Kellner’s schoolchildren

How do the brightest children study? They choose a top school, perfect their English, learn to think logically and aim high.

The difference between the mean, mode and median? A diminutive first-year girl raises her hand and her answer is breathtaking in its precision. I leave the maths lesson and join the second formers for a science class, where they’re learning the difference between hectopascals, bars, kilopascals and megapascals. I can’t hide how amazed I am by these twelve-year-old experts on atmospheric pressure. I drop in on the fifth form, who are looking at blood groups – in English. Finally in a smaller classroom I listen to a student from year eight debating with his teachers about the commercialisation of sport for political ends and the connection between the Sokol rallies and social identity. That’s studying at Open Gate.

Opening the gate to talented students
Anyone used to the standards at state schools will notice several things straight away. The campus, built in 2005 on a greenfield site in Babice, a little village near the town of Říčany, is very impressive. Besides the school building there’s a covered swimming pool, a gym, a playing field and a multipurpose hall, as well as student accommodation and clubhouses, a paddock with horses, a library and the school’s theatre, which is also the venue for the school’s weekly assemblies every Monday.
Then there’s the school’s uniforms. The students evidently love wearing them, and the school’s head teacher Kateřina Kožnarová says: “They’ve completely proved their worth. They mask any differences between the students’ backgrounds, and they also make life easier – students don’t have to decide what to wear each day, so they can concentrate on their studies. When students put on their uniforms, they often attach more importance to the education process. Some students tell us they feel different, more ceremonial.”

In their uniforms, Open Gate’s students don’t just look clever, talented and confident – they really are. After leaving school most will be heading to universities in other countries, and they have ambitious plans. They’ve had foreign language training (from the fifth year onwards teaching is in English), they’ve learnt communication skills, and they’ve been taught how to think logically. Teaching at Open Gate is as individual as possible, and in many respects more demanding than at other grammar schools. “In the seventh and eighth grades students can join the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, and universities in other countries offer places to our students based on their International Baccalaureate results. You have to aim high to get into the most prestigious universities. Tereza Milošová, who graduated from the eighth grade last year, has been accepted at Cambridge University to study law. One of the entrance conditions was that she had to get 43 of a possible total of 45 points in the International Baccalaureate. Only a very small percentage of students in the world get results like that,” the school’s head teacher explains.
Alžběta Janečková from the seventh year is also headed for another country. “I’d like to study in England, which is why I’m preparing to take the International Baccalaureate.” She doesn’t want to speak too soon, but she says she’s thinking about becoming a diplomat, so she’s mainly focusing on languages and political economy. Jan Hrebík in the fifth grade also plans to go abroad. “Probably to an anglophone country, but I’m also learning German, so for a while I was thinking about Switzerland. America’s very appealing too.” Why not? Why not dream big? There’s career advice and a system of scholarships to help you achieve your goals.

There’s something else here that’s different from ordinary schools: a sense of freshness, and room for new ideas. Creativity is valued here. Kateřina Kožnarová likes the fact that not a day goes by without her students coming up with some kind of fantastic and meaningful project. “Recently they came up with the idea of publishing a book of their literary work. They’d planned absolutely everything – the budget, what the book would look like, where they’d sell it and who the buyers would be, how they’d get the money to publish it and how they’d use the money they raise from selling it for a particular charitable project.” Apparently the school’s journalism society wants to set up a project for OG TV, where students can try their hand at making television programmes and commentating. This is also what a school can be like.

The Open Gate Grammar School and Primary School in Babice, near Říčany, provides education for students who are academically, artistically or technically gifted, or who are talented at sport. It also gives opportunities to children from children’s homes, foster families and single-parent families, as well as families with low incomes – approximately half of the grammar school’s students receive scholarships from The Kellner Family Foundation. Come and see the school for yourself at Open Gate’s open day on January 18.,

Scholarships from The Kellner Family Foundation have for instance helped fifth-former Jan Hrebík and seventh-former Alžběta Janečková. Both live on the campus.


Do you like living on campus?
Jan: I love it. Our free time is based around leisure activities. I do yoga and outdoor sports, I play the saxophone and for a long time I did Russian as well.
Alžběta: I’ve cut back on leisure activities because of studying, and now I only do French and the piano. I like the way the dormitories help make the school a community. We see the other students at breakfast and dinner, and for special events.

How many hours do you study each day?
Jan: Sometimes we get a lot of homework, maybe three hours, and sometimes we don’t get any, and then you have to read up on your subject. Or you can learn another language.

What makes Open Gate special?
Alžběta: Lots of things. We study in English and we wear uniforms – that’s one of the reasons I wanted to come here. Students at other schools get frustrated in their final years, when they’ve already got a lot to study and they also have to do subjects they won’t need in the future. For the last two years at Open Gate we only choose the subjects we’ll be graduating in. So we can study them in depth, which I really enjoy.
Jan: I think other schools need more information on studying abroad. A lot of talented students don’t know how to go about it. From the start, Open Gate has been preparing us to study at universities abroad.

Author | Alena Bartošová, MF Dnes

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