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Oral high school diplomas in Czech and a foreign language will be optional, exam dates delayed

August 20, 2021

Original Article: https://www.ceskenoviny.cz/zpravy/plaga-ustni-maturity-z-cestiny-a-ciziho-jazyka-budou-nepovinne/2006701

The original article requires translation.

This year's graduates will not have to pass oral graduation exams in Czech and a foreign language. They will be able to choose them voluntarily. Graduates who work due to the covid-19 epidemic in hospitals or nursing homes will not even have to take state didactic tests. They will remain mandatory for others, only their time will be extended. All of them will then be waiting for a school-leaving examination in two or three subjects, including a possible practical exam according to the field. Due to the covid-19 epidemic, the uniform entrance exams for graduation courses will be postponed again this year. This follows from the material of the Ministry of Education, which is available to ČTK, and from today's statements of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (YES) and Minister of Education Robert Plaga (for YES).

Due to the covid-19 epidemic, the date of state matura tests will be moved from May 3 to 7 to May 24 to 26. The special date for high school graduates who will be quarantined during the regular term of the tests will be from 7 to 9 July. The school-leaving examination period will not start on 16 May, as expected, but will be from 1 June to 23 July. The practical tests, which were to start on 1 April, will be able to take place from 19 April to 27 August.

Since last week, the Prime Minister has been promoting the possibility of a so-called official high school diploma for all. On Tuesday, he stated that there could be three forms of graduation, namely classic, lighter and official. He called the idea bad this morning. Plaga rejected his ideas about a comprehensive official school-leaving examination on Monday, and representatives of employers and universities also opposed it.

Due to the covid-19 epidemic, the ministry changed the form of graduations in January. At that time, it was decided that, similarly to last year, due to the covid-19 epidemic, written works on compulsory Czech and a foreign language would be canceled. It extended the time for the language test from 75 to 85 minutes, from the foreign language from 100 to 110 minutes and from mathematics from two hours to 135 minutes. The period for the practical examinations was set by the Office until 27 August and allowed school principals to change the form and evaluation of these examinations or to plan practical lessons for the summer holidays as well.

However, according to Plaga, further adjustments are necessary with regard to the current epidemic situation and the continuation of distance learning. While, according to the January statement, oral examinations in Czech and a foreign language were to remain compulsory, the Office has now decided that they will only be voluntary. If students do not participate, they will not be part of their evaluation on the graduation certificate. The school part of the school-leaving examination, which consists of two to three subjects, depending on the field, will remain compulsory for all.

At the same time, the ministry has prepared greater relief for high school graduates, who have worked at least 160 hours in hospitals or social facilities since October 12 due to the epidemic. These students will not even have to write didactic tests, which are otherwise compulsory in Czech and either mathematics or a foreign language. Those interested will be able to compose them voluntarily. Even if they fail the exams, they will be automatically evaluated as "passed". They will then be evaluated according to the marks from the given subjects on the report card for the second half of the first to third year and the first half of the fourth year.

According to Cermat, 72,751 students applied for the spring graduation term for the first time.

Babiš wants to transfer the topic of official school-leaving examinations to the Chamber of Deputies

Babiš would like to transfer the topic of official graduations to the school committee in the Chamber of Deputies. He did not receive political support for his proposal to award graduation marks without examinations according to the average for the entire study this year, he said after negotiations with Plaga. He told reporters that he is not opposed to the debate on the form of graduations, but their version is final for this year.

Babiš started talking about the possibility of granting an official high school diploma last week. He justified it by the situation of students during the coronavirus epidemic, when they teach at a distance and some help in hospitals or social services. Today, the prime minister lamented that his proposal was not supported by any of the political parties and none of the politicians. "It is important, in my opinion, that this topic be referred to the school committee so that it is discussed in the House, because it is a specific situation," he said.

On Tuesday, the prime minister stated as a basis for the debate that this year's school-leaving examination could be classic for university students, easier for students not interested in university studies and official for those who demonstrate problems in distance learning. Today, he said of his "theoretical proposal" that he was not good.

Plaga did not agree with the general official graduation. Representatives of schools, the Confederation of Industry and Transport of the Czech Republic, the Confederation of Employers' and Entrepreneurs' Unions of the Czech Republic and the Czech Rectors' Conference also opposed it. Babiš promoted the official graduation as a one-time affair.

According to Plaga, an official school-leaving examination would be an unjustified devaluation of education. The Minister said that the debate on the form of school-leaving examinations is not hindered and that it is necessary to discuss the content of the state part and the profile examination. "There is definitely room for improvement. Despite the development of the situation, it is not good to leave students in uncertainty. These reliefs and adjustments when we respond to the epidemic situation are final," the minister said. He noted that legislative changes in high school diplomas would take "extremely long".

Plaga and the Ministry of Education announced today that this year's graduates will not have to pass oral graduation exams in Czech and a foreign language. They will be able to choose them voluntarily. In addition, high school graduates who work in hospitals or nursing homes due to the covid-19 epidemic will not have to take state didactic tests. They will remain mandatory for others, only their time will be extended.

All of them will then be waiting for a school-leaving examination in two or three subjects, including a possible practical exam according to the field. Due to the covid-19 epidemic, the date of state matura tests will be moved from May 3 to 7 to May 24 to 26. The practical tests, which were to start on 1 April, will be able to take place from 19 April to 27 August.

The dates of entrance exams for high schools will be postponed from April to May

Due to the covid-19 epidemic, the uniform entrance exams for graduation courses will be postponed again this year. They will be held on 4 and 4 May in four-year courses and on 5 and 6 May in multi-year grammar schools. This follows from the material of the Ministry of Education, which is available to ČTK. The postponement was confirmed by Plaga. Originally, the uniform entrance exams were to be between April 12 and 15. Last year, due to the epidemic, they took place instead of April in June.

Due to the covid-19 epidemic, Plaga announced last autumn that the uniform entrance exams organized by Cermat in Czech and mathematics would be compulsory only at multi-year grammar schools this year. It does not have to take place in four-year courses. By the end of January, school principals could decide whether, instead of the exams organized by Cermat, they would take only their own school entrance exams, or they would be able to accept candidates without exams if their number did not exceed the number of places offered. According to the findings of ČTK, most schools remained with uniform admission tests.

As last year, the time for uniform entrance exams will be extended this year, for the test in Czech from 60 to 70 minutes and in mathematics from 70 to 85 minutes. Unlike last year, when the candidates had only one attempt to pass the exam, this year the ministry expects that the usual two dates will take place.

Applicants could apply for high schools until March 1. According to Marek Lehečka from the Cermat External Relations Department, schools can submit data on applicants to the Cermat information system by the middle of this week. Last year, about 69,000 applicants applied for four-year courses and around 25,000 fifth- and seventh-grade students for eight-year or six-year grammar schools. Most applied to two schools.

All pupils are currently learning at a distance because schools are closed due to the coronavirus epidemic. For example, in the second half of last school year, ninth-graders could have been in school for 39 days out of 97, of which 22 days before school closed in February and early March. Of the 91 teaching days from September to January, 46 days were taught remotely, ie approximately half the time.

Those interested in fields with a talent exam could apply by 30 November in the current school year. Talent exams for art disciplines were held in January, at sports grammar schools their period also began in January and will last until the end of March.

The final examinations of the apprentices will be according to the modifications announced in January

At the final examinations of apprentices, nothing will change against the adjustments announced by the Ministry of Education in January. This follows from the material of the Ministry of Education, which was provided to ČTK today by the office's spokeswoman Aneta Lednová. It is true that in fields with an apprenticeship certificate, apprentices will pass an exam in two parts instead of three. A practical test will be mandatory for all, which will be able to take place until the end of August. The ministry has not prepared any further adjustments for graduations from higher vocational schools and conservatories, the period of which will also be extended from 1 June to 31 August this year.

According to the modifications announced in January this year, similarly to the case of graduates, any student who has successfully completed the first half of the final year can go to the final exam. The final exams will take place from the practical part, which will be supplemented by either a written or oral exam according to the decision of the school principal. The time for the written examination of apprentices will be extended by 30 minutes, ie from four hours to 4.5 hours.

The ministry will allow principals to hold practical classes during the holidays so that students can supplement skills they could not practice due to a month-long distance learning. At the same time, it was recommended to schools to focus only on exam preparation in February. Other subjects may be omitted from these pupils. They can also organize only a written or oral exam in June and then intensively engage in practical teaching with pupils over the summer so that apprentices also pass a practical exam at the end of August, according to information from the ministry.

According to the Office, a possible further reduction in the number of examinations or their topics would, in the case of study fields, reduce the level of the professional basis of verified skills and knowledge, which would lead to a reduction in the minimum level set for the final examination, the Office added.

According to the Ministry of Education, there are around 27,000 pupils in the last year of study fields. The final exams usually take place from the beginning to the end of June. According to the ministry, about 4,050 people graduated from higher vocational schools the year before last and 347 from the conservatory.

Plaga does not yet know how and when students will return to school 

Minister Plaga does not yet know how and when the pupils will return to school. According to him, it will depend on the decision of epidemiologists, the starting point could be the anti-epidemic system PES. However, it should now have a higher priority in more grades of the first stage of primary school, not only the first and second grades. Plaga told reporters today after talks with Prime Minister Babiš.

"I will say fairly what the release schemes will be. I do not know. If I were to use the experience from last spring, the fortnightly intervals (release) have proved their worth," the minister said. He added that he expects a specific plan for schoolchildren to return to class from epidemiologists. "We will talk about feasibility. The scenario cannot be determined by the Minister of Education," says Plaga.

He expects the return scenario to be similar to last spring. He added that the ministry has considered the full-time teaching of first and second classes to be the main priority since the autumn. So far, Plaga has also advocated the preferential return of ninth graders and high school graduates, in preparation for the spring entrance and graduation exams. With their deadlines approaching, the minister would now prefer younger third, fourth and fifth graders.

"If we are running out of time here so that admissions and graduations are approaching, I would dare to increase the priority of the remaining first grade classes," Plaga said. He added that the ministry, together with experts, is also working on various models, in which pupils would split up and take turns at school.

The Prime Minister has previously stated that the PES system is not working. According to experts, this scale does not take into account coronavirus mutations that occur and spread faster. However, according to Plaga, the PES system can still be a good starting point for measures in schools. It contains both the priorities for the return of pupils from different levels of school and the measures in force, such as drapes and ventilation, he said. He added that vaccination of teachers and regular testing should also prevent the spread of the epidemic. According to Plaga, the PES system may now not match the values ​​at which it relaxes and returns schoolchildren. They should be set up by epidemiologists, Plaga added.

Today, the Spolu coalition, which consists of the ODS, TOP 09 and the People's Party, presented its disintegration model. According to the optimistic version, kindergartens and children's groups, first, second and ninth grades and final years of secondary schools could open on March 29. Three weeks later, the remaining primary school classes would follow, and under certain conditions, elementary art schools and colleges. On Monday, May 10, the rotating teaching at the second stage and at secondary schools as well as the examinations at universities would begin. At the end of May, all primary and secondary school pupils could be in the classrooms together. If the situation developed worse, the individual stages would be delayed by several weeks.

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