Culture & Sport

Czech Republic considers removing the mandatory second foreign language from primary education programs

The Czech Republic is considering changing the educational framework for schoolchildren. Teaching a secondary foreign language would not be mandatory anymore as part of the revamp.

Child learning at school
Illustration | © Ben Mullins

The Education Minister of the Czech Republic Petr Gazdík released a framework last month in which learning a second foreign language as part of the primary education programs would not be mandatory anymore, ten year after the country started implementing it.

For the ministry, which released the new educational programs framework after consultation with an expert panel from the education sector, learning a second language is not necessary at this age.

In the Czech Republic, children in seventh grade, usually around 12-13 years old, need to pick a second foreign language. Very often the first foreign language is English.

The second foreign language in school became mandatory in 2013 in the country, but the ministry plans to remove it only ten years later. For the ministry, some children already struggle to learn Czech and one foreign language correctly.

Learning a second foreign language could then be chosen as an option, which would more likely be taught to children with no learning difficulties. Others could have more time focusing on learning fewer languages but better.

However, foreign language teachers tend to disagree with the plan. If there are not enough pupils signing up for a language, the class would not be taught, which could lead to fewer jobs.

Representatives of associations of foreign language teachers of English, French, German, Russian and Spanish in primary, secondary and higher education sent a letter to the prime minister Petr Fiala, to tell “their unequivocal opposition to the planned abolition of the compulsory additional foreign language in primary education”.

A petition was also opened early April until Wednesday and gathered 2,300 signatures.

The letter was supported by the chambers of commerce of France and Germany since learning those languages can boost economic and trade relations between businesses and industries. Students who are fluent in foreign languages have also a competitive advantage on several job markets.

A few Czech students who graduated in France as part of an education program supported by the government asked the minister to review the framework. Learning foreign languages helps building a successful career, as “two ministers of education, other senior officials in state administration and European structures, academics and scientists, internationally successful managers, lawyers and doctors,” graduated from the same program.

Furthermore, foreign language teachers argue basic teaching of a foreign language at a young age doesn’t overwhelm children and is much more efficient than when they start in high school. They also consider that teaching languages at school helps balancing socioeconomic differences. Parents who can afford to travel or have high-paid jobs would more likely expose children to foreign languages and increase their chances of getting well-paid work.

According to Lidovky, several ambassadors of different European Union member countries even expressed their concerns about the measure.

A public consultation of the new educational framework has been open for a month and closes on April 21.

Read more about the Czech Republic

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