After a two-month holiday, children around the Czech Republic went back to school on Thursday morning. Compared to this time last year the number of school pupils has dropped by over 30,000.
As every year the new school year was started by a speech given by Education Minister Petra Buzkova. She extended a special greeting to first-graders - this year there are 88,500 of them in the Czech Republic.
I'm joined now by Pavla Horakova. So, Pavla, are there any changes in store for the 1.4 million Czech school kids this year?
"Yes, there are, and although they may not sound so dramatic, they certainly will make a difference in the lives of school pupils and high school students. First of all, this year individual schools are implementing new curricula - and the system should eventually be accepted by all schools in 2007. This is part of a school system reform approved last year by parliament. This new legislation reduces the role of the state in education and gives more leeway to the schools themselves. Each school will be able to approach the curricula in a creative way and tailor the teaching methods to the needs of its pupils and teachers.
Does this mean that every school will teach completely differently?
"Well, of course, there will be frameworks for each field and each age group and children will be required to have mastered certain skills and competences by a certain age, so that their results could be comparable. But if a school wants to specialise, for example, in information technology, foreign languages or sports, it can do so within the given framework."
Does this mean more work teachers?
"The new law will require a more active approach on the part of the schools. Putting the curricula together will be time consuming and teachers will be required to regularly further their education, and of course, they will need to cooperate closely within their teams. The new system also encourages parents to take a more active approach in choosing the right school for their child."
"I suppose we could say that the changes in the traditional 'maturita' exam are quite the opposite of what we've been talking about so far. Right now each secondary school writes its own school-leaving tests - a fact that has been criticised repeatedly because the results are not mutually comparable. And it can matter because some universities consider the test results as part of their entrance exams. The tests will be unified and the first 'state' maturita will take place in the school year 2007/2008 which means that it will concern the current students of first and second grades of high schools. But the ministry has promised several trial runs this year and in the coming years and says students have nothing to fear."
Over 1,000 skeletons discovered during renovation of Kutná Hora “bone church”
Language exams for foreigners seeking permanent residency permit to become tougher
Why are Russian and Chinese spying activities in Czech Republic so intense and how exactly do they do it?
Prague’s historical Koh-i-noor factory to be converted into residential area
The history of the “German Czechs”