As the second round of entrance exams approaches Prague and other cities, a palpable sense of nervousness pervades the atmosphere. Students and parents are frantically searching for the remaining available slots in secondary schools. Private institutions are stepping in to fill the void, with the public sector lagging in establishing gymnasia. However, this comes at a significant cost, and desperate parents are bracing themselves for potential financial strain.
Despite the high tuition fees, private schools are witnessing an unprecedented surge in interest. Annual fees often range between 60,000 and 70,000 Czech korunas, with some schools charging over 100,000 korunas. One exception is a school that recently introduced a gymnasia program with an annual fee of 30,000 korunas. While only three applicants were admitted in the first round, the second round has seen over a thousand applicants. It’s not just gymnasia programs; other private schools are also experiencing exceptional interest. For instance, one vocational school has received 200 applications for a single class in the second round, with selection based solely on previous academic performance.
The prevailing tension is taking its toll on students and their families. Alena from Prague shared her disappointment: “I’ve heard that there are already 50 students with straight A’s on the list, but my daughter had one B in the eighth grade, so we’re out of luck.” Similar overwhelming interest is evident in other private schools as well. Some families have opted for private schools due to the financial assistance promised by relatives. However, not everyone can afford the high fees, leaving many families concerned about the limited options available.
To navigate the situation, parents like Alena and Markéta diligently monitor the Atlas školství website for updates on additional opportunities. The website provides faster and more comprehensive information than the official city website. They also consider options in the Central Bohemian Region, but their hopes are diminishing. Alena expressed her concerns: “I anticipate that when schools increase their capacities in a week or two, there will only be a few spots available, and it will become a race against time. Since my daughter didn’t perform well in the tests, she probably won’t be given priority.”
The pressure on the education system in Prague was already high last year, not only due to a larger cohort but also because of the strong interest from students in the Central Bohemian Region, where there is a shortage of four-year gymnasia spots. However, as of May 3rd, the authorities had not yet decided on ten applications for expanding school capacities. Many of these decisions were only approved after the deadline for submitting applications in the first round. Some reports suggest delays were caused by months of inaction at the municipal level, as political approval is required to finalize the approvals.