Third-graders will start learning English as of next year. (ČTK)Third-graders will start learning English as of next year. (ČTK)
English language will belong among compulsory subjects starting in the third grade of primary school next year. Third graders at some schools have already started learning English. Schools, however, are facing a lack of qualified language teachers.

The Ministry of Education has therefore decided to ease up the pressure on teachers to complete their qualification and to prolong the period during which they are allowed to start with their studies until 2014. According to the institute for information on education (ÚIV), there are some 20% of unqualified teachers active in the Czech Republic. The situation with English language teachers is the most alarming. In primary schools 77% of the teaches are underqualified, while at secondary schools it is 70%.

A teacher from Znojmo who shot a porn video was among them too. She graduated from a missionary and theological college in Kolín (VOŠMT) and taught English at a vocational school.

The majority of other schools is suffering from similar problems. “We found out that out of eight English teachers at a primary school in Nové Město nad Metují not one graduated in English,” said Libor Vacek, spokesman for the Czech school inspection. If Education Minister Ondřej Liška did not prolong the qualification deadline, these teachers would have to stop teaching English this year.

Headmasters agree that the deadline extension is necessary. “Of course, the ministry had to step in, otherwise there would be no one to teach,” said Marie Zimová, head of the primary school Ohradní in Prague.

“It is a problematic issue, three teachers would have to leave our school,” said Jiří Růžička, a principal at the Prague secondary school Jana Keplera. He added that they are the best teachers at school, and that it would be a pity to lose them.

Not enough Physics teachers

It is not only language teaching that is posing problems. “I don’t have a teacher with a particular specialisation in mathematics, chemistry and physics. I am glad that the ministry prolonged the deadline. I would have to lay off one teacher,” said Zdeněk Souček from a primary school in Libice nad Cidlinou. He added that teachers are scarce and he cannot be a chooser.

“One of the reasons for the proposed change in the deadline is the great number of pedagogical employees lacking the required qualifications who would therefore have to stop teaching by the end of 2009,” said Education Ministry spokeswoman Kateřina Böhmová. According to her, this might lead to a collapse of certain types of schools in some of the regions. Another reason is the insufficient offer of distance study and combined types of study that would help pedagogical workers acquire the qualification.

KDU-ČSL MP Michaela Šojdrová agrees. “I will support this proposal, even though, on the other hand, I would like to see the study options expanded and the ministry to show greater effort at providing study for underqualified teachers. All that needs to be done is to communicate with the pedagogical faculties,” said Šojdrová.

An education amendment, sent to the cabinet at the end of November, proposes to exclude teachers older than 45 by 1 January 2005 who have significant experience in teaching from the obligatory study. If the amendment is endorsed by the parliament, it might come into effect at the beginning of the next school year.