As decided in Lisbon the European Union plans to become the most competitive knowledge-based economy by 2010. To achieve this goal it strongly supports education and training. After the accession in May, the education system of the Czech Republic will become part of this ambitious plan.
Most students don't know what will change for them after the Czech Republic joins the European Union in May or don't want to answer this question. But as one student from the University of Economics here in Prague puts it:
"I don't think that there will be many changes, because many of the steps towards European integration have already been implemented. Students will face the same changes as all other people in the Czech Republic."
And basically, he is right. The education system stays within the national competence of the Czech Republic. Decisions concerning for example the number of schools or curriculum cannot be dictated by the European Union. The EU can only advise or propose improvements.
But there are several EU programs to promote co-operation among countries. Students and experts can gather experience abroad through the Socrates Program. Part of Socrates, the Erasmus Program, will this year grant scholarships to more than 3,000 university students to enable them to study in one of the thirty one countries engaged in this program. Other programs support for example lifelong education or co-operation between experts. But the Czech Republic has been already taking part in those programs for several years. Josef Vochozka, Head of the Socrates Program in the Czech Republic, explains:
"Concerning the Socrates Programme, it will be practically without any changes. There will still be the same rules, same possibilities, practically the same budged, just slightly higher. But there will some new possibilities, like the program for EU co-operation with USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and other countries. New programs will open for students from the Czech Republic."
May 1st will bring basically only one major change. Students will be able to move and study in other EU member states under the same conditions as domestic students. Until now, they had to undergo a complicated procedure of requiring the residence permit. But is this really a great advantage? Again, I asked the students.
"I think that it is very expensive."
"I am not thinking about doing this."
"I have never though about this, because I am at the end of my studies and I want to have it over with as soon as possible."
"I don't know how much it costs."
There is still a problem with the recognition of diplomas within the European Union. Although member states agreed to recognise any diploma of higher status than secondary school, disputes in this area still remain.
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