Czech Education System To Reopen In Stages After Covid-19 Outbreak
Students will be allowed back to school in waves, with priority given to those in their final year who will soon be taking important exams. Title photo: Freepik.
Czech Rep., Apr 15 (BD) – The Czech government yesterday announced the timetable for its plans to reopen schools and universities in the Czech Republic, which have been closed for several weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic. Students will return to school on different dates, mainly depending on whether their exams are approaching.
All dates are conditional on the development of the outbreak, and may be delayed in the event of a significant rise in confirmed cases. The timetable for the reopening of schools is as follows:
Monday, April 20th
Universities will reopen to final-year students for specific purposes, such as consultations or individual examinations, especially those related to state exams. Students may also visit the library to borrow or return books related to their courses. Activities taking place from this date must have a maximum of five people present.
Monday, May 11th
Final-year students at secondary schools, conservatories and vocational colleges may return to prepare for their graduation exams. Individual classes at private art and language schools may also restart at this date, along with educational programs in children’s homes.
Monday, May 25th
Primary schools can reopen from this date for “first level” classes (aged 6-11), provided classes follow the so-called “school group” system [“skolni skupiny”], with no more than 15 pupils per class, and groups remaining the same for all activities with as few different teachers as possible.
When schools reopen, attendance will be optional at the discretion of parents. As Education Minister Robert Plaga clarified at today’s press conference: “Attendance is by no means obligatory. Parents will be able to put their children into school groups, which should make things easier for families.”
Teachers may decide whether face-masks are to be worn in the classroom, but pupils must wear them in the school’s shared and common spaces. Teaching in primary-level art schools, all classes in private language schools, and classes in youth clubs with up to five participants, may also start again from this date.
Kindergartens which closed during the lockdown, which includes most of them, can also reopen if they follow strict hygiene rules.
Final exams and graduations may take place at secondary schools and conservatories from the beginning of June. Training and classes may begin at vocational colleges, under similar conditions to those in schools (“school groups”). Secondary school entrance exams should also take place in June, though dates were not specified. Students at the second level of primary (11-15), or other students in secondary education who are not in their final years, may return to school for occasional classroom lessons on key subjects, consultations or other educational activities, as long as they take place in smaller groups.
Plaga said that a decision on whether to open other schools fully in June will be taken based on evaluation of the measures taken in May. This also applies to educational summer camps for children. According to Rastislav Maďar, coordinator of the Ministry of Health’s epidemiology team, these camps are a risk, bringing children with different histories together in one place. They may be permitted from August, depending on further data and analysis. Mad’ar added that even a small increase in the number of confirmed cases could change the scheduled dates, and it is still possible that there could be a second wave of the epidemic.
Plaga also commented on the distance learning programmes conducted by schools. He said that some schools were giving students more work than others, and that this should be standardised, with teaching focused on key subjects, and essential knowledge and revision. He added that grading students, when it is based on work completed at home, should take into account the home life and social environment of each individual student, and cannot be standardised as if all work was completed in school.
School canteens that reopen will be subject to strict hygiene rules. According to Plaga, headteachers will be notified of these rules in advance so they can decide whether or not to open the canteens.
Online educational information portal EDUin welcomed the announcement of a clear plan, but expressed concern over continuing uncertainty related to exam dates, and the lack of a “Plan B” should the public health situation deteriorate again and exams be cancelled. EDUin also questioned whether it was fair to students to be examined after three months at home.