During the Covid-19 pandemic, most countries introduced distance learning in schools as part of protective measures. Czechia was no exception. However, at first, during the spring of 2020, student participation was not obligatory.
According to the estimates by the Czech School Inspectorate, about 84% - 89% of basic school students participated in online communication with their schools. The degree of student involvement in secondary schools varied in different programmes. At Gymnázia (secondary general education), about 96% of students participated in online learning, while the schools with predominance of less demanding VET fields (completed with final examination) saw student participation only of about 80%. The schools tried to engage non-participating students in other ways. However, a total of about 9500 (approximately 0.7%) of basic and upper secondary school students were completely disconnected from their schools. The main reason was either the lack of ICT equipment or slow internet connection. Low learning motivation or insufficient parent support also played a role. Distance learning thus revealed and highlighted inequality among students resulting from their varying social backgrounds. Another forced transition of the schools to distance learning in October 2020 brought a high risk of further deepening this gap.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the use of distance learning in similar situations was not sufficiently enshrined in legislation. The School Act enabled upper secondary schools and tertiary professional schools to provide distance learning study programmes. However, using distance learning in full-time programmes of basic, upper secondary or tertiary professional schools was not even an option. In August 2020, an Amendment to the School Act was adopted through an accelerated procedure under legislative emergency, adding a section regulating special conditions under which, due to defined extraordinary circumstances, the personal presence of students at schools is not possible. In such cases, schools are obliged to provide distance education and students must participate. Schools must follow their valid school curriculum to the extent appropriate to the situation. Distance learning and assessment of its results must be adapted to the students’ circumstances. This means, for example, that those who do not have remote access via ICT will be allowed to pick up the material in person at school or obtain it via telephone. The Government consequently approved the provision of extra funds for schools to secure distance learning software and hardware equipment for teachers and students.
The Act authorises the Ministry of Education to modify, in extraordinary circumstances, statutory deadlines and those relating to the provision of education and to modify methods of admission to education or of its completion.
The changes concern all levels of initial education covered by the School Act: kindergartens (children under obligation of pre-school education), basic schools, and secondary schools, including VET schools and tertiary professional schools.
- Czech School Inspectorate (2020). Vzdělávání na dálku v základních a středních školách [Remote Learning in Basic Schools and Secondary Schools]. Thematic report, May 2020.
- The Act No 349/2020 Coll., of 20 August 2020, amending the Act No 561/2004 Coll., on preschool, basic, secondary, tertiary professional and other education as amended (Amendment to the School Act).
- MŠMT: Statistická ročenka školství – Výkonové ukazatele do roku 2019/20 [Statistical yearbook of education – performance indicators up to 2019/20].