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Schools& Education

January 23 – 29, 2013

An individual apprOach to learning Hands-on education at the Montessori School S8–9


S Schools&education January 23 – 29, 2013

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Lending a helping hand ❚ Volunteer work brings more than academic rewards ❚ Prague British School promotes community work in curriculum By Kasia Pilat Staff Writer

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ecently published International Baccalaureate (IB) results showed a 96 percent pass rate for students of the Prague British School (PBS), a day school for children between the ages of 3 and 18 with locations in Prague 4 and Prague 6. Those students can now boast of more than just high scores: This year, students’ volunteer work with the Klokánek Children’s Home in Chodov, Prague 4, dubbed Project Klokánek, has been integrated into the studies of all IB students at the school. “All of the credit has to go to the students for making this project work, as they are the ones who have planned and initiated it,” says Matthew Williams, the school’s IB Creativity Action Service coordinator. “We have been working with the Klokánek organization in Chodov for some years now, but this year we have seen the project take off. As a teacher, I feel it is very rewarding to

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Students at the Prague British School host several events annually for the children of Klokánek Children’s Home in Chodov. see young people actively take responsibility in enriching the lives of others.” This year saw some additions to the Prague British School’s IB curriculum: As part of the students’ commitment and endeavor to gain a full IB diploma, they are now required to complete more than 150 hours of activities, and this

includes service to the community. This is where Project Klokánek comes in. According to Fraser Litster, admissions director of PBS, the students at the school have truly taken the project to heart, organizing a variety of activities and events for the children from Klokánek to participate in, like a Halloween disco and a

fireworks night, both of which PBS hosted. Furthermore, the PBS students raised funds this year to enable all of the children from Klokánek to visit Prague Zoo. In addition to funding the excursion, a number of PBS students gave up their usual weekend activities to personally accompany the children for their day trip, and

Litster says more events are scheduled for the remainder of the year. “It is encouraging to see young people engage with others who are less fortunate than themselves and foster friendships with other children from different backgrounds,” Williams says. “Many of our students now give up their

The Prague British School is attended every day by over 850 children from 55 countries. The school has sites in both Prague 4 and 6 and caters for children aged 3 to 18 years. For more information and to discuss enrolling your child in the Prague British School please contact the Admissions Officer.

A school where people want to be inz_PraguePost_2012-10_204x89_01.indd 1

www.pbschool.cz E-mail: admissions@pbschool.cz Tel.: +420 226 096 200

02.11.12 11:55


Schools&education S

January 23 – 29, 2013

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Fundraising is another way the students at PBS give back: This past year, the students’ donations went to buying Christmas gifts for the children at Klokánek. evenings and weekends so they can spend time with the children at Klokánek.” For many students at Prague British School, this kind of hands-on volunteer work with those less fortunate than them was not only a new experience but also an eye-opening one. “I never believed in NGOs,” says Pavlína, a student at the school, “But after one of the girls called me ‘Mom,’ I immediately had tears in my eyes. I suddenly started feeling the pain that they felt every day. I realized how important it was to work with children from such disadvantaged backgrounds. It was an enlightening experience for me that I will never forget.” At the end of December, the PBS students organized a daylong Christmas party at the school for Klokánek’s children, with fun, games, arts and crafts, and a pizza party, as well as traditional festive activities for all to enjoy. Williams says that more than 40 children from both PBS and Klokánek attended throughout the day, which helped strengthen the bond. Williams also says that, as the year came to a close, all the children from Klokánek received their “Christmas wish,” as the whole school embarked on a Christmas collection. Each class donated a present to

every child at Klokánek. More than 30 gifts were collected, along with a donation enabling Klokánek to purchase other gifts for the children. Williams says the best aspect of Project Klokánek is that it engages all of the students at Prague British School. According to him, the IB students are the ones leading it and driving it forward, but all students can get involved in their own way. This year, for example, PBS’s secondary school alone raised more than 50,000 Kč for Christmas presents for the children at Klokánek, while 23,900 Kč was raised by another group at the school. However, “the most valuable thing they can contribute is their time,” Williams says. Though volunteer work is now obligatory for each IB student looking to receive his or her diploma, not all students feel it is merely a requirement. “Working with the Klokánek children was both an honor and a privilege for me,” says James, an IB student at PBS. “I know we are all very fortunate to go to the school we go to and to live the lives we do. Therefore, it is also our duty to help these children who have lived incredibly hard lives.” Kasia Pilat can be reached at kpilat@praguepost.com

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S Schools&education January 23 – 29, 2013

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Tales from a teacher ❚ Anecdotes by an ex-educator detail life at schools in three countries ❚ Book not scientific but honest, sincere By Milan Gagnon STAFF WRITER

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n her collection of vignettes, If School Desks Could Speak, released through print-on-demand house Xlibris, Mirka Christesen details the years she spent as a teacher in the Czech Republic, Germany and the United States. Now retired, but still tutoring at-risk students and living in North Carolina, Christesen finally had the time to describe her experiences in an anecdotal, if not always critical, manner. Christesen finds the U.S. school system harder than

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Though now retired and living in North Carolina, Christesen says her time teaching abroad gave her invaluable experience.

18.1.2013 18:48:00


Schools&education S

January 23 – 29, 2013

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Christesen’s books is filled with stories about her experiences as a teacher in a number of school settings around the globe, from Germany to North Carolina. those in the Czech Republic and Germany. For example, teachers’ hours are longer and study programs are more tailored to individual students rather than aimed at achieving a minimum group level. “That is why you will find an academically gifted specialist at every school in North Carolina and a number of special education teachers as well,” Christesen writes in an e-mail. “In Europe, however, most special education students are served in special schools. That means that classroom teachers in Europe do not have to deal with the special need students in such large numbers as in the USA. Teachers in America are expected not only to be academic coaches but also to take care of the children’s social and emotional needs or issues.” She says in the United States teachers are supplied with not only all the necessary writing and learning materials, but also tissues, bandages and other hygiene items — outfitted for all needs, educational or medical. Punishment stateside is different, too, with in-school and out-of-school suspensions being the norm. This means that students are not just catered to individually, but also responsible for their own successes or failures.

“In the USA, there is more accountability on part of both students and teachers for their work,” Christesen writes. “American students are tested a lot more frequently than in Europe. A correlation is made between individual teachers’ effectiveness and the students’ results on the end-of-grade tests. Teachers are expected to keep in close contact with the parents throughout the year via e-mails, phone calls, and written nine-week interim reports.” Christesen says staff in the United States are also better prepared individually for the demands of teaching, with mandatory professional development in addition to classroom hours. She says the contact between teachers and parents, too, is refreshing, especially when compared with the less-frequent encounters she had in Germany. Her book is not scientific, she warns, just honest: “A comparison of several school systems would require extensive research. My book was only intended to give you a taste of a teacher’s life in the trenches and touch upon these differences.” Milan Gagnon can be reached at mgagnon@praguepost.com

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S Schools&education January 23 – 29, 2013

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Located on a historic campus, Prague’s Charles University is taking steps forward with its latest offerings of English-language tuition in the field of technology.

Park Lane International School is opening its new campus at Malá Strana (Valdštejnská 151) from September 2013

Giving students a competitive edge ❚ High-tech meets an old tradition at Charles University ❚ Faculty boasts former students working at top firms

Come to our Open Day 5/3/2013!

By Clare Speak

info@parklane-is.com +420 220 512 653 +420 733 697 349 www.parklane-is.com

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For the Post

C 16.1.13 16:07

harles University is now opening up complete study programs

in computer science to international students. One of the most highly regarded universities in Europe, Charles University has been attracting foreign students and teachers ever since its founding in 1348. Its academic staff most famously included theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, who taught there from 1911 to 1914. Today, the university consistently ranks among the top 2 percent of universities worldwide. There have been a range of courses taught in English at Charles University for some time, and from this academic year onward the Faculty of


Schools&education S January 23 – 29, 2013

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Students of all nationalities are welcome to enroll in the classes taught at Charles University, and their studies here prepare them for the demands in the global workplace. Mathematics and Physics (known as “Math-Phys”) will offer its successful bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science programs in English as well. “Many professors from Charles University are known worldwide; there are many international projects at our university, and yet the number of foreign students and professors at Charles University in Prague is still quite limited,” says Petr Kolman, the vice dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics. “As we believe that foreign students and professors bring immeasurable benefit to the university, both for local students and local academics, we have begun working toward change in this respect.” The university is keen to attract foreign students, and the timing of the new program’s introduction is partly due to the appointment of the current Math-Phys dean, Jan Kratochvíl. “The opening of the English program is one of his priorities,” Kolman says. “Also, the steep decline in the Czech population of 18- to 19year-olds in recent years makes it an ideal time for opening the university to students from other countries.” The bachelor’s program aims to provide a sound theoretical base which, as Kolman explains, is invaluable

for working with applications and software development. Meanwhile, the master’s program is designed to give students a broad overview of computer science, along with the practical application of core principles. “The strong theoretical underpinning of the master’s study program gives our graduates a competitive advantage in a dynamically evolving world, where today’s technologies are often obsolete tomorrow,” Kolman says. “In our curriculum we put a strong emphasis on ideas and concepts that have stood the test of time and will endure. This is the reason for the large number of classes in mathematics, compared with most other computer science programs at other universities.” Students of any nationality are welcome to join the courses, including Czech students interested in studying in English, although Kolman explains the faculty had three main groups of students in mind when preparing the programs and admission procedure. The first are international students who have already been living in the Czech Republic, and in many cases have been studying at English secondary schools in the country. The second are students from other European countries, specifically the United Kingdom and

Germany, and the United States. The third group consists of students from rapidly developing countries in Asia, specifically India, China, and Malaysia. Many former students have gone on to work for established companies such as Facebook, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Avast; others have established new companies like Inmite, a firm that develops mobile applications. Still others have continued their academic careers at ETH Zürich, the University of Cambridge, and Stanford University. “I graduated relatively recently and almost immediately was packing my bags to

go and work in Ireland, where Google was waiting for me,” alum Jan Rouš says. “I’ve been working there as a site reliability engineer. The work is great, and I think I owe it to Math-Phys that I was prepared for something like this.” One example of the success former students have enjoyed during the course is the BIRD routing system, software that originated as a student project and now affects 40 to 50 percent of all Internet traffic. “Over the years, the system has become the most widely used tool of its kind among Internet peering centers around the world,” Kolman explains. “Very roughly, peering centers are responsible for traffic

exchange between different Internet service providers, and they need software that organizes the exchange. When you send an e-mail, it typically has to pass though several such centers. Thus, whenever you get an e-mail, most likely the BIRD routing system took care of it at some point.” This year, an English-language master’s program in mathematics has also been introduced, and the faculty is considering opening a bachelor’s program in mathematics or physics in the near future as well. Clare Speak can be reached at specialsection@praguepost.com


S Schools&education January 23 – 29, 2013

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Adaptive learning ❚ Keeping with the times — and one step ahead of the system at IMSP ❚ School looks to harness growth and improve facilities By Kasia Pilat Staff Writer

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o keep up with a constantly changing society, schools around the world have been altering their methods, focusing on an approach that caters to students as individuals and freethinkers rather than the time-honored desks-and-chalkboard setting. Montessori schools have been doing this from the very start. “Montessori hasn’t

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Classes at Montessori schools have a nontraditional approach, with an emphasis placed on hands-on, self-guided learning.

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Charles University, established 1348, ranks today among the top 2 % of universities worldwide, a fact that has been repeatedly confirmed by international university rankings. In computer science and mathematics it does even better. Microsoft Academic Search: rank 9 in Discrete Mathematics worldwide Charles University is consistently ranked as the No.1 Computer Science school in the Czech Republic

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Schools&education S January 23 – 29, 2013

www.praguepost.com changed a lot, because it was so innovative in the beginning,” says Pherooz Karani, head of the International Montessori School Prague (IMSP). “When Maria Montessori developed her method 100 years ago, she was really looking at whole-child approach and saying that the teacher and the child are on a very close level and in a partnership for education, and children play a huge part in their own education. It’s self-directed learning, and that’s what we’ve been following for more than 100 years now.” Karani, who grew up in the United States, has a long history with the method: She attended a Montessori school until she was 12 years old, and her mother and grandmother were Montessori educators, as well. While she says she knew from age 6 she wanted to be a teacher, she avoided the Montessori approach initially in what she calls an attempt to rebel and break away from her family. Then, in her first year of university, while doing a degree in elementary education, Karani says that none of it made sense to her as a method. After researching Montessori on a practical level, she decided to leave university and complete training in the method first. Now Karani has spent nearly all of her 18 years in education in Montessori environments. For the past two academic years, she has served as the head of IMSP. “I just think it’s the best method for children, because it really serves the whole child and that’s what I like about the approach,” Karani says. “So I was very resistant to it, and it took me a while to come around to it, but now I can’t even imagine not doing it. And now people say, ‘You’re just like your mother.’ ” IMSP, located on Hrudičkova street in Prague 4, was originally established by Kateřina Bečková in 2002 as a private school in a different location in the neighborhood. Though it started with 16 children aged between 1.5 and 6 years and divided between just two groups, over time the school grew, adding an elementary classroom in 2003, and a second primary classroom in 2005.

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At the International Montessori School Prague, like at most Montessori schools, older students often help and guide younger students. In 2007, the school gained accreditation from the American Montessori Society (AMS) as well as expanded its program into lower elementary for students between the ages of 6 and 9, and upper elementary, with students ages 9 through 12. According to Karani, the school currently has about 90 students total, with a maximum of about 108 students. “We don’t want to grow much larger as a school,” Karani says. “We’re not a school that aspires to have 500 children here. We like our community feel; we like that we’re a small, family-oriented school. We all know each other: I know all the parents, I know every child in the school — we like that, that’s what we want to continue to nourish.” Despite not seeking to grow much larger in student numbers, Karani says IMSP does have plenty of plans for the school’s future. “We have things that we want to do to grow,” she says. “We would like to put in a full-size library — all our classrooms have libraries of course, and for the elementary children they’re digitalized and the children can use the libraries for research and reading, but it would be great to have an actual, large, all-school library and develop more of a technology program.”

The IMSP has accreditation from the American Montessori Society and currently has 90 students. In addition to that, Karani mentions that IMSP currently has a strong physical education program in which the children have classes once a week. However, because of the lack of a gym at the school, the students must use one

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elsewhere, so Karani highlights a potential on-campus facility as another plan for the future, as well as further development of its playground and garden. Aside from that, Karani does not see IMSP drastically changing in coming

years. On the contrary, she believes it is the lasting power, recognizability and stability that draws so many to the Montessori method. “People ask me, ‘How much do you think Maria Montessori would change if she were to come back today and look at the method?’ and I certainly think that there are things she’d change, because she always said that you have to prepare children for the society they’re going in to,” Karani says. “There’s lots of changes and lots of growth; the needs of children change, but the core mission of helping develop that well-rounded child who has self-directed learning is still there, and I love that.” Kasia Pilat can be reached at kpilat@praguepost.com

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S10 Schools&education January 23 – 29, 2013

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Principal Paul Ingarfield says the location, directly below Prague Castle, and spectacular setting of Park Lane’s campus are major assets for its students.

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By Clare Speak For the Post

P

ark Lane International School has been providing English-language education for nursery and primary school–aged children since 2006, and now, with the opening of a new grammar school planned for this September, it is set to expand its horizons. Set in a refurbished former embassy building on Valdštejnská street, directly beneath the walls of Prague Castle, the new school hopes to allow current primary students to continue their studies and development in line with Park Lane’s methodology. As the campus develops over the next couple of years, a full secondary

school syllabus will become available for years 7 to 13. “Our centrally located school will connect our students to the cultural center of the city and enable them to enjoy the historical atmosphere,” says Principal Paul Ingarfield, whose experience in international education spans 13 years. “While many of our current primary students will join the secondary school, spaces will be available for new entrants joining us in year 7 and above from other international and/or English curriculum schools. In 2013 and 2014, we are also planning to open a year 7 acceleration class for competent Czech students transferring from Czech schools,” he says. “Our smaller scale

makes it highly feasible for us to bring out the best in each individual student and maximize their potential.” The school will have a total capacity of 200 students in all grades in order to create an “intimate, almost family atmosphere.” Park Lane International Primary School currently teaches students of 22 different nationalities, with studies based on the British national curriculum and incorporating the Czech language. Park Lane will continue to teach the British syllabus, with Czech either as a foreign language or as part of a program designed to allow national pupils to meet the requirements of the state exit exam. Students will sit the Cambridge IGCSE exams at the end of year 11, going


Schools&education S11

January 23 – 29, 2013

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It is no wonder that Park Lane, located inside the building of a former embassy, also engages its students with model United Nations conferences. on to complete their studies by taking the internationally recognized IB Diploma exams at the end of year 13. The school also plans to create a “21st-century learning environment� by investing in modern technology. “Emphasis on information and communication technology throughout the curriculum ensures that our students will be as wellprepared as possible for the technological future ahead of them,� Ingarfield says. “Indeed, while the splendor of the past surrounds us, our principal aim is to produce resourceful and responsible

global citizens who will be ready to meet and fully engage with the complexities and challenges of this young century.� There is much emphasis on parent-teacher relations at the school, as well as on students’ “personality development, self-reliance, self-confidence, mutual respect and practical solutions to problems.� As Ingarfield explains, “We have a strong philosophy of inclusion, which is built into every lesson plan. We prioritize participatory learning opportunities, strongly encourage teamwork, use

tried-and-tested praise and reward systems, and encourage students to speak out in class and to listen carefully and respect their classmates’ contributions.� There will also be an enrichment program on offer in which students can take part in community and charitable service, work experience placements and even model United Nations conferences. The new building will be introduced March 5 as part of the school’s Open Door program. Clare Speak can be reached at specialsection@praguepost.com

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S12 Schools&education January 23 – 29, 2013

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A school for everyone ❚ Diverse Townshend Int’l School offers inclusive Englishlanguage instruction ❚ Graduates praise preparation they got for life after school By Kasia Pilat Staff Writer

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outh Bohemia’s Townshend International School (TIS) is an English-language residential and day school that offers small classes for students from kindergarten to grade 13. In operation since 1992, TIS is proud of its students, especially Magdalena Karvayová, the first Roma student, who graduated six years ago, and Aldar Tsybyktarov, the school’s first student to go through all grades the school offers. Currently, Karvayová works in Prague and studies comparative law at Anglo-American University. She is also a strong advocate for Roma youth and communities. Tsybyktarov currently studies international trade full-time at the University of Economics in Prague and financial and actuarial mathematics part-time at the University of South Bohemia. To get a better idea of what TIS has to offer, The Prague Post spoke to them about their time at the school. The Prague Post: Tell us a little bit about your experiences at Townshend. What do you

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The students at the Townshend International School in south Bohemia come from a number of different backgrounds. remember the school being like when you first started, and do you recall it changing during your time there? Magdalena Karvayová: I came to TIS when I had just turned 13. The moment I arrived on campus, I felt welcomed by everybody. Since at my previous school I had been discriminated against and bullied because of being Roma, I was amazed when the dorm parents hugged me and kissed me — it was an amazing feeling. Besides that, I couldn’t speak any English, and the first day was terrible, because I couldn’t understand anything.

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I was lucky the teachers were so nice and answered all of my questions; I was asking questions every 10 minutes in class. They also stayed with me after class. I experienced hospitality, kindness and a willingness to help with any school or personal problems throughout the six years I spent there. Aldar Tsybyktarov: I started in 1999, at the age of 5. Despite my very young age, I remember the first years of my studies very clearly. Because I come from a Russian family and live in the Czech Republic, studying in English was very challenging for me. When I started my studies, I spoke no English whatsoever, but within a few months I started to understand what was said to me, and eventually I learned to communicate independently. This learning process was incredibly fast; I was “trapped” in an Englishspeaking environment and had no other choice but to learn the language. What helped me to learn so fast was a motivational environment, a “family atmosphere” and small classes of around 10 people. Teachers were communicating with my parents and kept them informed about my successes and also areas where I should improve. When I started, the school

was on rented premises in the center of Hluboká nad Vltavou, a very humble environment that served its purpose. As the number of students grew, these premises could no longer accommodate all the students, and in 2002 the new school campus was opened. The new campus is truly fantastic; students can find everything they need. The classrooms are well-equipped, the dormitories nicely furnished, and the general equipment gives a student a feeling of “home” and safety. TPP: Did you participate in any extracurricular activities? Which ones? MK: Twice a year, there were extracurricular activities and services for a semester. I remember that as part of services I went to a kindergarten once a week, then I went to a retirement home, and I also visited a center for disabled people called Dobrá voda once a week. As an extracurricular activity I did drama and a dance workshop, and all of these experiences allowed my personality to grow in different directions and to develop different talents I didn’t know I had before. AT: During my studies at Townshend, I got to try lots of different activities and sports. I tried playing drums and found out that I am not musically

talented, and that my interests were elsewhere. I tried horseback riding and found that I am allergic to horse fur. The range of extracurricular activities is very large, so I wasn’t left unhappy. You can try things you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to try, so I got to know myself and my interests. Drums and horseback riding weren’t the right choices for me, but all the other activities I chose to participate in were lots of fun. Since I was a day student, meaning I didn’t live in the dorms, the activities allowed me to get to know my classmates better in an informal, out-of-school environment. TPP: Magdalena, how did you feel as a Roma student at Townshend? MK: I never felt better. Since the moment I came to TIS until I left, I felt like a human being, not treated differently than anybody else on the basis of ethnicity. I felt special and even more proud to be a Roma. The times when I heard “You dirty Gypsy,” “You are not a human being,” or “You are just dirt” had passed. I didn’t have to face prejudice every single day and fight for who I was. I don’t think I have ever felt as good about being Roma as I felt at TIS. I think I am so proud of


Schools&education S13 January 23 – 29, 2013

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COURTESY PHOTOS

Magdalena Karvayová, above, was the first Roma student to graduate from TIS, while Aldar Tsybyktarov, right, was the first graduate who attended kindergarten through level IV.

being a Roma and advocating for Roma communities, especially in the field of education, thanks to the positive and neutral attitudes I received from the school. TPP: Why do you believe Townshend was the right school for you? MK: From an academic point of view, studying in English is a big advantage. The system in which the teachers were teaching us was unique and individual. It is rare for Roma to study at an international school, so it helped me to get a job in reception at a four-star hotel in Prague. It also enabled me to study at Anglo-American University. Besides the academic advantage of the school, TIS supported the development of my character — I was lucky to have the opportunity to spend part of my life in such a loving, multicultural environment. I learned how to think in a wider perspective and to be open-minded. I believe that I am who I am today thanks to the opportunity I had to be at TIS, and I would be so happy if more Roma children had the opportunity to study at this school, because the experiences there offer great empowerment. AT: Having graduated,

I can see that studying at Townshend gave me countless advantages, and it is a decision I will never regret. Townshend shaped my personality. Certainly, other schools would also have done that, but definitely in another way. The school has very high moral principles, and the rules follow accordingly. The advantages of this are that I grew in a safe environment of care and love. I feel that lots of attention was given to my personal needs and to how I felt at the school. All aspects of my well-being were taken care of, education was at a high level, and the school did all it could to ensure that I was happy to study there. Needless to say, Townshend is an environment free from alcohol and drug abuse. This creates an environment not stained by the decaying morals of our modern society. Since it is an international school, Townshend gave me friends from all over the world. I got to learn about the cultures of my classmates, and if I travel to any continent I know that I have friends I can visit there. The obvious advantage of Townshend is languages; most students speak at least three fluently. International students speak their mother tongue, at Townshend they learn English

at a native-speaker level, and then they study an elective third language. TPP: How do you think Townshend prepared you for your future? MK: TIS gave me the opportunity to develop different skills that I am applying now at my job. I am able to communicate and work with people from different backgrounds, because I am used to diversity. I think I am a good speaker who is not stressed speaking in public thanks to the practice we had at TIS every morning at assembly before we started

our classes. In general, I think most of my abilities were developed at TIS. If I could, I would place as many Roma kids as possible in this kind of school environment. AT: Honestly, at first I wasn’t very sure if the curriculum of the International Qualifications that our school follows was relevant for studies in the Czech Republic. However, I was proved wrong. My entrance exams to Czech universities tested knowledge that was directly included in the Cambridge curriculum. I was accepted by all the universities to which I’d applied, and from

what I heard from my classmates, their success rates were very similar to mine. Thanks to the Townshend curriculum and my subject choices, I don’t feel lost in any of the university subjects that I have. On the contrary, I feel that I already know many things that my colleagues from other secondary schools don’t. This shows that the International Curriculum from Cambridge University that Townshend follows creates a very solid foundation for future studies at university. Kasia Pilat can be reached at kpilat@praguepost.com


S14 Schools&education January 23 – 29, 2013

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Amy Wu was part of a student group from Hong Kong that visited Prague recently, and she says the city was the perfect place to gain work experience in her field.

Cultural meet ’n’ greet ❚ Hong Kong media students explore the Golden City ❚ Adventures in journalism lead to interaction with the local culture By Amy Wu For the Post

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hy did we fly more than 6,000 miles from Hong Kong to Prague, not including the pit stop in Dubai? We were here to get to know the capital of the Czech Republic and also sharpen our reporting and multimedia skills. The city turned out to be the perfect backdrop for our storytelling projects, and

ultimately an unforgettable experience. This is the first year the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has held a Prague study tour. The trip, which ran Jan. 3–13, is a good example of experiential learning, during which students take the knowledge from the classroom and put it into practice. David Wong, a professional consultant at the journalism school, organized the trip with the idea that Prague is attractive, affordable and a safe and colorful city to practice reporting, while learning more about the media. In addition, students would engage in hands-on training in multimedia. Wong tapped Transitions Online (TOL), a nonprofit organization, to spearhead the multimedia training for the 15 student attendees. The Prague-based organization specializes in training

journalists and students from Central Asia, and increasingly students from the Far East, including Hong Kong. Jeremy Druker, executive editor of TOL, said that “there was a feeling that multimedia would be more useful to the students — a common program that would be interesting to students of different backgrounds.” One of TOL’s signature training components is a reporting project where students complete a story in Prague from idea to final production. CUHK students worked in small groups based on their disciplines, including new media, global communication, advertising, corporate communication and journalism. The projects ranged from Prague’s thriving beer culture and a marionette-making workshop to a profile of an immigrant who is a Chinese restaurant owner and the production of a commercial that would attract Chinese to

Beer was among the riches the students studied on their trip. Prague. The training format was often split between lectures in the morning and reporting and project time in the afternoon. Dean Cox, a veteran photojournalist, trained students how to use technologies and reporting tactics to create a video or an audio slideshow accompanied by a written story. Pavel Hořejší,

a seasoned photojournalist and native of Prague, offered detailed feedback on the photo component of the project, while Druker provided insight on the written pieces. “I’ve always thought a big part of the courses we do in Prague is the practical assignment of going out in a completely foreign land and putting together an article and


Schools&education S15

January 23 – 29, 2013

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COURTESY PHOTOS

Students from the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s School of Journalism and Communication put their classroom knowledge to work during their stay in Prague.

The students of CUHK worked on a number of different projects in a variety of settings, reporting on stories like beer culture and Chinese immigration. a photo essay, which I think is valuable for people who are used to being in a comfort zone,” Druker says. “I think if we took lecturers to Hong Kong it wouldn’t be the same; it’s an adventure for them. The reporting project is so crucial because it’s a real-life [reporting] experience.” Students agreed the project was a way to put their skills to work. Zhong Xin-yao and her teammates produced an audio slideshow about beer culture for their final project. “The trainers really helped me to find some bad habits when writing the news report,

like the [mainland China reporting] style,” says Zhang, a journalism major who is a native of Guangzhou. On the final day of the workshop, students received in-depth feedback from the trainers on their projects, some of which may have the opportunity to be published in TOL’s online magazine or used for a future training. “If you look strictly at the results from their projects, I was really impressed,” Druker says. Other students considered the real highlight visiting newsrooms and meeting

the various editors at media outlets, such as Respekt, a weekly political magazine, and Radio Free Europe and educational institutions such as the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. “I learned that propaganda [censorship] in the media isn’t huge and that the media market is still somewhat traditional and in that sense more similar to mainland China,” says Ivy Cheung, a new-media student. Mostly, CUHK students saw the visit to Prague newsrooms as an exchange between me-

dia, culture and society. “It’s a good chance to communicate with the media, because they have many misconceptions about the Chinese media or about China’s political situation, and we also learned more about their views toward China and the Chinese media,” Zhong says. The trip also offered plenty of time to simply enjoy the city. At night, students explored Prague on their own, drinking in the food and the culture, shopping on Old Town Square, and catching concerts

and opera. There was an unforgettable drive to Český Krumlov, and the traditional Czech meal of pig knuckles and roasted duck at Prague restaurant Kolkovna. “I loved the architecture. [Czechs] are very protective of their history, and the whole environment is more historical, and more similar to my hometown,” says Cheung, who is from Qingdao. In the end, all of us came away with an unforgettable experience, and many good memories.” Amy Wu can be reached at features@praguepost.com


S16 Schools&education January 23 – 29, 2013

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ISP is proud to count Selma and Gil among its many Alumni Gil Kazimirov “The International School of Prague is founded on a sense of warmth that emanates throughout the School, manifesting itself in the efforts to tend, with utmost care, to the academic and social needs of its students. Encouraged by a staff of professional and supportive teachers, I was taught to build my own bridge to success and develop the self-confidence needed to cross it.” Gil Kazimirov, ISP Class of 2009

Gil grew up in Israel and the Czech Republic. He holds a BA in History from the University of Warwick, and is working towards his Master of Philosophy and International Relations at Cambridge University. Gil has interned at Goldman Sachs, MD SolarSciences, and the Criminal Law division of BHM Solicitors.

Selma Telalagic “ISP helped me become a more confident person. As a woman researching the position of disadvantaged women, I have come to realise how important it is to inspire confidence in girls from a young age. Through debates, interactive activities and drama classes, I was taught to speak up and believe in my ideas. This was vital for my success at Cambridge, where most of the education takes place in the form of small “supervision” groups.“ Selma Telalagic, ISP Class of 2005

Selma received her BA and MPhil in Economics at the University of Cambridge, achieving First Class Honours. She is currently completing her PhD in Economics, also at Cambridge. Her topic of research is the position of women in developing countries. Selma will be taking up a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the University of Oxford next year.

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Schools & Education (Jan 23 - 29, 2013) by PraguePost.com