Minorities, New-comers and the Czech Educational System

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As a democratic state the Czech Republic guarantees equal rights and freedom not only to its citizens but also to resident non-citizens (e.g. liberty, freedom of speech, thought and faith, etc). At the same time, it is expected that these common democratic values will be shared. As it’s been already mentioned, possible challenge for multicultural societies is a clash between the cultural and civic identities of their members. This is closely related to the debate on cultural exclusion and inclusion: it is a contentious issue, especially for non-citizens (such as minorities, immigrants and their children), because they belong to groups facing the possibility of social exclusion128.

In 2008/2009 academic year 55.908 children-foreigners studied at all types of schools in the Czech Republic. The total number of pupils and students including the Czech Citizen were 2.083.176 persons, i.e. 2.7% of total number were foreigners. The highest percentages of foreign students are in our universities:

in the 2004/05 academic year, 6.2% of university students were foreigners (of which 66% were from the Slovak Republic, 4% Russian Federation, 3% Ukraine, 2% the Great Britain and 25% others). In the 2008/2009 31 218 foreign students studied at Czech universities (of which 67% were from the Slovak Republic, 6%

Russian Federation, 3% Ukraine, 2% Vietnam, 1% the Great Britain and 21%

others)129. This high number is linked to Czech policies in education, where foreigners have the same rights and obligations as Czech Citizens.

The Czech educational system is based on the principle of equality in the education for the Czech citizens and non-citizens. Children attend school until the age of fifteen, for a total of 9 years. This applies to non-citizens

128 The principles for integrating immigrants into the Czech Republic were established in 1999 and 2000, after collaboration between European and internal institutions and experts; they bring together world, European and Czech experience, reality and legislation. Integration is a complex process based on collaboration; each year the Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic ten-ders for support programs for integration, with strands emphasizing the monitoring of foreign communities, the evaluation of support measures, and strategies for implementing integration policies.

129 Por. Cizinci. Vzdělávání. Český statistický úřad. /Foreigners. Education. Czech Statistical Office, http://www.czso.cz/csu/cizinci.nsf/kapitola/ciz_vzdelavani [28.11.2010].

Jelena Petrucijova, Marcel Meciar


and to illegal immigrants. Education is free of charge at state primary and secondary schools, and also at high schools and universities if learners are taught in Czech. In a few previous years (e.g. 2005) children of asylum seekers under 1 5 are the only group of aliens to whom Czech language classes are guaranteed by law130. For all other groups, learning Czech must be arranged privately (regardless of age). Czech educational institutions are not required to provide additional Czech language classes for pupils with a level of Czech too low to cope with the curriculum.

This is one reason why children of immigrants are placed in classes with younger pupils. Educational institutions apply for grants for educational programs for foreigners. To combat social disadvantage of children-foreigners the Czech Government sets the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports task to take legal steps for arranging free of charge Czech language classes at primary schools. In 2010 it has been done only for children-foreigners form EU countries. There is no the same option for children from third countries (except EU)131. So the well-off Vietnamese parents prefer private school with extend schooling of languages (so do Chinese, Georgian, Armenian parents), despite of its Christian orientation. The quality of education especially in language area (both Czech and foreign languages) is primarily important for them132.

130 Compare: there is a different system in gaining of competences in the language of host country in the different European countries, e.g. France and Sweden. Two types of language classes are typical for France (according to level of pupils’ competences). They are preparatory classes for beginners (Classes d’initiation – CLIN) and integrative tutorial courses (Cours d’rattrapage inte-gré - CRI). Pupils attend subjects together with all other pupils of the year not to be isolated from them. In 1999/2000 there were 804 CLIN and CRI classes in France. In Sweden foreign pupils are provided special classes for gaining or improving of their Swedish. They can choose Swedish as second language (SSL) and attend study subjects in their mother tongue. This way Swedish so-ciety tries to support their initial/origin lingual and national identity (minimum 5 pupil in class and professional native speaker are the only limits). (Ordinance for the compulsory school system.

SFS 1998:15 from 11.06.1998) In multicultural society the possibility to present and to proclaim native identity (cultural diversity) is the essential condition for social cohesion.

131 Por. Zpráva o realizaci Koncepce integrace cizinců v roce 2009 a návrh dalšího postupu (ze dne 20. ledna 2010.// Report about results of the Conception on integration of foreigners in 2009 and proposals of further measures (January 20, 2010), http://www.cizinci.cz/files/clanky/611/

KIC_2009_Finalni_ verze _23032010.pdf. [27.11.2010].

132 Por. Z. Uherek, Cizinecké komunity..., dz. cyt., s. 208.

In the Czech society the members of minorities have the right to upbringing and education in their maternal language133. In order for the state to ensure the application and enforceability of the rights of members of national minorities in practice, it must establish various other organisations which either supervise compliance with the rights or directly support the application thereof. One of these organisations is the Council of the Government for National Minorities, the members of which are representatives of the bodies of the public administration, and representatives of the eleven officially recognised national minorities. As well as this, there are advisory bodies established at various ministries for the question of national minorities: the Ministry of Labour and Social, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and the Ministry of the Interior also each have its own advisory body. The local authorities of the municipalities and regions also have a duty to look after the rights of members of national minorities.

If, when a census of people is being taken (every ten years), more than 10% of the population of a specific municipality register as belonging to a nationality other than Czech or Moravian, the municipality is obliged to establish

133 Act 273/2001Coll. The Act on the rights of members of national minorities, as amended: The Act delineates the basic terms (national minority and a member thereof), and in the second section the rights of members of national minorities. It is explicitly stated in the Act: “No detriment may ensue to anyone from membership of a national minority.” The Act guarantees a right to the free choice of nationality to members of various ethnic groups, their right to congregate, their right to participate in the resolution of matters which relate to national minorities, their right to the use of their name and surname in the language of the national minority in question, the right to multi-linguistic names and signs, the right to use the language of the national minority during official contacts with offices and courts, the right to use the language of the national minority in elections, the right to training in the language of the minority, the right to the development of the culture of the minority, and the right to the expansion and acceptance of information in the language of the minority. The rights of members of a national minority are also specified in more detail in the Administrative Infractions Act, the Municipalities Act, and in the Acts on elections to local authorities of munici-palities and regions, on regions, on schools, the Act on the City of Prague, etc. The right to tuition in the language of the national minority (section 11): (1) members of national minorities who have traditionally lived in the Czech Republic for a long time have the right to upbringing and education in their maternal language in schools, nurseries, and educational establishments, under the condi-tions stipulated by a special legal regulation. (2) Members of national minorities under paragraph 1 may establish, under the conditions stipulated by special legal regulations: a) private schools using the language of the national minority as the official school language or with classes in the language of the national minority offered as a subject on the curriculum, b) private preschool facilities and private educational establishments. http://czechkid.eu/si1190.html [4.06.2011].

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a “committee for national minorities” – a local authority and initiative body.

Half of the places on the committee must go to members of national minorities.

If less than 10% of the population registers as belonging to a nationality other than Czech, the municipality may, but does not have to, establish this body.

However, in practice the problem frequently arises that, for various reasons, the members of several nationalities do not register their nationalities. The figures then processed on the basis of the census are not sufficiently reliable. Similarly, a region must establish a “committee for national minorities” when 5% or more of people register as being of a nationality other than Czech. This body is both advisory and provides initiatives.

And thirdly, if 10% or more of citizens in a municipality register as being other than of Czech or Moravian nationality, tuition must be provided in the language of the national minority under the Education Act134.

Legislation is one thing and practice is another. We must not overlook the fact that there are several steps from the formulation of a law to its realization, and that a bill does not in itself resolve everything. The education of the minorities in the North-Moravian region of the Czech Republic will mentioned this. Historically North-Moravian region is the border region where the interests of Czechs, Germans and Poles have met. The region is about 5,500 km2, and the population of 1,250,000 is about 87% Czech, 3% Slovak, 3% Pole, 2% Moravian, 1% Silesian, with smaller numbers of Germans, Roma people, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Greeks, Ukrainians and Russians (census of 2001). In 2010 the number of population is 1,243,220, the national structure is a similar, the total number of foreigners is 23 687 (EU countries 13 791 [SK – 6 596, PL – 5 473], other countries – 9896 [Ukraine, Vietnam, Russian Federation])135.

In last two decades the number of Polish primary and secondary schools has diminished, and there is not a single Slovak school in the region, even though a high percentage of the population is Slovak (although in the census 2001 many Slovaks did not claim Slovak nationality, nor did Roma people). While in Český

134 Por. tamże.

135 Por. Statistická ročenka Moravskoslezského kraje 2010./ Annual Stats of Moravian-Silesian Region 2010, http://www.czso.cz/csu/2010edicniplan.nsf/ krajkapitola/801011-10-2010-04 [4.06.2011].

Těšín, it is commonplace for schools to offer tuition in Polish and for pupils to graduate in Polish, the Roma people around the entire republic do not have so much as one basic school with lessons offered in Romany.

At the same time, the approach to Romany children is different, because Roma are considered as a potentially excluded group, and the contemporary Czech educational system tries to improve their educational level. It attempts to increase their social mobility and facilitates their integration. There is a preparatory school year for pre-school Romany children and Romany assistants work in primary and lower secondary schools136, withal we should take into consideration that due to budget restrictions the funds in the area have rapidly decreased.

In 2010 the Ministry of Education set up additional programme to support education of/in regional or minority languages and multicultural education.

The authorities of the North Moravian region emphasise the importance of revival of Polish, Slovak languages. The affirmative activities have gone ahead according to The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages signed by The Czech Republic in 2007.

Urban Communities, the strategies for adapting to the

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