Since health is a fundamental prerequisite for an active and satisfying life as well as for optimal work productivity, it has become one of the priorities of elementary education to provide knowledge of and practical influence on the development and protection of health (see the Framework Education Programme for Elementary Education, a binding document for elementary schools).
The MEYS deals with health and a healthy lifestyle in a number of areas – it prescribes the content of education in schools and educational institutions, supports sporting activities, research and science, etc. It is necessary to coordinate these activities and monitor the promotion of health e.g. when announcing competitions, subsidy programmes and in all the conceptual materials of the MEYS. Health is a wide area, which includes injuries, diet, personal security, first aid, sociopathic phenomena, dental health, proper body posture, sport and movement, and many further areas. For these reasons, the working group Health 21 has been established, which comprises employees from the individual groups of the MEYS. It is currently coordinated by means of the report of Health 21, which describes the current state of health promotion within the ministry and covers almost the entire area of health.
The MEYS has a whole range of partners in this area, cooperates with non-governmental organisations, universities, school networks and understandably other ministries – the Ministries of Health, Agriculture, etc.
It is currently necessary to focus primarily on the problems of injuries and diet, which is connected with the obesity of children and the young (as well as adults). It could be summarised simply into the slogan ‘Sustenance and Movement (but Safe)’.
The CR unfortunately ranks among the countries with a high personal accident rate. In the CR, children’s injuries are the most common cause of death in children and young adults and the third most common cause of death in the entire population. Despite the recent slight decline in mortality due to injuries, which is actually evidence of the good system of health care, the total number of injuries is not decreasing. According to the data from the Czech School Inspectorate, even the number of injuries which happen at schools and educational institutions is increasing. A number of these injuries, however, would not have to happen and could be avoided, as shown by examples from abroad.
The fact that both children and adults move less and their dexterity and resilience decrease is also connected with the frequency of injuries. Around 50% of the European population currently suffer from overweight or obesity, 10–25% of Europeans are obese, and the long-term increase in the incidence of overweight and obesity is especially alarming. This problem is even more serious in the USA, where 33.6% of the population are obese. In the Czech Republic, the incidence of obesity as well as overweight in adults and children is increasing like in the rest of Europe. At the same time, however, we must not forget the growing trend in eating disorders, namely anorexia and bulimia.
The problems are dealt with e.g. in the following conceptions:
- The long-term programme to improve the state of health of the population of the Czech Republic: Health for Everyone in the 21st Century
- National Action Plan for the Prevention of Children’s Injuries for 2007–2017
- National Plan for the Fight against Commercial Sexual Abuse of Children for 2006–2008
- Conceptions and strategies connected with sociopathic phenomena
Selected subsidy and developmental programmes of the MEYS supporting health:
- National Programme of Sport for Everyone
- Sport and School
- Sport for the Physically Handicapped
- Programmes for the Prevention of Sociopathic Phenomena
- Maintenance and Operation of Sport and PE Facilities
(The health issues are included also in other programmes, e.g. those which are focused on school reform, leisure-time activities or the development of universities).
Sociological Issues (Racism, Extremism, Human Rights)
Tolerance, the shaping of an awareness of national and state membership and respect for ethnic, national, cultural, language and religious identity of everyone as well as the development of a sensitivity to prejudices and simplified judgements on society (especially on minorities) as well as the individual are all fundamental objectives of this area.
The issue is reflected in education, textbooks, extracurricular activities, university education etc., and it is thus necessary to coordinate the area within the ministry. The activity of the MEYS is captured in a number of documents, for instance in the reports on having fulfilled the Final Recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the commitments arising from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Social Charter guaranteeing human rights and others.
National Minorities and Schooling, Multiculturalism
The Czech Republic has a number of national minorities. A national minority is defined as a community of citizens of the CR living on the territory of the current CR, differing from the other citizens usually by a common ethnic origin, language, culture and traditions, forming a large minority of the population and simultaneously expressing the will to be considered as a national minority for the purpose of joint efforts to maintain and develop its own particularity, language and culture and as well as for the purpose of expressing and protecting the interests of the community, which has formed historically.
Multicultural Education mediates to the pupil a knowledge of his/her own cultural anchoring and an understanding of different cultures. It develops a sense of justice, solidarity and tolerance, guides the pupil towards understanding and respecting the ever increasing level of socio-cultural diversity. In a minority ethnic group, it develops its specific cultural identity and its knowledge of the culture of the entire society, whereas the member of the majority ethnic group becomes acquainted with the basic specifics of the other nations living in the same country. In both groups, the cross-curricular subject helps find common points of reference for mutual respect, joint activities and cooperation. Multicultural Education deeply affects also interpersonal relations at school, including teacher-pupil relations and relations between pupils, between the school and the family and between the school and the local community. As an environment which brings together pupils from diverse social and cultural backgrounds, the school should ensure such an atmosphere where all feel equal, where even the minority pupil is successful in a majority environment and where the majority pupil learns about his/her minority classmate’s culture. In this way, the school contributes to both groups learning about each other, to mutual tolerance, and the elimination of hostility and prejudices against the ‘unknown’ (see the Framework Education Programme for Elementary Education).
Members of national minorities have a guaranteed right to education in the national minority language. The MEYS has i.a. established and guaranteed a subsidy programme to support education in the languages of national minorities and multicultural education. Only those legal entities which demonstrably implement activities in favour of the members of national minorities can request the subsidy (the activity can be proved e.g. by the Annual Report, the references of specialists, the statement of a representative of state administration or local authority, or other proof of the applicant’s activity).
The Pedagogical Centre for Polish National Minority Schools is an organisation directly managed by the MEYS, which covers the needs of schools in the CR with Polish as the language of instruction and also the further growth of pedagogical staff in these facilities in close connection to the tasks of the MEYS for schools and educational facilities. The Centre provides information, methodological assistance and services to schools and other educational institutions, ensures Polish versions of textbooks, further training of pedagogical staff, competitions for pupils and students (it organises district and regional rounds of competitions and shows) as well as lifelong learning (educational programmes for the non-teaching public).
2008 was declared the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue; the MEYS has implemented and is preparing a number of activities on this occasion: it has participated e.g. in the celebrations of Europe Day on 9th May 2008 and is preparing i.a. conferences and the creation of the Přemysl Pitter Prize in conjunction with the Pedagogical Museum J. A. Comenius. In association with the Council of Europe, the MEYS has published on its website a translation of R. Stradling’s Multiperspectivity in History Teaching (Multiperspektivita ve výuce dějepisu), which shows on the example of a specific subject of instruction one of the approaches to multicultural education in schools.
How to overcome the problems in education on Czech-German relations is dealt with by the Joint Czech-German Working Group for History Textbooks, which expresses itself on current issues, prepares materials for education and is an advisory group established on the part of the CR by the ministry and on the part of Germany by the Georg-Eckert-Institut in Braunschweig.