Schools already know how many teachers the state will take from them. The Minister of Education Mikuláš Bek (STAN) claimed that he would only limit their increase, but it turns out that he will simply have to cut back. And what is the most painful for the director? The most cost-saving measures will fall on innovative schools. At the same time, the Ministry of Education has significantly motivated them in recent years to modernize and individualize teaching. But now it’s in reverse order.
Primary schools will lose six percent of paid teaching hours, secondary schools even 15 percent. It is based on the government’s new regulation on teaching funding. Through the so-called PHmax system, money is calculated for each school separately, so the impact of the cuts will be very different.
Biggest impact on high schools
However, the Ministry of Education assumes in its explanatory report that almost a fifth of secondary schools will have to dismiss two to five teachers from September. But there are also 31 schools that will have to say goodbye to up to 10 teachers, and four schools will even lose more than 10 full-time positions. It is high schools that will be most affected by the new measure.
But now a concrete example. Mladoboleslav Secondary Pedagogical School and Secondary Vocational School of Services can draw on the budget for the mentioned PHmax 1088 hours. The state will pay for her so many hours of teaching. He won’t use all of the money, it’s enough for about 1009 hours. But now, according to the draft regulation, the Ministry of Education will pay for only 925 hours for the same number of pupils.
“Now cut some 84 hours of instruction for the 16 classes we have. This is to close the professional training, otherwise it cannot be done. For example, we will probably have to send confectioners to restaurants, where they will only have to wash dishes and clean for the first year, while they learn to cook with us from the very beginning,” warns school director Štefan Klíma.
In school, they only divide lessons when according to the rules they have to, i.e. when the number of pupils exceeds the maximum given for the English language or for example physical education. The same goes for professional training. So he has nowhere to turn in the case of savings, without breaking the rules or getting rid of some teaching that is hard to imagine.
|Decrease in employment at secondary schools||Number of secondary schools||The share of secondary schools|
|More than 10||4||0.4%|
|5 to 10||31||3.4%|
|2 to 5||156||17.9%|
|1 to 2||112||12.2%|
|Source: Ministry of Education|
“When I calculated it at my own school, I would have to cut 35 hours of teaching per week. But this means that I would have to reach into the school’s educational program and stop teaching something. I allowed myself the luxury of teaching a second foreign language as an elective at the industrial university, which I will therefore have to cancel,” explains Jiří Zajíček, director of the Masaryk High School of Chemistry.
It is high schools that will benefit the most from the savings. Gymnasiums will not have the chance to offer optional subjects or seminars to their pupils to the same extent as before. At the same time, the individualization of teaching has been a trend promoted by the Ministry of Education in recent years.
“I hear strong words about the need to move away from the idea of an assembly line towards a more advanced economy. But there is no other way than through the continuous education of the company. No one in any village wakes up overnight with the idea of starting a business in nanotechnology,” points out the director of the Polička High School, Josef Dvořák.
“I understand that the state budget has problems, but let’s freeze the situation for a while before we continue with the reforms. But what the minister (education Mikuláš Bek, author’s note) proposed is not a freeze, but a step back,” adds Dvořák.
A stop sign for innovation
In the case of primary schools, the cost-saving measures will fall mainly on the progressive ones, which were able to use the current funding to the full for their pupils. So they manage to divide the teaching or perhaps offer tandem lessons, as the Czech School Inspectorate also wants them to during inspections, among other things.
At the Solidarita Primary School in Prague, four subjects are innovatively linked into a whole of natural science. In tandem, they also develop constructivist teaching in the Czech language in the form of reading and writing workshops.
“In recent years, quite a few pedagogues have completed courses paid for by the state on how to conduct tandem teaching. These courses were accredited by the Ministry of Education and Culture, and now you are going to tell us that it was a mistake? Shouldn’t we do any tandem teaching?” school director Karin Marques asks the politicians in an open letter addressed to them.
|Decrease in employment at primary schools||Number of elementary schools||Share of elementary school|
|2 to 3||6||0.2%|
|1 to 2||89||2.3%|
|Source: Ministry of Education|
For a number of principals, the adjustment of teaching funding is the last straw in a series of planned savings measures. At the same time, there is no money for non-teaching staff, a reduction in teaching assistants is being prepared, schools have also lost half of the benefits for employees and there is no money left for new textbooks (ONIV).
“Reduction of PHmax, reduction of funds for non-teaching staff, or ONIV are steps that de facto destroy the funding system that has started to work and which most of the affected schools have started to use to improve the quality of teaching,” the former Minister of Education for the ANO movement also agrees with the criticism of the principals and teachers Robert Plaga.
In addition, it is necessary to add that the teachers do not even reach for the enacted 130 percent of the average gross salary. The ratio will be calculated from the year before last, and for that the directors will have to finance from their remuneration all the holes in the budget that are not left over. Because of all these steps, the school unions decided to announce a one-day strike on November 27.
School principals have thus begun to write letters to politicians about how the intended budget cuts will actually affect individual schools.
“We will not be an innovative and modern state, but an assembly plant and a developing state,” adds Marques.
A petition “against drastic cuts in education” was also created. And things are really boiling over among school principals after a long time, so much so that even principals who in the past did not even think about such a form of protest intend to go on strike.
“I never thought about going on strike. But now I think I’m going to do it,” says Pavel Koc, director of JK Tyla Primary School in Písek.
However, the Ministry of Education claims that the proposed measures only preserve the current situation and will not significantly affect the operation of schools.
“Now, I think we have a reasonable number of employees, both in teaching and non-teaching positions. Together with them, we can provide a high-quality education for the population of children, which is no longer growing significantly,” said Minister of Education Mikuláš Bek (STAN) after the discussion on the budget in the education committee of the House of Representatives.
However, its predecessor, Plaga, warns that the quality will be endangered.
“The reduction of PHmax to the average will affect those who used opportunities to improve the quality of teaching, such as tandem teaching or dividing lessons, so it will undoubtedly lead to a decrease in quality,” describes Plaga.
Prefer shorter lessons
At the same time, principals and teachers understand that it is necessary to find ways to make the system more efficient. Across their representative associations, however, they are trying to propose another way to the ministry, so that the money could be found much more painlessly.
“We presented the minister with a proposal that saving can be solved in another way, and that we would reduce the number of hours in the pupils’ curricula. Even in international comparison, Czech children spend too many hours in desks,” suggests Klíma, adding that, for example, this could specifically mean one hour less per week in some grades.
Despite the significant impact on a number of schools, the planned cuts in teaching positions will not be enough for the ministry to find the missing funds for the salaries of non-pedagogical staff for next year. In the explanatory note to the proposal, the ministry itself writes that next year it is not possible to count on a “significant saving of funded places” because the changes will not be reflected until September. According to Bek, it was the cuts in teaching that were supposed to secure the funds. The list of reports therefore asked the ministries where else to find the money for next year.
“A possible solution for the future could be a change in the financing of non-pedagogical positions, i.e. their transfer to founders,” spokeswoman Tereza Fojtová wrote to Seznam Zráva, stating that this can only be resolved in 2025 at the earliest.
The Ministry of Education does not mention any concrete steps to save money for next year. At the same time, the draft state budget states that there is no money for 17,000 non-teaching staff positions. In reality, the budget lacks approximately six billion crowns.
The opposition is therefore ready to submit an amendment to increase the Ministry of Education’s chapter.
“The necessary money cannot even be found in the current budget of the Ministry of Education. We will submit an amendment to the state budget, which returns 6.5 billion to the education chapter, so that 17,000 positions of non-teaching staff do not have to be cut,” comments MP Jana Berkovcová (ANO).
Even coalition MPs are not deaf to the comments of principals and teachers. For example, member of the education committee David Šimko (KDU-ČSL) is not happy that austerity measures will affect progressive schools the most.
“It feels like a way back. We would therefore like to discuss with the minister whether there is any alternative to mitigate the impact as much as possible,” explains Šimek.
When Seznam Zpravy asked sources from political and official circles how the lack of money in the education budget for next year will be solved, rather problematic steps resulted. If additional funds are not found, at least part of the savings may fall to the founders already next year. However, further savings could affect parts of education that have not yet been affected, for example primary art schools.