Three weeks have passed since the murder of the teacher by a pupil at the Ohradní Secondary Vocational School in Prague. After the police and psychologists, the Czech School Inspectorate will also arrive at the school. Two years ago, inspectors pointed out that the vocational school lacked a properly set up system of educational counseling or supervision of the quality of education.
“An example is working with pupils at risk of school failure, which is a big problem for both vocational schools in general and this school for a long time,” says Deputy Central School Inspector Ondřej Andrys.
“If we look at the inspection findings from 2020, the Czech School Inspectorate already stated that support for these pupils in SOU Ohradní is provided only by an informal educational counselor in cooperation with other teachers, that there is no systematic work in the field of school failure prevention strategy. , there is a lack of targeted efforts to improve pupils’ educational results and their support, there is a lack of drawing concrete conclusions and taking specific measures in the area of supporting pupils at risk of failure, “he adds.
However, the tragic event in the corridors of the school in Michle in Prague only revealed how difficult it is to work with low-motivated students. Especially when there is a lack of basic personnel and financial support from the state and the founders, for example with regard to special pedagogues, school psychologists or social pedagogues.
“It would not be fair to think that SOU Ohradní is a dark exception within Prague or even the whole republic, and that in that negative sense it differs significantly from most other vocational schools. The problem is that educating students in the fields of study is really extremely demanding for their teachers for many reasons, ”explains Andrys.
Bad reputation and demotivated students
Pupils, for whom no other option is left, have been heading to the apprenticeship for a long time. This is shown by the IDEA study. Between 2003 and 2018, the difference between those interested in apprenticeships and other fields of secondary education consistently reached 113 points, according to the results of the international PISA testing. Thus, there was such an educational gap between the applicant for the graduation field and the apprenticeship as between the pupil with average and very below-average results. Or also as between an ordinary schoolboy from the Czech Republic and an average student from Georgia, Panama or Indonesia.
Moreover, in the Czech Republic, the social prestige of vocational schools is even worse than abroad. Compared to the 15 countries whose structure of secondary education is comparable and participating in international testing, the Czech fields of study ended third. Only Belgium and Slovakia report a larger difference in the social status of the fields of study compared to the other branches of secondary education. In contrast, in Austria, Switzerland or Bulgaria, schools have about half the reputation.
The lower the value, the worse the reputation of apprenticeships compared to other branches of secondary education.
“It simply came to our notice then that we need to pay far more attention to vocational schools. It is necessary to say that these are the schools and pupils who need the most support. For example, the debate on primary schools has been well-directed over the years, namely the need to help socially disadvantaged pupils and especially schools that operate in more complex environments. However, such attention is not paid to apprentices, which unfortunately can lead to extreme cases, “describes the analyst and co-author of the study, Václav Korbel.
At the same time, in the words of Deputy Central School Inspector Andrys, there are often “demotivated, tired and not very satisfied teachers in their profession, who often rely only on the negative motivation of students because they consider it a pedagogical tool given the environment in which they move, the only possible way ’. Such a combination simply cannot guarantee successful education.
There is interest in some fields of study
The director of SOU Ohradní, Karel Dvořák, did not want to comment on the criticism from the Czech School Inspectorate. According to him, it is all too forgotten that everything depends on the pupils and their interest in their own education.
“In many cases, students are not willing to do the minimum to successfully complete their chosen studies. If the company has recently been trying to sweep their path with all possible concessions and look for the problem of failure somewhere other than theirs, then it is difficult for us to make any overall improvement, “thinks the director.
“It’s not black and white and it would certainly not be fair to look for the causes of the problems on one side only, because they are neither exclusively on the part of the pupils nor exclusively on the part of the school. But as I say, there are apprenticeships where all these things basically work out, which is a very important fact for any deeper transformation of the entire segment of pupil education, ”argues Andrys. The Czech School Inspectorate will describe their work in the prepared material.
One of the schools where there is an overpressure in the fields of study is the Jarov Secondary Vocational School in Prague. This year, for example, 36 candidates apply for the field of masonry, but it is only open to 16.
“But we often find that the children come to us and after a short time find out that they have chosen the wrong field. If they arrive in a few months, the transfer can still be made. It’s harder later. The Czechia has large reserves in career counseling at primary schools, which is not a problem of schools as such, but a lack of systemic support, “says school principal Miloslav Janeček.
Miloš Rathouský from the Confederation of Industry and Transport of the Czech Republic agrees with him. According to him, career counseling can also prevent and help with the loss of motivation, interest in the field or insufficient results.
“Pupil support measures can help with problems in understanding and mastering the curriculum, but access to quality career guidance, which can help to select or adjust a career, has a more fundamental impact. We think that more intensive involvement of students in real practice can help strengthen the relationship with the field, or, conversely, at an early stage to capture problems that the student did not choose correctly. Then the helping hand of a career counselor must follow and the search for a better alternative must follow, “Rathouský is convinced.
However, interviews conducted in recent weeks by the Report List with pupils, graduates or former pedagogues of SOU Ohradní show that pupils received such assistance at school only in exceptional cases. And if, then only uncoordinated.
“We were circumvented in many ways, the director behind us changed the marks on the report card, held educational sessions without competent staff, the educational consultant and prevention methodologists were not invited to management meetings, although we repeatedly asked for it. Two years ago, the school was declared the worst in Prague, “says the former pedagogue, who does not want to be named.
For me, this is a demonstration of the systematic underestimation of the psychosocial side of education in Czech schools. But it is by no means just an apprenticeship. The wellbeing of pupils and teachers is generally underestimated, as shown by cases of self-harm or even suicide in grammar schools and industrial schools, which we unfortunately had to deal with.
Vít Šimral, Pirates, Councilor for the Capital City’s Education
Regarding the evaluation of the school, the mentioned teacher refers to internal reports that the capital city had at its disposal on the quality of individual Prague schools. Across the indicators assessed by the Czech School Inspectorate, the school actually ended up on the tail. Inspectors evaluate schools in general in six indicators, which are divided into other sub-aspects, on a four-point rating scale: excellent, expected, needing improvement and unsatisfactory. SOU Ohradní received the worst mark in all indicators evaluating teaching. The inspectors grant this exceptionally. In all other indicators, the school was evaluated either at a level requiring improvement or not. The CSI also saw large gaps in the already mentioned educational counseling.
“From my thirty-year director’s career, it is not clear to me how the best school counseling center could work better with students. It’s still just about the attitude and effort of each student. At the same time, it is now being said that the school should cater for everything. But this is how children will be absolutely unprepared for life, when they get poked in the ribs at every step, “adds the school principal Dvořák.
The founder of SOU Ohradní, the capital city of Prague, sees the fundamental problem in the lack of help for the pupils and wants to solve it.
“For me, this is a demonstration of the systematic underestimation of the psychosocial side of education in Czech schools. But it is by no means just an apprenticeship. The wellbeing of pupils and teachers is generally underestimated, which is shown by cases of self-harm or even suicide in grammar schools and industrial schools, which we unfortunately had to deal with, “describes the councilor for education of the capital Vít Šimral (Pirates).
The Ministry of Education now wants to strengthen the position of school psychologists or special pedagogues with new funding. However, the plan so far is to support these experts only in primary schools, not secondary schools.
High schools are waiting for change
On the other hand, the government’s program statement envisages some changes in secondary education, such as the anchoring of dual education. That is, part of the pupil’s education is taken over by a company or internship provider on the basis of a mutual contract, which is also supported by the Confederation of Industry and Transport. Pupils will be able to better assess that education makes sense because it prepares them for working life.
“We see the need to build a relationship with science and technology in the full range and at all levels of education. We support the idea that the fields of secondary schools should be reduced to a broader subject basis and that students will gradually specialize or profile themselves in professions, for example according to the system of the National Qualifications Framework, ”says Rathouský.
The Ministry of Education and the union will agree on this point as well.
“The measures and activities that will be implemented under this card are an opportunity to transform the system in order to create an attractive, open and open education system in the field of vocational education. A functional, permeable and attractive field system will then ensure that its graduates are equipped with competencies for further professional and non-professional education, personal life and long-term applicability on the labor market, ”explains Ministry of Education spokeswoman Aneta Lednová.
With this step, the Ministry of Education wants to reduce the proportion of pupils who leave school early and therefore do not even reach secondary education without a high school diploma. This number has been growing in the Czech Republic in recent years. As late as 2008, only 4.9 percent of young people finished primary school, compared to 7.6 percent in 2020. Developments in the European Union are going in the opposite direction.
“When it is declared that it is not primarily about teaching in a specific and highly specialized field, because we currently lack leather roofers or punches on the market, but about the comprehensive development of students to equip them with a broader portfolio of knowledge and skills. applicable in their lives, then it will be more likely that there will be changes in education in vocational schools, ”adds Andrys.