[The following appeared May 14 in The Mantle.]
PRAGUE, Czech Republic – Beyond the fact Prague is one of Europe’s great cities, you can’t walk down a street here – or anywhere in ex-Communist Eastern Europe, for that matter – and not spot a metaphor that illuminates how dramatically life has changed here, twenty years later.
This week’s window onto the transition comes courtesy of Czech education. I was in Prague for a workshop on how to use multimedia journalism to better explain education issues in a more compelling way. My partner, the multimedia guy, and I, a print guy, showed eight colleagues how to assemble a written and visual project for the Prague-based magazine, Transitions Online.
And what a unique crop of journalists it was: six young women from post-Communist Eastern Europe, one from South Africa, and a fellow from Kenya. Divided into three teams, each was handed a pocket-sized video camera to use here, then take back home to produce more journalism for TOL.
I could go on for hours about how challenging this shoulder-to-shoulder training was for all of us, but more blog-worthy were the three faces of Czech education it revealed:
*The widening gender gap in the IT industry, and how little is done to encourage more women to pursue well-paying jobs in software or hardware development.
*That more and more Czechs are savvy enough about their children’ future – and enjoy the deep enough pockets – to send their kids to a growing number of bilingual preschools.
*A network of nine Czech schools that specialize in teaching Romani students, in a country that even the European Court of Human Rights condemned in 2007 for anti-Roma segregation in schools.