By:

23-12-2001

Well, it's more than 20 years since I graduated from the Philosophical Faculty of Charles University in Prague, so I may not be the right person to assess the level of schools in the new era. Under Communism, all rules were set, there was no chance of straying from the established status quo and neither me nor any of my colleagues were pondering over the education system - whether it was good or not. Moreover, all of us studied free of charge, and student canteens and campuses were something everybody could afford.

There are many critics of the present-day Czech education system. Let's take for instance post-graduate students, who continue their studies after finishing 5 years of university, in order to gain the title of a doctor. But besides the title, many of them simply want to increase their qualification for a future job, get a scholarship abroad, boys can rely on postponement of their military service and last but not least - they remain eligible for all student advantages such as cheaper public transport, staying at a student hostel and meals in student canteens. But while students of the arts usually work while studying - by which they help to solve their finances, students of technical branches usually devote all their time to their post-graduate studies.

But post-graduate students meet with all kinds of problems, such as the lack of materials in their branch. In that case they have to resort to ordering their study materials from other than university libraries, which costs precious time. Second - a lot of universities don't have enough money to buy the equipment future scientists need for their work. It can also happen - as was the case with a young student of biology - that after a thorough preparation from all accessible literature she started to grow a special kind of micro-organisms but despite doing all she could - and knew about the problem - all her micro-organisms died. When she turned to her tutor to ask for advice, he told her: your effort is praiseworthy but nobody in the world has ever succeeded to reproduce this kind of micro-organism. So who was responsible for her preparation?

Well, it all seems to start at primary schools - as at least one computer with the internet in each primary school is still a dream of the future. The Ministry of Education does not have not enough funds to satisfy all. The minister, Eduard Zeman himself, was in an unenviable situation two months ago, when university students went on strike to make him keep his promise and pump two billion crowns into schools next year. Mr. Zeman succeeded in finding the money from next year's state budget, but if 2 billion will be of any help to heal the ailing education system in the Czech Republic remains to be seen.

23-12-2001