We do not want classes with 34 students. There will be two or three refugees, only six exceptionally, reassures Černý from the iROZHLAS ministry

A survey of the capacities of kindergartens and primary schools showed an apparently good result. In September, even after the number of refugee children, there will be an overflow of vacant places in kindergartens, and even 98,000 in primary schools. But there are big differences between regions, points out the research company PAQ Reserach. According to her, 2,370 places are missing in kindergartens in Prague, 550 in Brno and 240 in Pilsen.




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The problem of placing all kindergarten children will have 61 micro-regions. Michal Cerny | Photo: Kateřina Součková Source: Czech Radio

The problem of placing all kindergarten children will have 61 micro-regions. Michal Černý, director of the basic education department at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, explains which children and how many children will be seated in the classrooms from September.

This week, the Ministry of Education published the results of a survey of the capacity of preschools and primary schools. What did they show?
In primary schools, the capacity is sufficient for many children who are already there. That is, if we talk about the total capacity for the whole Czech Republic. It was clear that the situation would be tense in certain municipalities or parts of the city. And this was confirmed in particular in Prague. But even here it looks like we can do it without having to organize any crazy moves.


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Like? The figures in Prague show that the capacity there will not be sufficient, even after its increase.
Yes, in Prague 2, 3 and 6 this will be a problem. But there is a dense network of public transport in Prague, so moving from one catchment area to another will not be such a problem, especially for older children. We will see how we handle this situation, based on the minutes.

You also asked schools what new capabilities they can bring from September. What exactly do you mean by that?
We asked for two things. For vacancies in existing classes as it stands and for vacancies since September, which are already counting on the purchase of furniture, the recruitment of new teachers, with space for new classes… On the scale nationally, we already have the existing capacities in primary schools. The situation in some places may of course be different. But there’s no reason to worry that it won’t work.

PAQ Research sociologists recommend a limit of 20% foreign students per class for successful integration, while avoiding the phenomenon of “white flight”, where majority parents drop off their children from schools with a higher proportion of students minorities because they feel that their children are no longer receiving an education of sufficient quality. Do you envisage such a measure?
I really don’t think there is a fundamental difference between majority children and Ukrainian children. There are other minorities where we perceive the difference more fundamentally.


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So you don’t see the creation of classes and schools with a higher proportion of foreign students as a problem, and you won’t strive for a fairer distribution of Ukrainian children?
I agree that is a problem. But a situation has arisen where a big country drops bombs on a small country and these people run away from there. And let’s be happy that it doesn’t happen to us, and hope it stays that way. We have to put the children somewhere.

But your data shows that there are places. But not always where the refugees are today. Why not try, for example, through voluntary relocations, to avoid the situations that we know of in Western countries, such as the departure of the majority and the emergence of segregated schools and, in the future, neighborhoods ?
It is possible that relocations will take place, but they will not be under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education. But I think there will be far fewer schools with more than a fifth of foreign students than it seems at first glance.

Pin?
I didn’t count it. We also have data on individual schools and are still in the process of evaluating it. But within the republic, according to my estimate, it will be a maximum of tens. More than 20 percent of them may be somewhere in the village where there is a small school and now there is a residence center for refugees. And I don’t think that will happen in Prague either. Either way, the abilities survey yielded better results than many expected.

How are you going to deal with the situation regarding kindergartens, where these places in regions like Prague, Kolín, Brno or Plzeň will not even be after the increase in capacity?
Yes, here it is proposed to try to relocate some refugees to places where there is enough capacity. The second option is to know if there is still a reserve in the capacities. These figures were sent to us by schools in good faith. So if someone decided they wanted their comfort, they could say a slightly lower number than they would actually be able to release.

So you’re assuming the actual capacity is higher than the numbers you’ve recently received from schools?
We take it in such a way that we can manage the capacities mentioned by the schools without limiting the comfort of Czech and Ukrainian children. So if the situation gets worse and already requires some comfort restrictions, I think it could still be solved without having to invent social experiments with moving people elsewhere. Although even that is as an option on the table.


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If it is possible to increase the reception capacity in this way without compromising comfort, why was this not possible before, when thousands of children did not go to kindergartens each year?
But not everywhere. Even before the war, there were tens of thousands of vacancies and villages where kindergartens remained unfulfilled.

Yes, but there were places, typically Prague and some parts of Central Bohemia, where there was no room, and suddenly it turns out that kindergartens “without restrictions of comfort”, like you say so, can find more than 1,600.
While I was talking about numbers that matter to maintain some comfort, however, I believe there was an effort to help out, so principals were trying to find unused offices that could be temporarily turned into classrooms.

What will happen to the number of places in kindergartens where it is clear that it will not reach all children?
We have compulsory pre-school education, which applies to both foreign and Czech children, and of course it is necessary for children to give priority to the year of compulsory pre-school education. And as with other kindergarten children, it is unclear how many Ukrainian children will actually enroll in kindergartens. We know how many children there are between the ages of 3 and 6, but that doesn’t mean their mothers will want to put them all in kindergarten. So, in the end, the pressure will not be the same at all.


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And when will it be?
Groups of children, under the supervision of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, can help bridge overhangs. Admittedly, their purpose is not education, rather it is childcare, but even that would serve its purpose so that mothers can go to work. We will discuss this with the Ministry of Labour.

In an interview two weeks ago, you said that once you know the results of the investigation, you will decide to further regulate the registration rules. So how will it be?
In the end, it was decided to leave that to the municipalities. We as the Ministry of Education will issue a recommendation on this, but it is still emerging so I cannot tell you more about it.

What will classes look like from September 1? How many children will be there?
I guess even 30 kids won’t have to fill the classes. Because the existing capacities are sufficient and the schools have certainly not put more than 30 children per class, as the decree stipulates. Also, if there is a child with special educational needs in the class, vacant places are deducted. And we have warned schools to take this into account in the questionnaires.

In parts of Prague, panic has begun to fill classes with 34 students, as the founder can allow by approving an exception to the decree.
But we just pointed out that 34 children is the absolute maximum. And no one will force the schools or the founders into it, it will only be at their discretion. We don’t want classes to fill up to 34 students. It can happen somewhere in a village where there are a lot of refugees, and the school thinks, “We’re going to help them. We have a good teacher, she can take care of these 32 children. But it will be up to them to decide. And a similar principle works in kindergartens.

And is it still true that even when there are children in the class of 30 or more foreign students, this does not automatically entitle you to an assistant?
Yes, this still applies. Only certain types of special educational needs are based on this.

So even if there are 5-6 new Ukrainian students in the class, the teacher will be alone?
Yes, but I don’t think the teacher will normally have so many Ukrainian children in the class. I think it will be two or three, somewhere one. But yes, it may be that maybe the six.

Iva Vokurkova

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