more money into the educational system. While the current government has made increasing teachers’ salaries a priority, Czech expenditure as a percentage of GDP (for all educational levels combined) is among the lowest in the entire OECD. Czech teachers make only 60 percent of what other university grads do, the lowest percentage in the OECD.