Ukrainian lessons? Only temporarily should children be involved among Czechs, says expert

Up to 1,550 Czech language teachers for foreigners and 4,250 teaching assistants will be needed to involve Ukrainian children in Czech primary schools.

Analysis by PAQ Research and Czech priorities finds this to be a necessity for quality integration of up to 85,000 Ukrainian children. The state budget would cost about 2.1 billion crowns per year.

However, there are not as many free educators and non-educators in the labor market. However, according to the analysis, schools could use the capacity of their teachers and assistants and develop some of them. Or even use, for example, students from pedagogical faculties. For example, some of them are already involved in tutoring children after covid.

“Schools must be supported not only methodically, but above all financially and personally. According to the system we propose, those who will accept Ukrainian pupils should receive money for the jobs of a teacher of Czech as another language, a teaching assistant and an adaptation coordinator,” explains the author of the analysis, Štěpán Kment of PAQ Research.

“The aim is not to leave teachers exhausted after the alliance and now getting even more demanding unpaid work – educating children not only with a different mother tongue, but also with experience of war”, he adds.

According to analysis by PAQ Research and Czech Priorities, more than 81,000 children could enroll in Czech schools in the long term if a total of half a million refugees arrive in the Czech Republic. In the case of the low scenario, which assumes 300,000 refugees, 73,000 school-age children would find a new home in the Czech Republic. In addition, another 60-67,000 preschoolers and high school students.

Refugee Wave Scenarios by Age

Age (reports) Education diploma. Low scenario: 300,000 AU refugees of which may remain (estimate ⅔) High scenario: 500,000 AU refugees of which may remain (estimate ⅔)
up to 3 years (5.7%) DS 17,133 11,422 28,554 19,036
3-6 years (7.1%) DS / MŠ 21 209 14,140 35,349 23,566
6-15 years (24.4%) 73,268 48,846 122 114 81,409
15-18 years old (7.3%) 21,973 14,649 36,622 24,415
TOTAL UNDER 18 133,583 89,057 222,639 148,426
18-65 years old (52.5%) 157,625 105,083 262,708 175 138
Seniors aged 65 and over (2.9%) 8,792 5,861 14,653 9,769

Source: PAQ Research, Ministry of Interior of the Czech Republic

For now, some are participating in purely Ukrainian classes or groups that are set up in individual schools. For example, the Endowment Fund for Children of Ukraine sponsors a project where Ukrainian children can continue their previous education in Ukrainian.

The first weeks in the Czech Republic are a bit easier for them. They don’t need to learn a new language right away and they can continue their education. However, if they stay longer in the Czech Republic, the teaching of Czech will end up being avoided anyway.

“If a child has no contact with Czech during the summer holidays, a two-month period may be more difficult for him than if the educational process begins in the school year 2021/22,” says the report. analysis of PAQ Research and Czech priorities.

The experts are inspired, for example, by the German experience with the Syrian refugee crisis. The local school proved able to immediately integrate young first graders with German students. Older pupils were then also included in the tribal German class, but only for communication-intensive subjects such as physical education and art and music education. The rest of the time, they follow intensive German courses and then do not become fully involved in teaching.

“One-class or all-Ukrainian Ukrainian schools are a model that many countries have already tried in other migration crises. To illustrate, I can cite Turkey, which has integrated hundreds of thousands of Syrian children and has therefore set up a parallel Syrian education system only to disrupt it a few years later and move the children to regular schools,” Kment says. At the same time, Turkey’s assumption was similar to that of the Czech Republic today. Today – the conflict will be short-lived and the children will quickly return to their countries of origin, but the result has been the segregation of children and poorer school performance.

In response to the list of reports, the Ministry of Education did not specify whether education in purely Ukrainian classes is planned beyond the current school year. The current amendment to the Education Law, which allows Ukrainian children to be taught by an educator without knowledge of Czech, but only applies until the end of August.

Schools are waiting for money

According to Kment, it is necessary to increase the number of schools offering intensive Czech language teaching to children with different mother tongues. Under this system, each child is entitled to 200 hours of Czech language instruction and has been operating in Czech schools since September of this school year. However, only 406 schools are concerned.

Also, not all of them have separate groups where Czech is taught. According to PAQ Research and the Czech priorities, however, the number of such schools must increase from 1,000 to 1,500, ie the intensive integration of Ukrainian children takes place at every third or second school. Currently, there must be at least one such school in every municipality with extended powers. At the same time, according to experts, it would be expedient to increase the number of hours of teaching the Czech language from 200 to 350.

How to include children from Ukraine

They have many years of experience in integrating children with different mother tongues into the Czech team at Guth-Jarkovsky Elementary School in Kostelec nad Orlicí. They have been teaching children of foreigners since 2001, when a residential center for asylum seekers started operating in the village. And even in the case of Ukrainian children, they proceed with a system that has been in place for years.

“All the children who came were placed in a specially designed class. An intensive Czech language course takes place here. They only have four hours of Czech a day. Unlike the children from Afghanistan or Iran, the Ukrainian students have an advantage, their language is related to Czech, and it can be assumed that they will adapt very quickly,” says school director Jiří Němec.

Schools designed to teach students with different mother tongues can offer up to 200 hours of intensive Czech language instruction in groups of 10 people. But if it is a long-term education a few hours a week, or an intensive education a few hours a day, the school can impose itself.

“After a week, when we started teaching Czech to Ukrainian children, we already have two children who will be pushed into their tribal classes among Czech children. It will take a week for some, 14 days for some, but I estimate that we should be able to place all the children in regular classes within three weeks to a month,” adds Němec.

This will free up specialized classes for the school with intensive Czech language teaching for other interested parties. Gutha-Jarkovsky Elementary School welcomed more than thirty Ukrainian children in the first week alone. And Director Němec assumes that there will be more and more.

“An important role is played by the special bill currently being discussed (the president signed the law on Thursday, editor’s note) for the field of education, from which many other steps will follow. In any case, in the first phase, it is necessary to use the existing capacities in schools throughout the Czech Republic, which are of course unevenly distributed, and in the next phase to use in the localities if necessary the premises of other educational establishments which provide conditions to provide pre-school and primary education,” said Ministry of Education spokeswoman Aneta Lednová.

This means that, at least for now, schools have to fend for themselves. In addition, no special funds are currently foreseen. The Ministry of Education has officially simplified only the possibility of increasing the capacity of so-called “Lex Ukraine” schools. Therefore, they can accept new Ukrainian pupils beyond their spatial possibilities without having to prove the opinion of the regional hygiene station and the building authority.

However, not all schools will be automatically paid for newly admitted students. Although Czech education still has a temporary budget, some authorities have already allocated funds for the school’s initial number of students. Administrators will need to request additional adjustments.

“For schools that do not have teachers who teach Czech as a second language or financial resources, there will be no choice but to place Ukrainian children directly in the Czech class,” says Jiří Němec, director of the Gutha-Jarkovského elementary school in Kostelec nad Orlicí, where they have many years of experience teaching children of foreigners (see infobox). These schools can make the most of the money originally earmarked for tutoring Ukrainian children.

Psychologists are missing

The available capacity of schools is also directly related to finances. In the short term, according to the estimates of PAQ Research and the Czech priorities, it will be necessary to include 143 to 238 thousand children and adolescents under the age of 19. In the long term, the number of children enrolled in kindergartens could increase by 7.1 to 11.8%, in primary schools by 5.1 to 8.4% and in secondary education by 3, 4 to 5.6%.

However, neither the state nor any office has comprehensive data on actual school vacancies. It is only possible to orient oneself from statements and register capacities, which are however very imprecise. According to them, there are 53,000 vacant places in kindergartens and 355,000 in primary schools. However, according to estimates, there will probably only be capacity in the primary school for about 150,000 pupils. The reports also include, for example, premises that can no longer be used for education or, depending on the hygiene and legislative standards in force, only for a much smaller number of children.

“From March 31, there will be a standard data collection in which the schools of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports will transmit, among other things, data on the number of pupils. This survey will also show the number of Ukrainian students newly admitted to schools in March,” adds Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports spokesperson Lednová.

However, this is certainly not the only challenge that Czech education will have to face. To date, there is also no priority psychological or psychiatric assistance system for refugee children. Some micro-regions do not have a school psychologist, there are around forty municipalities with extended skills across the country, such as Cheb, Vlašim, Hlinsko or Opava. The educational and psychological listening centers are also overloaded.

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