Czech School Inspectorate
Overview of Education System
Responsibility for schools in the Czech Republic is distributed among the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports, regional education authorities, and municipalities. The Ministry sets policies and assesses the state of the development of the education system. For example, the Ministry defines compulsory educational components, is partially responsible for funding public schools, and oversees the school register, a tool used to ensure that all students have access to appropriate educational opportunities. Among other responsibilities, the Ministry oversees institutions that provide professional development for teachers. The Ministry also retains direct control of several institutions related to institutional or preventive care, such as orphanages, detention centers for juveniles, and schools for students with physical needs or impairments. The Czech School Inspectorate serves as the main state authority responsible for monitoring school quality (at the preprimary, primary, secondary, and post-secondary levels).
Between 2001 and 2003, regional education authorities were established, fundamentally decentralizing the education system. The Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports retained its policymaking responsibilities but transferred administrative responsibilities to the regions. After decentralization, the regions assumed responsibility for secondary schools and post-secondary technical schools. Municipalities are responsible for nursery schools and for basic schools, which provide compulsory primary and lower secondary education, and guarantee their funding (except for salaries and instructional equipment, which are funded by the central government indirectly via regional education authorities). Some schools are run by private entities or denominations, and are required to fulfill a set of criteria in order to obtain state authorization and receive state funding.
Nursery schools provide education usually for students ages 3 to 6, as part of preprimary education. Attendance is not compulsory, but 88 percent of children in this age group enroll, rising to 91 percent of 5-year-olds (the year prior to compulsory schooling).1 This final year of preprimary education is free of charge, and children have a legal right to attend. The availability of care for children younger than 3 is quite limited. The percentage of 2-year-olds attending nursery school is 34 percent.2
Basic schools provide nine years of education at the primary and lower secondary levels, and attendance is compulsory. The primary level lasts five years for students ages 6 to 11, and the lower secondary level lasts four years for students ages 11 to 15. At the end of the primary level (fifth year), students may leave basic school to start an eight year track of general secondary school (eight year gymnasium) or of dance conservatoire, where they may complete their compulsory education within the first four years of study (by age 15). Similarly, at the end of the seventh year of basic school, students may start a six year gymnasium after passing an entrance examination set by the school. Approximately 12 percent of students study in a multiyear gymnasium or dance conservatoire. All public basic schools are free of charge.
Three kinds of school provide upper secondary education: gymnasium schools, providing general academic programs for 24 percent of students ages 15 to 19, culminating with a school leaving examination; secondary technical and vocational schools for 50 percent of students ages 15 to 19, also culminating with a school leaving examination; and secondary vocational schools for 26 percent of students ages 15 to 17 or 18,3 offering an apprenticeship certificate without a school leaving examination. Prerequisites for acceptance into upper secondary schools include successful completion of compulsory education and meeting entrance requirements set by schools. Students must pass an upper secondary school leaving examination in order to apply for tertiary education. Students completing vocational school with an apprenticeship certificate may apply for tertiary education after completing two years of follow up courses and passing a school leaving examination.
Private schools, both primary and secondary, were first established in 1990 (private universities in 1999). These schools are mostly secular and typically are established by for-profit or nonprofit grant-aided organizations. Nongovernmental basic schools (private and denominational schools) represent only 3.8 percent of basic schools and educate 1.7 percent of primary school students. In contrast, nongovernmental secondary schools comprise 25.8 percent of all secondary schools and educate 13.3 percent of secondary school students.4 Private schools receive a state contribution toward their operating costs. This funding is formula-based, and the method of calculation is still under development. School fees and other private sources cover capital expenditures and rent.
Languages of Instruction
The official language of the Czech Republic is Czech, and the population is linguistically homogenous. In 2014, immigrants (mostly Slavs) represented 4.2 percent of the population, although immigration has doubled in recent years.5,6 The language of instruction is Czech. However, students of ethnic minorities are guaranteed the right to education in their mother tongue to the extent appropriate for the development of their ethnic community. Schools for national minorities exist through the upper secondary level. With the exception of Poles, the minority population is scattered throughout the country. As such, the only minority-language schools in the country are Polish. The percentage of students with instruction in Polish in basic schools in the Czech Republic is 0.2 percent.7