EDUCATION: WISE AND INNOVATIVE SLOVAKIA

The world is on the verge of four dramatic transformations: technological, climatic, social and geopolitical.

The digital revolution permeates every social area and the life of every human being. This no longer includes a limited area of ​​information technology. It becomes a part of all the areas. It transforms transport, services, industry, security, health, education and science. So far, every industrial and technological revolution has also triggered a revolution in education. Now it will also be the case.

Climate change is turning into a climate crisis before our very eyes. Although Central Europe will not be the most affected region, we will not avoid the effects of extreme weather, floods and droughts. However, the indirect impact through migration pressure, commodity prices, world trade and geopolitical instability will be more significant.

Technological and climate change are connected with the transformation of society. The traditional understanding of work is becoming a thing of the past. Estimates of jobs that have a good chance of being automated are 10 to 40 percent in the world, and 30 to 40 percent in Slovakia. Social changes include aging populations as well as significant shifts in the values ​​we trust. Young people’s confidence in liberal democracy is declining, and the proportion of people who do not consider their country fair is growing. All in all, this creates a sense of dissatisfaction, distrust among people and opens the door to extremism and populism.

The geopolitical transformation associated with the emergence of non-traditional geopolitical players will also contribute to increasing the level of uncertainty. Science and innovations are changing from an EU-US bipolar world to at least a tripolar EU-China-US world. In the field of education, there will be an increased pressure on the need for multicultural communication and cooperation, critical thinking and resilience to disinformation.

In order to be able to formulate an ambitious vision in this context, we must openly acknowledge the situation in the areas of education, science and innovation in Slovakia. Education has collapsed in performance since 2008, while weakly encouraging social mobility. Teachers are marginalized as to the interest of the society and their remuneration has only increased in recent years. Science performance is on the tail of the EU, universities have lost their attractiveness, and their cooperation with industry is minimal. We are below the average within Europe as to innovations.

However, we have a strong foundation to reach the breaking point. This foundation is formed by strong motivation and commitment of a large number of our teachers, educators, active parents, youth and sports organizers, scientists, technicians, non-profit sector workers and many others. Despite unfavorable external circumstances, their internal strength forms the foundation on which we can build a better system for a functioning society.

Education systems traditionally respond to the problems of yesterday. Estimating the future from past and present trends and observations will no longer help us. At the times of rapid and complex changes it has no informative value. Education, science and innovation must prepare people and society for rapid and complex changes in the near future. Only an active society which is able to respond flexibly to unforeseen circumstances can flourish.

 We want Slovakia to be such a society. We wish wise, tolerant, creative and innovative Slovakia. By investing in citizens, their education and spiritual development throughout their lives, we will strengthen identity, prosperity, democracy, health and ensure equal opportunities for all. We will turn the crisis of the system we are facing into an opportunity. We will put education, creativity and innovation at the center of our attention and move Slovakia to the top of Europe. We will compete with the world with knowledge, not with low wages.

  1. TEACHERS AND TEACHERS: GRAVITYCENTRE OF EDUCATION

The work of teachers and other pedagogical and professional staff is one of the most demanding human activities. It is the key to the success of the education system. Teachers must have sufficient financial remuneration and an appropriate position within the society. They must be well prepared for work at universities and supported by a high quality system of lifelong learning and methodological support.                    

Greater support for teachers, school staff (financial, methodological and personal) will make education jobs more competitive with other sectors and schools will be able to attract and maintain high quality people. The teaching profession will strengthen its position in society.

1.1. Higher salaries for teachers
  • We will ensure that the salaries of teachers increase faster than the average wage so that they will gradually approach the average of professions with university education. By increasing salaries on average by 10% each year, in 2024 the average salary of a teacher exceeds 80% of the average wage of university educated people. The salaries of university teachers, research and development workers will increase at the same pace.

  • Emphasis will be placed on remuneration through a variable component, financial stimulation of professional training in key areas that we need to strengthen (life, social and digital skills) and involvement in innovative projects.

  • We will look for ways how to take into account regional differences and environmental demands.

1.2. Better education of teachers
  • In order to improve the professional training of teachers, we will create the Slovak Teaching Academy – an association of faculties providing education for teachers, which will determine the evaluation criteria of education based on international experience and standards with respect to academic freedom.

  • The Academy will work with players in the education system to change the content of teacher training. Among other things, it should guarantee significantly longer teaching experience in schools, the ability to stimulate digital and social skills, motivate pupils and students, organize creative workshops and projects, and promote cooperation.

  • Membership of faculties and implementation of adopted recommendations will be linked to the state financial contribution for higher education institutions.

1.3. Support for teachers
  • We will create a system of methodological and pedagogical support for teachers. Local and regional subject and specialized platforms will enable them to communicate, share experiences and move forward in their expertise. The platforms will be linked to the reformed methodological and pedagogical centers, and will work closely with relevant department organizations and universities.

  • Each teacher will, in agreement with his/her supervisor, develop a personal professional development plan, ideally based on an analysis of strengths and weaknesses.

  • We will provide pilot testing for long-time teachers the possiWe will strengthen inclusive principles in both formal and non-formal education. It is the most effective tool for developing the potential of all children, as well as a tool for preventing segregation. We will take full account of the specificities of social exclusion and health disadvantages in education. We will provide special training for teachers to work with children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.

1.4. Innovations for teachers
  • We will create a grant scheme to support innovation in teacher training. Its aim will be to support the creation of top pedagogical faculties.

  • We will introduce a grant scheme for innovative education projects in regional education, and support experimental verification of new procedures and its subsequent implementation.

  • In cooperation with schools, trade unions, media, non-profit sector, we will seek innovative forms of improving the social status of teachers and their education. For example, systematic public awards for best teachers, special media products about successful life stories, adding non-monetary benefits (teacher card).

  1.   EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITIES IN EDUCATION OF CHILDREN

Fairness and equal opportunities are important values ​​of liberal democracy and social society. No one should be excluded. Unfortunately, we are failing significantly in this area. The property situation of the family and the education of parents in Slovakia strongly predetermines the level of knowledge and achieved education of children. Slovakia’s results in this area are at the very tail of both the OECD and the EU.

We believe that every child matters. Whether born in Bratislava or Snina, in a small village or in a town, s/he deserves excellent teachers. Every child deserves the best school regardless of mental and physical health, financial conditions of the family, social background, nationality, mother tongue. It is the duty of our society to be able to offer such a network of schools in such a way as to ensure the availability of free education guaranteed by the Constitution of the Slovak Republic.

 2.1. Guaranteed preschool place 
  • The foundations for skills development are most intensive developed in the early years of life, before school. At the age of six, some pupils already have a very difficult starting line. It is alarming that we are still struggling with insufficient preschool capacities. We will gradually introduce the right to a place in preschool for children from three years of age.

  • We will also strengthen capacities and vacancies through more flexible conditions for entering the preschool network, by modifying the conditions for the functioning of children’s groups and company preschools.

2.2. Against generational poverty
  • We will strengthen inclusive principles in both formal and non-formal education. It is the most effective tool for developing the potential of all children, as well as a tool for preventing segregation. We will take full account of the specificities of social exclusion and health disadvantages in education. We will provide special training for teachers to work with children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.

  • We will support inclusive education tools – a sufficient number of assistants, psychologists and special educators.

  • We will review the system of testing children for inclusion in special schools so that reflects cultural and linguistic diversity and social disadvantages.

  • We will increase the availability of early intervention services for children with disabilities and for children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.

2.3. Help with Slovak language
  • We will modify the pedagogical methodology for teaching the Slovak language (the language of national minorities) as a second language in locations with children with insufficient knowledge of the language of instruction.

  • We will motivate faculties of education and methodological centers to prepare teachers to integrate children with a mother tongue other than the language of instruction at the particular school.

2.4. Help „after school“
  • We will improve the school clubs and the “school after school” system to create conditions for teaching in a stimulating environment for all children. We will look for ways to increase the attendance of school clubs by socially disadvantaged children.
  • Through cultural, sporting and youth activities we will stimulate the inclusion and motivation of children from extreme poverty for formal education.

  • We will create conditions for extensive involvement of parents in the education system in schools with a significant proportion of children from marginalized groups,.

 

  1.  HIGH-QUALITY AND CREATIVE CONTENT OF LEARNING AND EDUCATION

The things which are taught at schools, how these things are taught and what atmosphere prevails predetermine the success of children during their studies, but also of adults in real life. The content, up-to-date methods, inclusive environment and positive atmosphere are essential components of the whole which represents high-quality school.

3.1. We will change the content of education
  • We will launch a curricular reform based on innovation, development of students’ life, social and digital skills, such as openness, flexibility, teamwork, communication skills, curiosity, resilience, adaptability, planning and organizing skills.

  • Pilot testing on a sample of schools from the fifth school year will start in September 2021. We are working on the „look before you jump“ principle. By means of testing and evaluating we will ensure well-prepared area-based implementation of the curricular reform.

3.2. Freedom for textbooks and students
  • We will promote freedom in the choice of textbooks. All educational materials will be available electronically free of charge. The teacher will be able to adapt the educational materials and make changes quickly if necessary.

  • We will financially support local printing of materials, and implement a fast and flexible on-demand printing system from a portfolio of electronic textbooks and study materials.

  • We will limit the carrying of a number of textbooks by pupils and students home from schol and vice versa. We will create an electronic school bag (e-bag): a portal through which textbooks and textbooks will be available in electronic form for each pupil and each student.

3.3. Less stress
  • We will look for ways to move away from the assessment based on theoretical knowledge towards assessing the ability to analyze and understand the topics and diversification of the assessment method to take into account the diversity of students’ personal profiles.

  • We will gradually eliminate stressful environment at school focusd on finding mistakes and punishing for mistakes.

3.4. More science, culture and sport
  • We will support the involvement of children in the Scientific Olympics, in which we have a tradition and significant success. We will conceptually and financially support active cultural and sports activities at schools.

  • We will support innovative forms of non-formal education through the completion and financial support of FabLab and Makerspace creative workshops.

  • We will support the opening of universities and scientific workplaces to primary and secondary schools on the financial and structural basis (as part of their assessment)  .

3.5. Active citizenship
  • We consider the values ​​and principles of a free democratic society to be important at all levels of formal education. We will enhance the activities of pupils strengthening their active citizenship.

  • We will support socially beneficial volunteering as a part of the educational process (cooperation with orphanages, retirement homes, care for the abandoned and disabled, nature protection). Volunteering is a way to strengthen empathy and emotional intelligence, which is negatively influenced by the increasing interaction of people with digital technologies.

3.6. Better vocational schools
  • We will support high quality dual education and training at secondary school level. We will take measures to increase the interest of both pupils and parents in dual education. We will incorporate the elements of dual education into traditional high schools and universities. Its focus will be expanded thematically in order to copy the opportunities of graduates to find jobs on the labour market.

  • We will expand and improve partnerships between schools and companies. We will support the establishment of training centers in companies.

  • We will support career counselors at elementary schools by increasing the counseling hours and supplementary training of counselors, we will improve their opportunities for communication with pupils and with parents.

3.7. Digital skills
  • We will immediately introduce the system Self-reflection on Effective Learning by Fostering the use of Innovative Educational Technologies (SELFIE), which is available free of charge at the European Commission, into the school system, and at the same time we will introduce (pilot test on September 1, 2020, full operation on September 1, 2021) a Digital Skills Competence Framework (DigComp) which is also available for free.

 

  1.  EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT OF SCHOOL SYSTEM AND SCIENCE

Without quality management, no system or education can work effectively. Our aim will be to change the management of the department so that its components facilitate good functioning and do not create unnecessary obstacles. Streamlining regional school system management will simplify all the other processes and allow better use of financial and human resources with the school system.

       4.1. We will improve school management
  • We will make the position of a headteacher more financially attractive so that we get the best into school management. The remuneration of headteachers will be linked to the achievement of set goals so that they are motivated for the best performance.

  • We will improve the management of human resources at schools by developing the competences of headteachers to assess the quality of teachers’ work and by introducing transparency and objectivity into the assessment process.

  • We will support the enhancement of managerial skills and leadership of headteachers through the improvement of specialized training and individual professional development program.

4.2. We will return the regional school system to the education sector
  • Our goal will be to move towards a more efficient management model through specialized state management at the middle level of regional education management. Given the comprehensive agenda in the field of education, it is more efficient that the activities in the area of ​​methodological management and financial flows are provided by regional education authorities, which will fall directly under the competence of the Ministry of Education.

4.3. A more efficient network of schools
  • We will take measures to increase efficiency and optimise the formal education system. We will maintain a wide network of primary schools, including small rural schools with few classes, so that as many children as possible can attend school near their home during the critical period for learning.

  • We plan to rationalize the network of primary and secondary schools along with the provision of transport. Rationalization will not restrict pupils in choosing classes with the teaching language of national minorities.

4.4. Control and help
  • We will supplement the school inspection with a consulting and advisory service. The aim will not only be to identify deficiencies, but also to propose a plan of measures in cooperation with other methodically focused workplaces of the department.

  • We will support the plan of measures with targeted financial support for the particular school.

4.5. Pupil and student parliaments
  • We will introduce the Pupil/Student Parliament status (as of September 1, 2020). For Parliament, pupils would hold proper elections with an election campaign. We will introduce the structure of student self-government, starting at schools and ending at national level.

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