Czech schools lack qualified English teachers

Photo: European Commission

Every year, dozens of qualified English teachers graduate from pedagogical colleges across the country, but very few choose to become teachers. As a result, Czech schools are forced to employ people who do not have the appropriate qualifications. A quarter of English teachers in primary schools have no qualifications and the number is even higher in secondary schools. At the same time, native speakers willing to teach English are now virtually unavailable. Currently, only about 2% of native speakers living in the Czech Republic teach English in elementary and secondary schools.

Brian Callaghan has been teaching English in the Czech Republic since the 1990s. He started in a public secondary school, but after a few years moved to the private sector. His bread and butter are now business courses and courses for high school graduates. He says money was the reason he left the public school where he taught:

“The salary was very low. I wouldn’t mind teaching in the public system, but I have two kids at home. Private school doesn’t make me a millionaire, but if I worked in a public school, I wouldn’t be able to afford anything – with two kids at home. To be honest, I know a lot of Czechs who are excellent teachers and who work for the private sector because they couldn’t survive working in public schools. And they are excellent teachers who would be an advantage for Czech children.

But according to Brian Callaghan, money isn’t the only reason native speakers choose to go elsewhere:

“There are visa complications: nobody really understands the immigration rules. How does it work to get a six month or one year visa. It got a bit more expensive, so Prague isn’t as cheap as it used to be. People would get off the plane with their backpacks and they could settle down for three or four months and then find a job. It’s not that easy now.

Despite the growing shortage of qualified English teachers, Brian Callaghan says Czech children speak much better English than before. While Czech teachers can hardly expect a salary increase in the coming years, the Czech School Inspectorate hopes to improve the situation with a new national concept on foreign language teaching.