Many businesses and economists complain that the number of graduates in the Czech labour force is consistently too low. Data from the Ministry of Education shows that nearly 60 percent of bachelor students in the Czech Republic are not finishing their degree. What are reasons for this high drop-out rate?
A report titled Study Failure At Universities, which was published last year, analysed the various statistics surrounding the relationship between Czech students and the university system. I asked one of its authors, Aleš Vlk, what universities are doing to hold on to their students.
“There are many technical measures that the universities are taking. They give them more time to finish their studies and some extra term time to finish their exams, but also they introduced counselling to help them find their way through their studies. That‘s what we have observed so far in the main Czech universities.”
Vlk however, doesn’t believe this is enough and pointed to the fact that it is not just the toughness of exams that is keeping graduate numbers low. Out of the sixty percent of bachelor students not finishing their degrees, a third are dropping out before their exams have even arrived.
“I think it’s more complex than that and we also discovered a nice study done by Tinto [Vincent Tinto, Professor Emeritus at Syracuse University] and this is the sociologist who actually says that the factor behind increasing dropouts may also be failure in academic and social integration within academia.”
“We therefore suggest that universities should take more care of the students themselves. In order to make them feel at home, confident and well surrounded by colleagues. They should concentrate on doing this in the first weeks of the students beginning their studies.”
The problem is not so one-sided, however. The study also pointed out that students in the Czech Republic tend to be focused on getting into a single university of their choice and if they fail to do so, they simply enrol into another educational institution and reapply the following year. This leads to many students cancelling in the middle of their courses.
I asked Vlk whether this may be partly because of the generous education benefits in the Czech Republic as opposed to countries such as Britain and the United States, where deciding to study is a serious financial commitment.
“Yes, yes. I think that’s partly true that if you have no financial incentive then you choose whatever you want. In fact when we asked the students in the interviews they would say: ‘Ah the first study program. That’s the one you quit and then choose another one.’”