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LN: More foreign children attend Czech kindergartens

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Prague, May 14 (CTK) – The number of children of foreigners attending Czech kindergartens is more than three times higher than ten years ago: in 2008 it was 3,078, while this year it is 9,805, daily Lidove noviny (LN) wrote on Monday.

Even this number is a fraction of the 360,000 children in Czech kindergartens, but the demographic trend is clear. At elementary schools, there are more foreign children as well, although the increase in their number is not so steep: from about 10,900 in 2007/08 to 17,000 in 2017/18.

Most of the children whose mother tongue is not Czech go to private kindergartens because of the language barrier. The state-run kindergartens and schools are rather unprepared to accept children with a different mother tongue, the paper writes.

“There are no officially presented methods of learning Czech as a foreign language. This is a common part of education in advanced countries,” Bohumil Kartous, from the EDUin group focusing on education, said.

Kartous said more and more children with a different mother tongue than Czech will be attending Czech schools.

The duty to go to Czech schools applies to an increasing number of children, including those whose parents are EU citizens or legally stay in the country for more than 90 days or are seeking asylum in the country.

The number of foreigners having permanent residence in the Czech Republic has been steadily increasing and it was nearly half a million at the end of 2016 according to the police data, which means that they made up 4.5 percent of the population. Most of them were from Ukraine, Slovakia and Vietnam.

Half of the children in the private kindergarten and nursery school Bambino in Prague are from Czech families, one third are from bilingual families, mostly American-Italian or English-Czech, and the parents of the rest are expatriates, Bambino’s head Tomas Trnka said.

“We have kids of about ten nationalities,” he said, adding that American, French, Italian, Vietnamese, German, Slovak and Israeli children were most common.

“We have children of diplomats who spend a limited time here, usually two or four years. It is their priority that their child has social contacts rather than learns to speak Czech well,” Trnka said, adding that foreign employees of world corporations have a similar strategy.

But if the foreign parents decide to stay in the country, they want their child to leave kindergarten with a very good command of Czech, he said.

Trnka said small children can understand one another and become good friends despite the language barrier.

It sometimes happens that a newcomer to the kindergarten is a boy or girl who speak only their mother tongue, for example Italian, and none of the carers or the other children understand this language. This situation is a sort of an inclusion, Trnka said, adding that communication begins through toys and games.

Education Ministry spokeswoman Jarmila Balazova said younger children learn Czech easier than older ones. “Small children do not consider a foreign language to be foreign. They learn it in the same way as their mother tongue. It is a game for them, not learning,” she said, adding that small children follow the melody, rhythm, listen and repeat and do not mind making mistakes.

Once children are old enough to go to school, they have the right to receive preparation for elementary education for free and this introduction including Czech language lessons is secured by their school and the regional authorities.

The official language at school is Czech, but ethnic minorities have the right to education in their mother tongue. However, only Poles in Moravia-Silesia apply this right, according to available information, the paper writes.

More than half of Czech kindergartens offer some foreign language to children, mostly in the form of a voluntary English course.

As of the next school year, an adaptation coordinator will assist foreign students who start attending elementary school and have to bridge a language or cultural barrier, Balazova said. An interpreter will be available to the families of such students, she said.

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