Career guidance systems in the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic holds the presidency of the European Union for the first half of 2009. In light of this, several Euroguidance representatives went to visit the country in October 2008 to discover how guidance and counselling is carried out there.
Euroguidance group visiting in Czech Republic
Guidance and counselling systems in the Czech Republic are offered along two lines, each of which has a series of background institutions, very dedicated and highly specialised. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, through its Labour Offices mainly deals with career choices, transitions and new occupations. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports mainly deals with guidance and counselling at schools.
Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports
The Ministry has 7 different main sections, of which 2 sections are directly involved in guidance and counselling. One of these sections leads the National Agency for LLP programmes, which includes Euroguidance, and the Institute of Pedagogical and Psychological counselling (IPPP) and its PPP institutions. The other manages the National Institute for Technical and Vocational Education (NÚOV).
The Ministry has determined several key competences for every level of education, including a set of social competencies and entrepreneurial skills which are to be acquired at all levels of education.
The NAEP (National Agency for Educational Programmes) is in charge of the European Commission programmes, and other European educational affairs. This is a similar institution to those in other EU/EEA countries and includes the Euroguidance unit. The IPPP is the national coordinator of a large number of centres (PPP) offering pedagogical and psychological counselling and specialist services in counselling and therapy. Both institutions have the goal of enhancing international cooperation.
The National Institute of Technical and Vocational Education (NÚOV) has the principle mission of providing comprehensive support in the development of technical education. The concepts of lifelong learning and Czech membership in the European Union are the leading bases. The Institution is a coordination, educational-consulting, expertise, research, educational, informational, and library organisation dealing with secondary and tertiary technical education. Curriculum, Europass and NQF are amongst the tasks of the institute.
Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs offers guidance through job clubs, which offer highly targeted services to selected groups (people returning to the labour marked, people aged 50 or over and disadvantaged people) in or outside the labour marked. In 2008 around 3.000 people participated in just over 300 programmes, funded by European Social Fund.
Employment offices are spread all over the Czech Republic and offer a wide range of activities from counselling to visiting school groups and offer practical education in sought-after skills.
The Czech part of the EURES network is also involved. The public employment service works with EURES offices in adjacent countries like Germany, Austria and Slovakia, and cooperates with Finland.
The number of foreign workers in the Czech Republic is currently 280,000. Generally the unemployment rate is low, and in Prague it is even as low as 0.3%, although a considerable rise is expected in the near future. Pathways back to work for employees outside the labour marked are one of the items of career guidance in the PES.
Conclusions, as seen by an outsider
While working towards the same goals, the basic assumptions in education systems vary significantly between the European countries.
Seen from a Nordic country with a unitary system, the level of specialisation in the Czech Republic is amazing. Giving such ‘niche’ offers would hardly be thinkable in Norway.
Career guidance in the Czech Republic is carried out by several actors, often specializing in carefully defined target groups. No targets to include all in a mainstream offer valid for everybody seem to exist. On the one hand, this helps users in these groups at present. On the other hand, it stresses the difficult issue of creating ‘a transparent and coherent lifelong guidance system’. Theoretically, a mainstream approach would have made this easier.
Professionalism seems to be strong in all institutions; this may be as a result of specialisation.
ESF seems to be in use to solve direct challenges, its use widespread and it appears to be an effective solution.
An interesting question though, what will happen after the ESF funding run out. This may be the negative side of the use of ESF, and will be one of the challenges for the Czech government for the future.
Klaaspeter Kuperus, Euroguidance Norway