Parents in Prague’s Karlín District Protest Lottery-Based Enrolment System

Parents of children attending primary schools in Prague’s Karlín district protested against a lottery-based enrolment system in their local schools due to insufficient capacity. They expressed their dissatisfaction with the fact that similar to other parts of the city, there are not enough places in local schools for all children, and enrolment to first grade is being conducted through a lottery. The organizers also drafted a petition to present to the local authorities. Over 1,000 people have signed the petition so far.

In an open letter addressed to Prague 8 representatives, the parents of Karlín preschoolers stated that they refuse to allow a random draw to determine the fate of their children. They cannot accept that every fourth or fifth child who has attended kindergarten and built social ties in Karlín will be removed from the community and sent to a school where they have never been and do not know anyone. The organizers of the petition, Jana and Miroslav Stachovi, and Jan Palaščák, added that lotteries among children are a technocratic and anti-social solution and, if implemented, will have a devastating impact on children and families as a whole.

Residents of Karlín are asking Prague 8 representatives to increase the capacity of the ZŠ Lyčkovo náměstí school. 135 children with permanent residences in the catchment area attended enrolment for the first grade, while the school’s capacity was only 100.

Schools in other parts of Prague and elsewhere face similar problems. Given the demographic trends, it is a long-term problem that local authorities should have prepared for. The petition’s authors believe that Prague 8 needs to be addressed comprehensively. The municipality should work to strengthen the excellent reputation and quality of primary schools, say the dissatisfied parents.

According to Miroslav Stacha, this would prevent so-called catchment tourism. Some people would not change the residence of their children to a different address just before enrolling them in the chosen school. According to critics, such practices take up space for children who live in the desired school area.

A program to limit catchment tourism has been launched by, for example, Prague 6. Its mayor, Jakub Stárek (ODS), announced in March that the primary schools established by the municipality would verify the compliance of the child’s residence with the permanent residence of the parents and the duration of their stay.