Money or Religion Best Bets for Decent Education
State exams’ results for secondary school-leavers were worse than anticipated and reveal an “alarming” picture of the quality of the Czech education system – alarming being the term used by Education Minister Josef Dobes (junior government Public Affairs, VV). Overall results show that almost 20 percent of students did not pass the exams, but 10 percent were not even admitted to them at all due to their poor previous performance.
A little more scrutiny reveals that in 11 schools 70 percent of students did not pass the state exams and 400 schools performed below the average. However, the figures for these that are within the state sector are not available, perhaps due to ministry’s withholding of the poorest performing schools identity. Presumably this is to protect the housing market in areas that are probably already languishing in the not-too-desirable bracket.
Though the public will have to wait until the department’s annual 2011 report to know how all schools achieved, the ministry did publish the most successful schools. It was anticipated that grammar schools would lead the standings and no-one was rendered aghast in surprise that the Prague private grammar school PORG headed by Vaclav Klaus Jr, son of President Vaclav Klaus, had the best state exam results in the country. These results were undoubtedly earned despite any cries of foul by knee jerk conspiracy theorists. When you consider whose children are likely to attend such a school it just serves as another illuminating instance of a nexus of state and economic interests which is far from uncommon anywhere – the Dulles brothers or Dick Cheney in the US being two – off-the-top-the head – cosy examples.
The quality of church schools came as no surprise either with three church grammar schools were making the top ten. This feat might seem more remarkable when you consider that out of 1432 secondary schools in the 10.5-million Czech Republic only 36 are run by a church. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. One can certainly pluck examples from history were religion has had a positive impact on education. Scotland for example was arguably the most literate society in 17th Century Europe due largely to the efforts of the reforming church, or Scottish Taliban, there. These were efforts which also could be added to the mix which produced the Scottish Enlightenment, if one considers that a positive outcome. A more recent example might be the endeavours and successes of the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America. The concerns raised however over organised religion’s influence in organised education are well established and debate over it is unlikely to disappear soon.
Debate over the Czech Republic’s apparently languishing educational system has inspired a myriad explanations ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Klaus Jr’s own rationalisation highlighting the current form of the state school-leaving exams involving excessive administrative work which paralyses the work at secondary schools in the school year’s last quarter, perhaps impressively encapsulating both extremes. Whatever the roots of the problem, how Czechs feel about the reality of the most learned in their society being the richest and the most religious deserves thorough investigation.
Certainly for those Czechs who can find neither the cash to privately educate their children, nor God.