Monday, January 20, 2020

Gymnázium

A friend's daughter is applying for gymnázium which is a comprehensive school that prepares students to go on to university study.  Basically it's a Czech high school but there are several different flavours so here's a bit about secondary education here in Czechland.

First comes základní škola, basic school, which is compulsory.  Students enter the 1st grade at the age of six.  Basic school has two levels.  The first level is grades 1-5 and the second level is grades 6-9.  Students then have a few different options.  For students wanting to study music, dance, drama, or art then they have the option to study at a conservatory.

There are vocational and trade schools, which often include apprenticeships, and students graduate with certifications allowing them to enter the work force.  Typical fields include electrician, carpentry, plumbing, mechanics, hotel management, and culinary arts.  These graduates will not be able to later on apply for university.  

Some students will attend a lyceum which is a kind of professional high school.  It is similar to a vocational school where students learn skills to a specific profession but it includes general academic subjects like history, geography, foreign languages, etc.  There are lyceum for business, health care, IT, technical engineering, and education.  Students graduate with a maturita (a high school diploma) that qualifies them to be able to find a job in their field.  Students are also qualified to pursue advanced studies if they want to but they don't qualify to enter university.

Then there's the gymnázium.  This is a comprehensive school with the sole focus of preparing students to enter university.  The curriculum is tough but when students graduate with a maturita they aren't qualified for any kind of work.  They are just ready to enter a university and begin a degree programme.  A bachelor's degree is 3 years, law is 3 or 4 years, and medicine is 5 years.

Traditionally, after the 9th grade, students would enter gymnázium for four years.  Remember that the Czech education system goes to the 13th grade.

The competition for university has increased and now students have the option of starting gymnázium after the 7th grade for a six-year programme or after the 5th grade for an eight-year programme.

Here's where it gets tricky.  First, you need to find the gymázium that you want to attend.  Although all students take every subject, some schools have more of an emphasis on mathematics and science while others concentrate more on humanities and languages.  Then there's the challenge that most gymnasiums only open up one or two classes (up to 30 students each) per year.  Potential students and parents are able to attend open days in November, December and January, to get a feel for which school is the best fit.  

Students' marks received in their previous two semesters of school are reviewed and they have to pass entrance exams. The entrance exams have three parts.  One section is on Czech language and grammar.  The second section covers mathematics and the third section covers Czech literature, history, social sciences and logic.  There is a state-wide two-day exam period every April.  

Some may also have an additional language requirement because I have friends who attended bilingual schools Brno where half of their subjects were taught in either French, Spanish, and German.  While English is a popular foreign language I don't know if there are any bilingual Czech-English schools here in Brno.  

Applications to gymnáziums have to be submitted by mid-March.  Students can only apply to a maximum of two schools.  I believe that there is an application fee but I don't know how much it costs.  If a student doesn't get in then there is a second round of selections.  There is serious pressure on getting accepted to the best gymázium, both for the students and the parents.

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