Does a second foreign language need to be spontaneous for Czech elementary school students?

The government’s proposal for reforming the Czech education system was held for online comments by school associations and teachers until April 21, with about 500 people speaking. In an interview with the Czech news agency, Jan Jiterský, head of the Ministry of Education’s expert panel, said most of the comments were focused on the Ministry’s proposal to withdraw the second foreign language requirement. The most controversial of all the proposed reforms.

Czech elementary schools last for nine years, from 6 to 15 years old. Since 2013, 8th and 9th grades have been required to teach a second foreign language, but this new reform makes the second foreign language optional. With sufficient interest, the school is still obliged to provide the student with a second foreign language, but the student himself is no longer obliged to take the class.

Tomas Clinker | Photo: Czech Television

Tomáš Klinka, Dean of French Literature at the Faculty of Education, Charles University, summarized the views of opponents of the reform.

“The Ministry of Education argues that making this subject optional will allow students with foreign language aptitudes to continue to pursue foreign languages, and untalented students will be able to choose another subject instead. However, it is a completely wrong idea that it is possible to determine the language talent of students aged 10 to 12 years. Therefore, the choice is the wishes of the school owner or the socio-economic of the parents. More done depending on the level. This only exacerbates the already very important socio-economic disparities between certain population groups in the Czech Republic. The issue of inequality was identified in Czech education. It’s one of the main issues. “

Other debates against reform are a setback for both Czech and European goals, and even superficial knowledge of other languages ​​enriches students culturally, broadens their horizons, and has a xenophobic view. It includes the idea of ​​helping prevent its appearance. Others point to the example of Slovakia, where they say the same move made a few years ago proved to be a failure.

The parents of the two Miloslav say he does not support the proposed reforms.

“It’s okay if parents decide that their child doesn’t need a second language, but they need the option to use a second language. It has to be an option. It’s a way the school doesn’t provide it. Don’t, and it should start sooner. “

Petr Gazdík | Photo: Czech Government Office

The Ministry of Education’s proposal does not state that English should be the first foreign language, but in most cases it is, and many elementary schools teach English as early as first grade. According to data from the Czech Bureau of Statistics in 2017, almost 98 percent of all European students, including students from the Czech Republic, were learning English.

This is one of the reasons why the proposed reforms have upset German ambassador Andreas Kunne and his colleagues in France, Spain and Italy, and sent a letter to Education Minister Petr Gazdik asking him to abandon that idea. .. However, Mr. Gazdik is sticking to his gun and claims that many students are struggling even with their native Czechs.

“The PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) international test reveals that a significant proportion (20 percent) of elementary school students do not fully understand their native language. (Ii) Those who are learning a foreign language are not given the opportunity to fully develop it. “

And even among education professionals, there is never consensus. Many support and even welcome the government’s proposed reforms. Dana Ticháčková, a German teacher and member of the specialized organization “Učitelská platforma”, agrees with Gazdík.

“Many children can’t even cope with the addition of English. This generation is already suffering from Czech. It and Czech grammar because they don’t come across standard Czech in their daily lives. I have a problem understanding how it works. Add English on top of it. They can’t catch up, and then we add German or other foreign languages. It’s no wonder they lose their motivation to learn a foreign language. “

As news site Pražský Patriot reported on Sunday, this came shortly after the news last year that Czechs’ English proficiency was the worst of all European countries, dropping from 19th in the previous year to 27th in the world. .. This means that Czech English proficiency has been defeated by many other Central and Eastern European countries, including Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria and Estonia.

Photo: René Volfík, Czech Radio

According to Radek Sárközi, president of Pedagogical Chamber, higher standards for high school English “maturity” exams and more widespread use of CLIL (content and language integrated learning) techniques in schools will help in the future. .. , Students study other subjects through the target language. However, this seems to be far from the reforms proposed by the government.

As is often the case in education debates, disagreements often arise from the utopian goals of what education policy is trying to achieve, and sometimes the wide gap between very different realities in the classroom. I can think of it. Does a second foreign language need to be spontaneous for Czech elementary school students?

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