In the Czech Republic, pre-school facilities – optional – cater to children aged 3 to 6. Compulsory education begins at 6, and lasts till the age of 15. This primary education level is divided into two stages, lower primary (grades 1 to 5) and upper primary (grades 6 to 9). Then comes the secondary education level, which lasts for 4 years. Beyond this there are two options: what is called the “upper specialized” level (two years, for education of a type given by community colleges) and the tertiary level (i.e. universities, offering standard Bachelor’s, Master’s and doctoral programmes).
Secondary schools are of three types: grammar schools (offering a broad, academic education as an ideal preparation for university studies), secondary technical schools (covering a wide range of specialized fields – e.g. chemistry or engineering; these usually lead to university studies – as well as business academies, agricultural schools, music and art schools and many others), and secondary vocational schools (offering practical training for future jobs).
What is confusing is that many grammar schools have expanded “down” the academic ladder into the territory of primary schools, becoming in the process what are known as either “eight-year” or “six-year” grammar schools, which enable young people to enter them at grades 6 and 8 respectively. This type of school is the best example of the extreme selectivity of the Czech education system.
This is the bare bones of the system – fleshing it out is not easy to do in brief. But there are three aspects of the system that are important for foreigners to keep in mind:
● Except for the pre-school level, the Czech educational system is overwhelmingly public.
● At all levels, from primary through secondary to tertiary, the public system is free of charge, while institutions in the private sector are fee-paying.
● Educational institutions that offer teaching solely in a language other than Czech will be private, and hence charge fees. This also holds true for degree programmes at universities that are taught in English.
Brno has a reasonable number of non-Czech facilities catering to young kids in the pre-school age group. In most cases, the language employed is English. One pre-school education centre offers a bilingual environment (Spanish and French), while another has an English and Czech combination. All of these charge fees.
At the primary education level the options for those of you seeking a non-Czech education for your children are more limited. The only school that has English as its sole teaching language is the International School of Brno. A number of other schools where Czech is the medium of teaching offer enriched teaching of the English language; in some cases they also offer a few classes in English (at upper levels) or extra-curricular activities in English.
Most schools where the teaching is in Czech will welcome non-Czech-speaking children and do their best to integrate them into the classroom teaching process. There is one school, however, that is more professionally geared to working with children of non-Czech background. This is the primary school at Staňkova 14 in Brno-Ponava (near the Lužánky park), which has special Czech language for foreigners classes and includes intercultural programmes in the curriculum. It also offers individual consultations with parents as a means of overcoming potential problems and cultural misunderstandings.
Until recently there was no school with international curriculum covered in English. However, the International School of Brno is offering Cambridge International A Levels programme since September 2013. This will allow the school to open the 11th and 12th grades, making it possible for students in Brno to complete an international high school education in English. Cambridge International AS (11th grade) and A (12th grade) Levels have widespread international recognition as high school/pre university educational qualifications. As for Czech secondary schools, Brno has to offer few bilingual grammar schools with Czech/French and Czech/Spanish or Czech/English curricula. These are all public schools, two of them with additional support coming from the French and Spanish governments respectively and Czech/English school having project funded from EU. All classes are taught in Czech at first, later a selection is taught in one of the target languages. A pupil has to know Czech to study here but advantage is to have schoolmates understanding foreign language and school supporting multinational environment and supporting foreign students learning Czech.
Over 90,000 students are enrolled in Brno’s five public higher education institutions, one state higher education institution and seven private higher education institutions, giving the city the distinction of having the highest per capita student population in the Czech Republic.
In line with the Central European tradition, there is no single all-inclusive higher education institution. However, the five public institutions taken together offer studies and research activities across the whole range of academic disciplines. These are Masaryk University (see a full list of all degree programmes offered in English), the Brno University of Technology, Mendel University, the University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences Brno and the Janáček Academy of the Performing Arts. In addition, seven institutes of the Czech Academy of Sciences are located in Brno.
The concentration of so many higher education institutions in Brno has transformed the city into a major international research centre. This is reflected most clearly in the Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC), a newly-established research institution of regional scope funded by the European Commission that draws on the expertise of staff at Masaryk University, the Brno University of Technology, Mendel University, the University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences Brno and several institutes of the Academy of Sciences. Each of its interdisciplinary “core facilities” brings together scientists from across the participating institutions. The research potential in the city also lies behind the decision of the Mayo Clinic, America’s leading medical research group, to cooperate with St Anne’s Faculty Hospital in the creation of a joint biomedical research institute in Brno, the International Clinical Research Centre (ICRC).
According to Czech law, universities are forbidden to charge any tuition fees for degree programmes accredited to be taught in the Czech language. This means that even foreigners admitted to such programmes receive their university education free of charge.
In addition to their Czech-language programmes, Brno’s universities also offer a range of degree programmes taught in English. These can be found at all levels – Bachelor’s, Master’s and especially doctoral. For these programmes, the universities charge tuition fees, though in comparison with those in many other countries they are very reasonable.
Finally, in their lifelong-learning programmes, many of the city’s universities include courses or options in languages other than Czech.
Recognition of foreign degrees
For certain purposes in this country you may find it necessary, or advantageous, to have your university degree recognized as having the equivalent value of a Czech degree. This is a process the Czechs term “nostrifikace” – that is, “making it ours”.
This process varies depending on which country you took your degree in. With some countries the Czech state has an agreement on mutual recognition; in these cases it is fairly straightforward to have your degree recognized. Otherwise there are a number of steps you will have to take, both in the country where you studied and here in the Czech Republic. Since the process also involves a Czech university expressing its approval of your qualifications, it is necessary to turn to one that offers a degree as close as possible to the one you have taken. So if you are considering having your foreign degree recognized here, we recommend you turn to us in the first instance for advice.
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