The EFA 2000 Assessment: Country Reports Homepage of the World Education Forum
   Slovakia
Contents of country report Homepage of country reports Country reports listed alphabetically Country reports by region



Next Page


Part I - DESCRIPTIVE section

Introduction

The designing of the Education for All (EFA) programme coincided with the start of the crucial and historically unique socio-political changes in the former Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. Within its framework the Czech and Slovak Republics which had identical education systems and their own national departments of education, also joined the programme. The socialist system soon fell down after the so-called "Gentle Revolution" and both national states set on the road of transformation of social, political and economic structures. At first, these processes took place in the common state, namely, the Czecho-Slovak Federal Republic (CSFR). After mutual agreement of both national representations the federation was divided in a peaceful way into two independent, supreme states – the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic as at January 1, 1993. The EFA programme implementation was also ongoing within this framework: its adoption and beginning within the common federal state and, from 1993, in a new independent state formation – the Slovak Republic.

The EFA programme has been fulfilled on the basis and in the process of great social-state transformations. But the very fact that the national ministry of education existed in the Slovak Republic long before the split of the federation, and there were also authorities of state administration in education at the middle level of management (LEAs), the partition of the federal state had not a special or even negative impact upon the fulfilment of the EFA programme.

The Slovak education system has developed for several decades, up to the turn of 1989-1990, in a considerable isolation from democratic education systems. By the way of management, aims, content, methods and organization of education and training, the education system was an image of the regime in which it originated. In 1990, the principal legislative changes were adopted to create prerequisites for the democratic development of the education system. Democratization and humanization of the education system, education and training, were among the basic principles of the then started changes. The road towards decentralization of the education system, autonomy, and self-administration of regional schools opened.

The materials of the World Conference on Education for All (Jomtien, Thailand, 5-9 March 1990) were translated into Slovak language as early as 1990 to be distributed to all major institutions in the SR concerned with education. The main responsibility for implementation, drawing up, carrying out and assessment of the progress toward the programme goals was taken over by the Ministry of Education of the Slovak Republic. The Ministry has coordinated, initiated, managed, guaranteed and, with the purpose to improve the basic education, also utilized the wide-scale above sector activities that have been already traditionally developed by institutions from the field of culture, defence, the interior, church, social and civil organizations and institutions, political parties and movements as well as self-government authorities of towns and villages, and the State administration authorities of all levels.

The basic goals and tasks ensuing from the EFA programme were accepted at development of educational projects of school-political nature1 which is in agreement with item 2 of the Introduction of Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs (Guidelines for Implementing the World Declaration on Education for All, March 9, 1990).

Therefore all the efforts that after the 1989 political transformations were aimed to improve education and training, including adult education, are consistent with the goals of Education for All set and adopted by all UNESCO member countries in Jomtien. The next pages should be an evidence thereof.

1. EFA goals and targets

The general goals and targets of basic education in Slovakia have been already traditionally a centre of attention of the citizens. They are interested in all aspects and conditions of education and training at schools. The political parties and coalition government formations pay thus a great attention to education in general in all of their educational-political programmes.

In the decade assessed we have marked a dramatic development in quality of educational policies which started in November 1989. Among the central appeals were the requirements of students and citizens for abolition of the leading role of the Communist Party in the education system, for removal of Marxist ideology from the content of education and teaching at schools, for abolition of the unified school, for elimination of the principle of collectivism and its replacement by the principle of individual development of personality within school education and classes, and for elimination of the class principle in educational policy and school practice.

During 1990, the currently valid education laws, decrees and regulations were amended in agreement with the above requirements. Hence the road towards democratization of school was open.

The expert teams of pedagogues, psychologists and other professionals worked out proposals on new concept of the education system, education and training. At the beginning the efforts dominated to change the "school spirit" the main feature of which should be a creative atmosphere among teachers, pupils and students, including optimum interaction and communication between teachers and pupils at all school types and levels. As the main reasons of unsatisfactory state of education were considered: administrative-bureaucratic and excessively centralized management; non-competent interference of the communist party apparatus into the education system; insufficient share of the State budget in education; rigidity of individual types, kinds and levels of education; shortcomings in admission procedure at the pupils’ progress from lower to higher grades and types of schools, and shortcomings in teachers’ recruitment; underestimation of teacher’s social status and suppression of his personality; low competence in educational management and some teachers, too; protectionism, nepotism, corruption, slapdash; low level of development of educational sciences, and of activities in research and methodical institutions in the education sector.

The target of an efficient education system to be followed was:

Based on experience in the education reforms of economically advanced countries and, particularly, the UNESCO recommendation, it was considered inevitable to respect the following principles for the further development of education in Slovakia:

  1. Principle of permanent education so that each man may have an opportunity to learn throughout his life.
  2. Principle of lifelong perspective of education according to which education cannot be merely understood as a preparation for life, but as experiencing the life in such a way that education is spread within the frame of time and space. Education should be carried out in all periods of human life according to needs and conditions of each individual. Education should go beyond the school walls and become a mass movement.
  3. Principle of diminishing formalism in education which should be realized through a number of various means, the most important being what the man acquired through learning and what he knows rather than the educational career he had pursued. It presupposes a free choice of his own educational career within the framework of a flexible education system. The education system should be void of "blind alleys". The state-owned, denominational and private schools should have an equal position to evoke a required competition pressure whereby the schools and the entire education system will develop through attraction of pedagogical ideas rather than power interferences.
  4. Principle of mobility and choice of education – creation of an open education system that will facilitate horizontal and vertical mobility of the educated and will multiply the possibility of choice. The studying could freely, on their own impetus, leave the school, but also to return to it.
  5. Principle of free access to education. It means, to give access and entry to various types of schools exclusively in dependency upon the knowledge, ability and prerequisites of each applicant.
  6. Principle of education and training in early childhood as a basic prerequisite of educational and cultural policy.
  7. Principle of compulsory secondary schooling according to which every child must be guaranteed a possibility to earn general and technical secondary education in the form of full-time study.
  8. Principle of material, personnel, organizational and other participation of industrial, agricultural, commercial and other companies in the education system.
  9. Principle of meeting the constantly growing demands for higher (postsecondary) education, while the higher education institutions should be autonomous, independent units with the appropriate academic freedoms.
  10. Principle of adult education as a culmination of the educational process. The schools should become educational and cultural centres that will serve to the entire society, not only to its part.
  11. Principle of self-education as a means of cultural development of an individual. It presupposes an involvement of adequate institutions and services (laboratories, documentation centres, libraries, data banks, various audio-visual aids) to help self-learning.
  12. Principle of change of pupil, student from the hitherto passive object of teaching process into an active entity as a co-creator of his intellectual and physical health. The adolescent should be able to decide by himself about what he wants to learn, how, when, and where he wants to learn it. Within the framework of this principle a special attention should be paid to the talented individuals and to avoid overloading the students.
  13. Principle according to which the efficiency of the system of lifelong education depends to a decisive extent on teachers, whereas the teachers should be the most capable individuals, morally matured with a positive approach to education and training. With this purpose it was presupposed to improve the social status of teacher, his material and social provision. Teacher should be an adviser, an assistant to pupil at developing his abilities and interests rather than an unerring authority conveying the prescribed knowledge.
  14. Principle of orientation of organizational forms, methods and material means of education towards the educated, his individuality, his activity in classes. The organizational forms of education should be much more flexible, varied and efficient than the traditional ones. The essence of modern understanding of education methods ensues from the idea that "the best way how to teach is to do something, while the worst way how to teach others is to talk". A greater use should be made of radio, television, videosystems, computer technology which enable individualization of education.
  15. Principle of a feedback as a condition of efficient functioning of the education system. For this purpose, the objective criteria on efficiency of work of teachers, schools, individual sectors of management, professional institutions as well as of the entire education system were planned to develop. Eradication of subjectiveness and injustice in evaluation and marking of pupils is considered as unusually urgent. The evaluation should develop the ability of self-knowledge and self-evaluation of the educated. Parents and employees should play a more significant role and function in the feedback.
  16. Principle of competence (professionalism, qualification and morality), democracy (participation of the managed in management and self-government), decentralization in management of schools and education sector. Teachers should participate in any innovation and reform in education.

The requirements of optimum educational development also included a prerequisite that the education system would be a priority object of sufficiently large investments from the State budget. The education reform was not meant as a single action, but as a continuous process, as a "permanent reform".2

In 1991, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Slovak Republic submitted the document "Renewal and Development of Our Education System by the year 2000" for public discussion. The content of introductory material for discussion was divided into four parts: I. The state of our education system – legacy of the forties; II. The present state and perspectives of kindergartens, primary and secondary schools by the year 2000; III. Development of higher education institutions; IV. Continuing adult education.

After the broadest discussion on the situation, renewal and development of the education system the discussion was to be evaluated and, subsequently, the main problems of education and proposals for their solution were formulated. The material was not designed to result in a new education reform. It was focused rather on gradual development and meant to avoid radical interference in the education system. It preferred preparation of well-thought-out small steps that would lead to progressive development of the education system. A new feature in the content of the document was the challenge to organize expert groups at the regional level (composed of experienced teachers, parents, representatives of municipalities, companies and all those who would be willing to help enhance the education system) in order to respect also specificities of individual regions while developing the definite project "School 2000". The introductory material for discussion presented the effort to avoid the mistakes of the past when "One of the mistakes of the past regime was the centralist decision-making and management "from above". The interventions of the central authorities did not undergo any control "from bottom". The community – teachers, parents and general public – had not possibility to influence the education system more substantially and hence they lost any interest in it".3

The further content of the document viewed from its different parts may be characterized as follows:

I. The state of our education system - legacy of the forties

II. The present state and perspectives of kindergartens, primary and secondary schools by the year 2000

Legislation:

Kindergartens and primary schools:

Subject matter and curricula:

Evaluation of pupils:

Special education:

Romany youth education :

Education of pupils living in the areas populated by mixed nationalities:

III. Development of higher education institutions

IV. Continuing adult education

The evaluation and summary of opinions on the content of the presented Document are presented by the material "Transformations of Education in Slovakia by the Year 2000" which was published in less than a year thereupon4. This material also presented an outline of the initial changes in education.

The Document comes from the idea that the building stone of any society is an unrepeatable and unique human being. A manifestation of this individuality is the ability to act as a free, independent and responsible being in the community. A man is not born with the ability to independently create, search and overcome obstacles, he becomes it in the process of shaping. This process takes place both in the family and school, but in case it will not be adjusted to the unique character of every personality, his full development will not be secured.

After the summarization of shortcomings of the education system in Slovakia, some aspects of educational policy for the near future were presented in the above material as follows:

Mission and aims of education and training – a legal statement of the right to education and its implementation

The fundamental principles on the basis of which the education legislation will be based, include:

  1. Every individual has the right to education while he is able to absorb it.
  2. Education serves to those who are being educated.
  3. The mission of education and training is to help develop individual presuppositions of the child in such a  way as to become an independent and responsible personality that would take part in making decisions on his personal and common matters.
  4. An individual has the freedom of choosing education and the career leading to it adequately to his abilities and possibilities according to the aims he was to reach by the education. He has the right to opportunity to cultivate his personality, to development of his abilities, to acquiring the competence for practical life in the society and to achieving the presuppositions for future professional activity and career.
  5. The real freedom of the choice of education and the career leading to it must guarantee to all, the disabled as well as gifted and talented, to have the possibility to reach their optimum.
  6. The State has the duty to guarantee by the Constitution the right of an individual to education within the frame of his ability, but at least until the individual becomes a legally independent entity at the labour market; to guarantee to the individual the realization of this right; to provide for the freedom of choice of his educational career especially by establishing private schools, as well, by enabling the diversification of educational programmes by means of adequate autonomy of schools within the framework of the State education system; by individualization of educational programmes according to interests and abilities of individuals by adequate autonomy of teacher within the framework of the classroom.
  7. The State has the right to set up a minimum volume of education and training which is compulsory for all. In doing so it ensues from guaranteeing the rights of the child and from interest in the social progress.
  8. An individual has a legal duty to be educated within the required scope. The responsibility for education of the child is in hands of parents or his guardians. Even within the framework of compulsory education the right to choose one’s own educational career is sustained to everybody.
  9. Any entity may realize its right to educate by establishing a school, if the education it offers is in agreement with nationally and internationally recognized human rights, if it respects human dignity and does not discriminate anybody on grounds of racial, ethnic, religious, gender, social, economic and other differences. Provided he will assume the duty to meet the requirement of procuring educational minimum required by the State, he has the right to the same conditions as any founder of the school.
  10. The role of the State is to set up basic principles, rules and conditions for activity of all entities in education, based on agreement of the State and elected bodies; to guarantee through long-term concepts the further development of education in longer time horizon; to work out basic, auxiliary and support programmes and documents; on the basis of all-societal consensus to set up criteria of quality; to control the quality of educational process; to create an information system, providing the link between all entities in education; to enforce by law the method of funding the schools.

In the authors’ opinion the fundamental rights and duties of an individual shown under items 1-10 of the Document should be laid down in the Constitution; the other principles should be enforced by the Education Law.

The education system should be built-up by using the above principles in continuity with its present development since the realization of changes by leaps is not possible. The process of changes must continue in such a way that the conservatism of the existing education system does not hamper the origin of new forms of education and training and new, not yet existing types and kinds of schools. The authors accept the fact that by far they are not able to fully anticipate and prescribe all the changes.

The establishment of private and denominational schools was meant to encourage pluralizing the ways to education. The build-up of completely new schools was to be preferred and a conversion from the state-owned schools should occur only to a small extent.

The basic parameters of the education system should include:

Kindergartens:

Due to their educational and social functions kindergartens should be further a constituent part of the education system. New demands for them will arise in case of the need of the integrated education of the healthy and handicapped children, and the need to maintain a reserve in capacity of kindergartens to be able to react to the expected oscillations in the labour market in connection with unemployment of women - mothers.

Primary school:

Primary school will be conceived in such a way so that the compulsory schooling may not end by its completion. A successful completion of primary school will continue to be a prerequisite for secondary school entrance. It is expected to prolong the compulsory school attendance; it is understood, on the one hand, as a  duty of the pupil to attend the school for several years and, on the other hand, as a responsibility of the State to give the pupils the possibility to attend the school during the given period.

In the first stage of primary school it is necessary:

In the second stage of primary school it is necessary:

The primary school, according to considerations provided in the material reviewed, will be 9-year long. The admission to gymnasia and selected branches of technical secondary schools will be also provided to pupils from lower grades. It is upon the particular school to decide about it.

Preparation in the field of foreign languages should become a significant priority as the interest of the public in foreign language education grows. The teaching should start with verification of pedagogical-psychological conditions for teaching foreign languages from the early childhood and in selected population of pupils from primary grades 1-2. The need arose to create such conditions so that the primary school pupils could master the basics of at least one foreign language according to their wish. The result should be the communication independence of graduates from primary (and secondary) schools to be used either for performance of future vocation or for continuing studies at a university.

Special education:

Likewise in kindergartens, the process of integrating the part of the handicapped pupils in normal schools and establishments will also take place at primary school, while the health care and standard of education of the handicapped must not get worse. Special schools will require: innovation of equipment by compensatory aids and means; establishment of centres of special assistance; special teacher training. In education of children with impaired psycho-social development, the build-up of the system of prevention and improvement of substitute education will be a priority.

Teacher:

The educational renewal in Slovakia should always mean a renewal of the quality of educational community. To follow a realistic way of renewal in relation to the teacher means:

To solve completely:

In addition to initiatives of the Ministry of Education of the SR to create a long-term concept of educational development, we have also marked initiatives of individual political parties, or even individual experts in this direction. Among the documents of this kind there is also the material "Strategic Intentions in Education and Training in the Slovak Republic" by the educational worker P. Gabco5. Owing to the fact that the new government has set up the task in April 1994 to start the work on the National Programme of Education and Training, the tasks of strategic nature drafted by P. Gabco became the starting point.

From the strategic view the author considers it vital that virtually the entire population of Slovakia receive secondary education and that the number of graduates with secondary school-leaving certificate and graduates from higher education institutions of university and non-university type increase. The minimum level of qualification needed for performance of a profession for about 96% of population is the qualification attained by completing secondary school. The author considered as new priorities for individual levels of the education system the following:

Kindergartens – to maintain the capacity of kindergartens with 10-percent reserve of free places, the length of services provided for 4 years and to gradually transfer to the compulsory final year as a preparation for primary school.

Primary schools – to maintain the 4-year first stage and the 4-year second stage, to consider the introduction of the 5-year first stage for a part of pupils. To increase the extent and level of foreign language teaching and to augment the differentiation of pupil’s possibilities. To re-evaluate the possibility of granting the status of legal entity for primary schools. To elaborate the standards of subjects to be used in evaluation of pupils and, subsequently, the schools. From a longer perspective the pupils should be enabled to decide on the basis of evaluation after completing grade 4, if they will continue in study at the second stage of primary school, or if they will complete additional grade 5 which is ranked in the first stage. If this activity is jointed with introduction of specified termination of study and demands that the pupil must meet, it will be possible to waive from admission procedure at secondary schools.

The CONSTANTINE project - the National Programme of Education and Training (Draft), was published by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Slovak Republic in August 1994. In the opinion of the coordinator of the second stage of the project, it is "an attempt to formulate the ideas on direction that the education system of the Slovak Republic should follow to be able to cope with the anticipated requirements".6

The content of the project substantially corresponds to the EFA programme. It presents, among other things, the following theses:

The target state of the education system of the Slovak Republic in the future should be characterized by the following features:

  1. Provision of the right of free choice of educational career.
  2. Creation of milieu of free offer of educational opportunities.
  3. Provision of high share of citizens in administration of educational affairs.
  4. Development, promotion of active programme of lifelong education.
  5. Development of legislation of a legal state for the field of education.
  6. Introduction of objective, transparent and socially oriented state system of funding education and the support of multisource financing of education.
  7. Provision of creation of educational standards and State supervision over the quality of acquired education.


Contents Next Page