There is so much to do when the decision is made to move to another country and take up permanent residency. Of course, there are all of the details – getting your passport and the initial Visa, finding housing, making arrangements to store or move your belongings, setting up banking, resolving any issues with driving (if necessary), telephone service, and more. And ultimately, you will have the responsibility for applying for permanent residency.
What may be on the “back burner” initially will be schooling, especially if you have school-age children and you do not intend to home school them. If you have pre-planned well, you may have already checked out the options for education, either for your children or for yourself (if that is in your plans). If not, you will want to understand a bit about education in the Czech Republic, so that you know your options before you arrive and begin looking.
Education is mandatory for all Czech children through the age of 15. Most stay in school until 18 and then either join the workforce or move on to vocational or academic post-secondary schools. The majority attend public schools, although there are plenty of private school options, particularly in Prague.
The Pre-School Option
If you have very young children, you will probably want to consider a pre-school option, because, at that age, they will learn the Czech language more easily. This is valuable if you intend to remain in residency for a long time. And as they learn the language, you may find them quite helpful while you are still struggling with it. Estelle Leotard, an editor for Studicus, relates this experience: “Years ago, I took a civil service position in Japan. Not one word of the language did I speak. But I had a two-year-old and a Japanese nanny who spoke to him in Japanese. Over time, he picked up a lot of the language – enough so that when I had to take a cab or shop on the local economy, he was the one who gave directions or asked a shopkeeper for the item I wanted.”
The other plus of early language learning is that your child can enter a free public school at the age of six pretty fluent.
Looking at Public, Private, and International Schools
Public schools exist throughout the country, so even if you settle in a rural area, your children will have access (so long as you have permanent residency status).
Teaching in public schools is in the Czech language, although in most, English or German are taught secondarily. Even if your child has not had the advantage of pre-school in the Czech Republic, this will be a good “total immersion” experience in the language. Most teachers are understanding of students who are not native speakers and will both provide extra help and be more flexible in grading when a student is new to the language.
Public schools do have “open days” when parents can visit, or you can make an appointment to tour a public school, before making the decision to place your children in them.
There are private schools in the Czech Republic, especially in Prague and other major urban areas – Brno, Karlovy Vary, Ceske Budejovice, Ostrava, and Olomouc, to be specific.
Private schools are funded partially by the government and by tuition payments. This certainly helps with your budget, if you want to go this route.
Most private schools teach in two languages – Czech and German, or Czech and English. And this may be the ideal solution for your children if your budget will allow and you are worried about your children struggling with the Czech language as they enter school in their new country of residence.
There are also international schools in the Czech Republic. Most of these do teach in English and also follow standard curricula of one or more English-speaking countries – the US, the UK – and some offer the International Baccalaureate.
There are a large number of international schools in Prague, of course, but also in some other cities throughout the country. You will not find them in rural areas.
As to cost, these schools can be a bit pricey. Most expats who move because of a transfer from their employer should definitely request tuition reimbursement as a part of their relocation package.
Just as with public and private schools, international schools vary a lot in culture, quality, size, and, as stated above, curriculum. And many of them are popular and competitive, especially those that are small. If you have not been able to visit schools in advance of your move (and perhaps this should be another negotiating point with an employer), then you will need to do your research, contact the administration, see if you can contact any other parents, and get as much information as possible.
You will also want to check accreditations of the international schools you are considering. There are several accrediting bodies, including the Council of British International Schools, The New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and the Agency for French Education Abroad.
Another factor will be the type of diploma offered by these schools, especially if your child may be returning to the U.S. for college. The International Baccalaureate Diploma is generally recognized everywhere. And there are international schools that will deliver a U.S.-based curriculum, as well as test preparation for the ACT and/or SAT.
Susan Stickney, a director of marketing for Trust My Paper, recalls her own experience as a teenager: “My dad moved us to Ukraine when I was just at the point of entering middle school. My parents enrolled me in an English-speaking international school in Kyiv. It was a grand experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I developed a far more ‘global perspective’ and some of the best memories of my life. And I had no difficulty getting into college in the U.S.”
If you are interested in boarding schools, there are some of these too, concentrated in the Prague metropolitan area.
Look at All of Your Options
If education is a requirement of your expat life, then you obviously have lots of options, based upon the age of the student(s) and the long-term educational goals you and they may have. But understand this: your children can get a first-class education in the Czech Republic.
Author Bio: Kristin Savage is a world traveler and frequent writer and blogger for a number of online writing services, including Grab My Essay, Studicus, Best Essay Education, and Wow Grade. As an educational writer, she has always been interested in studying the educational systems of any country she visits and often reports on these for a variety of venues.