How do you get to school? What’s your favorite subject? What extra classes do you take? Have you ever been suspended?
There are so many differences between the school systems in Czech and in the USA, it warrants a second post! First post here.
In CZ, there’s no yellow school bus. Kids who can’t go by car with their parents take the bus or train to travel to their chosen school, and it’s perfectly normal to go by themselves. Meanwhile, many American helicopter parents wouldn’t allow this.
7. Public or private?
Here’s one way we’re total opposites.
In CZ, public state-funded schools are better than private schools, which are widely seen as being a paid stunt to make your unintelligent but rich child look intelligent.
In the US, private schools are (often) considered better than public schools. Since you pay for them, you should get higher quality. However, many private schools are religious schools where students have extra religious education and wear uniforms.
8. Optional subjects/electives and extracurriculars
Czech students have fewer choices in optional subjects (volitelné předměty). Many students start taking physics at age 11 or 12 (I know, fellow Americans, I too was shocked), have more than one science class a year (chem + physics for example), and have to take at least two languages (English + Russian/German/French).
Americans have a much larger choice. We can take music classes (band, orchestra, choir), studio art, theatre/drama, psychology, etc. It’s ironic that American schools put SO much more focus on the arts, considering how underfunded and undervalued they actually are. Czech schools do not focus on student creativity; in fact, it’s often the opposite. If you want to learn an instrument, dance, take focused art classes, or play a sport, you have to go to “Art School” or sports clubs after school.
American schools are communities which have many clubs and after school activities (kluby, kroužky). When I was in middle school I played soccer for the school team and in high school, I ran the literary magazine and often went to Gay-Straight Alliance and Environmental Club meetings. I knew people who were in AV Club (and ran the morning news) and Debate Club. Czech schools tend to have very few of these. They do have student governments, literary magazines/school newspapers, and a choir, but not much more.
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9. Pressure to Choose Early
American colleges are expensive. You go there for four years while doing your Bachelor’s, and some people get deep into debt doing it (“44 million borrowers in the United States hold about $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loans,” and women are more likely to be impacted). However, you pay for quality. I wouldn’t change a thing about my university experience. I had two full years to choose my major (who are we kidding, I registered to be an English major on Day 2), and this was useful when I decided to change my second major from Environmental Science to Anthropology… if only I could have managed three *sigh*. You can even have minors.
You can take as many classes as you can stomach (usually about 5 per semester), and while there are some basic requirements (a math, science and language course which are often covered by your high school classes) you can choose to try out ANYTHING you want at a basic level while you look for what your passion really is.
Some people, like me, know what they want to do already and get to take their time getting through their required courses, while some lazy people choose at the last minute before the clock strikes Junior Year.
Meanwhile in CZ, students apply to a specific department or major in a specific school. This means they must already know what they want to study before they graduate high school and they start specializing right as they enter uni. Some people even go to specialized high schools to get a jump start – for example in English, athletics, IT, or nursing.
While I think specialized high schools are an amazing idea, as an American it horrifies me that you’d essentially have to choose your job or career before graduating high school. In Czech universities, your requirements are quite rigid and are nearly already set when you enter the program, while like I said, in American universities you can jump around based on your interests. In the US when you decide you don’t like your major, you change it to a different one at the same school; in CZ when you decide you don’t like your major, you leave the program and must apply to a completely different department, sometimes an entirely different school.
When I applied to college, I had 12 school choices. Czechs (since it’s a much smaller country and there are fewer choices) typically apply to two or three.
In the US, the SAT (standardized assessment test) along with essays, interviews, and grade transcripts are what gets you into uni. Being a well-rounded person – that is, showing you have different interests via the clubs and extracurriculars you have – also matters. In CZ, it’s mostly your grade transcripts and maturita – the final exams administered by each school in up to 4 different subjects, that schools use to make acceptance decisions.
In most American schools, the principal (American English for headmistress/master) is a standalone job and doesn’t teach. In most Czech schools, the principal ALSO teaches classes.
American principals also have more power. When a child repeatedly misbehaves, s/he can suspend (send them home for a few days) or expel them (kick them out of the school). Less seriously, American high schools also have detention, which means you have to stay after school in a room with other juvenile delinquents and do nothing for 30-60min. Here’s a clip from the film version of Broadway musical Hairspray where white and black students meet in detention.
Czech schools write notes to the children’s parents in special books where teachers write their marks, or send the parents official notes reprimanding them. These notes have different levels of seriousness depending on what exactly the child has done. At Gymnázium, students who get consistently bad marks may be asked to leave. But honestly, other than that I haven’t heard of many ways to discipline kids.
My recommendation? Bulldoze ’em.