Education Reform

The question of the change has been around for more than 12 years, but it was not until spring 2012 that the protests against this reform have grown in intensity. Students designated the last week of February as the time of protests against the reform, which has met everything but approval.

The reform is a necessity for higher education

01/15/2013 - 15:22
Josef Dobeš, minister of education, has to face numerous critiques of his higher education reform. The critiques denounce mainly the emergence of social barriers and the oppression of freedom of education. The reform is nevertheless a crucial need to maintain the right level of higher education.

The reform of higher education was not a project done in a hurry; for the past 12 years, it has been the object of many discussions among politicians, scholars and professors. The reform would bring two great changes: implementation of tuition fees in public universities, and change in appointment of board of directors. Professors from large public universities, such as Charles University in Prague, categorically refuse the reform and denounce the oppression of freedom in education and the impartial operation of the board of directors, but a reform is necessary.

Tuition fees will increase the standard of Czech universities

Tuition fees for each student for a semester will be around 10,000,- Kč (Czech crowns), which represents 125% of the Czech minimum wage. These 10,000,- Kč will go directly to the university and the latter will have the freedom to freely dispose of these funds. In the period when the Czech Republic is making economic reforms and cuts down all extra expenses in the field of national education, these 10,000,- Kč will partially ensure the financing of universities.

According to the partisan of the reform, Miroslav Mašláň, rector of Palacký University in Olomouc, quality must overcome quantity. In fact, the number of students in Czech universities increased rapidly since the independence of the Czech Republic in 1993. However, we cannot make the same regarding the quality of teaching in the universities. It is with the tuition fees that the students will take their studies seriously and will not only benefit from their student status, as it has become common. A scholarship system may be introduced for the less fortunate.

A more democratic election of the board of directors – after the reform

Today, the board of directors of each university is appointed entirely by the minister of education, by the proposition of the rector of each university. But isn’t this procedure absolutely antidemocratic and severely lacks transparency? The reform tries to prevent all of this, by inducting a special form of elections- a third of the board will be elected by the Scientific Council, a third by the respected rector, and a third by the minister of education.

Moreover, the council will not only be composed of prominent professors, politicians and entrepreneurs, but also of alumni of the respected university. At this point, it is almost the case, but the reform will facilitate the appointment of people in regions aware of the local issues.

A reform guaranteeing the quality more than the quantity

The reform is mainly the implementation of tuition fees – does it create a social barrier for easy access to higher education? Presently banks do not offer real student loans, and families have to finance the lives of their children, students, themselves. The reform, however, forecasts student loans comparable to those of Great Britain, with gradual repayment after reaching an average salary. The subject of tuition fees found support among many politicians and professors. Tuition fees and change in appointment of the board of directors do not represent the real problem, but it is the details of the final text that have attracted the attention of the public. The majority of remarks and other propositions of changing the text of the reform, presented by the professors, were accepted by the Ministry of Education. Thus, the reform as such is welcome by those who have studied, and have not refused a dialogue with the Ministry of Education – which does not happen too often. The students organise happenings against the reform and are comparing it with the times before 1989, when academic freedom was not respected. This parallel demonstrates not that the students have not studied the reform nor have it misinterpreted, but that the Czech education system really needs one!

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

Prelude to the agony of education

01/15/2013 - 15:22
More than 16,000 students from all over the republic rallied on February 29th to manifest their disapproval of the proposed reforms of higher education. The two bills, created under the direction of the controverial minister of education, Josef Dobeš, are expected to improve the education system of higher education. However, not only the provisions of the projects have nothing innovative, but they may also have a rather negative impact on higher education.

During the ‘week of agitation’, which began February 27th, students, supported by academic environments, collectively expressed their discontent with the reforms introduced by the Ministry of Education. Remarkable for their magnitude and their peaceful flow, these protests call for the mobilization of the nation as did the Velvet Revolution in 1989.

Awakening of the young or a new ‘Velvet Revolution’?

The government was accustomed to the relatively docile approach of the public for a very long time. That is why it so quickly felt unsettled by the sudden and unexpected reaction of the indignant young. The week of agitation finished with the irritating key tingling of the students, a gesture mainly connected to the previously mentioned Revolution. The memory of the Revolution is still alive in the national conscience. This discomfort can no longer be ignored by the politicians, and hopefully, will initiate a constructive debate on the education reforms.

Politicization of higher education institutes

One of the most disturbing risks is the provision in the draught law on the creation of new boards of directors at universities. A third of their member now will be appointed by the Minister of Education, which implies a threat of the independent status of the academic world of political power. Moreover, if the rector of a university is not just a marionette, his right to appoint another third of the board could be directly violated by the political sphere. This attempt of politicization is covered with a joint wave available for a multitude of often conflicting interpretations. Therefore, to think that universities could guard their autonomy is not just a naïve vision; it is especially a deformed view of reality.

Impasse of an already distorted education

It is generally accepted that Czech higher education need thorough modifications to again become competitive on the European level. Paradoxically, the envisioned reforms do not focus on the weak points of the education system, but on the opposite, they seem to want to deepen them. They predict a reduction in the number of students being accepted to university, and consequently their reduced influence on the management of university life. Furthermore, they involve the implementation of tuition fees, the amount which would be subtracted from the subsidies the state pays the universities. With this in execution, the financial burden of students would not be used to improve education in schools, but rather to finance spending and public debt.

A discredited minister, as well as his reforms

Persona non grata (latin, ‘an unwelcome person). This is how most of society sees Josef Dobeš, Minister of Education. Discredited due to the introduction of a harmonized reform of bachelors, remarkable both for its cost and inefficiency, he is subsequently responsible for the suspension of financial aid from the European Union, intentioned for the advancement of education. Thus, the Czech Republic risks the loss of a collosal sum of two billion euros. Therefore, what can be expected from a minister who seems to ruin everything that comes under his hands? Instead of complicating the already complicated education system, we must solve the problems that stifle such as the proliferation of unregulated private schools on a mediocre level. To prevent a new deterioration of the education, we have to manifest our disagreement with it. What remains is only to think about the title of the famous essay by Stéphane Hessel – Time for Outrage!

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

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