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Czech sociologist on what the Czech EdMin needs to learn

Prague, 15.9.2014 19:23, (ROMEA)
Marcel Chládek, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports (PHOTO:  www.msmt.cz)
Marcel Chládek, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports (PHOTO: www.msmt.cz)

Sociologist Stanislav Biler has published a commentary on iHNED.cz about Czech Education Ministry policy. News server Romea.cz presents excerpts of that commentary here in translation:

You will not find a country in the world that has achieved success by betting on crappy education. Let's try to put together here an elementary list of the myths about the Czech schools that keep eternally resurfacing and that need to be buried in a far-off, forgotten place, as recently the schools have been administered by some sort of secret file combining our experiences of the 19th and sometimes of the 20th century, mythology, numerology and prejudice, as well as some random stirrings of actual thought.

Myth #1:  We must preserve the "practical" (special) schools.

The reasoning here is that because there are enough children, we can write some of them off for the rest of their lives from the start. The effort to preserve the "practical" schools is actually just a demand to preserve segregated schools for Romani children, formulated in other terms.

The purpose of the schools is supposed to be to provide everyone with the same chance to acquire as much education as possible. In the Czech Republic, however, Romani children are automatically sent to the "practical" schools, which ends their chances at acquiring any kind of further education.

This means their chance at acquiring a good (or any kind of) job in adulthood is over when they are still children, as is their chance at being included by the majority society. We must not be allowed to pose the question of how and where to warehouse children from different social environments, as [Czech Education Minister] Marcel Chládek wants to do:  The question must be how to include them in the standard education system. (...)  

Myth #2:  We must test all children uniformly. 

The reasoning here is that it's all the same what children actually know - what is important is to assign them a number that sums them up in a nutshell. We have not yet managed to learn from the tragic course of the unified high school graduation exams, so we are continuing the same approach on a bigger scale.

Obligatory, unified tests are being planned to replace the current high school admissions procedures. Does it matter now that you can apply to college as many times as you like?  

Does it even matter that you can repeat subjects that you first fail? It does not.

In high school you will have one test that tells you whether you will graduate and be able to apply to university someday. What if you happened to sleep badly the night before?

You will pay for such an accident by performing manual labor for the rest of your life. The state needs manual laborers. (...)

Myth #3:  Not everyone has to have a high school diploma, we need more trained apprentices.  

The reasoning here is that Czech industrialists are asking for apprentices - they don't want to pay for high school graduates. The popular cliché that "being good at a trade will always get you work" ignores the question of what those who are just average at that trade will do, or what those who have been trained in a field that no one needs will do.

Similarly, this cliché ignores all aspects of what is involved here - setting up your own business, doing your own accounting, orienting yourself in new laws and tax regulations. These aspects require competencies that a high-quality general education provides, whether you are baking rolls, fixing cars or opening a new café.(...)

Myth #4:  We have too many people educated in the humanities, we need technicians.

The reasoning here is that humanities students are unnecessarily defiant, while firms don't have to pay as much for technicians. This is a myth for which no one has ever found any actual explanation.  

There are not very many people studying in the humanities today in the Czech Republic. Basically, anyone who graduates from any college will find work.

A college degree may no longer be an automatic coupon for a good job, but it is still a guarantee of employment. To update the aforementioned cliché a bit, a good cultural anthropologist will always get work, and an average one will too.

You will not find a country in the world that has achieved success by betting on crappy education, separating pupils into "special schools", establishing quotas for high school diplomas, intentionally flooding the vocational schools with children, and culling certain fields from the colleges. Nevertheless, that is the only strategy that Czech education has long been banking on.

When Dobeš was Education Minister, we got used to banging our heads on our desks every time he opened his mouth. What we learned during his term in office applies to Marcel Chládek as well.   

Stanislav Biler, iHNED.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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MŠMT, segregace, školství, Vzdělávání



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