Government puts forward plan to improve Czechs' language skills

10-02-2005

The ability to speak a second language has become a standard requirement if you want to find a good job in the Czech Republic. English has emerged as the foreign language in this country, with 90 percent of students opting for the language. To support that trend, the government has put forward a new policy entitled "English for Everyone". Launched by Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, who himself cannot speak English, it does also aim to improve Czechs' skills in other languages. But, even still, not everyone welcomes the new plan.

The project "English for Everyone" is based on the fact that Czech teachers are in general not well paid and graduates with fluent English prefer to work for international companies which offer much better salaries.

The lack of good language teachers at state schools should, says Prime Minister Gross, be easily solved by higher salaries for teachers of English and other languages. On the other hand, teachers of other subjects will not get a pay rise. Understandably perhaps, they are up in arms about being left behind. Andrea Krizkova, the Head of the Association of Language Schools in the Czech Republic says what her feeling would be:

"I would feel embarrassed because I think it is not fair. It is not fair on anybody. Everybody who is devoted to their job, who is devoted to their work, wants to do the best for their students, wants to teach them the best and wants to provide the quality teaching of any subject. I don't think that teachers who are qualified to teach English should have some sort of perks."

If approved by parliament, the "English for Everyone" scheme will cost ten billion Czech crowns and run for ten years. Given the chronic lack of money in the Czech education system, organising such a project will be far from easy. Andrea Krizkova again:

"In my opinion it is a very hard work to design and work on such a project. Everything must be really specified and clear. Unless we have clear criteria - how many hours are going to be devoted to English, what are the goals what the government expects from promoting English? It is definitely hard work. I think the project must be really worked out."

Despite its name, the project "English for Everyone" is not really for everyone. The government says it cannot afford to support or sponsor any language courses for adults. Such students will have to invest their own money. What's more, prices of language courses are quite high as a result of the Czech government's decision to impose VAT of 19 percent on language schools. Andrea Krizkova:

"If there is a will, a political will to promote English teaching, the biggest help might be if the government decided not to charge 19 percent VAT on language courses. The most schools which are independent organisations are not within the Ministry of Education schemes have to pay the VAT and their courses have to be more expensive."

10-02-2005