1. Key indicators
Figure 1 – Key indicators overview
|Education and training 2020 benchmarks|
|Early leavers from education and training (age 18-24)||5.4%||6.7%||14.0%||10.2%|
|Tertiary educational attainment (age 30-34)||17.5%||35.1%||31.1%||40.3%|
|Early childhood education
(from age 4 to starting age of compulsory primary education)
|Proportion of 15 year-olds underachieving in:||Reading||23.1%||20.7%18||19.3%||22.5%18|
|Employment rate of recent graduates by educational attainment (age 20-34 having left education 1-3 years before reference year)||ISCED 3-8 (total)||84.5%||87.3%||78.0%||80.9%|
|Adult participation in learning (age 25-64)||ISCED 0-8 (total)||7.1%||8.1%||7.9%||10.8%b|
|Learning mobility||Degree mobile graduates (ISCED 5-8)||:||5.0%18||:||4.3%18|
|Credit mobile graduates (ISCED 5-8)||:||9.0%18||:||9.1%18|
|Other contextual indicators|
|Education investment||Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP||5.1%||4.6%18||5.1%||4.6%18|
|Expenditure on public and private institutions per student in € PPS||ISCED 1-2||€4 62912||€5 30817||€6 072d, 12||€6 240d, 16|
|ISCED 3-4||€5 19112||€6 34617||:12||€7 757d, 16|
|ISCED 5-8||€7 72612||€7 99817||€9 679d, 12||€9 977d, 16|
|Early leavers from education and training (age 18-24)||Native-born||5.2%||6.7%||12.6%||8.9%|
|Tertiary educational attainment (age 30-34)||Native-born||17.1%||34.2%||32.0%||41.3%|
|Employment rate of recent graduates by educational attainment (age 20-34 having left education 1-3 years before reference year)||ISCED 3-4||81.7%||86.1%||72.2%||75.9%|
Sources: Eurostat; OECD (PISA); Learning mobility figures are calculated by DG Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, based on UOE 2018 data. Further information can be found in Annex I and in Volume 1 (ec.europa.eu/education/monitor). Notes: The 2018 EU average on PISA reading performance does not include ES; b= break in time series; d = definition differs, u= low reliability, := not available, 12= 2012, 16 = 2016, 17 = 2017, 18=2018.
Figure 2 - Position in relation to strongest and weakest performers
Source: DG Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, based on data from Eurostat (LFS 2019, UOE 2018) and OECD (PISA 2018).
- Digital education is a clear policy focus. Distance learning was set-up fast and efficiently but also highlighted existing gaps.
- Provision of early childhood education and care services is insufficient, especially for younger children.
- Czechia maintains a good overall performance in education, but socio-economic inequalities are pronounced. Shortage of teachers also present a challenge.
- Increasing participation in adult learning remains crucial, especially for low-skilled adults.
3. A focus on digital education
Digital education receives considerable policy attention but implementation is uneven. Czechia has in place a comprehensive digital education strategy. Its implementation is underpinned by EU Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), which support financing of ICT equipment at schools, measures to revise curricula by integrating digital learning and the development of digital educational resources (see box 1). In its digital education implementation review of 2011-2018, the Czech Supreme Audit Office criticised the lack of sustainable long-term financing, the absence of defined digital competences for pupils and insufficient training and resources for teachers (SAO, 2019). The Ministry of Education has intensified efforts to provide digital education, reinforced by the urgent need to use distance learning during the COVID-19 crisis. In addition, digital education is subject to quality assurance: Czechia is one of the few EU countries that includes testing of digital competences of pupils for school evaluation purposes (European Commission, 2019a).
Shortcomings remain regarding more recent ICT technology at schools. In 2018, only 6.4% of school principals perceived connectivity problems as obstacles to quality instruction, but almost one in four (23.5%) reported shortages or inadequacies of digital technology (OECD, 2019b). Most schools face challenges with regard to fast-evolving digital technology - 73% of school computers are between three and nine years old (SAO, 2019). The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018 confirmed a relatively low availability of technical support at schools (OECD, 2019a). The Ministry of Education cooperates with the Ministries of Industry and Trade and of Regional Development to identify and address any gaps in schools’ IT infrastructure and to ensure timely IT provision and replacement.
Distance learning during mobility restrictions was set-up fast and efficiently but also highlighted existing gaps. To facilitate distance education, the Ministry of Education created a web portal offering access to online resources for teaching and learning. While the majority of primary schools engaged in asynchronous teaching by sending assignments electronically, secondary schools applied a combination of live and asynchronous teaching. Educational TV was also available. However, not all children were able to participate equally as 3.3% of children aged 6-15 were without internet and 5% who had internet, lacked devices. About 9 500 primary and secondary students did not participate in education during the lockdown. The situation was most problematic at vocational schools (CSI, 2020a).
Teacher training on digital education is below EU average and mainly focused on ICT applications. In Czechia, only 27.7% of novice teachers feel well prepared to include ICT in their teaching. This share rises to 56.3% over a five year span, indicating the impact of continuing professional development (CPD) – while less than half (44.5%) of novice teachers covered ICT during their studies1, 74.8% did so by the end of their first five years in the profession (OECD, 2019b). It is however of concern that overall the share of teachers who covered ICT skills in their CPD decreased from 53.4% in 2013 to 41.1% in 2018. A 2019 survey confirms lower levels of ICT training among Czech teachers than the EU average, except for equipment-specific training for primary and lower secondary teachers (European Commission, 2019a), reflecting the curriculum’s main focus on technology use. In 2018, only 13% of teachers felt a high level of need for ICT training (OECD, 2019b), which points to the limited ICT application in the classroom rather than advanced ICT competences among teachers. It is encouraging that Czechia has launched a framework of digital teacher competences, defining 22 competences in six areas (NRP, 2020).
Figure 3 - Percentage of lower secondary teachers who felt `well prepared´ or `very well prepared´ for the use of ICT for teaching, 2018
Source: OECD (2019), TALIS 2018.
Czech teachers’ willingness to use digital technologies has improved in the crisis. Before COVID-19, teachers’ appetite for ICT was rather low: only one third of teachers let students frequently use ICT for projects or class work, compared to 46.9% among the other 22 EU countries participating in TALIS (OECD, 2019). ICT is frequently limited to the teaching of informatics, foreign languages and natural sciences (SAO, 2019). Survey data on distance learning provision revealed that parents perceived the low level of technological preparedness and teachers’ lack of knowledge and skills as major hurdles. However, two thirds of schools expect that most teachers will take up more digital technology in class after the return to school (CSI, 2020a).
Students’ digital activity and skills are impacted by the out-of-school digital context. In 2017, only 11% of individuals aged 16-19 considered their digital skills to be low compared to 15% at EU level, whereas 52% reported having above basic overall digital skills (EU average: 57%)2. Czech children aged 9-16 are comparatively active online, spending more than two hours per day on the internet (EU Kids online). Greater online presence increases the amount of online activities but also the associated risks; childrens’ skills to critically evaluate information are typically among the least developed, including in Czechia (Smahel et al., 2020). It is thus positive that curricular reform efforts aim to broaden digital education beyond understanding and usage of technology to include competences such as critical thinking, problem solving, data literacy, safety, flexibility, communication (European Commission, 2019b). The current deadline for revision of the curriculum regarding digital education is September 2021.
Box 1: The European Social Fund help develop computational thinking in Czechia
The Czech Digital Education Strategy up to 2020 (DES), approved by the government in 2014, has been largely financed through the European Social Fund (ESF).
For the PRIM project (Podpora rozvoje informatického myšlení – Support of development of computational thinking), running until September 2020, ESF has contributed CZK 88.7 million to the overall budget of CZK 109.8 million (EUR 4.1 million). The project, which is implemented by the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice in cooperation with eight other universities and the National Pedagogical Institute, targets all school grades from kindergarten to secondary level. The main goal is to change from a purely user-oriented approach to include the basics of computer science, by developing educational material for children but also for pre-service and in-service teacher training. The projects has received the prestigious Czech education prize Eduina.
4. Investing in education and training
Spending on education has increased but remains low at pre-primary and primary level. Education expenditure as a share of GDP was at EU-27 average (4.6%) in 2018, marking a 12.5% increase in real terms from 2017. Czechia dedicated 11.4% of its overall budget to education, above EU average (9.9%). Spending increased most for tertiary education (24.7%) followed by secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education (13.1%) and pre-primary and primary education (8.3%). Overall, Czechia spent most on secondary education and post-secondary non-tertiary education (44.5%), followed by pre-primary and primary education (23.7%) and tertiary education (17.5%).
The reform of regional education financing entered into force. With a year’s delay, the new funding system became operational as of January 2020. Schools received their budget, increased by CZK 20 billion. Funding is now based on hours taught and pedagogical work instead of the number of pupils attending a school. This should allow for fairer allocation because regional differences or diverse student populations, including those with special needs, can be better taken into account.
5. Modernising early childhood and school education
Capacity problems impede participation in early childhood education (ECE). In 2018, 91.5% of children aged 4-6 attended ECE compared to 94.8% at EU-27 level. Participation among Roma children is much lower (estimated 34% in 2016). Regional differences point to capacity problems: the region of Prague, despite being most populated and economically advanced, has the second lowest attendance rate. For under 3 year olds, Czechia recorded, with 9%, among the lowest participation levels in the EU (34.7%). To reach the EU target of 33% children under 3 in childcare, more than 50 000 additional places would be needed according to a national survey. However, to meet Czech parents’ (lower) demand, an additional 20 000 places would suffice. According to findings of the Czech School Inspectorate, many preschools involved parents in pedagogical projects and thus intensified parents’ interest in preschool education and contributed to their understanding of ECE as not being childminding but of key importance for the education and development of their children (CSI, 2020b).
Fragmented provision and unequal working conditions impact on quality of ECE for under 3 year-olds. As the guarantee to publicly subsidised ECE starts only at age 3, a childcare-gap of two years exists after childcare leave. ECE provision for this group is underdeveloped and fragmented: three different ministries oversee various services. Due to the lack of places, parents often turn to informal or private solutions (Eurydice, 2019). Kindergartens (which admit 2 year-olds) have less favourable child-to-adult ratios and less funding than children groups catering for the same age. The minimum qualification level required to work as a core practitioner is below bachelor's level across the entire age span of ECE, but only staff working with older children have a professional duty of continuing professional development (Eurydice, 2019). Research shows that ECE quality is affected by the level and duration of staff’s initial training as well as by their job satisfaction and retention. To improve the latter, several factors come into play, including low child-to-staff ratios and low group size, competitive salaries and competent and supportive managers (OECD, 2017).
Czechia maintains a good overall performance in education. The performance of 15-year-olds in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018 was slightly above the EU average for all three areas tested (reading, mathematics and science) and the proportions of low-achievers below the EU average3. Compared to 2009, the proportion of low achievers in reading has remained stable, while the share of top-performers has increased by 3.1 pps to 8.2%, albeit still below the EU average. Students in vocational programmes perform practically at the same level as those in general programmes, which is positive given that one third follows vocational programmes.
Socioeconomic inequalities are pronounced. Among students from disadvantaged background 37.7% are underachievers in reading, but only 8% from advantaged backgrounds are – a gap above the EU average (26.9 pps). Disadvantaged and advantaged students are concentrated in different schools to a higher extent than on average in the EU – a performance difference of 148 score points corresponding to about three years schooling separates disadvantaged from advantaged schools. Socioeconomic disparities also manifest themselves in career expectations: while 87.4% of advantaged students expect to complete tertiary education, only 36.6% of disadvantaged do – one of the largest gaps in the EU.
Figure 4 - Reading performance difference between advantaged and disadvantaged schools, PISA 2018
Source: OECD (2019), PISA 2018.
Research confirms that performance gaps of different school types are mainly based on school-external factors. A recent longitudinal study shows no difference in students’ progress between grades 6 and 9 for mainstream basic schools and multi-year gymnasia which are attended by approximately 12% of students, mainly from well-off households. Diverging average achievement and attitudes of students reflect the selectivity of multiyear-gymnasia and early tracking by ability, rather than superior school quality (Greger et al., 2020; Martinková et al., 2020). This is also demonstrated by the PISA isolation index, which is the highest for Czechia regarding the concentration of high performing students. The school closures during COVID-19 have sharply brought into focus performance and even participation differences in distance learning, based on parental support or the lack of it. Apart from infrastructure difficulties, disadvantaged schools grappled with scant parental input, which exacerbated existing inequalities. One of the lessons learnt for school principals has therefore been to improve communication with parents (CSI, 2020a).
In addition to socioeconomic profile, school location is a major determinant of performance. Geographical disparities are significant with schools in rural areas trailing city schools on average by 67 score points, the equivalent of almost two years of schooling. Czechia has reformed the school financing system to ensure that financial contributions cover the real needs of schools. The future Strategy for Education 2030 aims to reduce inequalities by supporting teachers and school heads and transforming the content and methods of education.
Early school leaving (ESL) remained broadly stable yet still above the national target. The overall share of 18-24 year old with at most lower secondary education was 6.7% in 2019 compared to 6.2% in 2018. While well below the EU average (10.2%), it remains above the national Europe 2020 target (5.5%). ESL is also much higher among vulnerable groups, including Roma: the rate for Roma was estimated at 57% in 2016 (FRA, 2016).
Pay levels and public image affect the attractiveness of the teaching profession. The 2018 OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), revealed that while the great majority of teachers in Czechia (91.2%) enjoy working at their particular school, only 16% consider their profession valued by society (OECD, 2019). Comparatively low salaries, which might contribute to this perception, are a cause of discontent for 72% of teachers, a share significantly above the other 22 EU countries participating in TALIS 2018 (61.9%). For teachers with drop-out intentions, it may well be decisive for their decision whether to simply change school or leave the profession altogether (Hanušová et al., 2020). In 2018, actual salaries for teachers remained significantly below those of tertiary-educated workers (OECD, EAG country note 2019) and showed modest and slow progression from starting to top salary compared to other EU countries (Eurydice, 2019; OECD, EAG country note 2019). Czechia has pledged to increase salaries of teaching and non-teaching staff to 150% of their 2017 levels.
Box 2: Entry into the teaching profession will be easier to tackle shortages
To mitigate serious teacher shortages, the law on pedagogical staff was amended, lowering qualification requirements. School leaders’ assessment would replace the (a priori) teaching qualification. Primary teachers will be able to enter the profession with a degree in pre-primary education or in leisure time pedagogy, i.e. without training in early literacy and other primary-education-related content.
In secondary education, out-of-field teaching is growing: the proportion of classes taught by specialists in the subject has decreased (CSI, 2019). In some subjects (foreign languages, IT, art) it is more than 50% and even for maths (33%) and Czech language (25%) it is quite high. A comparison by the Czech School Inspectorate on the quality of teaching between teachers with and without qualification and between teachers teaching in their specialization or out of field showed that qualified teachers had more thorough and elaborated teaching units, and offered fewer monotonous teaching units (CSI 2018).
Working conditions are demanding: in primary education, one teacher is in charge of, on average, 19.2 pupils compared to 14.1 at EU level. Average class size has increased. The share of older teachers has also increased in the past decade: 44.3% of teachers are over 50 years old (43% in primary education and 52.7% in upper secondary) above the EU average (38.8%). Joint teaching, observing other teachers' classes and providing feedback as well as joint activities across different classes and age groups are rare. Only around 7% of teachers engage regularly in such actions (OECD, 2019b) even though teacher collaboration is found to be especially beneficial for job satisfaction but also for improving educational outcomes (OECD, 2019c). Collaboration for assessment, training or exchange of teaching material is however much more common.
Stakeholder reactions to the changed recruitment requirements are mixed: a generally positive media echo from NGOs and some school heads contrasts with a more negative view by education specialists (deans of education faculties) who share concerns about de-professionalisation of the teaching profession and quality loss at schools.
More children with special needs attend mainstream education but conditions to support them are difficult. The proportion of students with special education needs in mainstream education increased from 9.5% in 2016/2017 to 12.8% in the 2018/2019 school year. At the same time, the framework for support of inclusive education has been tightened: in addition to large class sizes (in cities around 30 children), an amendment to the education act in force since January 2020 limits the number of teaching assistants in regular classes to two (previously three were allowed) and deleted the provision stipulating that students with disabilities shall be primarily educated in mainstream schools.
Targeted support for inclusive education is envisaged. The prevalence of segregated schools with a large majority of Roma pupils reflects the concentration of Roma in socially excluded locations but also the reluctance of non-Roma parents to accept Roma pupils in their children’s schools (CERD, 2019). While not specifically mentioning Roma, the strategy document Long-Term Education and Training Scheme 2019-2023, published in November 2019, emphasises the need to avoid segregation of pupils at elementary schools. To reduce disparities in education in all regions, in particular in socially excluded locations, higher participation of children from such locations in ECE, better allocation of highly qualified teachers and better cooperation with social workers and other public actors are considered necessary (Ministry of Education, 2019). Discrimination of Roma children in education is a subject of an ongoing infringement process.
6. Modernising vocational education and training
Participation in VET remains well above the EU average despite a slight decline. The total enrolment in upper secondary VET in Czechia continued to decline from 72.4% in 2017 to 71.3% in 2018 staying however well above EU average (48.4%). The employment level of recent VET graduates remained at 86.8%, also higher than in other EU countries (79.1%) despite a slight decrease compared to 2018.
Several measures have been introduced to increase the labour market relevance of the VET system. A labour market barometer was developed for regular monitoring and projections of labour market developments. The barometer will be incorporated into active employment policies but concerns remain about its sustainability following the pilot phase (Cedefop ReferNet Czechia, 2020). Exams leading to a master craftsman qualification are expected to start in 2021. Piloting of exams for 20 qualifications started in 2019. The new National Pedagogical Institute is, in addition to general education and other areas, responsible for VET, further education, career guidance and counselling, and the link between education and the labour market. It also manages the National Qualification Framework. The recently introduced new system of regional education funding also concerns VET.
Distance learning was more difficult in VET education. National data revealed that, during the Covid-19 crisis, only about one fourth of upper secondary VET schools providing mainly a VET final examination (without the general education Maturita examination) managed to engage all students online and one fifth of their students did not participate at all. In contrast, more than half of VET schools providing education leading to Maturita managed to involve all students online and only one eight of their students could not be reached. School principals attribute this to the lack of motivation combined with low parental support (CSI, 2020a). Providing practical education content online might also have been more challenging than academic content. However, some VET students were involved in voluntary work in their professional line (medical, educational activities) during the epidemic, thus further improving their practical competencies.
7. Modernising higher education
Tertiary educational attainment varies considerably between regions and groups. Among 30-34 year old adults, 35.1% had a tertiary qualification in 2019 compared to 40.3% at EU level. The average attainment rate, which increased by 17.4 pps over the last 10 years, hides various differences, notably a gender gap of 11.5 pps (EU: 10.5%) between 41% of women with tertiary educational attainment and 29.5% of men. The proportion of foreign-born in Czechia with tertiary educational attainment is, at 48.8%, considerably higher than those of native-born (34.2%) due to the economy’s attractiveness for highly qualified foreign workers. Regional differences range from 60.9% in the capital region to 20.8% in the northwest. A new law, passed in response to the COVID-19 crisis, enables higher education institutions to change the length and the organisation of the academic year, including scheduling exams during the summer vacation.
Employability of recent tertiary graduates remains high. In 2019, 88.2% of 20-34 year-olds having graduated at tertiary level in the last three years were in employment. Thus, having a tertiary degree is slightly advantageous in the overall strong Czech labour market. The transition from studies to work is likely to be facilitated by the large share of Czech students who work during their studies: more than 70% work during lecture period regularly or occasionally and 40—50% during their whole study time and lecture-free period (DZHW, 2018) – one of the highest shares in the surveyed countries4. During the COVID-19 lockdown, many students volunteered in various ways.
Graduates report high job matches. A recent pilot survey among graduates5 shows that in Czechia master graduates feel better prepared for the labour market than bachelor graduates (more than 12% higher) and so do technology and engineering graduates and natural sciences and health graduates compared to other fields (European Commission, 2020). An activating learning environment, defined by a high level of project-based learning, is less common in Czechia, but many students have jobs. A clear majority of the employed graduates report jobs that match both their degree and their study field. Engineering and technology (79% work in the core domain) and natural sciences (incl. mathematics) and health match most with labour market needs (74%). Social Sciences and journalism study programmes do less so (51%). A high overall job satisfaction (above 70%), high work autonomy (especially for men) and ample opportunities to learn new things are characteristic. However, less than 40% report (very) good career prospects. In addition, graduates from Czechia rate their own level of ICT skills the lowest of all participating countries. While the skills level is adequate for current jobs (European Commission, 2020), the digital transformation is likely to demand more advanced skills.
8. Promoting adult learning
Czechia launched several upskilling initiatives, including for digital skills. In November 2019 the European Social Fund project Upskilling CZ started. In line with the 2016 Council Recommendation on Upskilling Pathways, it aims to develop adults’ competences (Cedefop ReferNet, 2020).
The government adopted the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy in May 2019. Education related measures to be implemented by 2021 are: (i) verifying development of learners’ digital competence; (ii) boosting continuing professional development and retraining; (iii) supporting further education preparedness for labour market changes; and (iv) methodological support for schools in providing teacher training on expected curricular changes (Cedefop ReferNet, 2020). Within the Digital Strategy 2020, EVALDO, the online tool for self-evaluation of digital competencies, was further developed and an online catalogue of transferable digital competencies for 500 occupations within the National System of Occupations was created (Cedefop ReferNet, 2020).
Increasing participation in adult learning is crucial, especially for low-skilled adults. Only a small share of adults (6.2%) has not acquired at least an upper-secondary qualification, compared to the EU average of 21.6%. However, the likelihood of adults in Czechia frequently updating their knowledge and skills through adult learning is rather low - only 8.1% of adults aged 25-64 have had a recent learning experience during the last four weeks in 2019 compared to EU average of 10.8%. The share among low-qualified adults – those most in need of learning – was only 3.0% in 2019 (EU: 4.3%).
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Annex I: Key indicators sources
|Indicator||Eurostat online data code|
|Early leavers from education and training||edat_lfse_14 + edat_lfse_02|
|Tertiary educational attainment||edat_lfse_03 + edat_lfs_9912|
|Early childhood education||educ_uoe_enra10|
|Underachievement in reading, maths and science||OECD (PISA)|
|Employment rate of recent graduates||edat_lfse_24|
|Adult participation in learning||trng_lfse_03|
|Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP||gov_10a_exp|
|Expenditure on public and private institutions per student||educ_uoe_fini04|
- Degree-mobile graduates
- Credit-mobile graduates
|DG EAC computation based on Eurostat / UIS / OECD data|
Annex II: Structure of the education system
Source: European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2020. The Structure of the European Education Systems 2019/2020: Schematic Diagrams. Eurydice Facts and Figures. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.