Czech school gives excluded children good teachers and tablets
News server iHNED.cz reports that at the end of October, a tablet-driven classroom was opened at the only school in the Czech town of Jáchymov, which also has its own editing equipment, recording studio, and plans to repair its gymnasium. The change for the better is due to the work of Jan Musil, director of the facility, who is doing his best, through modernization, to ensure access to modern technology and high-quality instruction for children from a socially excluded locality in a place with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country - and one many families have been leaving.
Musil has directed the school for 13 years now. He has been taking advantage of his previous years of experience leading a prestigious language school in Klášterec nad Ohří and writing grants for the Center for Lifelong Learning in Karlovy Vary, which he co-founded.
He has also had the opportunity to compare how the school used to run long before he became its director. “I had taught in Jáchymov for one year, 36 years previously, and I discovered that the only thing that had changed in all that time were the windows,” Musil told iHNED.cz.
His first step was to repair neglected school buildings, but that was not the end of his efforts. His primary aim is for the children to be able to use the most modern equipment and for high-quality educators to teach them.
The school is now gradually regaining prestige. In the near future, thanks to collaboration with Czech Technical University in Prague, dozens more smart-enabled devices will be coming to the school for the teachers that offer new ways of working with children.
“They will attend trainings for one year in order to learn the latest trends in touch-screen technology,” says the energetic pedagogue. Significantly, as news server iHNED.cz reports, instead of a portrait of Czech President Zeman hanging in the classroom, there is one of Jan Ámos Komenský.
Equal conditions for all children
According to the Open Society Fund Prague, the school is the first one in the country where Romani pupils are systematically working with tablets. Musil's facility also practices the principles of so-called inclusive education in its approach to children, endeavoring to provide conditions for the children that result in equal treatment irrespective of a child's disability or social disadvantage, thereby halting the unjustified transfer of children into the parallel educational track of the "practical primary schools".
During the past three years the school has not rejected a single pupil, and only one has been recommended for reassignment to a "practical school" during that time. The director had to transform the school’s faculty in order for this approach to succeed.
Some educators did not agree with talented pupils sitting together in the same classroom with those who have specific educational needs and require more intensive assistance. Just this year the school had to let go a guidance counselor who, behind the director’s back, was attempting to get the local government to agree with separating the first grade cohort into two classes.
The counselor was hoping to teach a class of supposedly "easy-to-handle" children herself, iHNED.cz reports. However, for the town of Jáchymov, from the practical point of view, the school's success is a question of its own survival – if its sole school were to close because no one wanted to send their children there, then families would not have many reasons to remain in the town.
The changes to the faculty and the implementation of Musil's plans are now bearing fruit and classes are filling up again. Many children need individual education plans, but the most important thing is to involve their families.
“Jáchymov is a very good example of [parental involvement]. We always emphasize that you cannot develop children unless the school gets involved in the life of the entire community and brings parents in,” Karin Marques of the Open Society Fund Prague, which has long collaborated with the school, told news server iHNED.cz.
School as a natural part of life
The children have assistants, a psychologist, a special education pedagogue and a speech therapist available right in the classroom. The school is also the first in the Karlovy Vary Region to introduce a school club for upper primary pupils.
"I like it here much more than at the language school in Klášterec. There the children won’t even greet you on the street – instead of being elites, they were just elitists. Children here are coming back to this school and it is become what it originally was – a natural part of life in the town,” explains the director, who could retire in less than 18 months. “If my health serves, I definitely am not planning to retire,” he assures us.
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