The process by which Ukrainian pupils are adapting to life in Czech schools is still somewhat haphazard, while approaches taken by schools differ in terms of effectiveness. Research by the SYRI National Institute has shown that in the first phase schools mainly focused on social adaptation of pupils, with integration into the Czech education system remaining a challenge for the next period. Overall, Ukrainian children feel comfortable in Czech schools. Ukrainian pupils and their parents perceive Czech teachers as friendly and supportive, and Czech classmates as cheerful.
The arrival of tens of thousands of Ukrainian pupils in Czech schools has presented the Czech education system with a major challenge, causing the state to focus principally on matters of legislation and necessary crisis measures. “Central methodological support was often unclear and not very specific. Schools have thus taken different approaches towards the adaptation of newly arrived Ukrainian pupils,” says SYRI's scientific director Klára Šeďová, who also leads a research group focused on education. While some schools immediately established their own adaptation groups, adjusted educational content to the needs of Ukrainian pupils, created individualised timetables and provided diagnostics and psychological support, other schools did not have such well-developed adaptation mechanisms.
“The first results of the study show that the fewer problems schools identify regarding the inclusion of Ukrainian pupils, the fewer adaptation mechanisms the schools develop. It is also the case that what remains a dream in one school, such as the presence of Ukrainian assistants, is a reality in another,” says Šeďová, who believes that schools should now focus on how Ukrainian pupils are adapting to Czech teaching methods and assessment so that they are able to succeed in the Czech education system.
According to another SYRI researcher, Petr Hlaďo, schools have focused primarily on the social integration of Ukrainian pupils, i.e. on creating positive social relationships in classes where Ukrainian pupils are involved. “School principals consider social adaptation a priority, and they believe that it is running smoothly. However, to some extent they are seeing things through rose-tinted glasses,” says Hlaďo. “Our data has shown that in classes with a few Ukrainian pupils, these pupils tend to bond primarily with each other and keep their distance from Czech pupils.”
Overall, Ukrainian children feel comfortable in Czech schools. Ukrainian pupils and their parents perceive Czech teachers as friendly and supportive, and Czech classmates as cheerful. “Surprisingly, pupils report that they find Czech school less demanding than Ukrainian school. Our explanation for this is that in the first phase teachers set clearly lower educational standards for Ukrainian pupils so as to support their social adaptation,” said Šeďová, who thinks schools should now focus on academic adaptation, which is problematic in many ways.
Researchers began collecting data for the survey last autumn. They conducted very thorough case studies in schools that have recently enrolled large numbers of Ukrainian refugees. The case studies included interviews with principals, teachers, pupils and their parents, as well as observation in the classroom. SYRI National Institute experts will now work on a detailed analysis of the data, which will be provided to the Czech Ministry of Education and will include a set of recommendations.
According to data from the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, 50 285 children and pupils of Ukrainian refugees were being educated from September 2022 in Czech kindergartens, primary schools and secondary schools. Primary schools registered the largest number of children from Ukraine, 39 478. There were 6,904 Ukrainian children enrolled in kindergartens and 3,457 in secondary schools.