From the History of the Ministry of Education
The Ministry of Education under the Habsburg Monarchy
One hundred and sixty five years have passed in 2013 since the establishment of the Ministry of Education, a central organ of state administration, which was founded by Supreme Edict No. LXXI/34 Coll. of 23rd March 1848. The Ministry was headquartered in Vienna, exerting its authority over the whole territory of the monarchy of that time.
If we look even deeper into the history of the central administration of schooling, we can consider the Court Commission of Studies in Vienna (Studienhofkommission), established during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa in 1759, as a forerunner of the Ministry of Education. Its first chairman was Archbishop of Vienna Migazzi. Prior to that, schooling was supervised by study directors until 1752. The oldest form of central administration of schooling in the Austrian monarchy was the management of schooling by superintendents (until 1655).
The original title of the Ministry of Education was the Ministry of Public Instruction (Ministerium des öffentlichen Unterrichtes). Four months later, in July 1848, after the Ministry took over also religious and church affairs, its name was changed to the Ministry of Cultus and Instruction (Ministerium für Cultus und Unterricht). This name remained unchanged until 1918.
The Ministry was in charge of the supreme administration of all schooling and inspection over it. From 1868, this was implemented by means of a three-level system of school boards (territorial, district and local school boards). An exception were those schools that were governed by another ministry, e.g. tradesmen’s education was administered by the Ministry of Trade. The jurisdiction of the Ministry further included religious affairs and affairs connected with the support of sciences and arts.
The scope of the Ministry’s activity thus defined was in force without significant changes until the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918
The Ministry of Education in the Period of the Independent Czechoslovak Republic
By the so-called Reception Act, the first legal norm, which was adopted by the National Czechoslovak Committee on 28th October 1918, the newly-established Czechoslovak Republic took over the entire body of laws and legal system of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy for the Czech lands, namely including the activities of individual ministries.
In pre-Munich Czechoslovakia, the administration of schooling was definitively amended by Act No. 292/1920 Coll. of 9th April 1920.
The competencies of the Ministry of Education were significantly broad. We will name at least the most important ones: in the legislative area, it prepared the governmental drafts of laws and governmental decrees; within the laws in force, it issued general guidelines related to education; it approved the norms issued by subordinate institutions and institutes (e.g. the standing orders of the Academic Senates and teaching staffs of universities), decided on the budget of the education department, on the systemisation of posts in schools. The Ministry issued trial regulations, decided on honorary names of schools, and appointed ministerial inspectors.
The Ministry in the period of the Czechoslovak Republic was organised into eight departments, among which the presidial office (presidium) occupied a special position, with its authority including the affairs common for the whole of the Ministry.
Even in the period of the pre-Munich republic, the authority of the Ministry was superordinate to national schooling (primary schools, lower secondary schools schools, secondary schools and specialised schools) implemented through a three-level system of school boards – territorial school boards, district school committees and local school boards. The local school boards were governed by Act No. 292/1920 Coll. in every municipality with a school. Universities were administered directly by the Ministry
The Ministry of Education during the Nazi Occupation in 1939–1945
After the proclamation of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia on 15th March 1939, the affairs of education – although formally in the competence of the Czech government – were unconditionally subordinated to the interests of the Greater German Reich. The Protectorate Ministry of Education and National Enlightenment became an instrument of asserting the Nazi Germanisation and denationalisation policies in Czech education, which was aimed at its gradual elimination. From 1942 until the end of the War, the Ministry was run by the infamous representative of collaboration with the Nazi regime Emanuel Moravec. When in January 1942 the affairs concerning culture and art were removed from the competencies of the Ministry of Education and National Enlightenment, first transferred under the administration of the newly formed Bureau for Human Enlightenment and later renamed the Ministry of Human Enlightenment, E. Moravec stood at the head of also this Ministry.
The Ministry of Education in 1945–1989
On the territory of liberated Czechoslovakia, the activity of the highest instance of school administration, the Ministry of Education and Enlightenment, was renewed by Constitutional Decree of the President of the Republic No. 1/1945 Coll., On the New Organisation of the Government and Ministries in the Transition Period.
More significant changes in the scope of activities of the Ministry of Education and Enlightenment occurred after 1948, when however the school policies and thus also their administration were essentially determined by decisions and directives of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.
The Ministry of Education after 1989
After November 1989, Czech education system was transformed as a result of the fall of the communist regime. Its pillars are the new Education Act (No. 561/2004 Coll.) and the National Programme for the Development of Education in the Czech Republic (White Paper).
Substantial changes which influenced the competencies of the Ministry were implemented after 1989 also in the area of educational administration. On 13th December 1990, the Czech National Council adopted Act No. 564/1990 Coll., On State Administration and Self-Government in the School System, which introduced a branch-managed school system. Under Section 2 of this Act, the municipality and newly-established school authorities wield autonomy in the education system. This Act having been adopted, teachers ceased to be employees of the Ministry of Interior (or the school departments of the state administration offices). Adopting this Act also had an impact on the organisational structure of the Ministry of Education – a workplace for administering the schools in Moravia and Silesian was created with its headquarters in Olomouc. Twelve years later, in connection with the reform of state administration, however, the branch-managed school system was abolished by Act No. 284/2002 Coll. and school administration was transferred to the municipal and regional offices.