'Schools for wives'to be phased out

CZECH REPUBLIC. Family high schools which teach girls how to be good wives and mothers are to be phased out, the Czech government announced recently. But one has been reprieved.

Like the other rodinne skoly for girls, Rodinna skola Kladno has a firm place in its curriculum for courses in how to look after children and achieve a harmonious marriage, as well as how to cook and sew.

But the school, about 18 miles from Prague, also teaches German, English and psychology. Milos Feller, the school's deputy director, said that his students have little problem finding jobs. This could be the reason why Rodinna skola Kladno is the only "school of wives" in the Czech Republic that seems to have a future.

On February 5, the Education Ministry ordered the phasing out of the country's 140-odd family high schools, but on March 12 the ministry allowed Mr Feller's institution to transform itself into a school focused on teaching administrative and economic skills.

Ministry spokeswoman Katerina Jezkov said that low attendance - only 60 per cent on average - and graduates' difficulties in finding jobs prompted the phasing out of the family schools.

Although his school will survive, Mr Feller mourns the loss of family-orientated subjects. "From the point of view of morals, marriage and the character of young people, our society is in such a state that educating good mothers and stressing the importance of family is of the utmost necessity, " he said.

"We are going through a transition period. By closing the schools, society is losing one pillar that could help it pull through this period of economic and moral crisis. And that makes me very sorry."

The ministerial verdict allows current family high-school students to graduate, but no new students will be enrolled.

Jan Herman, director of Kladno's state-funded Rodinna skola U Hvezdy, said he had expected the decision. "We've repeatedly received signals from the job market showing that our graduates cannot get a job and that employers were not interested in them," he said. "They preferred students from specialist schools teaching administration and economics, for example."

Although schools have to follow curriculum guidelines set by the ministry, and include classes in Czech, mathematics and accounting, Mr Herman stressed that his school's main purpose is to teach students the basic skills needed to start a family.

Miloslav Tauber, director of the Labour Office for the Kladno region, feels vindicated by the decision to close family schools. "Since the very beginning we've objected to family schools, and time proved us right," he said. "There are only a few people in the region who can afford nannies. At the same time, the schools churn out 100 graduates every year.

Out of three family high schools in the Kladno region, two operate in the city. When the schools opened in the early 1990s, they were welcomed as providing opportunities for girls; the town is home to the Poldi steel mill as well as other heavy industry, and most of Kladno's high schools and trade schools were geared toward boys.

At Mr Feller's school, the students appear to be well-educated, independent young women, rather than simply future housewives.

"I learn a bit of everything here," said Olga Dvor-Elkov, a 16-year-old student. "After graduation I will speak a foreign language and know how to type. And cooking and sewing is also good because I will not have to buy everything; I can make it at home."

Her classmate, Monika Andelov, 18, agreed. "The education here is broad and practical," she said. "If I do well, I'll try for college."

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