A new policy could see Czech schools drop the second language requirement

The proposed curriculum change would be one of the most significant changes to come to Czech primary school in decades.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 04.04.2022 12:06:00 (updated on 04.04.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

The Czech Education Ministry is planning the most significant reforms to school curricula in the past 20 years. One major revision under consideration would lift the requirement for Czech primary school pupils to learn a second language after English.

The public will be able to comment on the draft of the Framework Educational Program (RVP) for primary schools at least until April 21. The final version should be ready at the beginning of 2023 and then officially published in September. The first schools will start teaching under the revised program in September 2024, and all the others a year later.

“I consider the revision of the framework educational program for basic education to be the most important task in the role of a minister. If we are to change Czech education, we must change the content of education,” Education Minister Petr Gazdík said.

He added that education needed to find a balance between clinging to unnecessary details and ignorance that makes people dependent on web searches for basic information. “We will emphasize critical thinking, looking for connections, understanding the text,” Gazdík said.

For the past nine years, pupils have been choosing a second language after English. It began as an option in the 2011/12 school year and became mandatory the next year. If the new RVP is approved in its current form, then from September 2024 the possibility of choosing a second foreign language would again be optional.

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Gazdík told news server iDnes.cz that the revision of the Framework Educational Program is at the beginning stages of the discussion. “The aim is to help children with specific learning disabilities or very weak pupils to master one foreign language better, as shown by practice in schools,” Gazdík said.

Should children be required to learn a second foreign language after English?

Yes 56 %
No 44 %
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The framework would also create smaller groups for learning a second language, which could improve the quality of teaching. Gazdík said five students per group would be an acceptable minimum for a class. Currently, at least seven students are needed.

The approach to teaching a second foreign language is not uniform across Europe. The Czech Republic would be adopting a similar system to Spain or Sweden. Schools must offer a second foreign language, but students are not obliged to learn it.

“I am pleased that the expert panel agreed on an optional second foreign language practically unanimously. It really causes some problems for some students. I would very much like students to be able to learn one foreign language, but well, and everyone who wants to learn another foreign language has the opportunity,” Gazdík said, according to news server SeznamSpravy.cz.

Most educational experts are in favor of the proposed change. “In my opinion, this gives students a choice so that if they do not have the skills to master two foreign languages, they can devote themselves well to one in greater depth and manage it so that they can use it," said Luboš Zajíc, president of the Association of Directors Primary Schools, told Lidové noviny.

Jiří Zajíček, the chairman of the Union of School Associations, also was not a fan of a second mandatory language. He prefers that pupils would have the option to choose something that they find more interesting.

“Not all students are linguistically gifted. Also, the connection to teaching in high school is not always possible. Some schools do not teach a second foreign language or it is a different language than pupils learned in primary school,” Zajíček said.

The proposal divides education into core and developing curricula. The core includes the basic knowledge that every pupil should have. The developing part would be based on the pupil’s talents and choices.

There plan also defines two key literacies and seven key competencies. The literacies are verbal (reading and writing) and mathematical, while the competencies are learning, problem-solving, communication, social and personnel, civic, work, and digital.

“Key competencies represent a functional link between knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes. They are not tied to individual subjects but are interdisciplinary. They develop throughout life, not just at school,” the Education Ministry states.

There will also be changes in mandatory testing, which would take place in the fifth, seventh, and ninth grades, and changes to the secondary school entrance exam, which will be more focused on literacy and competence.

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