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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Historical development


1.Political, social and economic background and trends

1.1Historical development

Last update: 27 November 2023

General historical overview


The beginnings of the Slovak history are connected with an enormous process intervening the EuroAsian Continent – the process of migration of nations. From the fifth century A.D, the ancestors of present-day Slovaks began to arrive in the area around the central Danube basin, and these ancestors, along with the neighbouring Slavic tribes, formed the first historic state – the "Samo Empire". This empire lasted a number of decades, until the dominating Avars resisted. In the ninth century, the founding of the early middle age empire – Great Moravia - began with the unification of the Nitra and Moravian regions. Its largest internal, cultural and power expansion in the second half of the ninth century is connected with the mission of the Byzantine missionaries Cyril – Constantine and Methodius, who are credited with the Christianisation of the country. Their mission laid the basis for the development of the Old Slovak language – the language itself as well as culture and education. The Great Moravian empire ceased to exist in the tenth century. The wandering Hungarians populated a large part of the territory of the Great Moravian Empire and later a new empire known as old Hungaria arose, in which many ethnic groups lived.

In the time of the Enlightenment, the first attempt was made to promote the western Slovak dialect as the written language of Slovaks. Favourable conditions for the codification of the language arose in the middle of the 19th century, when the intelligence of different creeds agreed to the promotion of the central Slovakia dialect as the written language for the entire nation. The solution of the Slovak question was brought about by the first World War, when, from the various possibilities, the optimal solution for Slovakia was to form a common state with the Czechs.

After signing the Munich Agreement in October 1938 the autonomy of Slovakia was declared and in March 1939 the so-called Slovak State was declared. This state lasted through World War II. The armed Slovak anti-fascist resistance began with an uprising in August 1944. In 1945 the Czechoslovak Republic was renewed as a common state of two equal nations, the Czechs and the Slovaks.

The assumption of the reins of Government by the Communist Party in February 1948 had brought the State under the area of the Soviet influence. In 1960, the Czechoslovak  Republic changed its name to the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (ČSSR). The attempt to change the totalitarian regime, which is connected with the name of Alexander Dubček, was foiled by invasion of Warsaw Treaty armies in August 1968. On 1st January 1969 the Act on Federation came into force. Since that time the ČSSR consisted of two socialist republics, the Czech Socialist Republic (ČSR) and the Slovak Socialist Republic (SSR).

The downfall of the Communist regime occurred in November 1989. Afterwards, a number of reforms restoring the democracy and putting an end to Communism were carried out. Since 1990, the name of the entire State was changed to the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic (ČSFR). After the second free elections in June 1992, in both parts of the Federation (the first elections took place in June 1990) the intensive deliberations of the winners started on relationship between the Slovak and Czech bodies. Shortly after 17th July 1992, the date of issue of the document on sovereignty of the Slovak Republic, an agreement on the split of the State was signed. 

On 1st September 1992, the Constitution of the Slovak Republic was adopted. On 1st January 1993, the common state of the Czechs and Slovaks was dissolved and two independent states came into being the Czech Republic (ČR) and the Slovak Republic (SR).

On 14th December 2000 the Slovak Republic became a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), since 29th March 2004 it is a member of North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) and since 1st May 2004 a member of the European Union. On 1st January 2009 the Slovak Republic has joined the countries of the European Union which adopted Euro as a national currency.


Development of education in Slovakia


The beginnings of the organized education at the territory of Slovakia


The beginnings of the organized education at the territory of Slovakia are connected with the arrival of apostles Constantinus and Methodius in the Great Moravian Empire in the 9th century. The preserved records document that the Slav missionaries educated and instructed young piarists in the Old Slav language and script.

A more stable school and education system was created in collaboration with organizational strengthening of Christianity. In the 11th-14th centuries the chapter, parish and convent schools started operating. With development of towns in the 15th and 16th centuries the establishment of municipal (Latin) schools, the so-called particular schools, came into being. Along with them, private clerical schools started their activity. An outstanding educational institution were the guilds that provided teaching of journeymen within the framework of apprenticeship. The first university operating at the territory of Slovakia was Academia Istropolitana founded by Matthias Corvinus in Bratislava, 1465, that was dissolved after his death.


Education in 16th century


The Reformation instigated a quantitative growth of schools that began developing in two directions from the mid-16th century. According to confessional division of population the Catholic and Evangelical schools were founded.

The 6-year Catholic Latin schools and universities with 3-year philosophical and 4-year theological faculties were administered by Jesuits, elementary schools by piarists. From among other fraternities there were Premonstrates, Benedictines, Franciscans and Paulines who were concerned with education.

In contrast to Catholic schools, Evangelical schools did not have a uniform organization. The Evangelical municipal Latin schools reached a high level.


The first universities at the territory of Slovakia


In the 16th century, the Old Hungary had no university. Only upon the impetus of Ostrihom Archbishop Peter Pázmany a Jesuit university was founded in Trnava. It had philosophical and theological faculties and later on it was augmented by the faculty of law and faculty of medicine in 1665 and 1769, respectively. In Košice a university was founded in 1657 with the philosophical and theological faculties.

The new Age of Enlightenment gave an impulse to the origin of the Mining Academy  in Banská Bystrica in 1763 that became world-known not only because it was the first university of technical orientation in Europe but, first  of all, because of its high quality of education and scientific research. In the same year, Collegium economicum was founded by Maria Theresa in Senec that corresponded in content of education and organisation to an institution of higher education.


Schools reforms of Maria Theresa


In the 18th century, the economic, social and cultural life became gradually regulated, and education became a centre of cultural policy. It was a reaction to the changing conditions - a gradual disintegration of feudalism. The education reform of 1777 - Ratio education adopted by Maria Theresa substantially contributed to development of foundations of a modern education system. It became a binding rule for Catholic education and set up a supreme supervision of non-Catholic schools, as well. "Ratio" regulated the organisation, administration and financial provision of schools, the study and disciplinary orders. The new revised  "Ratio" of 1805 defined the length of school attendance from 6 to 12 years and also contained the provisions on education for girls.


Education in 19th century


In the 19th century the education system in the Old Hungary became not only politicum but also nacionalisticum. The attempts to create a linguistically and politically uniform Hungarian nation exercised in various intensity, were an accompanying feature of that century.

The organizational arrangement of schools was changed by the so-called Thuna Education Reform of 1850.

The organizational arrangement of schools providing basic education was regulated by the act of 1868 on people’s and middle schools and teacher training colleges. The basic schools founded by the State, church, associations or private persons attained, for the first time since the Theresian Reform, a uniform external organization. The compulsory schooling was strictly established for all children aged 6-12; the internal organization was defined by introduction of uniform subjects, and the central coordination of supervision of all schools was formed.


Education after the origin of the first Czechoslovak Republic


The origin of the first Czechoslovak Republic in 1918 meant a liberation of the Slovaks from the Hungarian suppression and, within the educational policy, the start of the process of unifying the education systems at the territory of the Republic.

The central body of State administration was represented by Ministry of Education and National Culture in Prague. The education system was made up of national education (child homes, people’s, middle and auxiliary schools), secondary schools (8-year gymnasia, teacher training colleges, technical schools) and higher education institutions. The so-called Small Education Law No. 226 of 1922 which introduced 8-year compulsory schooling since 1927/28, was a significant measure.  In contrast to national education the secondary education was not solved in a complex way, they were only individual types of secondary schools to be addressed during the existence of the first Republic. A significant step for providing education of their own intelligentsia was the foundation of the Comenius University in Bratislava in 1919 with four faculties - faculty of medicine, law, arts and science and, in 1937, the Technical University of dr. M. J. Štefanik in Košice. The Commercial University was established in 1940 in Bratislava.

A significant action that influenced the development of the education system in Slovakia was the regulation of the Slovak National Council of 6 September 1944 on nationalization of the education system.


Education after the year 1948


After 1948 Czechoslovakia started on a journey of building up the State on the principle of a single-party monopoly, joint ownership with an exclusive orientation towards the Soviet models in creating the individual areas of economic and social life which had survived for forty years, with some attempts to revise the system.

The organization and teaching in primary and secondary schools, and higher education institutions were regulated by legislation of which the Act 95/1948 of the Law Code on the basic organization of the uniform education was of great importance for further development. The Act secured legal and organisational unification of the education system on the principle of the state-owned and unified school and set up compulsory school attendance. It was related to all levels and types of schools with exception of higher education institutions and theological colleges. The Act on the education system and teacher training No. 31/1953 of the Law Code amended the previous structure of the education system and shortened the compulsory schooling to eight years. The secondary comprehensive school with the school-leaving examination took 3 years. The network of preschool establishments, secondary specialised schools, secondary vocational schools and apprentice centres was extended. The education system has also involved legalized on-the-job training. Higher education institutions developed according to acts of 1950 and 1956.

According to the Education Act No. 186/1960 of the Law Code the compulsory schooling was again prolonged to nine years. The secondary education system also included vocational schools and apprentice centres. In the development of higher education institutions the Higher Education Act of 1966 played an important role.

According to the Act No. 29/1984 of the Law Code the secondary education was carried out within the framework of 10-year compulsory schooling. The system of preschool education, higher education and further lifelong permanent education took up a quicker pace of development.


Education after the year 1989


In November 1989, the communist regime came to end and the entire society, including education, started the process of transformation. The principles of democratization and humanization stipulated in the amendment No. 171/1990 of the Law Code on the system of primary and secondary schools, as amended by subsequent provisions, created suitable starting points for differentiation and decentralization of our educational system, including the new content of education, corresponding to the needs of the end of 20th century.