Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
The embedded issues within Czech education have two dimensions. Firstly, priorities and goals of the national education system are not defined and there is no clear strategy for education development in place. The general public is not aware of the alarming trends in the performance of pupils; in fact, there is currently a high satisfaction rate amongst parents in the system. Their complacency stems from simply not needing or wanting to know of any other educational method; what seemingly worked for them in their youth will work for their own children. Secondly, there is no impetus for reform at the school level where active redesign of existing best educational practices and stakeholders’ resource allocation could take place. The combination of teachers' rigidity towards change, the purely theoretical approach of bureaucrats at the Ministry of Education and lack of interest from the general public inhibits the modernization of the Czech education system. To date, the Czech Republic has witnessed fragmented attempts to engage only certain groups of stakeholders. There has been no steady cross-sector grassroots engagement to change stakeholders’ attitude towards education in general or to trigger a system change that inverts the deterioration of Czech education.
During the last two decades, the scores of Czech students in international comparison tests (PISA, TIMSS tests by OECD) have worsened, noting one of the most drastic declines among the participating countries (from 6th -7th position in 1995 to 27th – 30th position in the latest tests). Students’ performance is closely intertwined with the way the learning process is organized. According to further OECD statistics, more than half of 15 year-old students claim they are bored at school and only 12% actively enjoy the time they spend in the classroom. Yet despite alarming statistics on students’ performance and their dissatisfaction with school, 81% of parents and 71% of teachers express their satisfaction with the state of the Czech education. This paradox is caused by little awareness of the current trends in education among the general public and leads to a lack of incentives or mandates for innovative reforms. There was previously no one working to change the conversation on a national level through widespread media or key players in society.
General apathy and inactivity of citizens, residual from the communist era, has served to conserve of this obsolete education model, whose outdated aims are to teach theoretical knowledge to students instead of assisting them in acquiring practical skills to solve problems. However, rote memorization can be of little help to young people in the modern age when the most valuable skills for success look very different from decades ago. Now, the ability to express oneself clearly, communicate with people of different backgrounds, have empathy for others, work in a team, know their rights, be active citizens and develop efficient solutions for problems are all crucial to modern-day success. According to a study by the US Department of Labor, 65% of today’s pupils in their adult life will be employed in jobs which currently do not exist, highlighting the critical importance of acquiring universal, tangible skills early in life. It is these skills that can help pupils grow into flexible adults able to adjust to the trends in the labor market.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Zdeněk nurtures a vision of education that impacts Czech society as a whole, reaching beyond the classroom with an interdisciplinary approach that posits education as “everyone’s business.” In this vision, pupils are regarded not only as students but also as support for their parents, employees for companies and capable citizens of their state in future years. Zdenek has shifted the mentality surrounding education to make it explicit that improvements in that education system benefit everyone, especially when those improvements come from within. Zdeněk has invited previously disengaged stakeholders to discover how they personally can contribute to the improvement of the landscape of Czech education. Zdenek believes that despite the currently stagnant system that is half-heartedly practiced in schools, national education should provide youth with skills that enable them to quickly adapt to new environments and to realize their full potential.
With his organization EDUin, Zdeněk carefully tailors a comprehensive engagement opportunity to each group of stakeholders, providing them with clear-cut guidance on how they can tangibly influence the education system. In doing so, Zdenek has reached an untapped network of businesses, media outlets and politicians that have a vested interest in seeing the field of education revolutionized in the Czech Republic. By helping these stakeholders see the immediate value this engagement creates on the local level, Zdeněk acts as a connector to achieve a twofold mission. Firstly, stakeholders have become motivated to gather others to participate in the debates on priorities of Czech education and to lobby at the national level to trigger long-lasting policy change. Secondly, schools have been positioned at the center of this complex web of relationships, allowing them to directly reap the benefits of educational improvement.
Collectively, EDUin creates a platform, both online and offline, which allows for mutual acquaintance, regular communication, best practice exchange and goal-setting for the entirety of the education system. Such communication and debate on the future of schools, held on both the local and national level, lays the foundation of a grassroots movement for better education. Zdenek is the architect of a movement to reshape not only education delivery in the Czech Republic, but the conversation happening in every corner of the country and at multiple levels of society.