Professionals responsible for teaching and other education-related activities in early childhood and school education are the following:
- primary and secondary school teachers;
- special education teachers;
- preschool teachers;
- special education preschool teachers;
- nursery nurses.
Depending on the type and needs of the institution, they can be supported by other professionals, including the following:
- adult education teachers;
- social workers;
- special education teachers;
- health workers;
- pedagogical assistants;
- adult education assistants.
Training institutions, levels and models
Early childhood education and care
Preschool education staff are professionals who have regular, direct contact with children and are responsible for their education and care. Their primary activities involve working with groups of children in preschool education settings. They are usually responsible for designing and delivering safe and developmentally appropriate activities in accordance with all relevant programmes/curricula.
Initial education of preschool teachers engaged in early childhood education is provided by the following institutions:
- secondary medical schools;
- colleges of applied studies (teacher training colleges) or
- universities (teacher faculties).
The Law on Preschool Education defines the necessary qualifications of professionals working in early childhood education.
Secondary medical schools prepare nursery nurses for working with children up to the age of 3. These programmes last for four years and include acquiring general knowledge in the field of medicine and profession-specific knowledge in the field of preschool child psychology and general psychology.
Preschool teachers are required to have a qualification at ISCED level 6 to work with children. Programmes at colleges of applied studies last 3 years (180 ECTS), and upon their completion students receive a Bachelor degree in professional studies. These institutions offer one-year specialisation programmes (60 ECTS) for graduate students with courses in specific topics in the field of ECEC, such as specialisation for teachers implementing the mandatory preschool programme. University programmes last 4 years (240 ECTS) and allow graduate students to enrol in a Master programme (60 ECTS). Neither specialisation nor a Master degree is required for preschool teachers.
Special education preschool teachers are obliged to have a qualification at ISCED level 6 to work with children in accordance with the IEP (Individual Education Plan) and the ECEC programme.
This does not include heads of preschools, medical staff (e.g. doctors and medical assistants), non-teaching professionals (e.g. psychologists), assistants/auxiliary staff and domestic and maintenance staff (e.g. those responsible for preparing food or cleaning premises).
There should be at least one preschool education staff member per group of children who has completed at least 3-year Bachelor studies (ISCED 6) in the field of education.
Teaching qualifications are, according to the Law on the Education System Foundations, acquired at relevant higher education institutions on one of the following levels: Bachelor level (undergraduate academic or professional studies) or Master level (specialist academic or professional studies). The latter refers to:
- a second-cycle academic/professional degree in a relevant subject or a group of subjects,
- a second-cycle degree in pedagogy, or second-cycle interdisciplinary/multidisciplinary/transdisciplinary studies that combine relevant academic/professional disciplines or pedagogical sciences.
School teachers obtain their qualifications at universities. Undergraduate studies last 4 years (240 ECTS) and lead to a Bachelor degree. Graduate Master studies last 1 year (60 ECTS). As of 2009, master studies have been mandatory for entering the teaching profession. Teachers who started their initial education at universities in 2005 or later must complete this education level, while teachers who started their studies before 2005 must have an undergraduate degree to work in a school. This is equivalent to the Master degree. Before the introduction of Bologna higher education reforms in 2009, all teachers were expected to obtain an undergraduate degree. The minimum length of initial education changed as well, from 4 years (undergraduate programmes before 2005) to 5 years (4-year Bachelor programmes combined with 1-year Master programmes as of 2005).
Teachers who teach at stage 1 of basic education (primary education – ISCED 1) earn their degree at teacher training faculties.
Subject teachers (stage 2 of basic education and upper secondary education) complete their studies at faculties specialised in the field of study they teach (e.g. faculties of biology, mathematics, philology etc.). While these are not primarily teacher training faculties, they offer courses relevant to teacher education either throughout the programme or during a part of it (e.g. students may choose to specialise as teachers in their final year of studies). At some faculties, Master programmes for teachers are available for those who want to continue their studies in that field.
As part of their professional training during the studies, students who plan to enter the teaching profession have to complete at least 30 ECTS in the fields of psychology, pedagogy and teaching methodology and at least 6 ECTS of practical work in an educational institution. This requirement was introduced in 2009, before which the minimum duration of professional training was not prescribed by law.
Special education teachers complete their studies at the Faculty of Special Education and Rehabilitation or Faculty of Medicine, which also last 5 years (4 years of undergraduate studies and one year of Master studies). These faculties offer subjects relevant to teaching and working with children with disabilities throughout the study programmes.
Initial teacher education can be offered at accredited public or private higher education institutions.
Admission requirements for initial teacher education are equivalent to those prescribed for any other field of study in tertiary education.
All students who have completed secondary education and passed their graduation exam may enrol in a higher education institution. Higher education institutions determine specific admission criteria, but most take into account the student’s GPA achieved in upper secondary education and results of the competitive entrance exam in the field relevant to the study programme the student is applying for. Students are ranked based on these criteria and the highest-ranking ones are admitted.
Curriculum, specialisation level and learning outcomes
Curricula and learning outcomes for each study programme in initial teacher education are developed and defined by higher education institutions. A curriculum contains mandatory and elective courses.
According to the Law on the Education System Foundations, compulsory teacher education includes psychological, pedagogical and teaching methodology disciplines offered at higher education institutions during the studies or after graduation. Teacher education can be offered as part of an accredited study programme or a lifelong learning programme, in accordance with the regulations in higher education. Teachers have to complete at least 30 ECTS, including at least 6 ECTS of psychological, pedagogical and teaching methodology courses and at least 6 ECTS of practicum in an educational institution. This does not apply to secondary medical school graduates, i.e. nursery nurses.
Teachers and non-teaching professionals (e.g. psychologists, pedagogists) are obliged to complete psychological, pedagogical and teaching methodology programmes within one, or at most two years from the start date of their employment, which is a condition for taking the licence exam.
Having passed their exams in pedagogy and psychology during their studies or a professional/licence exam, teachers and non-teaching professionals are considered to have completed their psychological, pedagogical and teaching methodology education.
Teacher educators in initial teacher education are higher education teachers. There are no special requirements for academic staff engaged in initial teacher education.
Mentors are licensed teachers with at least 5 years’ professional experience who guide teachers during their induction period.
More information about teacher educators can be found in the section on Conditions of service for academic staff working in higher education.
Qualifications, evaluation and diplomas
As stated in the Bylaw on Standards in Teacher Competences and Their Professional Development, teachers need to have four types of competences upon completion of their initial education:
- competences in the field of study, subject and teaching methodology;
- teaching and learning competences;
- competences in supporting students’ development;
- communication and collaboration competences.
Assessment of students during initial teacher education is carried out periodically through tests, written or oral exams, research papers, presentations, participation in class discussions, practical work and other forms of evaluation as determined by higher education institutions and in teachers’ planning. To successfully complete a course, students have to pass an exam at the end of each semester with a passing grade (minimum 6, on a scale 5–10). Students are awarded a Bachelor degree once they have passed all the exams defined by the curriculum, whereas Master level students, in addition to passing their exams, have to write a final thesis in order to graduate.
Upon graduation, students receive a diploma for a particular level of studies, which is issued by higher education institutions. Diplomas issued by accredited institutions (institutions approved by the Ministry of Education) are recognised and accepted throughout the country. The diploma includes the student’s grades in all subjects, as well as the assessment of their competencies relevant to the profession.
Alternative Training Pathways
There are no alternative training pathways in initial teacher education.