Czechoslovak primary schools at the time of the fall of communism – eyewitness testimonies (prezentace na konferenci ECER 2021)

5.9.2021 - Zprávy

Ve středu 8. 9. 2021 prezentujeme na konferenci ECER náš příspěvek s názvem:

Czechoslovak primary schools at the time of the fall of communism – eyewitness testimonies


The paper is one of the individual results of the research project entitled Post-socialist Transformation of Czech Primary Schools – Processes, Stories, Dilemmas (supported by the Czech Science Foundation; grant no. 20-11275S).
The fall of communism in Czechoslovakia in November 1989 can be deemed one of the greatest milestones in modern Czech history, opening up as it did the way to creating a modern, democratic state. Fundamental changes in schooling and education were also made in Czechoslovakia at that time, and indeed later in the Czech Republic.
Transformations in education and schooling became the subject-matter for a whole range of studies and books after 1989, contributing toward reflection on the post-November changes. We can, for example, mention the studies conducted by von Kopp (1992) or Mitter (2003). A number of studies were also initiated by international organisations. In the sphere of education, for example, the studies conducted by the Council of Europe (Bîrzea, 1994), OECD (Čerych, 1996), or the World Bank (Berryman, 2000). These studies primarily involve an analysis of the key principles and processes involved in the transformation of education and schooling within the context of the transformation of society. It is clear from the studies cited that a whole range of organisational, structural, content-related, and pedagogical changes were made. We therefore have an overview of the fundamental developmental trends or lines of the post-socialist transformation of schooling. The question remains whether and how the changes were actually implemented and how they affected real events in schools.
The post-socialist transformation of the education system in Czechoslovakia is linked to the tendency to abandon the system of state socialist schooling, symptomatically expressed by the motto “break the uniform school”. The transformation of schooling was, according to the rhetoric of the time, to have been as vigorous as global development after the revolutionary year of 1989 (cf. Berend 2009). Current trends in historiographical research, however, are of the view that changes cannot be fully understood unless we observe continuity. Major reworkings as the starting point for defining a study of the past could lead to overlooking the levels that existed beneath the surface of the narratives of change. The roots of post-socialist transformation can therefore be identified in the narrative of perestroika policy of the end of the eighties.
The aim of the paper is to present partial results of research focusing on an examination of the everyday life of the teachers at primary schools (ISCED 1 and 2) before the Velvet Revolution in 1989 and during the time of subsequent transformation as the eyewitnesses themselves lived it. We will specifically focus on the perception of organisational or pedagogical changes in schools themselves, how senior members of staff were replaced, and how the passage to school autonomy proceeded. In this paper we will also look at the methodological issues of research, in particular the method of oral history. We will mention in brief the preparation of interviews, the execution of pilot interviews, the evaluation of these, and the subsequent adjustment of the structure of interviews. We will also consider the issue of research that is based on interviews at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, which affects the organisation of the research and indeed the quality of the interviews.


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