Prague Kindergardens (The Czech Materska stage) – Lessons Learned
Our family is out of that stage now but we still bump into people with the same issue. Your child is about 3 years old, your wife wants to properly go back to work and the kid is “getting bored at home”. All the signs are there, it’s time to go check the Prague kindergardens.
First things first. Ask yourself three questions 1) is your local authority obliged to make a kindergarden place available to you? No (this is based on your employment situation). 2) Is there a kindergarden within walking distance? (in Prague probably, outside Prague centre less likely) and free places will be assigned by catchment. 3) Do I have to go private?
If you are lucky enough to get a free place at one of the Prague Kindergardens then you will be looking at what the Czechs call a “Materska Skola” which is like a nursery school in the UK which will take kids from between 3 and 7. These are normally attached to a larger school called a “Zakladni Skola” which in the UK would be like a joining of an infant school with a junior school and a comprehensive. If you start off in this type of Kindergarden you are basically planning to stay in that whole school system.
If you’ve not got a free place then either it’s stay at home or go private. In the past people have got away with calling these places “clubs” to circumvent the rules but now this is much stricter so the same rules as a school will apply. So that generally means Prague kindergardens have strict rules covering security, safety, teaching staff, food and all that good stuff.
Now by going private you accept that 1) you will have to pay and 2) that you accept the kindergarden ethos and possibly 3) that you may enter a feeder system that could mean you’ll be paying for the next 13 years. I expect the first, I have to go along with the second (I tried to allow for certain eccentricities) and we chose a different path for the 3rd choice. Take for example the place where my oldest son went. One of the North American Prague Kindergardens that had teachers from California so I had to spend time to explain that a “muz-gee-doe” was actually a “moss-key-toe”. The place where my younger son went was a bit further away but with English teachers. Lastly my daughter went to a Czech Catholic kindergarden (even though we are not Catholic, it’s in the village) and we had to compromise on the requirement for prayer.
All in all, we never found a place that we really liked. It was either expensive, far away or did not meet our social requirements. The other thing is that private Prague kindergardens seem to view themselves as small schools where they try and turn out kids at 6 that already can write. I say 6 because that is the year that Czech kids can first go to a Zakladni Skola. So when our kids left the kindergarden they were ready for the Elementary stage.