The European Commission's public opinion service, also known as Eurobarometer, recently published a report called "Europeans, Science and Technology". The survey included a short quiz testing the general scientific knowledge of different European nations - and the Czechs passed the test with flying colours.
Let's start with a little test. True or false?: "The Sun goes around the Earth." "The centre of the Earth is very hot." "The earliest humans lived as the same time as the dinosaurs." These were some of the 13 questions put to respondents in European Union countries as well as seven non-EU members. And the Czechs did very well in the quiz. Antonia Mochan is the European Commission's spokeswoman for Science and Research.
"That's right. They had a 74 percent average of correct answers, whereas the EU average of 66 percent. The best country was Sweden with 79 percent and then Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Norway and the Czech Republic all had a 74 percent rating."
The lowest scores were observed in Turkey, Bulgaria and Cyprus; Romanians did only slightly better. A fact that may come as a surprise to those who think all communist countries in Europe had similar education systems.
"I think it's difficult to make a generalisation about the new member states that joined last year. There doesn't seem to be a steady pattern in their success in this little quiz."
Among other former Eastern Bloc countries, Slovenia placed right behind the Czech Republic and the northern European countries with 72 percent. Hungary placed ninth followed by Slovakia, the Czechs' former compatriots. Does the Eurobarometer have an explanation of why the Czechs grouped with the northern countries rather than the other east Europeans?
"Our survey is a survey, obviously. But I think if we look at, for example, Sweden and Finland, these are countries that invest more in science and technology than other European countries, so I suppose that perhaps we can take into account that these are countries where science is really part of the people's daily life in a way that it might not be in other parts of the EU. But whether that explains it for the Czechs, I don't know."
We can only speculate about why the Czechs placed so high on the list. Future surveys will show whether this year's results were only a random occurrence or whether they reveal some long-term trend.
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