The new education minister Dusan Caplovic has some pretty strong, if not outdated, moves up his sleeves to shake up the school system, but his attention may be wrongly directed as he starts to close the doors on private schools, for instance.
One of the measures he plans is for local regional governors to decide on how many first year classes each specific school is allowed to open. This could then be used in favour of state-run schools over non-state schools, i.e. church schools, private schools and specialised schools, especially as it will be the local government that decides.
A petition against the measure, signed by the required 1,500 signatories, has now been sent to Prime Minister Robert Fico with the request to cancel the planned revision. Just now the state has no major say in the affairs of non-state schools, but now we might be witnessing a return of education backwards.
The initiative has raised a lot of concern among private and specialised schools, like the school for gifted children Cenada in Dlhe Diely in Bratislava, which was also behind a petition sent to the Prime Minister this week
Director of Cenada, Martina Mátychová, explained to TheDaily today that it is worrying that after 20 years of having dealt with all sorts, we have progressed to a situation where parents have the option to decide which school to put their child in. There are quality differences and different approaches between them, she said, adding that now they would be under a kind of dictatorship.
The argument behind the plan is to stop young people being educated for the wrong subjects, at least that is the excuse. Officially it is to keep the number of classes “in line with the regional strategy of expert education and prognoses on labour market development”.
Minister Caplovic claims that regions have been saying for some time how private schools are teaching subjects that educate people only for the unemployment lines. Caplovic believes the plan will reduce the number of unemployed school leavers and increase the efficiency of funds spent on schooling, but many would disagree.
As soon as Caplovic took up his ministerial post, he announced that no new schools would be accredited, leaving some schools with pending applications in limbo land.
MP Martin Poliacik from the Freedom and Solidarity party (SaS) says minister Caplovic has surrounded himself with people and steps that will deliver the strongest blow to the modernisation of the Slovak school system. He says the move will take us back to the kind of normalisation methods used in the 1970s under communist rule. “Once again the whole school curriculum will be made uniform for the whole of Slovakia – anything that is inventive, new or modern will simply be suppressed” said Poliacik.
Agree with Alec up to a point. In foreign language terms, Slovakia does passably well and certainly better than Brits and Americans. But you only really need to be able to say ‘hello, what’s your name?’ to be a better foreign language speaker than your average Brit/American. As a small country whose language isn’t widely spoken, Slovakia HAS to do well in this area and my observations would still be that, in certain sectors (eg the service industries), foreign language skills are not developed enough.
Mathematics? Possibly, but I think that’s an example of where the SK education system still emphasises breadth of knowledge (an overview if you like) over depth. I’m no mathematician so I could refer to this better using history as an example. Students here learn, in theory, the entire history of the world during their school career. But because that’s just so much content, there’s little time to develop analytical, debating or source-reading skills.
An interesting question is ‘what direction should we take?” Nowadays, East Asian and Finnish education systems seem to be held up as the shining examples, but they emphasise totally different things, with East Asian countries prioritising hard work, rote-learning and mega self-discipline, while Finland takes a holistic, individual, skills-based approach. What do they do have in common, though, is respect for teaching as a profession. In Finland, especially, huge efforts are put into to trying to get the country’s ‘best’ graduates to go into teaching. Once there, they’re properly-trained, decently -rewarded and not threatened at every turn by a politicised school inspection system. In Slovakia, they pay starting teachers 450 Euros a month, then give out lists of kids who can’t get less than, say, mark 3 because Daddy’s company put the perimeter fence up.
That last point is why I’m not convinced private schools are the answer to everything. It has to be clear what money can and can’t buy.
I could rant away on this topic for ages but guess no’one really wants that.
Basically, Sk education is in need of changes but not knee-jerk changes, because it is doing some things well. As I said above, pre-school and years 1-4 teaching is actually pretty strong.
Judging by the language skills of some of the more vociferous contributors to this topic their education was nothing to write home about either.
Certainly in the field of mathematics and languages Slovak children are miles ahead of the English and Americans. Furthermore, students who study concurrently at university in Vienna and Bratislava say there is no real difference in standards. I only wish my Slovak was as good as some contributors here,because they have an obvious advantage in gleaning out all these hard facts from source.
Perhaps he should have cooked a Slovak pig. The trouble is, which one would you choose ?
Offer klobassa and kofola outside of the school and you will get them interested lol
It is my experience and through some friends I have, that schools deliberately exclude parents fro school or and decision making . It is like them `the professionals` and us those that do not know . PTA`s are actually discouraged ! …as I have said many times before, there is is no community in Slovakia …in the UK parents work hard and run fund raising events to increase the income to school for equipment, or run round the walls with a lick of paint ,or the strimmer the field…not in Slovakia …these parents just sit on there backsides waiting for the State to do it for them .
A Quiz night was arranged by an English friend of mine, to raise school funds for class projectors, last November . It was cancelled due to lack of local support ! My English pal reasoned the Ayran 4x 4,BMW, Merc Slovaks did not want to come, because it meant some actual competition and the Ing, Mgr, Judr master race did not want to shame themselves and that they may look dumb in front of other perhaps less educated parents ??
Well makes you think eh ?
Come on now George! Do you really think that in democratic Slovakia school directors are ever going to accept PTAs, parent school governors or parents on education committees? – and have to explain to irrate parents why little Lubo has to provide his own toilet paper and books. That would mean inviting them into his/her expansive office with its bespoke furniture, sofas, flat screen TV and B&O Hi-Fi system.
No, its far easier to treat parents as unqualified morons who have no right to question his/her qualified, professional decisions and leave more time to “cook” the books to bolster his/her self awarded annual bonus.
Community Spirit – alien concept in a society that puts “me” first.
Public Accountability – will never happen – too many vested interests right up the food chain.
Fund Raising – What money, cash? That would require trust and honesty.
When teachers begin to work the same amount of time as “Most” people, this means during summer, winter, & Spring breaks for children then perhaps more money would be deserved. It is a shame, that the people supposed to be shaping the future of our children, are looked at as being a social program, not a necessity to better our children’s futures. I always think that if someone is to teach my children, besides myself, I want the best to do so….. but, as I see most teachers, not all, but most, don’t have the proper tools to do their jobs, and therefore don’t do it well! To not have enough books for all children in a class, or to have out-of-date materials, poor class conditions, or even lack of basic supplies is just crazy! We have to send our children to school with their own toilet paper and basic supplies… WHAT??? Where does TAX money go? Look at most schools in Slovakia… unmaintained derelect buildings and school grounds, playgrounds with unsafe and dangerous equipment, overgrown landscaping and improper access for handicaped or small children, and just a huge blight in most cases. I am shocked all the time how all schools, not just a few, but the majority of these schools are in need of so much repair and upgrades. This would never happen in most other countries in the EU, it is a shame, the children are the ones who suffer!
Boo hoo to the teachers and the school administrators! Start to involve the parents, the teachers, and the community more! Start to get people to get their heads out of their rears and see that it doesn’t fix itself.
Not to mention the overcrowding due to other schools closing and the hassel of needing to find a place for your child that is even within a decent distance from your residence, and this is w/out proper transportation provided for children only (the yellow busses in the US)….
This just angers me! I can go on and on about the poor conditions and administration failures in Slovak schools forever.
….and you two still think paying them more will get kids a better Education? Dream on ~ Teachers here are plain lazy …in an easy life job, do the minimum, no real academic targets to achieve and a filled with Director and Deputy heads that worry more about their personal kiss my ass Status, the size of their offices and paying themselves a end of year bonus by budget savings ….rather than motivating the teaching staff . A school here is just for the Employment of teachers and Co …not a teaching place for kids who are considered as a byproduct of the system .
I think James has, in part, hit the nail on the head here.
Education is one of the few systems where change must be driven from the top down so tweeking the corriculum or allocating classes is the wrong move from the start.
Various reports ( UNESCO, etc) have slated the standard of SK teachers, not for their knowledge of the subject matter but, for the use of outdated teaching methods. The starting point for educational reform must be in the teacher training universities coupled with a revision of teachers pay and conditions of service, only then can the day to day teaching of students improve. It has aslo been suggested that teacher training move towards producing multi-discipline teachers rather than the current, somewhat dated practice, of producing single subject teachers. Only when adequately trained and motivated teachers are in place can the corriculum be changed to reflect the strategic requirements of the country. Again, international reports have highlighted the lack of understanding of the wider world and the ability to ” think outside the box” in Sk students, which should be addressed by a more diverse range of topics being taught within the core syllabus. Educational reform will require some forward thinking and targeted funding, the second may be available, the first is in very short supply.
Last note: I have two very good Slovak friends, both successful businessmen, both patriots, both love their country, but both intend sending their grandchildren abroad for their education irrespective of the cost. I think this fact speaks volumes about the perception of the Sk education system as it is today.
Poor pay is one sixth of the problems I listed. But it’s odd that the ‘if you want the best people, you have to pay for them’ is the constant mantra of professions like, say, banking or the law but is never allowed to apply to others which take four years to qualify for, such as teaching.
Not that teachers ask for the earth, just for pay which reflects what’s expected of them.
Oh Please stop , teachers and their whines about lack of pay ….if they dont like the job, the pay, the conditions etc then do something else, or go to another country where the pay is better .
The presence or otherwise of private schools in this country is an irrelevance.
The real problems are lack of respect and proper renumeration for teachers, the poor quality of teacher-training (both at university and ‘in-service’) and the succession of governments which think tinkering at the edges with the curriculum – without providing the necessary training – will solve all the problems.
I actually think SK does pretty well in early-years schooling. There seems to be far less of a problem with functional literacy here, for example, than in supposedly better-developed societies (leaving aside the Roma question for a moment).
There are more problems at secondary level and more still at universities, which just seem to represent one big vested interest.
The denial of parental and student choice is a major backwards step.
Education is of strategic importance to any country and this proposal has the aroma of being more closely connected to political dogma than the true needs of the country in the future.
communists will be communists and they have been but back into power, but not without the support of the populace. good job as always slovakia.