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HN: Number of students with German proficiency declines

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Prague, May 3 (CTK) – The number of Czech secondary school students who choose the German language as a subject of their school-leaving exam has been steadily declining although German and Austrian firms are interested in hiring German-speaking staff, daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) reported on Thursday.

Five years ago, more than 5,000 students took the German language test within their school-leaving exam, while their number did not cross 2,000 this year.

In contrast, the number of the students choosing English has further increased, by 3 percent year-on-year, HN writes.

The German and Austrian firms, of which over 6,000 operate in the Czech Republic, are very interested in having German-speaking personnel, even though English is a language widely used in business, the daily writes.

“The knowledge of foreign languages is the top criterion for the choice of employees [by companies]…, also now that there is a shortage of workforce. It is surprising how little Czech secondary school students use the chance they have in this respect,” Bernard Bauer, a member of the Czech-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce board of directors, is quoted as saying.

Germany is the Czech Republic’s most important trade partner, with bilateral trade turnover reaching the record 2.35 billion crowns last year.

The knowledge of the trade partner’s language raises the latter’s confidence and opens the door to career advancement, Bauer said.

The lacking language proficiency weakens not only the employee’s career prospects but also the Czech Republic’s competitiveness, HN writes.

“German companies, which are mainly seated in the border zones of west and north Bohemia, say they would welcome it if they could use German while operating in our country. Nevertheless, the current school leavers outweigh this shortage with their quite decent English proficiency,” Eva Velickova, spokeswoman for the Czech Industry Confederation, told the paper.

A second foreign language, most often German, was introduced as a compulsory subject at Czech elementary schools in 2013, but the problem is a shortage of German-language teachers at secondary schools, many of which do not offer German lessons therefore, HN writes.

According to some observers, students prefer learning French and Spanish as they are aware that in Germany, they can use English in communication more easily, the daily writes.

Bronislava Chudobova, from the Skrivanek foreign language agency, said people’s interest in German courses is minimal now, but it is not further declining.

The courses designated for the public have seen a 20-percent decline in attendance in recent years. On the other hand, the demand for courses tailored for particular companies has increased by 57 percent, Chudobova said, adding that mainly companies in the automotive, engineering and chemical industries show interest in them.

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