A new international school offering British-American style college education for Czech and foreign students is opening in Prague on October 4th. Located close to the city centre, Prague College, as it is called, offers higher education in Business, IT and Design. Its programmes combine general post-secondary education with British and Czech qualifications.
The director of Prague College Douglas Hajek, a Canadian of Czech descent, says the school is filling a niche on the Czech education market.
"We are addressing an area which, at the moment, neither the private English schools, nor the Czech state schools are able to address, and that's the opportunity to have what is considered a traditional college education but less than a university bachelor's programme. We're very happy that we're working with British partners and according to the British model of education, which means that our students are immediately guaranteed this ability to continue on to studies, that their studies are recognised as a level of qualification and a level of education and within the European Union that gives them certain rights as well when they want to enter other universities."
To be able to enter British universities, for example, most Czech applicants must show proficiency in English and foreigners are usually asked to complete an "Access year" or "Foundation programme". Mr Hajek says Prague College will offer an equivalent of this foundation year - a three-semester programme designed to prepare students to enter British universities. But that is only one part of what Prague College is offering.
"We're simply offering one programme in international business which has eleven specialisations. The students may know immediately what the specialisation is; they may be interested in marketing, e-business or standard business administration programmes. Some students may not be sure and according to our educational model they can wait until the second or third semester to decide ultimately what the specialisation is. Because they are studying a modular programme, they choose the courses. In each specialisation certain courses are required and certain courses are electives."
In the Czech Republic, freshly minted high school and university graduates traditionally fill the unemployment offices every summer as they struggle to find jobs straight after leaving school. Prague College promises to give students access to its job recruitment partners and corporate partners as potential employers. Prague College says it aims to develop precisely those skills that employers want and need. These goals have also affected the choice of teachers.
"Our lecturers come from a wide background but in general we're looking for two things. One is the ability to teach. That means we go to very well qualified and proven teachers from the university systems. Some of our professors are teaching right now at other universities in the Czech Republic or have come from universities abroad. But the key criteria are that they are able to teach in a practical manner."
"The second requirement - and this is for certain more specialised topics or specialisations - we want some of our teachers to come from the business environment where they are the most knowledgeable about those subjects right now and we want to give our students the ability to interact with some of these specialists. So on our staff right now we have a combination of both types of teachers."
Prague College claims to be able to tailor its programme to the students' interests, abilities, immediate situation and long-term goals - whether they are coming straight from high school or have many years of work experience.
Mothers with young children who want to boost their qualification at Prague College don't need to seek baby-sitting as the school is offering childcare on its premises.
"It just comes naturally to me and it comes naturally to many of the people who are in on this project. Unfortunately it is not that available here. I think there are some companies that offer day care. We decided that we simply will offer day care for mothers of children two years old or older. They will have day care provided for free during studies. We have a partner on that project, which is a day care provider, with well-trained nurses functioning here for thirteen years. I think the top provider in the country, so we're very happy that that whole day care concept is being realised and we're ready to implement it."
Almost half of private post-secondary schools and universities in the Czech Republic specialise in business studies. A number of them use English as their teaching language, to attract international students and give local students a chance to increase their competitiveness on the international market. In October, Prague College will become a new member in this community.
"In fact one of the reasons why we decided to set up this school in Prague is that Prague has been and should be in the future a centre for education. Charles University has been around a long time as everybody knows but foreign students have been coming to the Czech Republic for a hundred years. We want to continue that trend. We think that the more schools here, the better. Prague really is centrally located in Europe and certainly is a very attractive destination for studies for people particularly from countries further east or countries perhaps that are not yet in the EU but are intending to be.
"So in the long term, our target is to have 60 percent of our students local: it means Czech and foreigners who live here locally, and 40 percent of our students will be coming from abroad. And of that I think the majority will be coming from Russian-speaking countries and the Balkans and a minority - but a significant minority will be coming from England, from the Netherlands (one of our first students who applied is actually Dutch but his parents are Czech.) So we really want to create an international environment here, in Vinohrady in Prague."
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