The Prague-based CERGE-EI institute on Tuesday presented the results of international research examining how competencies and skills contribute to the success on the domestic labour market. The OECD survey was carried out over the past two years in 24 European countries, including the Czech Republic. While Czechs did pretty well when comparing skills internationally, those seem to have very little impact when measuring success on the labour market. I spoke to Petr Matějů, co-author of the study, and first asked him what particular skills the research had examined:
“There were three major domains of literacy. Reading literacy, which is the ability to work with information in written text, numeracy, defined as an ability to work with quantities and understand information provided in graph, figures etc., and the ICT competencies, ability to find information through ICT competencies.”
How is the Czech Republic doing in comparison to other countries?
“This is the biggest problem. We found out that the Czech Republic is among the countries with the weakest effect of competencies on income. This doesn’t mean that education doesn’t work but it means that people with the same education and different competencies in the Czech Republic have the same income.
“In other countries, especially small, pro-innovation oriented countries, such as Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium, people with the same education but different real competencies have different incomes. Those who have above average competencies may actually earn around 18 percent more than those with the average competencies.”
Why do you think that is so?
“First of all I guess it is mostly due to historic roots of our educational system and labour market principles. The Czech Republic is still a diploma driven country. If you have a diploma, it is a signal for the employer that you do have competencies. In other countries, where the labour market is saturated by people with a diploma, employers check whether there are competencies linked to education.
“Secondly, I think one of the main problems is the efficiency of the educational system to provide competencies to students and to push them to be really competent at the end of their studies and at their entry to the labour market.”
So who do you think is more responsible, the employers or the universities?
“Actually these two are intertwined. If the employers would require competencies to be associated with the diploma universities would adapt to the situation.”
Another interesting outcome of your research is the influence of the social background of students on the education they achieve.
“In most Central European countries including the Czech Republic, the effect of social background on attained education is very strong. The main reason is that the openness of the tertiary education system is incomparably lower than in most industrialized countries.
“Also, our secondary system is a very selective one. So those, who actually are on a back track, we call it dead-end track, have no chance to get in on a higher education, which also explains why family origin is so important in determining education and career.
“But as I said, it is not only the Czech Republic, but also Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. In all the countries the impact of the social background on attained education is extremely strong.”
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