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,
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 teachers 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
The target of an efficient education system to be followed was:
- mental and physical development of a sound individual;
- education of a civilized, humane, democratic (free but still disciplined),
intelligent and creative man, prepared for continuous self-education, self-learning and
- formation of a personality that will not get satisfied with the achieved aims but
will constantly set up additional and lofty aims to be reached for his own self, the
family, the State, the society and, first of all, for the nation-wide progress;
- intentional development of personality that can feel happy only when other people are
happy too, and that is also concerned with the fates of other people.
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:
- Principle of permanent education so that each man may have an opportunity to learn
throughout his life.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Principle of education and training in early childhood as a basic prerequisite of
educational and cultural policy.
- 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.
- Principle of material, personnel, organizational and other participation of industrial,
agricultural, commercial and other companies in the education system.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
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
- The education system of the past forty years was based upon the idea of a unified,
centrally managed school. It was directive and overpolitized.
- Our education system was insufficiently funded for long years.
- Teachers wages were disproportionately low in comparison to other professions.
- Financial underestimation of the teacher, of his work, led to decrease of his social
status, suppression of his individuality, and to feminization of the education system.
Directive management hampered independence and initiative of teachers at adjustments or
reduction of subject matter.
- Textbooks were oversaturated by factographic material, written in "scientific"
style, unadjusted to the pupils age. They presupposed memorizing rather than
creative penetration into the problems.
II. The present state and perspectives of kindergartens, primary and
secondary schools by the year 2000
- The basic documents adopted in the field of the above schools, are the amendment to the
Education Law of May 4, 1990, and the Act of the Slovak National Council No. 542/1990 of
Digest on the State administration and self-government in education of November 26, 1990.
These acts served as a basis for a number of decrees and regulations.
- The amendment to the education act has introduced democracy in educational legislation
and has introduced it in primary schools, too. It made possible to set up denominational
and private schools.
Kindergartens and primary schools:
- As a result of decline in economic efficiency kindergartens passed to attenuation
which could not be fully stopped even at the beginning of the transformation. The
maintenance of the highest possible rate of schooling of at least 6-year-old children
(especially from socially disadvantaged environment) entering primary grade 1, was
considered a must.
- The support of development of alternative education and well-thought-out experimenting
with the primary school concept was provided.
Subject matter and curricula:
- Curricula shall be flexible so that the schools may select an optimum variant for
- It shall be necessary to carefully select and merge the volume of compulsory subject
matter and to clearly formulate it through standards.
Evaluation of pupils:
- The centre of evaluation needs a shift from quantitative to qualitative field. The aim
of teaching shall not be to achieve excellent average of marks but personality development
of the pupil with excellent skills in a certain field. A mark cannot be
a tool for compelling the pupil to learn. A mark-based assessment shall be gradually
limited. It may be replaced by teachers verbal assessment meant as an advice for
parents and an information for other teachers. Standards tests that shall enable to
evaluate pupils knowledge in individual grades and subjects, play a decisive
role in impartial approach to evaluation of pupil and, consequently, of teacher and
- A decisive asset of the schools and teachers work does not rest in
pupils marks but in his moral, intellectual, cultural and physical maturity, his
life optimism and self-assurance, his desire for truth and self-education.
- All positive elements of the system of special education shall be maintained, and its
orientation aims to accept integrated education of the handicapped children. The concept
of integration includes establishment of special counselling and educational system
for early childhood development, material equipment of schools and educational
establishments, removal of barriers, build-up of the network of special-pedagogical
counselling, development of special educational and teaching programmes.
Romany youth education :
- Romany children must be linguistically prepared as early as before starting the school
since a lack of knowledge of teaching language makes them lag behind from the very
entrance to grade 1.
Education of pupils living in the areas populated by mixed
- The Document sets up to create conditions so that each child could be educated and
instructed in the language as required by his parents. But the primary school graduate
must have a good command of the Slovak language, too.
III. Development of higher education institutions
- This part of the Document presents the situation and perspectives of development of
higher education institutions.
IV. Continuing adult education
- Adult education stagnates as a result of previous development compared to advanced
countries. The tasks in the field of retraining programmes, educational activities aimed
at improvement of qualification of individual workers are being partially fulfilled, but
the adult education as a system does not function.
- A logic shift of education from the hitherto applied educational systems to real
needs of citizens shall be required. The system of adult education should respect the
principles of openness, variability, voluntarism, freedom and democracy at the offer as
well as in enforcing the educational activities among the broad population strata. In this
area the authors of the Document considered it indispensable to create legislative,
institutional, scientific-research and processual conditions for operation of the adult
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:
- Every individual has the right to education while he is able to absorb it.
- Education serves to those who are being educated.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 ones own
educational career is sustained to everybody.
- 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.
- 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
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:
- plurality, multiplicity of forms and ways leading to the targets that the individual set
up for himself in education;
- autonomy of schools and autonomy of teachers enabling the schools and individual
teachers to flexibly respond to the changes in pupils requirements and to those
evoked by the needs of practice;
- flexibility of educational institutions which should not be mechanically identified to
individual levels and kinds of education and which should not prevent that a school, as
one legal entity, could be established by several founders. In addition to traditional
orientation, they should extend their offer in a non-traditional way;
- permeability that would guarantee a democratic, vertical and horizontal approach to
every kind of education.
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
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:
- to gradually develop the habits of systematic work at preserving and developing the
natural cognitive activity of the pupil;
- to create conditions for individual development of pupils (both talented and retarded,
as well as the pupils from socially disadvantaged environment);
- to adopt basic knowledge.
In the second stage of primary school it is necessary:
- to create conditions for adequate application of various skills and interests;
- to introduce classes "with a concentration" or provide for educational
opportunities in optional elective subjects;
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.
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.
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
- to create optimum conditions for teachers who love children and are capable to
creatively solve the problems;
- to offer adequate help to good and average teachers.
To solve completely:
- improvement of would-be teacher training;
- the system of in-service training and its connection with professional growth of teacher
and with societal esteem of his work;
- creation of milieu of mutual confidence between teachers and pupils;
- to help teacher in moral revival of his own.
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 pupils 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
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
The content of the project substantially corresponds to the EFA
programme. It presents, among other things, the following theses:
- the Constitution of the SR accepts the provisions of the Universal Declaration of the
Human Rights related to education and training;
- the right to education should be perceived as a public right, hence the education may be
provided by both public and private educational institutions;
- to provide the primary education funding from the State resources, the private schools
- to work out an integrating model of humanist-creative school with the aim to improve the
selection and training of teachers, and to create conditions for lifelong education; to
remarkably strengthen the share of educational programmes in mass media; to underline the
bilingualism in education and to contribute to development of foreign language literacy;
to support the projects of alternative and experimenting activities at schools and
educational establishments; to improve differentiated care according to the gift, talent,
and creative abilities of children; to promote and improve the area of education in
leisure time with emphasis upon versatile special-interest activity of children as a tool
of struggle against criminality and drug-abuse;
- to create such a system of education and training which will support to a maximum extent
the development of social adaptability and working mobility with a stress upon
independence and creativity, individual prerequisites; to orient new educational
programmes at acquisition of decisive knowledge, skills and attitudes important for
continuing education and working mobility. Thus a space will arise for activity of the
educated, their independence, creativity, adoption of team-work and values of democratic
- to deliver the common cultural and democratic values, education for tolerance and
cooperation, responsibility for future; the school should be a place of acquiring a
confidence in democratic society which is to be supported by overall school climate and
cooperation between family and school;
- to create conditions for acquiring such a level of education which is required from the
view of the society and which will simultaneously provide for each citizen a free choice
of the goal of education and the way of its achieving; to transfer the competencies at
administration, management and decision-making to the most functional level; to secure the
provision of basic education and its advancement to support development of such laws that
will reduce the number of minor legislation in the field of education and training. The
law should set up the extent of compulsory education, the duty of each citizen to let
himself be educated within this extent as well as the requirements for quality and extent
of the education;
- to create conditions to enable all pupils to adopt the Slovak language at the level
which allows for their integration into the society of citizens of the SR; to prevent
discrimination in education;
The target state of the education system of the Slovak Republic in the
future should be characterized by the following features:
- Provision of the right of free choice of educational career.
- Creation of milieu of free offer of educational opportunities.
- Provision of high share of citizens in administration of educational affairs.
- Development, promotion of active programme of lifelong education.
- Development of legislation of a legal state for the field of education.
- Introduction of objective, transparent and socially oriented state system of funding
education and the support of multisource financing of education.
- Provision of creation of educational standards and State supervision over the quality of