Czech attacks 'sickening' sector

September 29, 2000

Post-Communist leaders in the Czech Republic have failed to meet the educational needs of at least 50,000 young people over the past decade, a leading academic has claimed.

Ivo Mozny, dean of the country's largest sociology faculty at Masaryk University, Brno, said Czech higher education made him "want to vomit" as he witnessed successive governments fail to reform a system stuck in practices he dismissed as belonging to the 19th century.

Professor Mozny's attack on the Social Democrat government of prime minister Milos Zeman was published in the newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes.

His article was designed to rally support for an attempt later this year to amend the Czech law on higher education. A move last spring to allow universities more freedom to charge fees for distance learning, to sell know-how and to restructure degrees failed to win government support.

Professor Mozny said: "In the past ten years, about 50,000 school-leavers with the ability to succeed in higher education have been denied a university place. University capacity has been growing, but not nearly as fast as the rate at which young people have been demanding access.

"Our Communist governments of old were proud that our economy was the machinery of the Eastern Bloc, and they tried to maintain the 19th-century apparatus that went with it.

"Post-Communist governments have failed to realise how far we have changed: in 1992, for the first time in our history, the numbers of people employed in services outnumbered those in agriculture or industry."

Although the state budget for universities is increasing - if only by a few per cent each year - most of the money goes to universities specialising in technology, science, medicine and the humanities. The amounts allocated for sociology, business administration and related areas remain tiny, Professor Mozny said.

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