Current Affairs Czech schools offering bilingual lessons face legal hurdle

17-06-2014 13:59 | Chris Johnstone

Czech schools which are trying to improve their pupils’ chances in life by offering bilingual courses are now facing a problem. The extra charges that some of them are making for lessons in English are illegal. And that fact looks like putting the brake on one way of improving Czechs’ poor foreign language skills.

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Photo: European CommissionPhoto: European Commission One of the most natural ambitions of parents is to see their children get on in school as a launch pad to the wider world.

And given the fact that Czech is not an international language, for many parents and schools one way of doing just that is by offering part of the curriculum in the main international language, English.

But Czech schools which have opted for that approach and have gone to the expense of specially recruiting teachers or language schools to help them out with lessons in English are now facing a problem. Under the law, Czech state schools cannot make extra charges for basic lessons, only for after school activitites.

Vítězslav Bican is the president of the Association of Language Schools and Agencies which groups around 40 companies and agencies. He says the problem of parents paying for bilingual lessons probably affects a few dozen schools so far who have so far taken the ambitious step of trying to offer such courses. But he does not expect a solution to the problem in the short term.

“I think this government will promote the constitution and the law very strictly, similar to the situation in the health care system, with some special standards for people who want to pay extra for that. They are simply against paying for better standards or services.

“I am in contact with people from the Spanish market, or Spanish schools, and the Spanish government, for example, has the policy to have 100 percent of schools bilingual by 2020. At the moment it is about 40 percent of schools which are bilingual, which means this integrated learning, content and language. And the Czech government has no such target, nothing. They just don’t know. Maybe some government will be able to set out a position or policy to move towards bilingual teaching but I don’t think this government will be able to do that or its possible in this situation. In comparison with Spain we have nothing, it is zero percent. The Spanish have 40 percent now and plan for 100 percent in the next six years. ”

Photo: Lucie ZemanováPhoto: Lucie Zemanová Obviously you think this is quite a big handicap for the Czech Republic? Czech is not an international language, and Spanish actually is.

“They try to do something with that and we don’t. And we can see that. We see students from elementary schools and grammar schools coming to our classes and trying to improve their English because the English or foreign language classes at their schools are just not good enough. And they are not moving anywhere, they are not improving, and so they need more. And we can see the demand from parents very clearly. ”

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