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LN: Diplomacy to reduce funding school fees abroad

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Prague, June 9 (CTK) – The Czech Foreign Ministry plans to change the system of funding the education of the children of diplomats serving abroad, which annually costs hundreds of thousands of crowns per capita, to make it less costly and more transparent, daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes yesterday.
An inspection of the Supreme Audit Office (NKU) has concluded that the payments for elementary and secondary schools attended by children of diplomats, mostly international schools where education is provided in English, are too high and not transparent.
The school costs paid by the Foreign Ministry include common tuition as well as enrolment and examination fees, while they do not cover individual education, catering, textbooks and other tools and transport to school, LN writes.
Under an amendment to the government regulation and the Foreign Ministry’s directive, state and free schools should be preferred for diplomats’ offspring if they meet the quality and security criteria, LN says.
However, the system has cost the state budget more and more every year. In 2012 it was 70.4 million crowns, while last year the sum rose to 102.1 million crowns with 421,781 crowns paid per one child’s education on average, LN says.
School fees make up almost one-third of the total costs at some embassies, for instance, in London (30.2 percent) and Moscow (28 percent). On the contrary, the lowest school expenditures of some 1.3 percent have long been at the embassy in Berlin, LN writes.
There are deep differences between the school costs in particular cities. The most expensive are in the USA (New York and Los Angeles) and China (Shanghai) as well as in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator, while the cheapest schools attended by diplomats’ children are in Budapest, Skopje, Pristina, Algeria and Canberra, LN says.
It writes that most Czech embassies and other diplomatic missions are in the A category cities where the ministry covers the school fees, calculated on the basis of the selected “referential schools” in the locality. The remaining missions fall under the B category towns where children are to attend free-of-charge state schools unless they are granted an exception.
So far the referential schools have been chosen according to the documentation from the ECA International company analysing the living costs and after consultations with embassies, LN writes.
The NKU as well as an analysis worked out by Petr Teply, from te Institute of Economic Studies, have questioned both the costs calculation and the selection is referential schools.
“The referential schools rank among the most expensive in the respective cities. It is a question of how they were selected, and subsequently, checked by the Foreign Ministry,” Teply told LN.
He says the ministry should better verify whether there is really no other suitable primary or secondary schools for free.
The Foreign Ministry has therefore started preparing new rules to make the whole system more transparent and prevent waste of money, LN writes.
“The existing system of referential schools will be cancelled in the prepared amendment to the directive and replaced by limits valid for particular territories. Responsibility for the selection and quality of schools will still be up to the parents,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Michaela Lagronova told LN.
The major savings should be achieved at diplomatic missions in Beijing, Shanghai and New York, were the highest sums were paid last year. Moreover, no exceptions enabling to raise school payments above the set ceilings will be granted in the future, LN says.
Nevertheless, Petr Kambersky questions the austerity measures prepared by Czech diplomacy in his commentary in LN.
He points out that the total costs of education of diplomats’ children make up over 1 percent of the seven-billion-crown budget of the Foreign Ministry. The closing of one fully unnecessary embassy, such as that re-opened in Luxembourg in 2014, would solve the problems with too expensive schools for diplomats, he adds.
The envisaged economising will have just one effect: Only young childless people or the old and “already childless” will seek the key posts at embassies abroad. Do we want to save money or have the best people in New York? Kambersky asks.
($1=23.743 crowns)

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