The Kindergartens Act (1996) specifies the objectives and goals of early childhood education and care (ECEC).
The Council of Experts of the Republic of Slovenia for General Education approved, on 18 March 1999, the national Kindergarten curriculum as proposed by the National Curricular Commission for Preschool Education. Quality preschool education is the basic principle of the education programme in Slovenia. Public and private kindergartens with concessions carry out their activities in accordance with the Kindergarten curriculum. The document includes principles and guidelines for education, taking into consideration the rights and diversity of children. It outlines the implementation of day programmes, but it can also be used as the basis for the implementation of half-day programmes and the short programme, as well as for activities in an education and care family. Kindergartens have to set out their activities in accordance with the national curriculum in annual work plans. They can make allowances for specific local characteristics. Childminders do not have to follow the Kindergarten curriculum. Private kindergartens can apply the national curriculum or provide other programmes, in which they have to obtain a positive opinion on the programme from the relevant council of experts.
The Council of experts of the Republic of Slovenia for general education approved on 13 May 1999 the Programme guidelines for the kindergarten counselling service. Public kindergartens have to have a counselling service as part of their operations. The guidelines include basic principles and outline a framework for professional counselling in kindergartens. The basic aim of the counselling service is to provide for the optimal development of every child. Counsellors have to address complex social, psychological and pedagogical issues in kindergartens. Counsellors cooperate with all parties involved – children, education staff, leadership, parents, and other institutions.
Areas of learning and development
The basic goal of preschool education is to give children what they need for their optimal development without reference to their gender, social and cultural background, religious beliefs, ethnic affiliation, and physical and mental health. Children are active participants in the process, in which they explore, experiment and pursue simple activities, and in doing so gain knowledge and develop skills.
The aims of preschool education, as specified by the Kindergartens Act, are to:
- develop skills in understanding and accepting oneself and others;
- develop skills in negotiating and discussing, respecting diversity and team working or cooperating;
- develop skills in empathising, as well as encourage emotional experiences and expression;
- develop a sense of curiosity, foster the research spirit, stimulate imagination and intuition, and develop critical thinking;
- develop language skills for the efficient and creative use of speech, and later reading and writing;
- learn to appreciate art and artistic expression;
- learn about various fields of science and everyday life;
- support physical development and teach locomotor skills;
- learn to settle into independent hygiene and health routine.
With regard to content, preschool education relates to the modern sociocultural theory of development and learning.
The curriculum is an open, flexible national document; it does not have a detailed structure. It states the principles, goals and objectives, child's developmental characteristics, activity areas, and examples of content and activities. Certain multi-domain activities – moral development, health care, safety, traffic education, etc. – have a bearing on all areas and on life in a kindergarten.
The curriculum's introduction highlights its basic principles, which are:
- democracy and pluralism,
- open curriculum, autonomy and professional responsibility,
- equal opportunities and diversity among children, and multiculturalism,
- options and variety,
- respecting privacy and intimacy,
- balancing of activities,
- professional context,
- conditions and requirements for the new curriculum,
- horizontal interaction,
- vertical interaction,
- cooperation with parents,
- cooperation with the local community,
- team planning and implementation of ECEC, as well as continuous professional development,
- critical thinking and evaluation,
- development-process approach,
- active learning and opportunity.
These principles apply to all education and counselling staff.
The curriculum also sets out the basic professional context of kindergartens, including:
- the rules of a child’s development and learning process,
- democracy in everyday (routine) activities (meals, rest, etc.),
- positive interaction and respectful communication among children and adults in a kindergarten
- rooms and facilities are elements of the curriculum,
- cooperation with parents.
In the second part of the curriculum, there is a description of the activity areas. These apply to all children aged 1-6 years, that is for the first age group (1-3 years) and the second age group (3-6 years or until entry to school): locomotor skills, language, arts, society, science and mathematics.
The curriculum does not specify the time span (hours) to be spent on each activity area. There should be balance.
The staff have autonomy in choosing the content and methods for achieving the goals. Alongside the annual work plan, kindergarten staff outline operational goals and educational plan in which they determine the activities in more detail and for each class.
The goals and objectives of each activity area are detailed below.
- fostering movement and other physical activities for children,
- promoting awareness of one's own body and joy in physical activities,
- allowing children to acquire movement skills,
- nurturing the development of movement skills,
- increasing trust in one's own body and movement skills,
- adopting basic movement concepts,
- learning about and adopting basic elements of various sport disciplines,
- learning about the meaning of cooperation, as well as respect and consideration of being different.
- learning language by playing games,
- learning to appreciate one's own and other languages and one's own and other cultures,
- listening, understanding, and experiencing language,
- reading, listening and learning basic literary works for children,
- developing language from a moral/ethical perspective,
- fostering creativity,
- developing non-verbal communication skills,
- developing linguistic skills (articulation, vocabulary, texts, communication, etc.),
- becoming skilled in using symbols of the written language,
- appreciating the Slovenian language as the national official language.
- experiencing, learning and appreciating art,
- developing aesthetic perception and artistic conceivability,
- learning about individual art genres,
- devising means of expression and communication through art,
- promoting creativity and specific art skills.
- experiencing kindergarten as an environment of equal opportunities to participate in activities and everyday life regardless of the gender, physical and mental health, national origin, cultural background, religion, etc.,
- learning about oneself and other people,
- shaping basic living habits and learning about the differences between living habits of our own and of other cultures and between different social groups,
- learning about the closer and wider social and cultural environment and learning about multicultural and other differences, encouraging sensitivity to the ethical dimension of diversity,
- building a foundation to understand historical changes, and learning that people and the environment, society and culture change with time,
- promoting awareness about new cultures and traditions,
- learning about safe and healthy lifestyle.
- learning about live and not-live nature and its diversity, connectivity, constant changing and aesthetics,
- developing a friendly, respectful and responsible attitude towards live and not-live nature,
- learning about one's body and the cycle of life and about a healthy and safe lifestyle,
- learning about substances, space, time, sound and light,
- learning about technical objects and developing skills in the field of technique and technology,
- promoting various approaches to learning about nature.
- learning about mathematics in everyday life,
- developing mathematical expressions,
- developing mathematical thinking,
- developing mathematical skills,
- appreciating mathematics as a pleasant experience.
Alongside common goals, the curriculum provides concrete goals and examples for every activity area. Goals are the same for both age groups. The recommended activities can apply to both age groups or be specific to the first or second age group. During implementation, it is important to link the contents and activities, improving and amending them as circumstances demand.
In the curriculum, every activity area includes a description of the role an adult plays. Special attention is given to social learning and speech development for the entire time spent in kindergarten during planned as well as routine and transitional activities and playing. Kindergartens set up permanent and temporary "room corners" for children to enjoy their privacy and individuality on one side and interact with peers on the other.
The curriculum sets out activities that enrich the programme. Kindergartens implement them periodically, for longer or shorter periods (depending on the activity, interest of children and wishes of parents). Certain activities are organised by kindergarten staff alone, whereas others are organised together with outside institutions. Activities include, for example, visits to shows, libraries, museums, and interest activities (choirs, music, dance, fine arts, sports, etc.), projects, and visits to farms and ski courses. Activities to enrich the programme may be free for parents or parents may cover a portion or, sometimes, all of the expenses.
If parents so wish, kindergartens can provide supplementary activities, for example teaching of foreign languages and dance classes. These activities take place after the regular programme for all children has ended. Parents pay in full for this kind of activity.
The kindergartens define activities to enrich the process or supplementary activities in the scope of their annual work plan.
The curriculum highlights the significance of the 'hidden curriculum'. The hidden curriculum contains several elements of education that influence a child that are not covered elsewhere. Often taking the form of indirect education, they are more effective than the direct educational activities of the curriculum.
The kindergarten education staff plan and implement educational activities during meals and rest, for example health education (balanced meals, good dietary habits, personal hygiene and tidiness) and education in preserving a clean and healthy environment.
The kindergarten counselling staff have the autonomy and professional responsibility to choose among different methods and approaches regarding preschool children, according to the underlying principles and professional context. They organise life and work in a kindergarten flexibly, and choose freely among various contents and activities. These are set out in the annual work plan and in more detail in the operative educational plans that the preschool teacher and preschool teacher assistant develop for their class.
The Kindergarten curriculum includes only general instruction on how to conduct activities in different areas (gives examples). The document does not prescribe the structure, time span and organisation of and in the rooms. The emphasis is on making allowances for the characteristics of a child’s development and learning during the activity in the class. The education staff plan the routine activities (eating, rest, etc.) by respecting the differences among children (gender, social and cultural background, beliefs, special needs). They consider and respect a child’s particularities and their right of choice.
The focus is on social learning (relationships among children, as well as between children and adults), good communication, and flexible, safe and inspiring environment. Instructions on how to arrange and use the rooms, as well as on the cooperation with parents, are provided in the curriculum.
Adults and children influence the dynamics and the flow of individual activities and (small) group activities. Project learning is combined with the experiences of children.
For children, (free) play is also very important. This activity achieves the basic aims of preschool education in the most natural way. Playing is one of the ways in which a child develops and learns in ECEC.
There are no rules regulating guidebooks, didactical material and learning-educational aids for activities in kindergartens. Kindergartens purchase didactical and learning material, books and other aids of their own choosing. Education staff have various guidebooks on hand for all activity areas, in which the individual phases of educational activities are broken down in more methodical and didactical detail: planning, education, assessment, and evaluation.
In a class, children have various toys, books and other materials (paper, crayons, etc.) available at all times. There are no rules regulating learning aids. However, the toys’ safety decree set out by the minister responsible for health specifies rules regarding the safety of toys.
The Kindergarten curriculum promotes the development-process approach. This means that education staff plan, implement and evaluate the quality of the learning process. It considers the characteristics and developmental progress of the individual child, because the process of learning is more important than individual outcomes.
The Kindergarten curriculum does not specify the knowledge and skills that children should have mastered at a specific level of development. The education staff do not assess a child’s achievements. According to the curriculum’s principles of critical assessment and the development and process-based approach, as well as active learning, preschool teachers observe the development and learning of an individual child. Based on the information from the observation, they plan and realise objectives and implement activities, educational process and individualisation. The observation is thus the most common method of monitoring development and learning. The education staff talk to, motivate, explain, clarify and help the children. They provide oral information to parents about the progress and/or potential problems of their children. Kindergartens use various methods to record the observation (protocols, portfolios, etc.). Kindergartens keep personal records only for children with special needs and for children in need of counselling and support.
A child’s preparedness for school can be determined if so required by parents. It is compulsory to determine the preparedness of children for whom parents or the health service recommend deferring of schooling.
Transition to primary school
The education system promotes cooperation between kindergartens and basic schools (single system of primary and lower secondary education). The cooperation is referenced in various legislative and/or systemic, steering and curricular documents in education.
The national Kindergarten curriculum highlights the importance of cooperation and interaction. The principle of vertical interaction and continuity emphasises the significance of maintaining the relationship between kindergartens and basic schools. The kindergartens cannot allow the schooling approach to overshadow the curriculum. They have to maintain their fundamental role and continue team planning and implementation of preschool education. They also have to support continuous professional development with a focus on the cooperation of kindergartens with other educational and professional or otehr institutions.
A child's transition from a kindergarten to a basic school is in the domain of the counselling services in a kindergarten and a basic school (see the Programme guidelines for a counselling servica in a kindergarten). Public kindergartens have to provide a counselling service. The counsellors, who all have a pedagogical qualification, participate in planning, setting up and maintaining proper safe and supportive learning environment in which the children can progress best. They support and help all involved in the educational process during transition: children, students, parents, teachers and leaders.
The Kindergarten curriculum and school subject curricula are, to some extent, harmonised. They are products of the same curricular reform (1996–1999). One of the principles of the reform was that of harmonisation of education programmes and subject curricula, and their vertical and horizontal alignment. The preschool curriculum activity areas are harmonised with the basic education programmes, particularly for the first three grades.
Kindergartens and schools determine the forms of cooperation in their annual work plans. There are several means of cooperation.
At the kindergarten's level:
- continuous communication between preschool teachers and pupils at school,
- organisation of meetings and presentations for parents (in a kindergarten),
- visits to a basic school (in various forms, as one-off or multiple events).
At the school's level:
- visits (kindergarten children visit grade 1 pupils, various activities are carried out, and pupils visit the children in a kindergarten)
- a meeting with parents and children before they start school (future basic school students and their parents are invited to the school to meet their future teachers and the head teacher, and to familiarise themselves with the school community)
- cooperation at various school cultural and sporting events, which the kindergarten children also attend.
By law, children start school in the calendar year in which they turn 6 years old. (Basic School Act)
The entry to school is an important milestone in the transition (this includes deferred or early entry to school, and establishing preparedness for school).
On the recommendation of parents or a physician, it is possible to defer a child's entry to school by 1 year. The preparedness for school in this decision. It is examined and determined by the relevant commission. The commission is appointed by the head teacher. It includes a physician, a school counsellor and a teacher. It issues a recommendation; the head teacher then makes the final decision on deferring entry to school.
A child can enrol in school 1 year early. The law does not specify the procedure for early entry. Schools enrol children on the recommendation of parents.