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Former Czech President Klaus to chair committee on National Education Council

Prague, 24.10.2014 20:56, (ROMEA)
Former Czech President Václav Klaus during his 2013 New Year's Day speech (PHOTO:  Czech Television)
Former Czech President Václav Klaus during his 2013 New Year's Day speech (PHOTO: Czech Television)

Former Czech President Václav Klaus is chairing the preparatory committee that will meet to discuss the future form of the National Education Council (NEC). Czech Education Minister Marcel Chládek (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) has confirmed his appointment in an interview with the Czech News Agency.    

The preparatory committee must establish, among other matters, how the chair of the NEC is to be chosen. The minister said it is now far too early to discuss its future composition.  

The Czech daily Deník has reported that Klaus will lead the NEC, prompting reactions of disagreement. The task of the preparatory committee that Klaus will lead is to compile background materials for anchoring the NEC into law.  

"This is a preparatory body for the future NEC. We must clarify what it will look like in operation," the minister said.

The committee will meet to discuss, among other matters, how to chose a chair for the NEC and its other members. "I would like people from different currents of opinion to be represented there," the minister said.  

Chládek has chosen Klaus to lead the preparatory committee because of his distinct perspective on education. However, the mere mention of his name has sparked an outpouring of misgivings.    

"We are surprised to see which Mr Klaus it is whom Minister Chládek has chosen to chair the NEC. It would be understandable had he chosen Václav Klaus, Jr., but Klaus, Sr. has never taken any significant interest in education policy. Let's recall, for example, how [as Czech President] he praised [former Czech Education] Minister [Josef] Dobeš - that was completely incomprehensible, as Dobeš almost destroyed the Czech schools," Zdeněk Slejška, director of the EDUin association, which has long specialized in education, said in an official statement.        

The Anticorruption Endowment (Nadační fond proti korupci - NFPK), Public against Corruption (Veřejnost proti korupci) and Give Us Back Our State! (Vraťte nám stát!) civic initiatives have now addressed the Czech Education Minister over the issue in an open letter. "Education Minister Marcel Chládek, through this personal decision, is legitimizing the legacy of Václav Klaus, which after the presidential amnesty last year is very controversial. This move could be motivated by the business and political interests of Václav Klaus, Jr., which discredits the newly-established NEC at the very beginning of its existence," representatives of the initiatives wrote in an open letter sent to the Czech News Agency.    

The preparatory committee would have six months to create a specific proposal for what the NEC should look like. It is supposed to be an impartial body to guarantee the continuity of education policy irrespective of the political affiliations of whoever happens to head the Education Ministry.

"We are drawing on experience from Finland, where a similar body is  up and running," the minister said. Deník reports that the preparatory committee also includes the rectors of Charles University in Prague and Czech Technical University, Tomáš Zima and Petr Konvalinka, school union boss František Dobšík, and representatives of the Czech Chamber of Commerce.    

The minister is also planning to augment the NEC with experts on preschools and primary schools, he told the Czech News Agency. The legislation to create the NEC should describe how members of the NEC are to be chosen, whether they will have terms of office, and if so, how long they will be.  

"The law might establish that, for example, the chair of the Czech Conference of Rectors would be a permanent member. This will bring representatives of various professional groups together in one body - there are a lot of them, which makes negotiations between them difficult now," the minister clarified.

The minister will meet not only with the members of the NEC preparatory committee, but also with the political parties that are represented in the lower house. He said he wants the NEC to be apolitical, but also said it might be possible for various political parties to have representatives on it. 

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Marcel Chládek, Národní rada pro vzdělávání, Václav Klaus, Vzdělávání



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