National Strategy for Research, Development, and Innovation 2030
In May 2023, the Government‘s Research and Innovation Authority introduced the National Strategy for Research, Development, and Innovation 2030 (Národná stratégia výskumu, vývoja a inovácií 2030), which aims to increase the competitiveness of the economy and the quality of life through the support of research, innovation, and talent. The Action Plan for the National Strategy for Research, Development, and Innovation 2030 (Akčný plán národnej stratégie výskumu, vývoja a inovácií 2030), which was published alongside the strategy, defines the schedule of tasks required to meet the goals of the national strategy in this area. The reform also includes measures focusing on the development of the educational system’s quality.
The action plan describes the following measures in school education:
- Testing and ranking of Slovak and international programmes that support the initiative and entrepreneurship of children, students, and teachers,
- Support of the development of intelligent laboratories in libraries,
- Creation of immersive science centres.
The amendment of the School Law (Novela školského zákona) introduced an ‘introductory grade’ into the education process as of 1st September 2023. It is one of the measures that aim to meet the goal of reducing the rate of early school leaving set by the Recovery plan.
The introductory grade is designed for pupils with temporarily impaired communication ability and pupils with temporary developmental disorders who have reached the age of 6 years by 1st September and are deemed not capable of successfully completing the first grade of primary school. Primary schools will be able to choose whether they implement the introductory grade or not. Once the pupil has completed the introductory grade, they will continue by attending education in a regular primary school. The introductory grade will not be considered as a part of compulsory school attendance.
The introductory grade aims to:
- Support the development of speech and language abilities as a prerequisite for learning to read and write successfully,
- Remove or at least reduce the communication impairment and eliminate education deficiencies stemming from it,
- Prevent the emergence of behaviour disorders due to failure in communicating and gaining literacy,
- Support social and educational adaptation and integration of children and pupils with impaired communication in regular schools.
In August 2023, the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic approved the professional standards in the counselling and prevention system in education (štandardy pre odborné činnosti v systéme poradenstva a prevencie v školstve). Performance standards of professional activities, content standards of professional activities, and content standards for diagnostic activities were created by the Research Institute of Child Psychology and Pathopsychology (Výskumným ústavom detskej psychológie a patopsychológie) as a part of the national project 'Standards' (Štandardy) in 2019-2023. They aim to guarantee that the same professional care is provided throughout the whole of Slovakia. The standards constitute a framework for performing professional activities in compliance with five degrees of support levels in the counselling and prevention system, within which professional activities take place.
Reform of the national curriculum for primary and lower secondary education
In May 2023, The Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic approved a new State Educational Programme for Primary and Lower Secondary Education (Štátny vzdelávací program pre primárne a nižšie sekundárne vzdelávanie). The changes are a part of the curriculum reform which focuses on meeting the 21st-century educational needs − critical thinking, digital and soft skills.
The first 40 primary schools will start teaching the first-grade pupils according to the new curriculum from September 2023. All primary schools will have to start teaching according to the new State Educational Programme from the school year 2026/2027.
The approved State Educational Programme introduces specific education targets, school leaver profiles or framework educational plans. The performance and content standards define what pupils should know at the end of each education cycle, that is the third, the fifth, and the ninth grade of primary school. There are no changes in terms of the division of education at primary schools (providing education at ISCED level 1 and 24), which remains divided into two levels and nine grades. The requirements defined in the standards will serve as the basis for the content of new textbooks, national testing, and, in particular, school educational programmes.
The curriculum reform implementation will be gradual. Based on the feedback from teachers from schools implementing the reform, methodological materials will be created, which will serve as support for other primary schools.
The reform of the counselling system
The reform of the counselling system has been gradually introduced into practice since 1st January 2023. It aims to provide services according to the needs of children, pupils, and families and not based on diagnosis only. Inclusive teams will receive methodical support and will be able to consult their practicing colleagues. They will also cooperate with professionals from the labour or healthcare sector.
The reform introduces a counselling system which will work on five interconnected levels:
- class teacher, school support team, career advisor (preventive educational activities)
- professional staff, school social pedagogue (professional activities for children/pupils with increased need for support)
- professional staff in counselling and prevention centres, or in the school environment, if needed (diagnostics, re-education, rehabilitation, prevention programmes)
- professional staff in counselling and prevention centres (specialised professional activities)
- professional staff in specialised counselling and prevention centres.
Two types of centres are to be set up:
1. Counselling and prevention centre that will perform most professional activities except for the highly specialised ones. The centre will take over the professional activities to date performed by the pedagogical-psychological counselling and prevention centre and the special pedagogical counselling centre. It will perform diagnostics, re-education, rehabilitation and prevention programmes. What is new, is coordinated, multi-disciplinary care, which will be provided to children both with and without disabilities. Children or pupils can access the counselling and prevention centre as before – upon the request of the legal guardian, paediatrician, headmaster, specialist doctors and health-care professionals, or upon their own request, if they are of majority age.
2. Specialised counselling and prevention centre that will replace the present special pedagogical counselling centre. This centre will work with disabled children. It will perform several highly specialised professional activities. Children can access the specialised centres upon the recommendation of the counselling and prevention centre, paediatrician or specialist doctor.
Both types of newly set up counselling facilities will also provide closer support to school support teams, which provide support to children and youth directly in school.
Action plan for solving bullying in schools and school facilities for 2022 and 2023
The action plan for tackling bullying in schools and school facilities for the years 2022 and 2023 (Akčný plan riešenia šikanovania v školách a školských zariadeniach) was developed by the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic on the basis of the Programme Statement of the Government of the Slovak Republic for the years 2020-2024 (Programového vyhlásenia vlády Slovenskej republiky na roky 2020 – 2024). The action plan was approved by the Government of the Slovak Republic on January 12, 2022 at its meeting.
The document focuses on three main objectives, namely
- education of pedagogical and professional staff working in education in the approach to bullying,
- strengthening cooperation with state administration bodies for the purpose of mutual information and efficiency of cooperation a
- creation of measures to eliminate future risks, including the setting of concrete steps in the field of crisis management for school principals.
The Department of Education is also preparing a new directive on bullying for schools and school facilities.
Support of primary and secondary education in the form of a call for proposal
The Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport to support primary and secondary education as part of the Recovery and Resilience Plan of the Slovak Republic in 2022 has published calls for applications for programmes:
Call for "Increasing the capacities of primary schools" (Výzva na zvyšovanie kapacít základných škôl)
The purpose of the call is to increase the capacity of primary schools where the number of pupils exceeds their capacity. Likewise, support for ensuring equal access to education for all pupils and removing obstacles to access to education.
The amount of funds designated for the call is EUR 33,847,4401.
A call to "Eliminate the two-shift operation of elementary schools" (Výzva na odstránenie dvojzmennej prevádzky základných škôl)
The intention of the call is to expand the capacities of primary schools through new buildings, additions, superstructures and renovations of existing buildings. By the end of 2026, double-shift operation should be eliminated in at least 49 elementary schools in this way. The amount of funds designated for the call is EUR 34,610,868.
A call for "Debarrierisation of larger secondary schools" (Výzva na debarierizáciu väčších stredných škôl)
The purpose of the challenge is to simplify access to education at secondary schools for students with disabilities.
The amount of funds designated for the call is EUR 32,607,212.
Call for proposal "Nursery, primary and secondary school health worker" (Výzva „Zdravotnícky pracovník v materskej, v základnej a v strednej škole“)
The aim of the call is to support kindergartens, primary and secondary schools through the employment of a health worker as a non-pedagogical employee for the
- provision of health and nursing care,
- implementation of screening with the aim of early identification of health problems in children and pupils,
- preventive and advisory activities in the area of healthy lifestyle support and disease prevention and other activities.
This is a pilot verification of this position in schools. The funds will be provided for the personal expenses of the healthcare worker in the period from 1 September 2022 to 31 August 2024.
The first round of the call for proposal for the creation of Regional Teacher Support Centres (Prvé kolo výzvy na vytvorenie Regionálnych centier podpory učiteľov)
The goal of the challenge is to create Regional Teacher Support Centres, where teachers and school principals can find help and support in implementing changes within the framework of the Education for the 21st Century reform. Teachers will have the opportunity to find their mentors. Their task will be to provide colleagues - teachers with individual advice and help with the transition to a new curriculum and a new teaching system.
The amount of total funds allocated for the call is EUR 10,099,800.
Call for proposal "Smarter Together 3" and "More Successful Together 2" (Výzva „Spolu múdrejší 3“ a "Spolu úspešnejší 2")
The goal of the call is support for those primary and secondary schools that, through high-quality and affordable tutoring for their pupils, will create conditions for improving their knowledge and skills in lessons outside of class to a specified extent.
The amount of total financial resources intended for the published call is €6,475,600.
Call for proposal "Compensation of the fee in the children's school club for pupils from a socially disadvantaged environment and in material need 2"( Výzva „Kompenzácia poplatku v školskom klube detí za žiakov zo sociálne znevýhodneného prostredia a v hmotnej núdzi 2“)
The aim of the challenge is to support the participation of socially disadvantaged pupils in the activities of the school children's club. By compensating the fee for children's school club, the main obstacle to the participation of pupils from a socially disadvantaged environment, or from families in material need to the activity of children's school club, will be removed.
The amount of total funds allocated for the call is EUR 2,335,425.
Amendment of the Education Act
In 2021, an amendment to the Education Act was adopted, which brings several changes:
- Definition of the term "inclusive education",
- Legislative anchoring of distance education,
- Changes in student assessment,
- Transformation of the system of counseling facilities,
- Simplification of the requirements of state and school educational programmes,
- Introduction of a "state upbringing/educational programme",
- Simplification of the admission process for secondary schools.
Amendment of the Act on State Administration in Education and School Self-Government
One of the most significant changes to the Act on State Administration in Education and School Self-Government is the establishment of regional school administration offices, which arose from the education departments of district offices in the region's headquarters, thus creating a specialized state education administration and simplifying and clarifying the flow of funds to regional education.
Amendment of the Act on State Administration in Education and School Self-Government
The Act on Pedagogical and Professional Employees also underwent a change in 2021. In addition to technical simplifications to help schools and staff better and more effectively manage their professional development, it has brought about more fundamental changes:
- Creation of a new category of teaching staff, namely the school digital coordinator,
- Extension of competencies of the school special pedagogue and school coordinator in education,
- Change in the provision of the introduction of a beginning pedagogical employee or a beginning professional employee,
- Establishment of new career positions the school digital coordinator and the school support team coordinator and the conditions for the establishment, composition and activity of the school support team,
- Extension of the range of attestation organizations,
- Specification of the award of personal allowance for work performed beyond work duties and for overtime work,
- Provision of the possibility to be educated in a language other than Slovak (CPD).
Impact of COVID-19 pandemics on education
In order to maintain a safe environment in schools and school facilities, the Ministry of Education has compiled a manual "SCHOOL SEMAFOR", which sets out the basic operating conditions of schools and school facilities, including the specifics of compliance with anti-epidemic measures and recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic. In connection with the pandemic situation, it has prepared a number of recommendations and guidelines for schools and school facilities. In this context, several pieces of legislation have been amended. The intention was to create conditions for distance education of students, within which several methodological and didactic manuals for pedagogical staff and students were created.
Supporting school education through calls
To support education with the improvement of material and technical conditions, the Ministry of Education announced several calls, on the basis of which schools or founders could draw funds within the framework of development projects or grants.