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Schools& Education

November 7 – 13, 2012

Leaping ahead

Riverside School expands with a new sports center S6


S Schools&education November 7 – 13, 2012

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AAU talks perceptions of Turkey among EU nations ❚ Symposium billed as culmination of years of research into views of member states By Kasia Pilat Staff Writer

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rague’s Anglo-American University (AAU), the oldest private higher education institution in the country, continues its tradition of hosting academic symposiums with its latest, titled “Public Portrayal of Turkey in Visegrad Countries,” scheduled for Nov. 9. One of the symposium’s main organizers, Pelin Ayan Musil, Ph.D., also serves as chairwoman of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at AAU. In 2011, Musil’s book, Authoritarian Party Structures and Democratic Political Setting in Turkey, was published. According to Musil, the upcoming symposium is a culmination of several years of research and study. She explains that, in 2004 and 2005, when the European Union decided to open negotiation talks with Turkey, the country’s accession to the EU was widely discussed

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Pelin Ayan Musil says debate about the future accession of Turkey to the European Union has unfortunately receded in recent years. across the Continent, and several research projects investigating public opinion on Turkey’s future membership to the EU were undertaken, as well. According to Musil, Turkey, whose population includes 70 million Muslims, has been

the most popular candidate country for EU membership. However, she says, in recent years, the EU-Turkey debate receded drastically, and it lost its popularity on the public agenda. Musil says part of the purpose of the event is to refocus attention

on Turkey and revitalize the debate through the public symposium. She says Turkey’s successful economic growth and the rise of its role in a changing Middle East are of particular interest to revitalize the process of dialogue.

“As a university located in Prague, together with the partner institutions in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Turkey, my colleague Juraj Mahfoud and I have coordinated a one-year research project titled ‘Public Portrayal of Turkey in Visegrad Countries,’

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www.praguepost.com funded by the International Visegrad Fund,” Musil tells The Prague Post. “The ministry for EU affairs in Turkey also supports our project and will help us organize the follow-up meeting of this symposium in Istanbul in January. … We are interested in questions like, ‘How is Turkey publicly perceived, and why is it perceived like that in these countries? And how is it portrayed in the media?’ Previous research projects did not have a Visegrad focus. We think a Visegrad feature is important, because Turkey at the political level receives the support of these countries even though public opinion differs in each country. This support is contrary to the picture we are familiar with in West European countries such as France and Germany.” The participants planned for the public symposium promise a range of distinctive and authoritative voices. Musil says both Turkey’s and Poland’s Czech embassies will be represented and deliver speeches regarding the political relations between Turkey and Visegrad countries. Václav Kubata, chairman of the Inter-parliamentary Group of Friends of Turkey and member of Czech Parliament, will also be present to address the issue. Though Musil explains one of the symposium’s main aims is to share the results of her and Mahfoud’s research project, other scholars from various partner universities and institutions also investigated and studied the issue. Poland’s Tischner European University, Comenius University in Bratislava, Central European University in Budapest and Istanbul’s Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies will all also share and discuss the results of the respective research they conducted. Musil says a comprehensive report on the public portrayal of Turkey in Visegrad countries will be presented and distributed to the symposium’s participants, which will include academics, representatives from think-tanks, political parties, NGOs, EU embassies, Turkish diaspora and student groups, all invited to attend. Musil says this event continues AAU’s international academic tradition and the university conducts many similar symposiums, seminars and conferences throughout the year. In 2011, one panel, organized with the

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The results of a research project by Juraj Mahfoud and Musil will be discussed at the symposium. participation of experts, was a discussion focused on the Arab Spring. Musil attributes this to AAU’s outlook. “We think universities should act as a platform to bring together the academia, think-tanks and the media to stimulate public discussion on important contemporary political events,” she says. “Apart from these, we also pay attention to the organization of academic events with the participation of our internal faculty and students. Many guest lecturers come over from our partner universities in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and the United States to give public talks at our university.” Musil also adds that public talks organized within the framework of AAU’s bachelor’s program in Central and East European studies will address topics like the rise of the far-right in Hungary and ethnic and religious minorities in Poland. “Such symposiums help to develop the academic community at AAU together with its students and faculty,” Musil says. “It brings a distinctive dimension to lecturer-student relations. It is in such conferences and public seminars that our students and lecturers discuss issues as peers or colleagues. … We as a university would like to contribute to the public debates on the politics of the

world and the Visegrad region by bringing together the interested parties to share and discuss their opinions. For

instance, we have conducted an academic research on the question of Turkey’s accession to the EU in the

Visegrad group. But we don’t think the research findings should only be limited to academic discussion, and we organize this symposium to publicize our research.” Musil explains that, more and more, AAU is proving itself as an academic destination for international topics of interest, attracting not only participants to its conferences, but also the attention of international organizations, which in turn allows AAU to offer its students a wider range of possibilities. “AAU is a university whose faculty aims to engage in international research projects that produce such symposiums,” Musil says. “It has more and more partnerships and contacts with other universities abroad, thanks to the implementation of such projects. Furthermore, our new B.A. program in Central and East European studies also received a grant from the International Visegrad Fund, and this provides an opportunity to bring important scholars from the region to give public seminars at our school.” Kasia Pilat can be reached at kpilat@praguepost.com


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With its roots in the Alberta education system in Canada, the curriculum of Sunny Canadian International School is evenly split between English and Czech.

Taking cues from Canada’s system Staff Writer

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unny Canadian International School (SCIS), which started as one Czech woman’s dream, celebrates 10 years of operation this year. Spending 10 years in Alberta, Canada, had quite an effect on Alice Štunda — an effect so strong, in fact, that upon returning to her native country, she took it upon

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herself to establish a bilingual Czech-English school that followed the standards of the Alberta school system. For Štunda, being able to provide her daughter, Christina Nicole, with a bilingual educational environment that mirrored that of her home was of the highest importance. Since first opening its doors 10 years ago, the school has grown in size and scope — moving into a custom-built facility in Jesenice–Osnice in 2010 — and expanding its name this year, adding the word International into its English title, and gymnázium into its Czech one (Základní škola a gymnázium).

Accreditations:

❚ SCIS emphasizes bilingualism and cultural tolerance

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www.praguepost.com “International expresses our desire to integrate into the international network of schools and constantly maintain out standard of education and training at the highest level,” says deputy principal for the lower-secondary school, Jana Zbirovská. “Gymnázium [high school] means the school has been approved by the Education Ministry to provide its students a secondary education after elementary education, ending with a high-school diploma. Under both seemingly simple buzz words hides a lot of hard work, past and future. It is a commitment and a challenge, and we believe the expectations … will not only be fulfilled but surpassed.” SCIS aims to provide its students with a bilingual curriculum evenly split between English and Czech, employing both native Czech and English-language speakers to teach its various classes. Being bilingual, the school follows the Czech program of studies, employing the standards and content set out by the Alberta education system. In this manner, the school hopes to act as a bridge for its students to English-speaking universities outside of the Czech Republic. Maintaining this duality has not always been an easy task. “From the early years’ programs and beyond, we have been busy over the summer rewriting and revisiting the curricula and increasingly building in Canadian standards offered through Alberta Education,” says Ron Stiles, the school’s director, also a native-born Canadian. “Of course, the Czech curriculum is what SCIS remains committed to deliver first and foremost, but the fact that we are a maturing bilingual school means our English program is already moving away from the English as a Second Language proficiency benchmarks of Alberta and growing toward paralleling the English equivalents offered in the Czech curriculum.” Stiles, who grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, and whose mother was a superintendent in Alberta’s school system, says Štunda’s appreciation for the Alberta education system stems, at least in part, from its embracing of multicultural education and its real, grassroots environmentalism. In turn, SCIS incorporated some of the Alberta curriculum’s unique features, like its “reallife” lessons, problem-solving, themed field trips and interaction with community leaders. Additionally, the school, in following the Alberta system’s

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The three full-sized teepees on campus reflect the school’s inclusion of the First Nations Ten Commandments in their teaching. example, promotes acceptance and tolerance of other languages and cultures while also focusing on the environment with outdoor education. As Stiles explains, “We are proud of our ties to Canada — the Canadian Embassy and the Chamber of Commerce here in Prague — and the alignment of our bilingual curriculum to Alberta Education.” Stiles also mentions that, to help commemorate the 10 years of the school’s existence, SCIS is also celebrating with Ten Commandments of First Nations People, or North American Indians. The Commandments include such directives as “Show great respect for your fellow beings.” As Stiles explains, Native Americans believe everything is sacred, from the largest mountain to the smallest plant and animal, and a lesson can be found in all things and experiences, and everything has a purpose. “The First Nations Ten Commandments go well with the three full-sized teepees we have on our campus,” says Stiles. “At times, we even teach there.” Kasia Pilat can be reached at kpilat@praguepost.com DSP_inzerce_121x136V4.indd 1

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S Schools&education November 7 – 13, 2012

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The school added an entirely new sports facility at its Sedlec location last summer, which includes space for basketball, badminton, tennis, volleyball and football.

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❚ School’s new sports dome emphasizes ‘skills for life’ By Kasia Pilat Staff Writer

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ith its brand-new sports dome and Sports for Life program, Riverside School, a private, English-language institution in Prague that offers education for its students between the ages of 3 and 18, hopes to take learning outside of the classroom. Last summer, Riverside School added a newly constructed modern sports facility to its Prague 6–Sedlec

location. As the school’s sports coordinator, Ray Kropinski, explains, the new center provides space for three volleyball courts, two basketball courts, six badminton courts and a large football or tennis court. It also houses a beach volleyball court, a nohejbal court and a 3G artificial turf surface. Kropinski says during the winter the rebound court is entirely covered by a large dome and heated so that physical education lessons and trainings can continue in the

colder months. The size of the courts is specially designed to promote sport for children and parents of all ages: To make sure children are not discouraged from participating in a sport because of adultsized playing fields, Riverside’s beach and grass volleyball courts can be adjusted for even its youngest students. Such ambitious and extensive updates to Riverside’s sports facilities go hand-in-hand with the school’s Skills for Life program, begun in 2010. Skills for Life


Schools&education S November 7 – 13, 2012

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The Skills for Life program comprises a vast array of outdoor activities, including canoeing, scuba diving, tennis, pony riding, golf, rock climbing and sailing. team sports. According to Kropinski, 30 percent of Riverside’s students participate in outside associations or clubs independent of the school, while approximately 90 percent of students participate in a school-run Skills for Life sporting activity. The program’s aim is to provide Riverside students with experience and skills that will enhance their personal and professional development. “Riverside aims for all its students to be well-rounded, to experience a range of opportunities and, most importantly, to acquire a love for learning and a desire to hone their unique skills,” Riverside Director

Sports are said to improve students’ physical health but also help mental and social health. offers a total of 70 activities for students to choose from, including golf, canoeing, scuba

diving, tennis, pony riding, rock climbing, sailing, snow caving and several competitive

Peter Daish says. To further expand the experience of its students, Riverside also recruited a truly multinational sports and outdoor pursuits teaching team, which includes instructors from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic, Australian and Czech swimming coaches and several other professionals to teach tennis, sailing, scuba diving and kayaking. Kropinski says a quality physical education program is important for students. According to him, studies have shown sports can help students not only with their physical

health and in leading active lifestyles, but more importantly can improve one’s physical, mental, emotional and social health, as well. “Through physical education and sports, we want to allow all students the opportunity to be appropriately challenged through differentiation and extension for our gifted and talented, to provide an opportunity to take calculated risks and from this develop confidence and determination, to raise self-esteem, to develop leadership skills and to develop successful sportsmen and women,” Kropinski says. Kasia Pilat can be reached at kpilat@praguepost.com


S Schools&education November 7 – 13, 2012

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Students at the International School of Prague are getting a very hands-on experience with a one-to-one laptop program for learners in middle and high school.

Gearing education for the 21st-century students ❚ ISP emphasizes technology and critical thinking in interconnected world By Kasia Pilat Staff Writer

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ducation has come quite a way from the days of chalkboards and field trips. What was once an educational outing to a local museum not far from a school can now be substituted with a virtual tour via the Internet. Technology has entered not

only the classroom but also students’ homes, allowing them to find information with a single click. As Matt Hayes, a middleschool language arts and social studies teacher at International School of Prague (ISP), says, “We swim in information today. … Students today are digital natives, and their world does not resemble the one we grew up in.” ISP, a coeducational day school for students from pre-kindergarten through high school (ages 3–18), is highly conscious of not only modern-day technological advancements

but the new set of skills students need to learn to actively participate in their worlds. James Ebert, one of ISP’s teachers of 6- and 7-year-olds, explains that modern education is much more holistic and that teachers must prepare children to not simply remember facts. Instead, their new responsibilities include teaching children how to develop their own questions, find and evaluate answers, synthesize what they learn with what they already know and share what they know with others. Derek Druce, an Inter-

national Baccalaureate physics teacher at ISP, says he believes the divide between student and teacher has diminished considerably. Information is so readily available to all, he says, that both student and teachers are learners foremost. Arnie Bieber, the director of ISP, took some time to discuss the changing world of education, and what ISP is doing to keep up with the rapidly changing times. The Prague Post: How is education different today, in the 21st century, compared with when you

were at school? Arnie Bieber: For hundreds of years, schools have followed a model where students were expected to listen to their teacher and learn passively, after which tests would be taken and grades would be awarded. Success depended primarily upon memorization and rote learning. While this model of schooling may have had its place in the Industrial Age, it is dawning on heads of schools, teachers and governments across the Western world that this old model does not give students what they need to succeed in today’s dynamic


Schools&education S November 7 – 13, 2012

www.praguepost.com work environment, nor does it provide employers and the economy with the skills that new waves of students entering the work force should possess. TPP: How have education systems had to shift, or adapt, to better serve and educate students in our modern day? AB: Schools no longer hold a monopoly on information. Contemporary schools are faced with the challenge of remaining relevant to their interconnected students, who live in a world in which information about any topic is only a click away. While some might argue schools themselves are becoming irrelevant, the truth is schools are needed more than ever. Providing students with the basic literacy and mathematical skills they need is still important, but now students must, more than ever, learn how to think critically and creatively, work cooperatively and independently, and listen and communicate effectively. This is why the International School of Prague has incorporated these important 21stcentury skills into our mission. In stark contrast to the passive “Industrial Age” learning model, schools of today and tomorrow will provide a colorful, active and exciting experience where students learn to enquire, question, explore and construct their own understanding of a concept or subject. It is through real-world learning experiences and actually applying what has been learned that students gain enduring understandings, which they will retain on a deep level — not simply to pass tests. While there are many schools and even national systems struggling with these new and challenging realities, some schools, such as ISP, have been able to effectively adapt to our rapidly changing world. Not only by grasping the potential of new technologies but also by incorporating the best educational practices from around the world. TPP: One of the more obvious things that spring to mind when considering education in the 21st century is, of course, technol-

ogy. Can you comment at all on that? AB: While technology plays an important role in school, our central objective as educators remains student learning. While the technological resources at ISP are robust and second to none (with a one-to-one laptop program in middle and high school, and rich resources in elementary school), the point is to teach our students how to harness this powerful resource effectively and responsibly. Students should not simply learn about technology at today’s schools but learn seamlessly how to use technology as a powerful tool in all subject areas. Whether it’s in physics, music or social studies, ISP’s highly qualified IT integration specialists in each section of the school are there to guide and support students. Our students also learn about technology as a distinct discipline with courses such as multimedia, film, computer science, programming, music and theater technology and even robotics. I believe as students live with technology and the Internet every day, school is there to guide them in how to use this powerful resource effectively and responsibly. To that end, students and all members of the ISP community are involved in an extensive “digital citizenship” program. Throughout the year students, teachers and parents learn about digital etiquette, networking, research and appropriate protocols and behaviors. TPP: Aside from keeping up and being familiar with technological advancements and opportunities, what other things must educators keep in mind when considering the students of the 21st century? For example, how important are foreign languages? AB: It is our role as educators to ensure that we remain current and relevant with current educational research and within the world of today’s students. This is why it is crucial for 21st-century schools to provide a truly international curriculum in order to prepare students for a globalized world. For example, in addition to second languages such as French, Spanish or

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Technological advances ensure all the students get a head start in the information age. German, schools should be providing students with the opportunity to study world languages such as Mandarin. ISP is one of a few international schools to offer Mandarin as an integral part of our worldlanguage curriculum. While schools must develop and change to meet the demands of our times, it is crucial for our schools to continue to guide and nurture young people to become responsible global citizens with a foundation of strong values. Students must not only be prepared with important 21st-century skills, but with a deep understanding of traditional values such as integrity, respect and compassion. While these are “old” concepts, they are just as relevant today as they were in the past. An effective and responsive

21st-century school is one that can provide students with the authentic skills and essential values that students will need in life. This is why the ISP mission is to “inspire learners to lead healthy, fulfilling and

purposeful lives, preparing them to adapt and contribute responsibly to our changing world.” Kasia Pilat can be reached at kpilat@praguepost.com

Open day at duhOvka eleMentary sChOOl 13th november 2012 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Montessori method Czech - english bilingual teaching in all subjects two teachers per class - native Czech and english speaker nad kajetánkou 134/9, prague 6 www.duhovkaskola.cz


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A school in the Ústí region town of Trmice is bringing white and Roma children together to express themselves with instruments they learn to play at the school.

Learning tolerance through the use of songs and music

❚ Innovative program from Venezuela is stemming racism in north Bohemia By Kasia Pilat Staff Writer

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acial tension involving the Roma minority is nothing new in the Czech Republic. After a pair of alleged assaults by Roma on white residents of the Ústí region in August 2011, violent protests against the Roma population exploded in north Bohemia: The anti-Roma demonstration Aug. 26 in Rumburk drew about 1,500 protesters. This past New Year’s Eve saw the shooting and subsequent death of 22-year-old Roma Ladislav Tatár, as well as the injuring of his older brother. Conflict

between local residents and the Roma minority that has been migrating to north Bohemia in recent years has long been an issue of unrest. One school in Trmice, in the Ústí region, hopes to change that. Inspired by an innovative Venezuelan program called El Sistema, Trmice’s primary school, headed by Marie Gottfriedová, has begun implementing its philosophy in a ground-breaking new program intended to bring its Roma and white students together. “We know from our experience that this is the way to help children discover their abilities and talent, and build their self-confidence in a good way,”

Based on a South American program called El Sistema, the school promotes integration.


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www.praguepost.com Gottfriedová tells The Prague Post. In 1975, economist and musician José Antonio Abreu gathered 11 children in a parking garage in Caracas for the seemingly simple purpose of playing music. In doing so, Abreu founded El Sistema, a publicly financed nonprofit music education program that currently teaches music to some 300,000 of Venezuela’s poorest children. When a music teacher from a formal music school in Ústí nad Labem, Drahoslav Straněk, took over as the new vice principal at Trmice’s elementary school, where about 40 percent of the students are Roma, he saw an opportunity for improvement. “[Straněk] had the expertise and position within the school to make this happen,” Gottfriedová says. “It would otherwise have been a waste of his skills and a missed opportunity. He is in a position to get the kids motivated and, because he is in the school every day, to organize rehearsals and things like that.” Approximately three years ago, an afternoon program where students could learn a number of instruments (including, for example, piano, flute, guitar, drums and singing) was introduced in the school, with the philosophy of El Sistema providing its backbone. Students who advanced were offered the opportunity to form and be part of the school’s orchestra, which hosted performances. “I can see their musical abilities developing as well as their knowledge of musical terminology; at the start they always called me the ‘trainer’ because they knew the word for someone who organizes a sports team but not the word ‘conductor.’ They are improving all the time,” Straněk says. “The first concert they ever had was in school. Obviously, the students were a bit nervous, but they were an instant success. The audience — mostly parents and teachers — was very positive, and classmates went out and congratulated the musicians after. Kids who were consistently weak academically were suddenly heroes among their peers.” However, the students who gained confidence and support from their music lessons, performances, and Straněk’s efforts — he arranges all the music himself and tracks the students’ progress — are facing the severe possibility of losing it, as previous financial resources from the region and city have dried up. Gottfriedová says that,

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Children at the school are motivated to see their own musical abilities develop and have even hosted their first public performance.

The school hopes the students’ level of confidence will increase as a result of learning new skills in the program. though students’ parents make financial contributions, the truth remains that Trmice is, officially, a deprived area. The Ústí region has a Roma population of approximately 10 percent. It is marred by frequent robberies, prostitution, drug dealing and abuse, as well as high unemployment. In December 2005, unemployment in Trmice reached as high as 28.1 percent. “Trmice is among 10 cities in the Czech Republic that are marked as locations with social exclusion,” Gottfriedová says. “That is also why the governmental Agency for Social Integration is here. This music project is very important for social integration. In this project, we can see Roma children and white children can live in a harmony together, can help each other and have good relations. They can create something together that brings happiness to others. It is a very important message that is worth noticing.”

The 50-plus students taking part in the school’s music program may lose their music lessons and performances, as the school only has approximately 30 percent of the funds it needs to keep the valuable course alive. Mark Johnston, a music teacher who has worked in the British and Czech systems and is a graduate of the Royal

College of Music, has joined his efforts with the school, he says, because he believes that El Sistema–type programs could be the answer to many problems here. “It encourages integration — the orchestra in Trmice is about fifty-fifty Roma and white,” Johnston says. “It gives a new chance to children who have failed in normal education. It creates a new audience for classical music, it involves parents and teachers in new relationships — the head teacher at the school in Liverpool plays bass in the orchestra, too — and it gives parents, children and teachers a chance to start again and see each other in a new way.” Johnston also says that, for their participants, programs like El Sistema create genuine future employment possibilities as musicians and teachers.

He says some of the finest musicians in the world are now El Sistema graduates, including, for example, the youngest-ever member of the Berlin Philharmonic. “El Sistema is not just about ‘joining in,’ because it is good for you socially,” Johnston says. “It creates fantastic musicians and definitely the most exciting youth orchestra, Venezuela’s Simón Bolívar Orchestra, in the world.” Recently the Simón Bolívar Orchestra performed in Prague’s sold-out Rudolfinum venue, where the orchestra offered three encores to an eager crowd. “Stunning performance,” Johnston said of the concert. “And if kids from the poorest areas of the ‘murder capital’ of the world can do that, why not kids here?” Kasia Pilat can be reached at kpilat@praguepost.com


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Growing up Montessori-style ❚ Duhovka explores a method in which pupils lead the learning process By Kasia Pilat Staff Writer

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wealth of educational opportunities and options exist for parents with student-age children in Prague. One of the newest to the city, but certainly not a new concept, is a Montessori education. In 1897, Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator, began to establish her unique approach to education, developing her own philosophy and methods after attending courses in pedagogy at the University of Rome and reading educational theory of the previous two centuries. In 1907, she opened her first classroom in a tenement building in Rome. From there, her educational methods spread to the United States in 1911 and beyond. Today, Montessori education is practiced in approximately 20,000 schools worldwide. One of them, the Duhovka Group, opened its doors in Prague as a preschool in 2008. From there, founders Ivana and Tomáš Janeček expanded their Montessori-style schools to a second preschool in Malá Strana, as well as absorbing primary school Škola Hrou in 2010, which already had a tradition of applying alternative teaching methods, and opening two new classes in 2011 and 2012. The eightyear Duhovka High School opened its first Czech-English class in Prague 6 and another Montessori class accepted new pupils in September 2011 in Prague 4. Judy Luman, who serves as the director of the Elementary Montessori Education Teacher Program for Duhovka Group’s elementary school, and is a Montessori methodologist, explains that a Montessori education, though it has traditions of its own, is anything but traditional. “A Montessori school is a multi-age classroom,” she says. “So, here at Duhovka Montessori, we have three classrooms for first-, secondand third-graders, and we have two classrooms that are for first- and second-graders this year. We have two teachers,

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The parameters are set by their teachers, but students at Montessori schools have the freedom to choose their own activities.


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Classes often work from concrete experience to abstract comprehension, but great attention is given to the differences in children’s needs and challenges. one English teacher and one Czech teacher. They have equal responsibilities; they are co-teachers. The children work cooperatively in small groups, individually, and in large groups, and they teach each other. We present a program that’s not just two teachers with a classroom of children, it’s 20 teachers within the environment. You see younger children helping older children and vice versa; it depends on what their strengths are.” Luman explains that a Montessori education diverges from the traditional classroom and planned lesson format. Instead, she explains, teachers are urged to meet their students at their individual levels, rather than teaching the class as a whole and expecting all of the students to meet the level set by the instructor. “We meet them where they are; we don’t move as a whole class and leave people behind,” she explains. “So we have certain skills and outputs: the Czech outputs that we have to meet, so we do meet those, but also where a child needs extra support, we’re there to support them. And if they’re just zooming forward or ahead, we can keep moving them beyond

what would be the traditional expectation for that grade level.” Because the students have the freedom of choice to work on activities or concepts as they see fit, Luman explains, Montessori schools see a good amount of movement of students as they shift from one activity to another, the parameters of which have been set out for the teachers. The teachers are constantly giving lessons to all the children, individually or in groups, and then the students go back to that work and practice until they show mastery in that specific concept or lesson. Luman points to the various intriguing materials used in Montessori classrooms, organized in a progressive manner, as a key to learning. Any given lesson becomes progressively more and more abstract as it is taught more in-depth. Quantities, for example, are introduced through individual beads that are then joined together into rows, squares and cubes, and only later are the tangible materials paired with written numbers. This, she says, gives children a concrete experience to which they can join their

conceptual understanding of a lesson. In an effort to deepen learning further, Montessoristyle schools emphasize learning using as many senses as possible. In one classroom, a young pupil sits and traces printed letters made of sandpaper with his fingers, while he makes the letters’ sounds out loud. Though children are encouraged to explain concepts to one another, thus deepening their own understanding of a concept, in a Montessori-style education the teacher is crucial. He or she is responsible for carefully and closely monitoring and observing each given student, taking note of their individual progress and deficiencies and making sure each student is receiving the practice needed. This necessity for highly aware and capable teachers is part of the reason why Luman, after working as a Montessori teacher herself and putting her own children through Montessori schools, now works to train new teachers in the Montessori style. “Teachers have to keep records in all areas of each child, so it’s not just a class picture,” she explains. “We have about

18 kids in each class right now and [teachers] work together, do a lot of observation, documentation, so that you can see when a child’s ready to move forward. Also, you sit with them and they will explain the work to you, and the greatest way to see if they’ve mastered something is if they’re explaining it to another student. So we step back and we can watch them work with other children and when we see that they’ve mastered it it’s time to move them to the next step.” Luman says it is also equally as important to train the students’ parents in a Montessori-style education, not only to familiarize them with the concepts and learning style, but also so they may integrate some lessons into their children’s home life, as well. A Montessori-style education emphasizes a whole-person philosophy, not just a purely academic education. Emphasis is also given on practical life, teaching students how to operate in life; preschool children are taught how to clean their own dishes, so that as they grow through life they become self-sufficient. Luman says that some parents enjoy the concept of

a Montessori education so much that they decide to sign up for her teacher training program, and many even end up completely changing their professions. One such parent is Joanna Šafařík, whose two children attend Duhovka Group’s schools. After she started training in the summer as an elementary trainee, Šafařík says that she was sure Montessori was the way she wanted to educate her own children. She says she had no concerns about her children being able to transition into a non-Montessori school like a highereducation college or university. “Before I knew about Montessori, the more research I did actually felt very comfortable with the system itself, because college is not only sitting down, test-taking, and lecturing. There’s an aspect of that in college, but also research, and a lot of do-it-yourself, and work with groups, and you do that in undergrad and also in graduate school,” Šafařík says. “So I think a Montessori kid can have a much better chance to succeed in college.” Kasia Pilat can be reached at kpilat@praguepost.com


S14 Schools&education November 7 – 13, 2012

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COURTESY PHOTOS

Prague British School gives the family of their students, or prospective students, the opportunity to have a look inside the school by attending any of their classes.

Open days for the parents ❚ For a few days, attendance no longer restricted to current students By Kasia Pilat Staff Writer

I

n order to give prospective and current parents a taste of what it’s like to be a student once again, Prague British School (PBS), with locations in Prague 4 and Prague 6, hosts schoolwide Open Days twice a year. Its most recent took place Oct. 10. Fraser Litster, admissions director and organizer of the school’s Open Days, says the Open Days are intended for families who may be interested in sending their children to PBS in the future, whether they are young children starting school for the first time, families moving to Prague, or

families considering moving from other schools. In a typical schoolyear, Litster says, the school receives more than 500 inquiries from families who are interested in the school. He says dozens of these inquiries are initiated at Open Days. Though PBS’s Open Days often provide prospective students and their families with their initial contact with the school, the event is also an opportunity for parents of current students to visit and spend more time in the classroom, perhaps to even visit the classes that their children will attend in future years. “The Open Day format is intended to offer parents the chance to visit classes with children of all ages at PBS, starting with the 3-year-olds in the Nursery, through to the 18-year-olds doing the International Baccalaureate,” Litster tells The Prague Post. “The school prepares a schedule of classes throughout the day that shows not only

The school’s open days provide children and parents alike the chance to see the classes first-hand. the wide age range at PBS, but also shows off the broad spectrum of subjects that are taught throughout the school. Visitors can turn up at any

time during the school day and pop in and out of lessons as they wish and are encouraged to visit as many classes as they can. The Open Day takes

place at the same time at both PBS sites, the Prague 4 site in Kamýk and Vlastina in Prague 6. The school caterers make sure everyone has the energy


Schools&education S15

November 7 – 13, 2012

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COURTESY PHOTOS

Offering a whole range of extracurricular activities to its offerings, including music education, Prague British School continues to attract students from far and wide.

The school’s variety of educational and recreational spaces were on view during the recent Open Days, which took place as part of the normal school week. to get through the busy day, kindly supporting the event with tasty refreshments.” Between the school’s two locations, a total of 59 classes were offered throughout the day at PBS’s most recent Open Day, with possible course samplings including such offerings as Transferring Electricity, a Year 11 physics class; a Year 5 French vocabulary class with a quiz on words describing the human body; a Year 7 geography class entitled Where in the World; a Year 3 sports class on rugby and football; a Web-coding class for Year 11 students; and a Year 5

art course titled “Contrasting Light and Dark.” Gemma Dunsmuir, a Year 4A teacher, said the focus of her class was slightly unique. “The children in my class were doing active spelling. They were spelling words in shaving foam,” she says. “This might sound a little strange, but it’s to help the children remember the particular spelling pattern that they are learning. We also did an activity called back writing, where children trace words on their partners’ back and the child has to guess what they are writing. We rounded the session off with a

bit of ball-throwing fun, where each pupil has to say the next letter in the word when they catch the ball. The parents that visited my class all joined in and really enjoyed getting involved in the activities with the children. Most of them commented that they wished that they had learned spelling in this way when they were at school.” In attendance at PBS’s most recent Open Day were several families considering moving to Prague from other international locations. For them, the day was not only an opportunity to visit and get the feel of a po-

tential school, but also to meet some of the parents of current PBS students. They, perhaps better than administrators, are able to share with prospective parents and students their first-hand experiences with the school. However, at PBS’s Open Days, not only potential newcomers get the chance to learn. Lindsey Garrison, a current PBS parent, attended her first Open Day in October. “Our previous school used to hold open days; however, they were very different, usually on a Saturday morning and not something that current parents

would get involved in,” she says. “I really enjoyed the day and visited lots of classes. My daughter will move up to the Senior School next year, and so for me it was a great opportunity to get in and see some of the lessons being taught. I saw a history lesson about life in Tudor England and then tried a math lesson for the IB kids. If I learned anything on Open Day, it’s that it won’t be long before I will struggle to help my daughter with her math homework.” Kasia Pilat can be reached at kpilat@praguepost.com


S16 Schools&education November 7 – 13, 2012

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27.8.2012 10:49:57

Schools & Education (Nov 7 - 13, 2012) by PraguePost.com  

Our special Schools and Education eSupplement - November 7 - 13, 2012 edition

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