The Czech academic year starts in September and finishes at the end of June. There is an extended summer break of just over two months (62 days typically).
The Czech grading system used in primary and secondary education has five levels: výborný, the best grade, through to nedostatečný, the lowest.
Nursery schools and pre-school education
Children between the ages of three and six can attend nursery schools (mateřská škola). Because pre-schooling is not compulsory in the Czech republic, provision is private and costs can vary. The Czech government’s guidelines state that fees should not exceed 50% of “actual monthly non-investment expenses”.
Even before compulsory education starts there are many day care facilities available in the Czech Republic that prepare children for a school learning environment. In addition to this the social contact with other children helps to make the transition to primary school easier.
Compulsory education starts at the age of six. It is usually provided by elementary schools (základní škola), divided into two parts, primary and secondary school, together lasting nine years.
Some community schools only cater to primary level students and those wishing to attend secondary will have to commute.
After grade five students, at 11 years old, can decide whether they want to complete their education at a základní škola (leaving aged 15), or go on to secondary education in vocational or academic skills.
Staying at basic school usually means another four years of classes, grade six to grade nine, and a final exam at the end. The diploma awarded is the vysvědčení, a primary school leaving certificate. This does not entitle you to university or college education and therefore graduates from a basic school are likely to start vocational education.
Students who decide to move on to upper secondary education can choose between three different kinds of school:
The Czech Gymnázium prepares its students to go on to higher education institutions, such as universities or colleges. The program usually takes eight years, from grade 6 to 13. However, it is also possible to change to Gymnázium after grade 8 and complete it in only six years.
In either case there are exams at the end of grade 13. If passed, a secondary school leaving certificate, maturitní zkoušce, is issued. This allows the student to study at a tertiary education institution.
Another option to achieve higher education entrance qualification is attending a technical school, střední odborná škola. Their programs take four years and students usually come to this school after successfully finishing grade 9 at a basic school. Technical school is finished with exams for the maturitní zkoušce as well. However, classes focus on technical subjects.
This kind of school, the konzervatoř, is an alternative to a gymnázium and has a special focus on either dance, music and drama. The programs that focus on dancing usually take eight years, beginning with grade 6 whereas the programs that focus on music and drama only take six years. With the successful completion of a conservatory two diplomas are issued. The first one is the maturitní zkoušce allowing you to start studying. The second one, the absolutoriu, is a special final certificate for the participation in dance, or music and drama classes, respectively.
There are special schools from nursery through upper secondary level in the Czech Republic. To attend these schools a recommendation from appropriate authorities is needed as well as the agreement of the parents. Their pedagogic standard is very high and their equipment is up-to-date due to a newly passed policy of integration.
Vocational programs in the Czech Republic take three or four years. The focus of the programs is practical experience and they are tailored towards specific jobs. Four year programs at a středni odborné učiliště prepare students to take exams for their maturitní zkoušce whereas three year programs lead to a vocational certificate, the výuční list. The latter does not entitle you to study at a tertiary institution.
School admission for foreign students
Foreign students do generally get compulsory education at primary and secondary schools free of charge. However, a precondition for admission for non-EU nationals is a Czech residency permit. If the student has already completed his primary school in his home country a certificate of attestation equality, issued by the home school, has to be provided. Only then will admission to a secondary school be guaranteed.
Classes in the Czech Republic are generally taught in Czech, although there are a number of international schools taught in English or other foriegn languages. Free tutoring including Czech classes are available for EU citizens. They are not provided for non-EU citizens.
Some Czech schools do have classes in another language. However, this has to be approved by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.
Second language deficits are taken into account when it comes to evaluating the performance of foreign students in the subjects Czech and literature.