A school where learning and fun go hand in hand? It's not a myth, says Prague educator

Now in its third year in Prague, the BASIS School offers international education from preschool to high school graduation.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 07.06.2023 13:00:00 (updated on 07.06.2023) Reading time: 5 minutes

This article was written in cooperation with the BASIS International School Prague. Read more about our sponsored content policy here.

This successful BASIS network of schools has been operating in the U.S. for more than 25 years. It was founded by Czech native Olga V. Block who started the school in 1998 when she couldn't a suitable educational path for her daughter. Three years ago, Block opened a BASIS school in Prague. It offers international education from preschool to high school graduation.

We spoke with Pavel Růžička, who was involved in the founding of BASIS in Prague and now holds the position of the Business Development Director, about what makes the BASIS educational concept so unique.

BASIS International School Prague offers continuous education from preschool to high school graduation. But so do many other schools. What sets your educational concept apart?

BASIS International School Prague uses the time-tested and successful curriculum of the American network of BASIS Charter Schools, which focuses on supporting critical thinking, analysis, problem solving and creativity. Our spiraling curriculum technique also plays an important role. Major topics are revisited in each grade with increasing complexity. This way, the students' knowledge and skills naturally grow and are deepened over time.

In addition, we ensure our students have fun while learning. The lessons are accompanied by a variety of practical exercises and experiments. Our experience is that when children are exposed to a positive learning environment at an early age, they become interested in education, and learning becomes a natural part of their lives.

English is the main language of the school. Do children you accept to BASIS International School Prague have to be able to speak English at even a basic level?

It is of course an advantage if a child already has certain basics of the English language. However, it is not necessary for the introductory (zero) and first grade. For the higher grades, a certain knowledge of English is expected for admission. In any case, everyone at the school is ready to help the children and give them maximum support. The children are surrounded by an English-speaking environment not only during lessons, but also during lunch, breaks, and leisure activities, so they continue to absorb English very quickly and master it easily.

You recommend enrolling a child into your introductory grade (grade 0) as early as 5 years. What's the benefit of starting a child's education this early?

At the age of 5, children are very curious and capable of learning, and we consider it to be unfortunate if this potential remains untapped. However, it is necessary to respect the younger age of the children and adapt the form of education accordingly. In addition to acquiring knowledge, our program for children aged 5-6 years helps them to focus on one activity for a longer (but reasonable) time, perceive and follow the teacher's instructions, and practice communication with the teacher and other children. In the introductory – zero grade, children learn these principles gradually.

Very often, children in Czech state schools are taught in a much more classic, formal way, sitting at a desk and listening to the teacher's lesson. Is it different at BASIS?

Our students sit at their desks and listen to the teacher’s lessons as well, but the involvement of the students during a lesson is completely different. We purposefully teach the main subjects in longer blocks of time, so that there is enough time for practical experiments and back-checking of the acquired information.

Students are much more intensively drawn into a lesson and, especially during the practical part, dialogues arise between the teacher and the students themselves.

We do not want to rely on parental support for home preparation and we want to minimize it. Our school day is longer than in a traditional Czech school, so we assume that children will learn everything they need during school.

The BASIS curriculum works on the principle of connecting individual subjects and on emphasizing interactive teaching. Can you describe in more detail what this looks like in practice?

In the lower grades of primary school, we teach key subjects (mathematics, natural sciences, humanities, etc.) together. This way, over time, students become more and more aware of the connections between individual disciplines, which strengthens their abilities for critical thinking and deeper understanding. For example, in the subject Math & Science, i.e., mathematics and natural sciences, children will learn about the division of animals into mammals, birds, fish, etc.

In numerical operations, they must then add up all the birds or invertebrates in the picture. And for example, in the Humanities, while telling stories about ancient Rome, it can be a combination of history and geography, because the children will also learn where Rome is located. This connection of individual disciplines is one of the pillars of our curriculum.

Today technology in the classroom such as the use of interactive whiteboards and tablets in education is becoming more and more widespread. Does this also apply to BASIS?

In the 21st century, modern technologies are an integral part of our lives, and it is a misconception to think that we can completely isolate children from them. We, therefore, include interactive teaching using tablets, digital content, and other technologies in our curriculum. We emphasize that students learn to use technology meaningfully and productively, for example, to search for information, to practice the subject matter, and to learn in general.

BASIS has therefore developed its own educational software platform SPORK. SPORK allows our teachers and authors to create course content and share it with students via tablets or other devices. In the lower grades, the content takes the form of interactive tasks that the children are interested in and look forward to. They are thus able to adopt acquired knowledge and skills in a very unintrusive way. In this way, teachers receive accurate feedback on the extent to which students understand the material discussed in class.

You are growing! The villa in Podolí, where BASIS is located, can only accommodate a few more grades. What's ahead for you?

This year we will complete a pavilion with two more classrooms, and in the future, we are planning another extension that would complete the school with an indoor sports field and other necessary spaces. For the further continuation and expansion of the school, we have recently purchased a five-story villa with a large garden in Prague's Bubeneč. After the reconstruction and completion of the building, we should welcome the first students of the upper level of our school there in approximately three years.

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