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Czech high school students said to be most exercised over coexistence with Romani people

Prague, 4.6.2012 20:16, (ROMEA)

The Czech NGO People in Need (Člověk v tísni), in collaboration with the Millward Brown agency, has released the results of an extensive survey undertaken among 1 100 students at high schools and vocational training centers regarding their relationships toward current local and global problems, the media, Czechoslovak history, the Romani minority, their political preferences, their satisfaction with their schools, and their willingness to get involved in public affairs. In addition to researching the current state of affairs, the project also compared this year's results with those of the same investigation conducted at the end of 2008 and start of 2009.

This year's survey found significantly greater dissatisfaction among Czech high school and vocational training students. The authors found that otherwise, the lifestyle of Czech youth has not changed much.

"The research produced disturbing results in many respects and confirms trends indicated by the previous investigation and the findings of other projects. The opinions and positions of high school students correspond to a great degree with tendencies manifesting themselves in Czech society as a whole. It seems students are strongly influenced by the media and are attracted rather easily to what seem to be simple solutions to today's problems," said Karel Strachota, director of the NGO's "One World" project in the schools, which implemented the research.

"Compared to the year 2009, a significant shift has occurred in students' perceptions of the main problems in the Czech Republic in three areas: Coexistence with Romani people, corruption, and the economic situation. The image of political representatives and unemployment also remain among the main problems," the authors of the study said. One half of the students responding to the survey said they get their information about Romani people from the media, while the other half said they get their information from family and friends. "The model of students' views about Romani people may be even more ethnically-based, rejecting and rigid than that of the adult population," Czech sociologist Ivan Gabal said of the survey results.

Gabal said that some results of the investigation indicate that the Czech schools are not playing a satisfactory role with respect to the quality of their cultivation of democratically-behaving and thinking citizens. Compared to the year 2009, more young people are saying they are dissatisfied their lives, with the political representation in the country, with corruption and other problems, and 80 % of the teenaged respondents do not believe they can influence solutions to the problems around them.

Youth dissatisfaction with politics is also reflected in their electoral preferences. Most students would vote for either the TOP 09 (Tradition Responsibility Prosperity 09), ODS (Civic Democrats), and ČSSD (Czech Social Democrats), but 13 % would vote for the Česká pirátská strana (Czech Pirate Party) and 12 % would vote for the Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti (Workers' Social Democratic Party). These last two parties are not currently seated in parliament.

Czech sociologist Daniel Prokop said the survey results show that the students' perception of mainstream political parties as corrupt, incompetent and unattractive is a response to significant social questions. When combined with a comparatively weak history of voter turnout and the young voters' positions, that perception pushes them toward smaller parties, frequently even ones which are "anti-system".

The number of students with a negative position on the EU has also grown from 20 % to 35 %. With respect to engagement in public affairs, roughly one-fifth of the students believe their involvement could change something, and about half of those said they were ready to get involved.

With respect to world problems, high school students are most exercised about wars, diseases, terrorism, and poverty. On the other hand, the number of those who labeled global warming one of the world's main problems has declined by 22 %.

"The satisfaction of the students with their lives has significantly deteriorated compared to the year 2009," the People in Need report states, adding that this particularly concerns vocational trainees and technical high school students. Previously, 60 % of the youth surveyed were "rather satisfied", but currently only 42 % are. Those surveyed said they would be more satisfied if they had more money and were done with school. Almost one-third of the youth said they believed life was better during socialism.

The survey found that the lifestyle of high school students has not changed much during the past three years. They most often spend their free time listening to music and communicating with their friends, which they do more through technology than through personal encounters. Students are reading books less often and 42 % of respondents said they either never read books or only do so exceptionally. "Very few students regularly attend the cinema, concerts, theater or take trips into natural settings," the report says.

"These results confirm the need to find a way to bring more young people into participating in civic society and the possibilities offered by democratic society. We will take account of this when we design more activities as part of our long-term project called 'Who Else?', which is focused on strengthening young people's civic responsibility and engagement," said Karel Strachota.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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