How do you see the reasons for the announced strike of primary, secondary and kindergarten schools?
There are three reasons. One of them is the reduction of the maximum hours that the state reimburses per pupil. The state is reacting to the fact that some small schools are not completely efficient because a small class costs a lot of money. It will limit teaching, but it can also have a negative impact on pedagogical methods such as dividing classes into groups.
What are the reasons for the school union strike? And are they justified? Listen to an interview with sociologist Daniel Prokop
“The maximum number of teaching hours financed from the state budget for one grade in the field of education, depending on the number of pupils in the grade,” reads the amendment.
I understand that “mini-classes” are not effective. This is a problem especially in secondary schools and vocational schools, where fields of study are listed for a small number of students. Gymnasiums are overcrowded. There are often thirty students there. It’s the same with elementary schools. About a third of them have less than a hundred pupils.
The state is therefore looking for measures to limit this. But the question is whether this destroys something that pedagogues consider positive – tandem teaching and the like.
One of the other motives for the strike is the so-called parametrization of assistants. Let’s just add that the new assistants would no longer be recommended to primary schools by counseling facilities, but schools would receive them automatically based on the total number of pupils attending the given school. What would it bring?
It is now the case that a school that has a child with special needs gets a diagnosis made in the counseling rooms. That’s where the assistant comes in. This is a rather administratively demanding process, because especially in the case of social disadvantages, schools already know that the child is from a boarding school and needs support.
I’m a supporter of making it a little simpler, but I’m not sure it can be replaced with diagnoses, you need medical expertise.
Socially disadvantaged pupils
Even critics object that the schools that need them the most will lose assistants.
It is true that there is quite a mess in the assistants. When we look at municipalities with extended scope – microregions – there are some where 130 children are needed per assistant and some where only 20 or 30 are needed.
It is not entirely clear how to work with them. It is administratively demanding, capacities are uneven. Such parameterization, where the maximum number of assistants there can be determined, makes sense.
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In the current parameterization, the number of assistants would also depend on how many children in one school have the third, fourth, fifth degree of disadvantage. But I have two complaints about the parameterization.
We did research for the Ministry of Education and Culture, which shows that there is a much greater demand for assistants in schools where there are many socially disadvantaged pupils. That’s not in the plans. Only the number of pupils and the number of children in the third, fourth and fifth degree of medical disadvantage are taken into account.
This causes issues with reordering assistant capacities. It should be taken into account that larger schools with socially and culturally disadvantaged pupils are entitled to assistants.
The second problem is that they have to determine whether the goal is to stop the growth of assistant costs or to reduce it. I would rather stop growth than cut costs. The goal should be to work with them better and distribute them evenly, not to save with them.
Maybe give some social security, for example a contract for an indefinite period, which would be possible if the school director received a budget according to these parameters and could play with it.
The parameterizations are good for this, because the disadvantage of Czech education is that professions such as assistants or school psychologists are made through individual support measures – diagnoses. Schools usually get money for a school psychologist through the subsidies they have for the year.
It’s terribly unstable for these positions. They do not provide security. That is also why the situation is such that no one completely rushes into school psychologists when they do not know if they will be in that position for a year, five or ten years. This is where parameterization is good, because it will provide the school with certainty in the long term.
Too many canteens
As another reason for the strike, its organizers state that the ministry wants to reduce the number of non-teaching staff. The ministry says it will cut vacant positions, but it’s getting simpler – who will cook in those schools and kindergartens.
Non-pedagogical positions are cooks, janitors, building management and the like. I understand why the ministry is doing it, but I’m not sure if it’s the right way.
The system that every school receives money for cookbooks, for example, is not completely effective. It does not motivate schools, for example, to connect the cafeteria and do it efficiently.
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Sometimes it’s a problem to get a cookbook for that money.
They take 20,000 crowns, maybe even less. In my opinion, we need to look for a system so that the schools and founders in smaller municipalities work together to have one canteen, deliver lunches, so that cooks do not take 19,000, so that the system is not so fragmented.
The ministry wants to take part of the money from the schools and instead give it to the municipalities, so that the municipalities will pay for it and be motivated to connect services between those schools. But it is not at all clear how it is planned, and at the same time, it is not that female cooks should not receive such meager salaries.
The system that each school will have its own cafeteria is unsustainable in the network of small Czech schools. All three of these things need to be discussed with the union. It’s not a good idea to rush to push it without explanation.
How are students tested when transitioning to secondary school? And how do households cope with inflation? Listen to the full interview at the beginning of the article.
Jan Pokorný, fos
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