Schools & Education

Education system in the Czech Republic

Education at state Primary and Secondary schools and Universities is free of charge if it is in the Czech language. Parents are asked to buy only some learning materials such as brushes, paints, adhesives and notepads, personal school equipment, trips, lunches and possibly also for accommodation.

History background

The Education system in the Czech Republic has a very long tradition and creates many choices and opportunities. The down-to-earth Austro-Habsburg curricula are still partially reflected in the system making sure that the general education is balanced and enables all children from all backgrounds to participate and proceed to higher education. Excellent education traditions date back to the Middle Ages when literacy (otherwise rather rare in Europe) was already quite common,  and also to the renaissance when important thinkers and teachers, such as Jan Comenius, were laying the cornerstones of modern and European pedagogy.

General overview

The assessment and grading system used in the Czech Schools consists of a scale from 1 (best) to 5 (worst) that is used to evaluate the students’ work. School Reports/Certificates (summary assessment) give grades for each school subject halfway through and at the end of the school year.

Children start with preschool education usually at the age of 3 at the Kindergarten (školka) and continue to the Primary School (= základní škola, ZŠ). It starts at the age of 6 and its first 5 years are called Elementary School. Then the pupils can proceed to the Secondary Education, afterwards there is a choice of the Tertiary or University education, and also there are Post-graduate Education Programmes.

There are various choices of schooling approaches and some schools specialise: there are bilingual schools, Montessori and Waldorf schools, and schools specialising in sports, science or languages. The choice is wide. Private schools are usually paid.

Apart from the mainstream system there are also educational facilities for children with special educational needs due to their physical and/or mental disabilities. Lately, integrating children with special needs has become the main approach and pedagogic assistants are available to integrate children with special needs. Not knowing the language of schooling can also be considered a special need and if this is the case for your child please contact us to discuss the procedures.

Education system
  • Kindergartens are separate from Primary Schools and before entering Primary  School (=základní škola) one year of Kindergarten is compulsory, i.e. children who are 5 years of age by 1st of September have to start attending Kindergarten.
  • Age 5: compulsory Kindergarten starts.
  • Age 6: compulsory 9-year-long Primary School starts (including Elementary School for the first 5 years).
  • Primary School (=Základní škola) covers the age range 6 – 15, but children can proceed to various secondary schools already earlier (at 11 earliest). The Primary Education is compulsory for 9 years (but at a maximum of up to 17 years of age), and it is typically acquired at the so-called Primary School (comprising the 5 years of the Elementary school, the Elementary School is called “1. stupeň ZŠ” in Czech). Children can enter the Secondary Education earliest after fulfilling the 5 years of the Primary School.
  • The Secondary Education can last 8, 7, 6, or 4 years when it is finished (typically at the age of 19) with a School Leaving Exam (=Maturitní zkouška), or providing practical vocational training start at the age of 15 and last for 2 or 3 years only (finished by vocational certificate).
  • Afterwards there is a choice of the Tertiary or University education, and also there are Post-graduate Education Programmes.
Schools

The decision about the school usually has more aspects.  The financial and the length of stay aspects are obvious. For some parents also the logistical aspect (having the school close to their place) is important.

Choosing a school

If you plan to stay with your family for more than just a year or two, it is worth considering sending your child or children to Czech state schools and let them learn the language (Czech). Children can manage that in an easier way than adults just by natural language acquisition. After a silent period they emerge as naturally bilingual. The big advantage is that then they can attend Czech schools including universities free of charge. Children can have various reliefs and special support during the transformation period when they are still learning Czech. Bilingual schools come in especially handy because they offer a combination of two languages (e.g. an English or Spanish focus). If you are planning your stay for a shorter time, for months or for only a few years, then the choice usually falls to one of the private international schools where the tuition language is English. They have a very high level, cover a wide age range, and some also offer IB  as a school leaving exam. They charge tuition fees.

Pre-school Education (Kindergartens)

Children must visit preschool education for one year before they begin compulsory Primary School. Preschool enrollment is guaranteed for children in their last year before entering elementary school, but they often attend as early as at 2 years of age. Preschool institutions are intended to encourage early learning habits and facilitate social contact among peers, both of which are instrumental for a child’s smooth transition to elementary school. In cooperation with parents and teachers, children learn to think logically, train their memory and exercise their imagination.

Kindergarten admission

The number of kindergartens is currently insufficient, which means that not all applying children may be admitted into a kindergarten. In compliance with the Act on the Protection of Public Health, kindergartens and other preschool facilities can only enrol children who have been vaccinated.

The admission procedure usually takes place between January and May; the school year starts in September. Parents or guardians need to present their personal documents and most Kindergartens also require a medical check and a Birth certificate. Kindergarten enrolment is also possible at any time during the school year unless the Kindergarten’s capacity is filled (children approaching 5 years of age have to already enrol in spring preceding the September when they start compulsory attendance). In Ostrava there are a number of Preschool Education facilities offering bilingual education or education in English (education in Czech is free, in other languages it is a paid service).

Primary Education

Children aged 6–15 usually attend Primary Schools (Základní škola, ZŠ). Primary schools have two levels; the first comprises of five grades, the second of four grades. A small percentage of children leave after the first level to continue their education at an eight-year secondary school (most probably a “Gymnásium”, a Grammar school aimed at preparing the children for University). By attending Primary Schools children also fulfil the statutory requirement for compulsory school attendance, which takes nine years.

Primary School admission

Primary schools admit children who have reached the age of six before 1 September of the respective year. Admission procedures take place in April; the specific date is determined by each school individually. Parents, along with their children who have reached six years of age by 31 August, come to the admission procedure. They need to present their children’s personal documentation and also the documentation related to them as parents.

Secondary Education

Secondary schools (= střední škola) follow up on the Primary School Education in the form of either a general secondary school (gymnázium), technical schools (střední odborná škola), vocational schools (střední odborné učiliště) or a conservatory. Even though secondary school attendance is not compulsory more than 95% of children choose to continue their education at secondary level. Education at public secondary schools is free of charge if it is undertaken in Czech.

  • General secondary schools offer their students a general education including preparation for university studies. Studies are completed with a secondary school leaving certificate (maturitní zkouška) and last for four years.
  • Secondary technical schools offer a professionally oriented education. Studies are completed with a secondary school leaving certificate and last for four years as well. Graduates may thereafter continue studying at a university.
  • Secondary vocational schools provide their students with a professional and practical preparation, which is completed with a vocational certificate (výuční list). This certificate does not allow students to continue studying at universities. Studies usually last for three years, in exceptional cases for only two years.
  • Conservatories offer artistic preparation in the areas of music, singing, acting or dance. Admission exams include an audition. The four years of study are usually completed with a secondary school leaving certificate, and the graduates may continue with tertiary education at a vocational school or college or at a university.
Tertiary professional schools

Tertiary professional schools (vyšší odborná škola) provide further education to students with secondary school leaving certificates such as from general secondary schools, secondary technical schools, and conservatories. As opposed to universities, tertiary professional schools focus more on practical preparation. Studies last for three years, and graduates receive the title Dis. Public tertiary vocational schools may charge fees.

Universities

University studies are divided into two main levels – bachelor and master. Bachelor’s degrees (Bc.) usually last for three years with an additional two years for a master’s degree (Mgr. or Ing.). Studies at public universities in the Czech language are currently free of charge, however, there is an ongoing debate about initiating fees. Students must bear the costs of study materials, accommodation and board. Most universities, however, offer scholarship programmes for socially disadvantaged students. Some universities also offer postgraduate studies for master’s degree holders which prepare the students for their future research career. These programmes last for three or four years and successful graduates obtain the Ph.D. title.

After-school activities (= mimoškolní aktivity, kroužky)

There is a wide choice of afterschool activities for all ages. Besides the state governed Popular Arts School (=Lidová škola umění, LŠU, “liduška”) with music, ballet, fine arts and drama education there are a number of state-owned and private subjects offering courses during the afternoons and evenings. Children and young people often combine afternoon sports clubs, arts and clubs according to their talents. An International Stage Arts School from Glasgow has opened a branch in Ostrava letting Czech and English speaking children prepare and stage  Broadway musicals.

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