The Impact of Culture on Education
For the past three weeks I have been given the opportunity to visit two primary schools in the Czech Republic (Základní Škola) and help teach English to students aged 8–16. I came in at around 7:45am, presented myself to the teacher and principal, and briefly chatted about what I would be helping with. I had prepared games and activities for the kids in advance so that I would not bore them with the lectures they hear every day, but rather they would learn to speak in English for themselves through a more fun manner. After each hour of teaching and being with the students, I became more and more astonished. It made me realize how much different the culture of education is in other parts of the world, not only based off how the students learned, but also based off of their respect for the teachers, myself, as well as their classmates. I was able to visualize the difference in the American ways of teaching compared to those of the Czech Republic, a place where education ranks at a high level when scores are taken into account.
When the bell rang, the students were in the seat ready to learn. The teacher walked in about a minute or two after the bell, with me trailing behind. As the teacher stepped through the door, each student stood to show their attention. “Dobrý den” the kids all spoke in unison, and the teacher replied by telling them to sit down. The teacher introduced me, and then gave me the rest of the hour to talk and teach the students.
I started off by explaining where I was from, why I was here, and how my life was in America. Most kids were surprised by some of the facts, and they were especially keen to listen to how the school and education in America was different. I started off with simple things, such as how our grades were different. In Czech they have grades on a 1–5 scale, and every day they are sent home with a grade. I explained that instead we have A-F scale, and that it is measured with percents. They taken aback by how “strict” the grades were, because for them a 52% could have been a 4, which is equivalent to a D. I learned that their universities/colleges were practically free, whereas students in America pay thousands of dollars and are in major debt.
As we talked together, the foods also had them interested. I explained how sometimes the food in the cafeteria was not in fact good at all, and some of my friends would rather buy chips and a pop than an actual lunch. The students explained to me that for lunch, every day they were given a freshly made soup, a main course following, as well as a desert and drink. The food was cooked fresh every morning in the kitchen, and the vegetables and fruits put into the foods were grown in the garden.
Not only was I teaching the kids, but through the days the children also taught me. They brought some of my first grade memories back, and I realized how much of an impact my beginning education in the Czech Republic had affected me in the long run. I was taught that school was valuable from a young age, and that had led me to my interests in learning up to this day. While the education system itself is difficult to describe, I can surely say that I wish the education I was given in America was more influenced by other countries and their successes, from countries like Czech and places like Korea, Finland, Sweden and many more. I wish I didn’t have 3+ hours of homework each night, and only 15–30 minutes of it like students my age do here in Czech, although I know that is an unrealistic fantasy (sadly to say).
While I was teaching, I was grateful for the respect I had been given. The students listened to me with interest and asked all sorts of questions to the point that my time with each class was always disrupted by the bell. This experience has allowed me to see a side of my own culture as well as differences of what I had been taught to what I could have been taught if I had not moved back to America in the middle of first grade. Don’t get me wrong — I am very lucky to have been raised in a country such as the United States because of the vast amount of opportunities I am given, but some things just don’t compare, especially if you’ve been influenced by another culture your whole life.