Exemplary reform of education in Zlín – education between the company and the public space

The model company town of Zlín, which in the interwar period produced not only goods, but also introduced a new lifestyle, also presented the issue of the "new school," i.e. the issue of raising and educating the "new person" as part of the so-called reform of society.
Education and training in Baťa Zlín took place in two ways. Firstly, there was the area of ​​corporate vocational education and the related practice of boarding education. The concept of educating Baťa's young men and young women had been implemented since 1925 in the Baťa's Labour School (Baťova škola práce). Furthermore, with the demands of practice, the number of vocational schools established by the Baťa company grew, and short-term - but effectively-conceived - company training courses and (from 1935) educational and awareness events within the activities of the Study Institutes developed very quickly. It was intended that the company youth would be socialised both by working in the company (i.e. practice) and also by studying in the company school and training courses: the line of individual development of a young person, carried out in the spirit of a fixed order, with discipline and self-realisation controlled by the educator (including the educational system) within the framework of everyday life in youth boarding facilities and its accompanying leisure activities.
Secondly, upbringing and education in Baťa Zlín were part of public service within the framework of compulsory education. In Zlín, where Tomáš Baťa, or later Baťa's men, held the position of mayor, responsible in many respects for the state and development of compulsory education, the spirit of Batism and the ethos of a company town mixed with the educational policy of the Czechoslovak state in public education. The ideal form of the "new school" was a fundamental issue of political, professional pedagogic and wider social life (both Czech, Slovak and Sudeten German) in interwar Czechoslovakia.
In the first decade in what was then Czechoslovakia, the teaching staff themselves presented and implemented various models of school reform. Their common denominator, despite all the diversity of individual school reform attempts and with awareness of the conflicting requirement of the "national task of the school" (necessarily problematic in a multi-ethnic state of Czechs, Germans, Slovaks, Hungarians, Rusyns, Poles, Jews), was the issue of the unified school (educating pupils together for eight years, not separately in different types of comprehensive schools and grammar schools), but internally differentiated (making it possible to respond to the psychological and social diversity of pupils within the framework of teaching by differentiating educational content, methods and teaching approaches).
A unified, internally-differentiated school supported the democratisation of society and the solution of the "social issue", i.e. guaranteeing or at least supporting the equality of educational opportunities that had already been thematised at that time. At the same time, school reform models based on the so-called active school, active learning, and models emphasising the student's uniqueness on the one hand and the support of the social life of the school, i.e. the development of school democracy, on the other hand, were verified and evaluated (establishment of school governments, parliaments, publication of pupil magazines, chronicles, organization of school pupils' celebrations, pupils' cultural or social events in cooperation with representatives of the municipality, wider cultural or professional public, but also support for the participation of the parental public in the running and development of the school and in the teaching itself).
The demand for active learning in the "working and social school" was the basis of reform efforts in Zlín public schools. In 1929, they became a pillar of the Czechoslovak interwar school reform. The reform program was supported by both Tomáš Baťa and the Zlín teachers, and also in many instances the parents of Zlín pupils. In addition, the Zlín reform pedagogical model, based on the principles of American pedagogical pragmatism, the principles of "learning by doing" and "school democracy," were in harmony with the "education for life" ethos in the spirit of Batism, the principles of the rationalisation movement. The active model of teaching - experimentation, measurement, laboratory work, but also writing, designing models, plans, solving projects, and problems of "life" by Zlín pupils - supported pupils' creativity, independence and cooperation and emphasised the importance of work and the work ethic for the future life of a pupil. In the city of planned modernity, prosperity, work and youthful optimism, the pedagogical principles of the school reform were thus complemented by the requirements for morality and principles of life in the "company town".
The Baťa company significantly co-financed the construction of modern school buildings, including modern gymnasiums and an outdoor swimming pool. The building of the Masaryk primary and secondary school in the school district, opened in the school year 1928/29, served reform goals as Masaryk's experimental secondary school from 1929/30, under the leadership of director Stanislav Vrána. From 1937/38, the building of the Comenius primary and secondary school in Zálešná, led by director Nora Hradilova, was added to it, and from 1935, an experimental primary and later secondary school in Otrokovice Baťov was built, led by director Vladimír Konvička.
The company also indirectly supported teachers' salaries (via the parents' association), and equipped pilot schools to a higher standard with aids, books, encyclopaedias, magazines, etc. Teachers also received support in further education and study trips (even abroad). In return, the teachers of the experimental schools actively created and wrote work textbooks, prepared materials for project-based teaching methods (emphasising the regional - company - nature of many project tasks and problems to be solved) and also taught and lectured in company courses and at Baťa's Labour School. The symbiosis between corporate and public education was thus considerable in Zlín. Despite this, the teachers of the experimental schools in Zlín did not cross the line of independence of public education, and the principles of educating a democratic citizen did not yield to private or corporate interests.     
 Zlín, the city of progress and modernity, thus became in the 1930s not only a centre of human reform, but also a "model city" of inter-war school reform - a physical and socio-cultural space for the education of the "new man" in the spirit of modernity, progress and rationalisation. The "social laboratory" of Zlín also became the "pedagogical laboratory" of the interwar period. Czech, Slovak and foreign (e.g. Yugoslav, German, Austrian, American) teachers went to experimental schools in Zlín for short-term study visits and long-term internships. The reformed pedagogical concept of Zlín was both a model in Baťa satellites and a model for many schools in other parts of Czechoslovakia and Europe at the time.
Tomáš Kasper, Dana Kasperová