- Title: Polish parents choose Czech schools for “more possibilities”
- Date: 24th November 2016
- Summary: CESKY TESIN POLISH-CZECH BORDER
- Embargoed: 9th December 2016 13:53
- Keywords: Poland education Czech schools border
- Location: CIESZYN, CZECH REPUBLIC
- City: CIESZYN, CZECH REPUBLIC
- Country: Czech Republic
- Topics: Education,Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA00359T0QPL
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Poland is about to go through yet another major overhaul of its education system, but some parents in the southern border town Cieszyn chose not to wait for its results and send their children to Czech schools.
Around 60 Polish pupils arrive before the 8 o'clock bell at a primary school in Cesky Tesin, just a few meters from the border.
Here they join Czech children in bilingual Polish and Czech classes and activities, which the parents say are better than schools back home can offer.
"I must admit that this is a better school than in Poland. Children here have more extracurricular activities, more possibilities, a friendlier atmosphere and a sort of stability," parent Barbara Slowik said.
"There is order and calm here, the children are not allowed to use mobile phones. There probably is less confusion and less hustle and bustle in the school in comparison with Polish schools where youths are more frisky, so to speak," another parent, Zbigniew Piecha, said after bringing his son to school.
The school in Cesky Tesin was set up mainly for members of the Polish minority but more parents from Poland are keen to send their children there.
"Parents still come here to ask what the school looks like, how it functions, is it possible for Polish children to be taught here? According to the Czech school bill such a possibility exists and we are accepting the children but we will have to limit the numbers because the school is becoming full," the school's headteacher Marek Grycz said.
Free schoolbooks and cheaper extra-curricular activities are also an incentive for parents, who would need to spend around 420 zloty (approximately 100 euros) on schoolbooks in Poland, despite an expanding government programme to subsidise them.
"Another element is bilingualism. The child learns in Polish but Czech is also added and on a further level additional languages, two western languages and also Russian," said Dorota Havlikova, spokesperson for Cesky Tesin city hall.
25 similar schools with Polish language classes operate near the border running through the Zaolzie region, which has a turbulent history of changing Czech and Polish allegiances.
The Polish government plans to revive a two-stage education system of eight years of primary school followed by four years of secondary school which functioned until 1999 and is associated by some with the communist era.
The last education reform in 1999 introduced a three-stage system of six years of primary school followed by three years of middle school and then by a general or vocational high school.
The education ministry now plans to wind down the middle schools starting from next year. The reform will also introduce changes to the obligatory curriculum and teachers complain that the new educational content still remains unknown.
Critics of the reform also quote data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showing that Polish school children have improved their education performance since 2003. They fear the new reform will jeopardise the progress made.
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