Minister Bek sets ambitious agenda to transform Czech education landscape

New Czech Minister of Education Mikuláš Bek said fundamental changes are needed to future-proof education. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 16.05.2023 13:09:00 (updated on 16.05.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Mikuláš Bek, the new Minister of Education in the Czech Republic, has outlined his priorities for the Czech education system, the ministry said in a news release.

At a press conference Tuesday, Bek identified fundamental changes that needed to take place including the extension of compulsory schooling, the strengthening of general secondary education, greater emphasis on vocational training at the tertiary level, better access to higher education, and more effective planning and building of school infrastructure. 

The education minister, who replaced Vladimír Balaš in the office at the beginning of May, said he believes that the current education system is outdated, and also spoke about the current overcrowding in primary and secondary schools reflecting deeper deficiencies in the entire system.

"There is a growing belief in the professional community that without this [reform] it is not possible to really improve accessibility between individual levels of education and eliminate differences in accessibility both regionally and with regard to the socio-cultural background of pupils and students," said Bek.

"No child must be left behind just because of where they come from, and none of our children should end their education with only primary school," he added.

Bek also aims to strengthen the general nature of secondary entrance education and allow students to choose their paths based on results and interests during their studies, rather than before starting a specific school.

He said he believes that this approach will better accommodate the indecision of young students in a rapidly changing world. Bek is committed to swift improvements in education and is open to dialogue with the opposition about their priorities.

"Children do not get the opportunity to develop their abilities or are forced to make irreversible decisions about their future careers unnecessarily early.

In Tuesday's presentation, the minister spoke about the need for children to have opportunities to develop their abilities and make informed decisions about their future careers. He emphasized the importance of education as a social elevator that can improve both individual lives and society as a whole.

Bek also criticized the lengthy admission process for secondary schools, advocating for its digitization in the 21st century to avoid unnecessary panic.

The education minister proposed the establishment of a fund for deferred study grants or scholarship support from employers, similar to the system in the U.S.

He also envisions the construction of universal buildings outside Prague that can adapt to the changing demographics and serve as both primary and secondary schools.

As the country faces a wave of fiscal reforms, Bek said implementing such an ambitious plan would require alternative sources of funding.

"Loans should only be made for such investments that will generate additional income in the future,  and this is definitely true in the case of investments in the modernization of education," he said.

Bek stated that negotiations about possible loans from the European Instrument for Recovery and Resilience in the total amount of CZK 45 billion were underway, adding that the Czech state could borrow on favorable terms. 

In addition to these priorities, Bek plans to finalize the revision of framework education programs for basic education and focus on digitalizing matriculation and entrance exams. He is expected to negotiate increased funding for universities and anchor teacher salaries at 130 percent of the average salary.

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