Successful school cooperation in the Czech Republic
Through the €2.8 million Czech schools and scholarship fund, 21 cooperation programmes between Czech schools and partners in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are now underway.
The Czech fund was the first scholarship fund to become operational, and the fourth open call for grants was launched in February 2008. With another call in the pipeline, the National Agency for European Educational Programmes is busy facilitating the mounting cooperation between schools in the Czech Republic and the EEA EFTA states.
Both upper secondary schools and universities are involved in the school coopera tion, receiving funding for projects on topics ranging from environmental issues to special needs and student exchanges. 18 partners from Norway, four from Iceland and one from Liechtenstein have so far participated in the school cooperation. Through the transfer of knowhow, schools find inspiration to develop curricula and ideas for new material that can be used in everyday teaching.
"Czech schools are really appreciating the opportunity to work with schools in the donor countries. With different systems and different education, we have a lot to learn from each other," commented Programme Manager Barbora Závodská.
Supporting young mothers in higher education
True to one of the fund's main principles - providing equal opportunities - one of the projects supported by the Czech scholarship fund is "First Steps - Daycare centers", led by Professor Danuše Bauerová at the Technical University of Ostrava. The project encourages young mothers to access higher education by providing child care facilities at the university.
"The project is a reaction to an unfilled void here in the Czech Republic," Professor Bauerová said. "We see similar facilities in place at foreign universities in the United Kingdom and Norway, and we felt there was a need for this type of service also here." The project is carried out by the Innovation of Education Institute, which also houses Sunflower, a disability resource centre providing support and advice to students at the university.
It was visually impaired university alumni Kateřina Pešková, pointing out the many difficulties she experienced as a student, and later as a mother, who spurred on the project idea. After learning about the Czech schools and scholarship fund, financial support from the EEA and Norway Grants has now made the project a reality.
The day-care centre will target mostly young mothers, but also young fathers struggling to balance childcare with university studies. Still in its early stages, the project team is now preparing a preliminary study to determine demand and interest for the service, while working in close collaboration with its partner, University in Agder in southern Norway.
Contact with university staff in Kristiansand is maintained by project manager Martin Pokorny. "We are hoping our project can serve as a trial project, from which other universities in the Czech Republic can learn. By sharing our experience, we hope other institutions will follow suit," Professor Bauerová added. "This project will draw attention to an important issue here in the Czech Republic - the difficult dual role of young student parents, and the lack of support currently available."