5 takeaways from PM Fiala's plan for improving the Czech education system

Modernizing the education system and paying teachers better are among key messages of a last week's conference on the future of education.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 09.11.2022 08:01:00 (updated on 09.11.2022) Reading time: 4 minutes

At last week's Školství 2023 conference that looked at the future of Czech education, Prime Minister Petr Fiala outlined several planned steps: better compensation for teachers, investment in infrastructure, modernizing education, getting rid of unnecessary formality, and spending money more effectively.

In addition to Fiala, participants included Education Minister Vladimír Balaš, Czech Union of Employers' Associations (UZS) President Jiří Horecký, and UZS Vice President Jiří Zajíček, among others. The conference took place on Nov. 3 in the Olšanka hotel in Prague.

Fiala said that this year brought “a special challenge" due to arrival of numerous pupils and students from war-torn Ukraine. "It was a rather difficult situation, mainly because we did not know the exact number of those who would be interested in joining Czech schools for a long time,” Fiala said, according to a transcript on the government website. He thanked educators for integrating 67,000 Ukrainian students into the system.

He went on to say that there was no single step that could resolve all of the current issues, and criticized the previous government’s efforts for being simplistic and not reaching the promised results. “We have to look at the problem really comprehensively and in context," he said.

Teacher salaries will increase

The first priority he outlined was teachers’ salaries, which he said the government wants to increase systematically and in the long term, up to a level of 130 percent of the average salary. “We will link [salaries] to the overall development of wages," Fiala said.

He added that the government was also working on broader changes to give teachers the opportunity for personal development and motivate them to continue their education.

According to Czech Statistical Office figures cited by new server Novinky.cz, the average gross monthly salary of teachers last year was CZK 46,843, which equals 115 percent of the national average salary. Ministry of Education spokeswoman Aneta Lednová said teachers' salaries would reach 130 percent of the national average starting in 2024.

New schools must keep up with global trends

The government is also investing in educational infrastructure, especially as some regions see population increases. “There is a need to build, modernize, and renovate school buildings and increase their capacity,” Fiala said, adding that CZK 14 billion from EU funds will be used for education infrastructure until 2027.

“In the same way, it is necessary to continue the digital transformation of schools so that they can keep up with global trends and not prepare children for a world that is already in the past,” Fiala said.

Prime Minister Petr Fiala at the Školství 2023 conference. Photo: Vlada.cz.
Prime Minister Petr Fiala at the Školství 2023 conference. Photo: Vlada.cz.

Education Minister Balaš said at the conference that there is a shortage of places for pupils not only in Prague and its surroundings but also in Brno, Plzeň, and Mladá Boleslav. Current plans call for the creation of spaces for 22,000 pupils in areas where it is most needed, Balaš said according to Novinky.cz.

He added that 964,571 pupils studied in Czech primary schools in the 2021/22 school year, which is an increase of 169,929 children compared to 10 years ago.

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Higher education should be transformed

A challenge for higher education concerns research and development, which Fiala said has an “absolutely key impact” on how Czechia will perform in the global economy.

“From the point of view of the Education Ministry, this primarily means the transformation of higher education and changes in the organization of doctoral studies,” Fiala said, adding that the National Recovery Plan sets aside CZK 3.3 billion for projects in this area.

One of the main weaknesses of the Czech education system is the unbalanced quality of teaching across regions, according to Fiala. As part of the National Recovery Plan, the government is investing about CZK 2.3 billion in tutoring and supporting pupils in socially weaker regions.

“We are also addressing the issue of the digital divide that threatens disadvantaged pupils. This year's projects are already closed, but the call to prevent this problem will open again next year and the year after,” he said.

Increased spending, funds to be used more efficiently

Education is a significant item of the state budget. Next year, the Education Ministry will manage CZK 263 billion, an annual increase of CZK 17 billion. Over CZK 200 billion will go to regional education, CZK 20 billion to research, development, and innovation, and CZK 31 billion to higher education.

“I mention finances because they are essential for the successful functioning of education, but at the same time we must pay attention to their efficient spending,” Fiala said. He added that more resources needed to be allocated because investments in education can never be enough.

Education Minister Balaš called for more money to cover what is categorized as “other non-investment costs.” He would like an additional CZK 650 million for items such as textbooks, school trips, and compensation for the first 14 days of sick leave for teachers.

More clarity, less formality in education policies

Educational policy must have a clear orientation, be understandable and simple, and must respond well to social demand. “This is clear today: It is necessary for young people to be able to navigate in an increasingly complex world,” Fiala said.

He added that the focus should on the essential things, while unnecessary formalities should be eliminated. This would give schools more space for creative work and for the individual development of pupils, with an emphasis on critical thinking. This should give children a desire for lifelong education.

“I know that this is a long-term and difficult task, but I believe that the policy that we will make will somehow help it," Fiala concluded.

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