Nurseries are not in the network of schools and school facilities and childcare provided in these facilities is considered a form of social service. There are no educational guidelines from top-level authorities for nurseries for children under the age of 3 years. There are also no educational guidelines for home-based provision in child groups.
State educational programme
Kindergartens registered in the network of schools and school facilities follow the State educational programme for pre-primary education in kindergartens approved by the Ministry of Education, Research, Development, and Youth of the Slovak Republic. It was created by the research staff of the former National Institute for Education (now NIVAM) and selected higher education teachers in collaboration with experts (i.e. kindergarten teachers).
The state educational programme for pre-primary education in kindergartens sets out basic state requirements for the provision of institutional pre-primary education in kindergartens.
- specifies the goals of pre-primary education in kindergartens;
- represents the basic framework for the creation of the school educational programmes of individual kindergartens;
- is a framework and a basis for the creation of methodological materials for kindergartens;
- is consistent with the state educational programme for primary education;
- emphasises the importance of meaningful evaluation work in achieving educational goals in kindergartens;
- emphasises requirements for the provision of inclusive education in kindergartens;
- creates a basis for autonomous planning and provision of education at each kindergarten.
School educational programme
School educational programmes must be created in compliance with the state educational programme for pre-primary education in kindergartens and with the goals and principles of education set out in the Education Act. School educational programmes are prepared by kindergarten teachers and approved by kindergarten headteachers.
School educational programmes are governed by the requirements specified in the Act no. 245/2008 on education and training (Zákon č. 245/2008 Z.z. o výchove a vzdelávaní) and the state educational programme .
The school educational programme is based on the goals and focus (or profile) of each kindergarten. It is the basic curricular document under which kindergarten education takes place. It represents the second level of educational programmes, below the state educational programme. The school educational programme is issued by the kindergarten headteacher after it has been discussed by the pedagogical board and the school board. It forms the basis for teachers’ daily educational activities.
The school educational programme:
- respects the developmental particularities of children of preschool age;
- considers the kindergarten’s goals, mission and focus;
- respects requirements in regard to personnel, equipment and space (external and internal);
- allows for the application of a style of education that positively influences children’s learning and learning outcomes;
- positively influences the overall atmosphere and culture of the kindergarten.
The school educational programme contains information on:
- the aims and mission of education;
- the level of education achieved on the completion of the school educational programme;
- the school’s focus, duration of school attendance and form of education;
- the curricula;
- the language of teaching;
- the manner and requirements for the completion of education and issuing of the certificate of education;
- the internal monitoring system and evaluation of children;
- the evaluation of school staff.
Areas of learning and development
State educational programme
The state educational programme for pre-primary education in kindergartens is structured in terms of educational areas and evaluation questions.
The educational content is divided into educational areas:
- language and communication,
- mathematics and work with information,
- man and nature,
- man and society,man and labour,
- art and culture (consists of two parts: music education and visual arts),
- health and movement.
The content of each educational area is explained in educational standards (performance and content standards). Evaluation questions are a part of each educational area.
Performance standards in each educational area are expressed as observable and evaluable targets only for the final year of kindergarten attendance; they aim to describe the standard performance of children.
Content standards contain basic ideas for specific activities that teachers could implement in order for the children to achieve the relevant performance standards.
Evaluation questions are intended to improve teachers’ ability to evaluate children’s progress and understand it in relation to the cultural and social context of each child’s life.
School educational programme
The planning of educational activities is fully within teachers’ remit. The manner, form, extent and duration of educational activity plans are determined by each kindergarten at the first pedagogical board meeting. Different types of planning may be implemented in one kindergarten at the same time.
Kindergarten teachers have a free choice of methods, teaching materials, and aids. Their choice depends on the content as well as the organisation of each education activity and, of course, on the required teaching aids and digital technology.
Teachers’ choice of methods seeks to build on the knowledge of each child in the group; the children are treated individually. Teachers respect each child’s individual learning pace and style.
Play is the predominant learning method in kindergartens. Kindergartens create space for free play, and an interactive learning experience is preferred.
Digital technologies, which are at every kindergarten’s disposal, are used in play and activities of children’s choice.
Kindergartens use a lot of methodological materials, the content of which is in compliance with the goals and principles of education, as set out by the Education Act (Školský zákon).
In cooperation with the Association for Preschool Education (Spoločnosť pre predškolskú výchovu) and the Slovak OMEP Committee (Slovenský výbor OMEP) – two professional preschool teacher associations – several projects and educational activities are successfully being implemented in kindergartens. Every year, regular specialist conferences are organised. Prominent preschool education specialists from nearby countries participate in these conferences regularly, particularly from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Poland and Serbia. Both of the abovementioned professional organisations also regularly organise international placements in nearby countries with the goal of childcare professionals being inspired by examples of good practice.
Pedagogical observation of children
In kindergarten, observation is the basic method of pedagogical diagnostics – a tool for the evaluation of learning outcomes and children’s progress.
Pedagogical diagnostics in kindergartens are performed by:
- a kindergarten teacher;
- a kindergarten headteacher;
- a school inspector for kindergartens.
Pedagogical diagnostics are used to:
- assess the current developmental level of the child;
- evaluate the efficiency of the educational activities;
- evaluate, plan and improve the educational activities;
- evaluate individual work with the child.
Pedagogical diagnostics support the development of the foundations of key competences of preschool-aged children.
Pedagogical diagnostics are performed in order to diagnose the development of:
- the child and his or her abilities;
- the social values and behaviour of the child;
- the independence and self-confidence of the child.
The teacher diagnoses the individual progress of the child and his or her own educational influence upon the child.
Kindergarten teachers carry out pedagogical diagnostics through:
- observation and analysis of play;
- analysis and evaluation of activities, artistic creations and outputs from the child’s educational activities.
All the child’s outputs are evaluated:
- individually with the child – in the form of a conversation, narration, description;
- publicly by presenting the creations of each child (class decoration, an exhibition for parents, etc.).
Findings from pedagogical observation are recorded in diagnostic sheets. In addition to diagnostic sheets, records on children’s current learning outcomes, progress and individual educational needs are kept.
The records contain:
- notes on the elements of a child’s behaviour that require further attention;
- notes on situations and activities the behaviour manifested itself in;
- the child’s verbal commentary on the activity;
- notes on the teacher’s own pedagogical influence.
Each child has their portfolio, which documents their educational results and current personal development.
Cooperation with parents
Teachers cooperate very closely with parents when evaluating children. They regularly inform them about their child’s:
- results and progress in education;
- communication level;
- emotional stability;
- interpersonal relationships with other children;
- mastered skills and abilities;
- favourite/preferred activities, etc.
Teachers use direct pedagogical observation when evaluating educational results. To verify whether the educational standards have been achieved, they create various worksheets, which serve as ‘tests’ that take into consideration the fact that children in kindergartens cannot read and write.
Transition to primary school
The State educational programme for pre-primary education aims to prepare children for primary school. Therefore, pre-primary education in kindergarten offers the possibility to acquire elementary key competencies (psychomotor, personal, social, communication, cognitive, learning, and information competencies), which enable children to enter primary education without problems.
Standardised diagnostic tests of school readiness are not applied across the board, but they are performed by specialists in counselling and prevention centres. School-readiness examination is not compulsory before enrolment and kindergarten’s or pediatrist’s recommendation is not necessary. Parents will decide. However, in practice, it is often carried out following a kindergarten teacher’s recommendation, which is based on pedagogical observation of the child.
Some kindergartens cooperate with counselling and prevention centres and offer the possibility to take school readiness tests directly in the kindergarten before enrolment to compulsory school attendance in primary school.