An estimated 15,000 young Ukrainians who should enroll in secondary schools in the Czech Republic are still outside the education system, according to data from the Ministries of Education and the Interior. Education Minister Vladimir Balach (Stan) told Radiohornal that according to his analysis, the reason is poor knowledge of the Czech language.
You are preparing a media campaign on social networks specifically for Ukrainian teenagers and their parents to apply to secondary schools. But secondary school principals often say: We can’t accept them because they don’t know Czech.
Yes, this is one of the reasons. I have a short, quick analysis from a Ukrainian woman I asked him about who he has connections on social media. Ukrainians mostly use different social networks than we do. I think it has Telegram, TikTok and other things. I turned to the Ukrainian community and immediately found out what these reasons are. One of those points is ignorance of the Czech language.
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Unfortunately, we were not able to learn Czech well enough in a short time, especially teenagers. So any education faces these limits. It will take some time before he learns the Czech language properly. Now the question is what is the best way. If not to modify the method of education in some way adjustment groups.
It is certainly more effective to incorporate them into the normal educational process in Czech schools, and it is likely that they will gradually learn the Czech language more easily and spontaneously. There are subjects where it is easier – mathematics, art education, there are subjects where it is more complicated. I don’t even think there will be a problem with the English language. So it depends on what the topic will be in general.
I’m not sure if we can rate their knowledge of the Czech language very well. But it may be a good idea to set certain standards of language knowledge. Of course we cannot provide the same requirements for them as Czech children when they are here for two or three months.
Another problem is that there are children who have already completed part of their education, somehow integrated into Czech society, so they are better off. Then there are the relatively recent ones.
So the approach must be very individualized. Some extracurricular activities and the opportunity to meet Czech children after school should also serve this purpose. It will continue.
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I understand the teachers’ concerns, but this is something to manage because if the kids are in school, it will allow their parents to find work. By doing so, they can contribute to the creation of our national income, and they can contribute to social and health insurance. It is a win-win strategy. I believe that keeping children in school is not only in the interest of the children themselves and their parents, but also of the Czech Republic in general.
Undoubtedly, because when they drop out of the education system, they end up only in unskilled work, they will have a low income, and they are often unemployed …
Yes, it is expensive for the state.
The organization META, which focuses on the education of foreigners, notes that the Czech education system in general has trouble educating people with different mother languages. According to their statistics, 53 percent of 18-year-old foreigners no longer study. According to a survey by PAQ Research, 55 percent of Ukrainian refugees aged 15-17 do not speak Czech at all.
Our campaign and efforts to bring them into school and teach them the Czech language should target them. And even with a delay of six months or a year, they can then be somehow integrated into the system, provided that they do not return to Ukraine. I think this is possible.
And for this we have funds available not only from the state budget, but also from UNICEF or some non-profit organization. I think we will succeed. You just need to choose the information channels that you use yourself.
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It has a whole host of other positive results. In addition to integrating and educating them, it should also contribute to their well-being and mental health. That’s what matters, what we’re working on. We have working groups for this and we’re just trying to fine-tune the system so that it starts to run more efficiently.
Of course, we have cooperation with Ukrainians, both with the local embassy and with the Ministry of Education. They of course realize that the children’s integration is a problem, so they are a little concerned about not losing touch with their homeland. But they also know that there is no other way.
In order not to “revoke citizenship”, both the Ministry of Education and the embassy, for example, are planning some online courses for Ukrainian pupils who are abroad. For example, Saturday schools where the Ukrainian language will be taught, let’s say history and other important things precisely in order to maintain contact with their own environment and to avoid what could be considered a kind of assimilation. And it isn’t. They realize that this is integration.
The attraction to education
Adaptation groups, specifically, have been extending the support program for high school students since September. This has not happened yet. And some of the high school principals I spoke with call it zero years. Can it be considered as a zero for pupils who did not attend secondary school? Is this a concept you would support from above? But on the other hand, they will not have the status of a student. They will be unemployed for our state.
True, they will not receive student status. But it is an exceptional case and it is definitely important to teach them Czech first and only then to teach them. But there may be an opportunity in some cases to teach them in English as well. They are relatively well equipped with English skills, but we don’t have teachers, so there is a problem of that sort somewhere.
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I still believe that most children will be naturally integrated into our schools. These are zero classes or groups in which they will mainly learn the Czech language, and perhaps it will be combined with online teaching from Ukraine, so there will not be many of them.
But the fact that they do not have the status of a Czech student does not mean that their education will be no different. It is also necessary to coordinate with the Ukrainian side on how things are going. What we saw in Ukraine shows that there is an interest in children’s education on their part. They have a relatively well-developed online system. They also have textbooks, e-books and paperbacks for that. They are able to distribute it. They themselves know that they have about six groups of children in different areas, but they want to reach them all.
So in that regard, I think if they don’t have our student status, that doesn’t mean they won’t go to school. But we have to find them in cooperation with them and attract them in some way through education.
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If these kids are taught mainly online and learn Czech, that’s fine. And at least in those extracurricular activities, we must integrate them and connect them with Czech students and pupils. This is definitely very important and I think I will succeed.
And I mentioned that we have problems with the education of foreigners, with their education in the Czech language. We generally have problems teaching foreign languages, you have noticed, and we should improve that too. Surprisingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, we have problems teaching foreigners the Czech language.
And maybe we can try to figure out how to do it elsewhere, because there are countries where it’s not a problem. But it’s often not a problem here either. I just think it is necessary to focus on some conversational skills, not to crush children with words and grammar and let them learn the language spontaneously. And I don’t know why he’s still rubbing a little here.
In this regard, you can put some pressure on secondary schools, as you point out, to be more lenient with Ukrainians, to accept them to study, even if their Czech is not quite perfect, to lower the limit a little. Or they are organizing some fun activities for them or they are actively looking for young Ukrainians to join the adaptation groups. Is it possible?
School administrators have had this option for a long time. As part of the laws of Lex Ukraina 1 and Lex Ukraina 2, there is also a systematic instruction of the Ministry, and most managers do this. But it must have meaning. If the child does not know the Czech language at all, then it makes no sense to passively sit somewhere. First we have to teach them the language. Or try another form of education.
There is a common option, but as I said, the most natural thing is to learn the language by calling my Czech friends. And in many cases it works.
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We were in the adaptation group in Pribram, so teaching Czech there was – say – traditional, but many of the kids speak decent Czech, also thanks to the fact that they already have Czech friends. With children, the smaller they are, the easier, of course.
Other than that, when it comes to kids who want to go to university, you can of course find subjects that are taught in English. I found that they speak English very well. They have been learning English since first grade, and it doesn’t work with us. Perhaps the first foreign language should be learned in kindergarten. Everyone resists this in some way, because it is dangerous. I don’t know why, but maybe it will come at some point.
So there are options and we can recommend them, but the final decision has to be taken by the principal who must assess the particular situation with respect to the best form of education. If it is good to put the child in a regular classroom or if it is good to be in a group where he will learn Czech first.