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Senate passes long-disputed school bill

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Prague, April 20 (CTK) – The Czech Senate passed on Wednesday the long-disputed draft amendment to the school law that introduces new rules of inclusion in education as from September, unified secondary school entrance exams as from next year and compulsory mathematics tests for secondary school leavers as from 2021.

The bill also makes the attendance of the last grade of kindergarten compulsory for children before their admission to a primary school.

The draft, supported by 39 of the 67 senators present, will be submitted to President Milos Zeman for signing now.

The Senate passed the bill unchanged, though the relevant Senate committees previously recommended the deletion of a provision binding kindergartens to admit children from their age of two.

At present, children start attending kindergartens at the age of three. The change, to take effect in 2020, is a reaction to the demographic development and it should enable mothers to return to work sooner after the childbirth, Education Minister Katerina Valachova (Social Democrats, CSSD) said.

The critics said kindergartens should not be a place for mothers to deposit their children and that the raising of kids in their families should be preferred.

The lower house’s educational committee previously pushed for a postponement of the new rules of handicapped children’s inclusion in regular classes. The deputies said schools need more time to prepare for the changes.

Siding with the critics, opposition Civic Democrat (ODS) senator Jiri Oberfalzer said on Wednesday the inclusion rules, if applied hastily, might harm those whom they are supposed to help.

According to Valachova, a postponement would solve nothing and it would complicate the negotiations about the financing of this type of education of handicapped children.

Supportive measures in the form of compensation aids or teacher’s assistants have been secured for this year, including their financial coverage. Even now, one quarter of kids with a slight mental disorder attend regular classes, Valachova said.

The uniform entrance tests at secondary schools will apply to the Czech language a maths tests, with artistic schools being exempted.

A secondary school leaving exam in mathematics should be compulsory for the study branches to be defined by a special government. As a result, tests in three subjects will be compulsory for school leavers: the Czech language and literature, mathematics and a foreign language.

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