In Czech Republic there are two official handwriting models teachers can choose from. A slanted joined cursive that derives from a model created in 1932, and a vertical unjoined model approved in 2012.
In the Czech Republic, education is governed by the Ministerstvo školství, mládeže a tělovýchovy (MŠMT), or Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. It is divided into the following stages: preschool (5-6 years old), elementary school comprising Grade 1–5 (7–11 years old) and secondary school comprising Grades 6–9 (12–15 years old). Additionally, students may attend střední škola, or middle school, for four years. Schooling is compulsory till Grade 9. While education is fully public, some private schools exist.
The national curriculum known as the Rámcový vzdělávací program pro základní vzdělávání, or Educational framework program for basic education, was last published by the Ministerstvo in 2013, but it doesn’t mention handwriting or provide guidelines for its teaching.
There are two main models used for handwriting education in the Czech Republic: the Zjednodušená psací latinka, or Simplified Latin script, which features cursive writing, and was ratified by the education ministry of the erstwhile Czechoslovakia in 1932 and last updated in 1978; and Comenia Script, which contains unjoined letters and received ministerial approval in 2012. As there are no prescriptions in the national curriculum, schools can choose either handwriting model for teaching.
Sample pages from Písanka 1.díl (2022) by NOVÁ ŠKOLA, s.r.o.
The Ministerstvo issued a guideline in 2015 in an attempt to offer schools, teachers and parents directions about choosing between the cursive and unjoined letters. It clarified that either could be used for handwriting education, and no particular typeface is preferred by them. The guideline also created an obligation for schools to publicly announce which model they use. Further, it mandated that if a student moves schools, the new school must allow them to continue their handwriting education in the model they originally learned.
Students usually learn handwriting in Grades 1 and 3 (6–8 years old) using fully joined cursive letters, though some sample of print script letters have also been observed. They may also be taught uppercase print style letters in kindergarten. However, there is a lot of variation in teaching methods across the country, and the process and timelines are based on the discretion of teachers.
Sample pages from Písanka 1.díl (2022) by Nakladatelství Fraus, s.r.o.
Teachers commonly use písanky, or copybooks, in their instruction, or may create their own teaching materials based on their interpretations of the official model. Several local publishers produce písanky in printed form as well as online.
From a traditional to a contemporary approach
Before its independence in 1918, the erstwhile Czechoslovakia was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and handwriting was influenced by the German writing style, Kurrent. In line with the strong nationalist sentiments after independence, the Ministerstvo ordered a handwriting reform in 1932.
The emphasis on krasopis, or penmanship, was abandoned, as were any traces of Kurrent. The new standardised nation model called Zjednodušená psací latinka, or Simplified Latin script, which was published in 1933 aimed to be modern, and took inspiration from American approaches of the time, as well as new writing tools and teaching methods. It had monolinear strokes, fully-joined letters, and a natural slant that encouraged fast writing. Even the uppercase letters were designed to be written in one stroke without lifting the pen. According to Vilem Schönfeld, Zjednodušená psací latinka was based on the work of graphologist Robert Saudka. Saudka was a proponent of basing the teaching model on letter shapes that occur in handwriting, rather the stiff typefaces with contrast that were used earlier.
Zjednodušená psací latinka underwent several transformations in the following decades, mainly as a result of changes proposed by Dr. Václav Penc, including mechanical condensation in the 1950s, and other minor modifications in the 1960s. In 1978, the Ministerstvo approved an updated version of the model, which contained further modifications — the simplification of the numerals and reducing the stroke weight of letters — made by Dr. Penc in the same year. This approval came in spite of the criticism from experts and members of the Český fond výtvarných umění (ČFVU), or Czech Fine Arts Fund.
There was an attempt to create an alternative handwriting teaching model by Tatiana Svatošová-Cipárová in 1990, but it was never completed.
The most successful handwriting reform after the 1932 model is Comenia Script, created by Radana Lencová. It originated in 2002–05 as part of her doctoral thesis, which was completed at Atelier Type Design and Typography in the Vysoká škola uměleckoprůmyslová v Praze, or Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. After further development and extensive testing, Comenia Script was approved by the Ministerstvo in 2012.
Sample pages from Umím psát na cestách 1 (2021) by Radana Lencová, Nakladatelství Svět