Alternative schools differ from traditional school in its content, methods, forms, position of pupil and teacher, organisation of classes, school management, school founder, parents’ position in relation to school. Of course, in education of children the State cannot leave to them absolute freedom, the above These schools in Slovakia are also obliged to adhere to the State educational programme.
All alternative schools in this country are private. They have various variants, the best known are: Waldorf school (Steiner’s Pedagogy), M. Montessori (M. Montessori’s Pedagogy), Alternative school of C. Freinet, Jena-plan school, Dalton school.
In Slovakia, the Education Act (SK) has opened the chance of individual education of children at home, namely, up to Grade 9 of primary school, upon a parent’s request, and if the latter secures a person fulfilling qualification requirements of higher education of the second level qualified for teachers of the lower stage of primary school.
According to the Education Act, the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sports of the Slovak Republic is in charge of experimental verification at schools and educational facilities the aim of which is to achieve or verify in practice the knowledge, incentives, for changes and amendment of educational documents, for development of alternative educational programmes or teaching programmes, verification of foreign models.
In some schools there were verified alternative programmes and there were established the first alternative schools, e.g. integrated thematic teaching, Waldorf schools, open schools, Rogerian schools, schools for the gifted children, etc.
Integrated thematic teaching
The experimental verification of the integrated thematic teaching started in the school year 1992/93. There are several schools where the teachers are trying to put some elements of this system into practice. Within the verification of the project at primary schools emphasis is put on the following:
- integration of subject matter into round-the-year themes and key points (based on elementary teaching in Grades 1 and 2 and on science and home history in Grades 3 and 4),
- use of a new teaching strategy, such as rules of class management (teacher - pupil relationships, peers relationships), organisation of shift teaching in three blocs (two blocks are carried out in the morning, one in the afternoon), with one teaching bloc lasting 90 minutes,
- celebration of pupils’ outcomes with their parents (organised quarterly) where the pupils demonstrate the knowledge they had received during the past period.
Waldorf School in Bratislava (SK) is currently the only school of this type in Slovakia. The school was founded in July 2001. The schools adapt to different degrees of elements of Waldorf pedagogy and adapt them to their conditions. They are mainly:
- time division and alteration of teaching units in the form of epochs,
- less usual forms and methods of work, such as celebrations and ceremonies,
- higher concentration of attention and time on artistic activities stressing the role of experience and creativity,
- enrichment of the structure of subjects by playing a musical instrument, mostly a fipple flute,
- reduced use of textbooks, and introduction of supplementary reading, e.g. encyclopaedias,
- oral form of pupil evaluation,
- establishing a closer contact and co-operation between the school and pupils’ families.
The influence of the pedagogic system of Maria Montessori in Slovakia is considerably lower than the influence of Waldorf pedagogy. Since the school year 1993/94, an alternative teaching project has been experimentally verified. The project focuses mainly on the following:
- application of traditional Montessori educational materials and other aids which help develop different abilities of children,
- several teachers working in one class,
- organisation and time structure of individual activities of children which in the course of the day stem from the scheme used in Montessori schools.
Schools for exceptionally gifted children
In the school a class for development of pupils‘ gifts may be created with the founder’s consent. The establishment of class with extended teaching of some subjects is conditional on professionally skilled personnel, technical and material provision of educational process. The enrolment of pupil in the class with extended teaching of some subjects or groups of subjects, requiring verification of special knowledge, skills and talents is done by headteachers on the basis of the pedagogical-psychological counselling centre’s statement.
The pupil is integrated in the class on the basis of informed consent of the pupil‘s guardian. The classes with extended teaching may be divided into two groups if the number of pupils exceeds 23 pupils.
Since 1993 there is also a project of alternative care for gifted children launched in Slovakia. Public schools must follow national curricula, although extended ones, using special textbooks, as well. The basic feature of these schools is, e.g., lower number of pupils in classrooms (in Grades 1-4 maximum number is 15 pupils, in Grades 5-9 22 pupils). Classes are divided into groups in some subject teaching. During classes there are two teachers present, the intensity and efficiency of classes are also increased by help of lectors (mathematics, informatics, foreign language); teaching English and informatics starts as early as Grade 1, development of individual or group projects, seminar projects, new methods of evaluation and self-evaluation, support and stimulation of children for using higher forms of thinking and creativity, specific atmosphere of teaching marked by empathy and tolerance.
The teachers who teach in such schools are selected through competition procedures. They have to take psychological tests, personality tests, tests for creativity. They must be friendly and without dominant features so that the children could fully demonstrate their skills.
The gifted children identified according to guides on integration of children into special educational programmes approved by the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sports of the Slovak Republic with operation since 2005, may be integrated into common classrooms of primary schools, eventually, to establish for them special classrooms. At individual integration it is necessary to work out individual educational plan – programme for intellectually gifted pupil. At education of such pupils, in addition to cognitive processes, the attention is also aimed at development of the entire personality of the pupil, particularly his emotionality and social relations. At integrated education it is necessary to provide for cooperation with the school psychologist or psychologist of pedagogical-psychological counseling centre.
National Council of the Slovak Republic, 2008. Act No. 245/2008 on education and training (Education Act) and on the change and supplement to some acts as amended by subsequent provisions (Zákon č. 245/2008 Z.z. o výchove a vzdelávaní (školský zákon) a o zmene a doplnení niektorých zákonov v znení neskorších predpisov) (last accessed 21/12/2022).