Country information for Czech Republic - Systems of support and specialist provision
There have been progressive changes in the Czech educational system since 1989. All changes have opened the way to greater differentiation and individualisation of educational possibilities. The most important changes concern children with special educational needs (SEN), who had limited or even restrictive access to education before. New educational philosophy, which responded to the tendency and trends of society’s democratic development and orientation, was first formulated in the National Programme of Education Development in the Czech Republic (White Book) by the Ministry of Education in 2001. The latest goals and priorities are described in the Strategy of the Educational Policy until 2020 document, approved by the Czech Government in July 2014.
The main changes concerning the access of pupils with SEN to education since 1989 are as follows:
- Mainstream schools were opened up to pupils with SEN.
- Education was made available for pupils with even the most serious complex needs.
- Diverse forms of individualisation of education were established to meet the needs of pupils with SEN.
- A counselling system was developed for pupils with SEN to support their integration and inclusion in mainstream schools and for pupils who are educated at home for specific health reasons.
- A counselling system for pupils with behavioural difficulties (disorders) has been set up.
- A broad range of support provisions has been implemented to increase the participation of pupils with special needs in mainstream education.
- The role of parents has been emphasised.
- Special schools have been developed into resource centres.
The two-track system, where special education had a strong position, has been changed into a multi-track system. Pupils with SEN are educated preferably in mainstream classes, but they can attend special classes within mainstream schools, or schools (‘special schools’) founded for those pupils with special needs whose parents prefer this kind of school.
Special schools are part of the overall educational system, but their numbers are decreasing. These schools provide education to pupils with intellectual, sensory or physical disabilities, pupils with communication difficulties, pupils with autism, pupils with complex needs, and pupils with learning and/or behavioural difficulties. Pupils who are ill or those with a health risk are temporarily placed in hospitals and/or other healthcare institutions and can attend schools in these institutions.
The aim of special education is to provide education that is tailored to meet the pupils’ needs and supports their social inclusion. It can be delivered in different organisational forms – inclusive/mainstream settings, special class/units/special schools. Special schools offer education for pre-primary children, for pupils of compulsory school age and for those at upper-secondary level, including vocational schools. They mostly serve learners whose SEN cannot be met in mainstream settings, or whose parents prefer this kind of placement.
The education process is modified according to the pupils’ special needs. The aim is to provide quality education for all the pupils in a class.
The main characteristics of special education include:
- specific teacher training for teachers working with pupils with special needs;
- additional pedagogical staff available in a class;
- special equipment, tools and educational methods;
- lower number of pupils per class;
- adapted organisation of the education process and the educational programme;
- close co-operation between schools and counselling institutions;
- counselling and guidance available;
- alternative educational forms for children with complex needs, whose health conditions prevent them from attending mainstream school (education at home available);
- school attendance at the basic education level (primary and lower-secondary) may be extended
The concept of pre-primary education is to positively influence the pupil’s personality, social performance and future success in education and social inclusion.
Special Educational Centres and Educational and Psychological Counselling Centres contribute to the smooth transition of pupils from the pre-primary system into compulsory education. Pupils may attend the preparatory class of a primary school or the preparatory stage of a special primary school before starting compulsory education.
Compulsory education is organised within the system of basic schools in the Czech Republic, which covers primary (first to fifth grade) and lower-secondary (sixth to ninth grade) educational levels. The decision about the organisational form of education for a pupil with SEN is the responsibility of the head teacher, who considers parents’ wishes and counselling centres’ recommendations. Pupils with SEN have the right to be educated in mainstream schools and/or in a special class or basic school for learners with special needs (special school).
Special needs education
A limited number of special schools (11) remain – even after decentralisation – under the direct management of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. From the political point of view, it was important to give a clear signal to parents of pupils with special needs that the Ministry of Education is securing this educational alternative for their children, even though the main policy trend is towards inclusion. These schools co-operate closely with the Ministry, research institutes and mainstream schools in developing new methods, provisions and approaches to meet diversity in all pupils’ needs.
Basic schools for learners with special needs provide education for pupils whose SEN cannot be successfully met within mainstream provisions and facilities, or pupils whose parents prefer this placement. The number of pupils per class is much lower than in a mainstream class. It ranges from 4 to 14, depending on the type of school and the pupils’ special needs. A mainstream class has no more than 30 pupils.
In addition to mainstream school subjects, each special educational programme provides so-called special provision subjects according to the type of school and the pupils’ special needs. Special provision subjects include speech and language therapy, orientation and mobility training, sensory stimulation, using special IT, music and musical instrument playing, etc. The organisational strategy is the same in special classes within mainstream schools.
Recently, the role of special schools has been changing. In addition to their educational role, they have become resource centres, developing new pedagogical methods and approaches and providing a wide range of advice and support services to pupils, their parents and mainstream teachers. They usually encompass more levels of education.
The system includes basic schools:
- for pupils with hearing impairment;
- for pupils with visual impairment;
- for pupils with physical impairment;
- for pupils with speech impairment;
- for ill pupils in hospitals;
- for pupils with specific learning difficulties;
- for pupils with specific behavioural difficulties;
- for pupils with intellectual impairment;
- for pupils with multiple impairment and pupils with autism.
Pupils with severe intellectual disabilities and complex needs can attend a special basic school. Pupils follow the Frame Educational Programme for Education in Special Basic Schools. This document’s structure matches the structure of the curricular document for mainstream basic schools. The content is adapted to meet the needs of pupils with significant intellectual challenges and complex needs. The rehabilitation services support the education process. The development of pupils’ social and communication skills is emphasised.
The pupils attain the bases of education.
Upper-secondary education offers education for pupils with special needs in the following organisational forms:
- Individual integration within mainstream settings
- Education in a special class within a mainstream secondary school
- Education in a secondary school for pupils with special needs.
At the upper-secondary level, a broad range of educational programmes is available to pupils with special needs, reflecting their abilities and needs. The curricular model is the same as for compulsory education. Each branch of study has its Frame Educational Programme. Some secondary schools provide education specifically for pupils with a hearing impairment.
Practical schools offer upper-secondary education to pupils with intellectual disabilities in either a one-year or a two-year programme. The programmes cover both academic and practical areas of knowledge. Besides general knowledge, the school provides pupils with a wide range of practical daily life knowledge and skills, including social skills, the basics of working knowledge and other skills to help pupils enter the labour market. Each Frame Educational Programme contains recommendations on support provisions and eligible adaptations to meet the needs of pupils with special needs. Each school develops its own school educational programme that reflects class diversity and the special needs of the pupils in the class.
Pupils who have not acquired the basic education level can attend courses to help them attain the basic level and/or bases of education. Besides schools, other educational bodies offer a broad range of courses and follow-up education reflecting pupils’ needs to support independent living and access to employment.
Development of inclusion
The first option for providing special needs education is to include pupils with SEN in mainstream classes. Pupils with SEN are provided with a broad range of support provisions to facilitate inclusion. The class teacher is responsible for the learning process of all pupils in a class. Mainstream teachers are supported by guidance and counselling services provided by the counselling and resource centres (special schools). Special teachers from these counselling centres provide direct support to pupils in mainstream settings if necessary.
The general objective of education for children with special needs, both in mainstream and segregated provisions, is to give them equal opportunities for successful and efficient education in accordance with their needs and abilities. The main principle is to focus on each pupil’s strengths and their individual learning and development needs. Education must promote pupils’ initiative and self-confidence and foster lifelong learning.
The systematic integration policy in the Czech Republic started after 1989. Since then, the development of integration has changed towards broader social acceptance of the inclusion of people with disabilities, mainstreaming, and better educational and technological support for pupils with special needs in mainstream settings.
The inclusion of pupils in mainstream schools at all levels of education is a central interest of the Ministry of Education in the Czech Republic. Additional provisions tailored to meet pupils’ needs support successful school performance by each pupil with special needs.
Although the situation of inclusive education has been improving, there are still some difficult areas to be dealt with. All strategic documents at the national level deal with these issues and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports gives grants to schools to improve conditions for pupils with special needs and support their inclusion. For teachers, teaching assistants and other teaching staff, there are further education courses in various areas, including inclusive education.
Quality indicators for special needs education
The quality of education is evaluated annually by the Czech School Inspectorate. Its annual report lists strengths, weaknesses and recommendations for schools.
School counselling system
The amendments to the Education Act of 2015 (Act No. 82/2015 Coll.), which were implemented in 2016, encouraged unity of operation for the school counselling system. Among other things, they stipulate that school counselling facilities must submit a recommendation directly to the pupil’s school, rather than relying on the discretion of the statutory representative.
Reports and recommendations from school counselling facilities are subject to review. A review may be requested by the pupil, their statutory representative, the school or education facility, the public authority that requested the counselling assistance, or the Czech School Inspectorate. If necessary, the review procedure may include a new determination of the pupil’s educational needs, which may be done only with the consent of the pupil (or their statutory representative). The introduction of a review authority directly accountable to the Ministry represents a significant step towards the standardisation and predictability of the activities undertaken by school counselling facilities.
Schools and their staff should always be primarily responsible for independent work with pupils with SEN which requires low levels of teaching and material demands. Schools can develop pedagogical support plans, which include a description of the pupil’s difficulties and special educational needs, support measures at the first level, the setting of support objectives, and how the plan will be fulfilled. The new law stipulates that schools may apply support measures at the first level without a recommendation from a school counselling facility. These measures may include modifying methods, organising teaching, evaluation and providing methodological support. This reflects the subsidiarity principle that the school itself should work with the pupil first. Only if this proves insufficient should assistance be provided by specialised facilities, such as a school counselling facility. A statutory representative or school may request assistance from a school counselling facility straight away, without the school providing prior independent care.
An application and a recommendation by a school counselling facility are still required for placement in a special class or school. It is vital that school counselling facilities determine and prioritise the possibility of educating pupils in mainstream classes with the use of support measures.
Last updated 04/03/2020