Slovakia is a landlocked nation in Central Europe and the easternmost territory that comprised former Czechoslovakia. Slovakia obtained independence and recognition as a sovereign state in 1993, three years after the downfall of Czechoslovakia’s Communist government. As is the case in most of the developed world, Slovakia’s economy is primarily white-collar in nature, so the country relies on high education standards to maintain a population of qualified workers. Here are 8 facts about education in Slovakia.
8 Facts About Education in Slovakia
- The Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic determines the broad strokes of the national curriculum. However, the implementation falls under the purview of Slovakia’s eight administrative regions. The local municipalities also create their own guidelines for upper secondary education standards. Although most schools use Slovak as their language of instruction, ethnic and linguistic minorities are free to attend schools with teachers fluent in other languages. German, Hungarian and Ruthenian are among the more common alternatives.
- Primary and secondary education is free to all Slovaks, so long as they attend a public institution. Universities are also free of charge, but students who fail to graduate within the expected length of time must pay for any courses they haven’t yet taken. The state mandates that all teachers hold a post-graduate degree as a job requisite.
- Some Slovakians opt to send their children to private or church-run schools instead of the nationally managed public school system. Private schools must comply with the same state education requirements and while they do not generally offer free tuition, the Slovakian government does provide them with the same funding public schools receive. Currently, 13 Slovakian universities operate independently.
- Education in Slovakia is compulsory from ages 6 to 15. Kindergarten is a voluntary phase of Slovakia’s education system intended for students aged 3 to 6. Kindergarten students learn how to communicate properly, as well as rudimentary knowledge and skills that will prepare them for primary school.
- Slovaks enroll in primary school the year they turn six and continue for nine years. Primary school students are separated into two age classes: Junior Students (grades 1 – 4) and Middle Students (grades 5 – 9). Secondary schools specialize in either vocational training or university preparation, and all provide a sequence of general education courses. Pending graduates must pass final exams in order to progress with or complete their education.
- As mentioned above, students have a choice between vocational training or college preparatory programs. Following successful completion of their secondary school examinations, vocational students receive advanced training in one of a variety of mechanical and technical disciplines, while college-prep students generally matriculate at universities. Slovakia’s 33 universities offer education within an array of subject areas at the bachelor’s, masters and doctoral levels.
- As of 2016, Slovakia’s education funding stood at 3.9 percent of the national GDP, ranking 109th worldwide. In 2019, London think-tank The Legatum Institute ranked Slovakia’s education system 48th out of 167 countries evaluated, and 2019 data from The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) noted an upward trend in education spending ($15.87 per student). However, the OECD also identified a decline in Slovakian students’ math, reading, and science scores.
- Some Slovaks have expressed dissatisfaction with the national education system. A survey conducted by researchers at Bratislava’s Comenius university revealed that around 50 percent of the respondents would rather receive their higher education abroad than at home. They complain the Slovakian schools rely on rote memorization rather than critical thinking and experiential learning, and also indicate that Romani students and those with disabilities feel underserved and marginalized.
These 8 facts about education in Slovakia highlight the accessibility of Slovakian education, as well as some areas that still need improvement. Moving forward, the Slovakian government must address these concerns as it continues to refine its education system.
– Dan Zamarelli