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Context

Schools in the Slovak Republic have less favourable disciplinary climates in science lessons compared to other OECD countries, according to students’ reports in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015, with an index of disciplinary climate of -0.13 (the OECD average index value was 0.00). Student truancy in 2015 was also among the highest among OECD countries: 51.1% of 15-year-olds reported skipping at least one day of school in the two weeks before the PISA 2015 test, compared to the OECD average of 19.7%. Students in the Slovak Republic were also less likely to report that their science teachers adapt their instructions more frequently than the OECD average, with an index of adaptive instruction of -0.24 (the average index value was 0.01) (OECD, 2016[1]).

The PISA 2015 index of instructional educational leadership (measuring the frequency with which principals report doing leadership activities specifically related to instruction) was higher than the OECD average, at 0.17 (the average was 0.01) (OECD, 2016[1]). The proportion of lower secondary teachers in 2016 aged 50 or over was 37.7%, compared to the OECD average of 35.4%. In 2017, teachers in the Slovak Republic had similar net teaching hours for general programmes to their OECD peers. Teachers annually taught 794 hours at primary level and 652 hours at lower secondary level, compared to OECD averages of 784 and 696 hours, respectively (OECD, 2018[2]). According to school principals’ self-reports in PISA 2015, schools in the Slovak Republic have higher levels of autonomy over curriculum than the OECD average: 84% of principals reported that the school has primary autonomy over curriculum, compared to 73.4% on average (OECD, 2016[1]).

Lower secondary teachers earned 64% of the average salary of a full-time, full-year worker with tertiary education in 2016, compared to the OECD average ratio of 91%. According to the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2018, 76.3% of teachers in the Slovak Republic said that if they could choose again, they would still become a teacher; this was around the OECD average of 75.6%. Furthermore, only 4.5% of teachers felt that the teaching profession was valued in society, compared to an OECD average of 25.8% in 2018 (OECD, 2019[3]).

According to school leaders’ reports in PISA 2015, school leaders in the Slovak Republic are more likely than average to conduct self-evaluations of their schools (97% of students were in schools whose principal reported this, compared to the OECD average of 93.2%), but less likely than average to undergo external evaluations of their schools (62.4% of students were in schools whose principal reported this, compared to the OECD average of 74.6%) (OECD, 2016[1]). Teacher appraisal levels, as reported in the previous cycle of TALIS 2013, were above average: 93% of all teachers had reported then having received an appraisal in the previous 12 months, compared to the average of 66.1% (OECD, 2014[4]).

The share of students enrolled in secondary schools whose principal reported in PISA 2015 that standardised tests are used to make decisions on students’ promotion or retention was 23%, which was less than the OECD average of 31% (OECD, 2016[1]).

In 2017, school autonomy levels over resource management (allocation and use of resources for teaching staff and principals) were higher than the OECD average: 50% of decisions in the Slovak Republic were taken at the school level, compared to the OECD average of 29%.

The Slovak Republic’s annual expenditure per student at primary level in 2015 was USD 6 877, which was lower than the OECD average of USD 8 631. At secondary level, the Slovak Republic spent USD 6 660 per student, compared to the OECD average of USD 10 010, while at tertiary level (including spending on research and development), the Slovak Republic spent USD 15 874 per student, compared to the OECD average of USD 15 656. In 2015, expenditure on primary to tertiary education in the Slovak Republic as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) was 4.4%, which was lower than the OECD average of 5% (OECD, 2018[2]).

Evolution of key education policy priorities

The Slovak Republic’s key education policy priorities have evolved in the following ways over the last decade (Table 8.24).

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Table 8.24. Evolution of key education policy priorities, Slovak Republic (2008-19)

Identified by

Selected OECD country-based work, 2008-191

Evolution of responses collected by the Education Policy Outlook, 2013-192

School improvement

According to OECD evidence, an ageing staff population in early childhood education and care (ECEC) may signal a need to increase the attractiveness of working in the sector, where pay is often low and development opportunities not always available. It might also indicate a high staff turnover rate, where young people work for a short period in ECEC. Another need is to adapt the network of schools to demographic and skills developments. A more recent need is to simplify the teacher certification process and establish professional development as a more regular practice. There is a need to both ensure the ongoing entry of new talent into the teaching profession and to constantly motivate in-service teachers. There is a clear need to make the position of school leader more attractive, which requires re-thinking the school leader’s career. [2012; 2014; 2015; 2017]

The Slovak Republic previously reported challenges in improving the quality of internal and external monitoring and assessment in regional education. Another associated challenge was to implement an internationally accepted method of quality assurance in higher education. These challenges prevail, while policy measures are being taken on quality assurance in higher education. [2013; 2016-17; 2019]

Evaluation and assessment

The OECD identified the need to generate synergies across different evaluation and assessment activities, avoid duplication of procedures, and prevent inconsistency of objectives, as well as to ensure an adequate provision of guidelines, tools and specific training. There is also a need to support teachers in implementing curriculum and assessment and for valid and reliable, ongoing assessment for students. Especially for teachers, the OECD found that career advancement procedures, currently achieved through appraisal processes at the end of induction, credit evaluation, certification processes and appraisal for specialisation, needed to be a more coherent single process of teacher appraisal for career progression. It is important to consolidate a single set of teaching standards that build on the strengths of already existing appraisal forms and criteria. The OECD highlighted the need to support efforts by national agencies to improve the credibility and timeliness of national statistics and suggested greater attention be paid to the interpretation of statistical reporting. There is a need to establish a more coherent approach to school leader appraisal for consistency of practice. [2012; 2014; 2015]

The Slovak Republic reported the importance of increasing teacher salaries to a competitive level to improve the attractiveness of the teaching profession. It also identified the need to consider changes in the current model of higher education institutions’ self-governance and internal organisation. More recently, the Slovak Republic reconfirmed the need to tackle these same institutional challenges. [2013; 2016-17]

Governance

According to OECD evidence, there is a need to develop a knowledge economy, increase the education system’s overall efficiency, and encourage school consolidation. There is scope to raise the quality of university research. There is also a need to improve labour force skills and competencies. Tertiary education does not properly prepare students for the labour market. [2010; 2012; 2015; 2017]

The Slovak Republic reported the ongoing priority to increase the effectiveness of the education system through fronts, such as improving regional education administration and simplifying legislation for higher education. [2013; 2016-17]

Funding

According to OECD evidence, public investment in research and development (R&D) is low by OECD standards. Over time, investment in domestic company-level research has declined while technology imports have risen, via branches of multi-national companies. Otherwise, the state of the knowledge economy could be strengthened, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the few large domestic-owned companies typically have low productivity levels and low R&D intensity. The OECD also identified the need to establish efficiency and a high level of transparency in education funding. [2014; 2015]

The Slovak Republic had reported the need to increase education funding to the OECD average level by 2020 and adjust the funds’ allocation system for higher education institutions to provide adequate incentives for improvement. More recently, it reported the goal of increasing public education funding to the EU average level by 2020. [2013; 2016-17]

Notes:

1. See Annex A (OECD publications consulted).

2. See Reader’s Guide (years and methods of collection).

Institutions

Selected education policy responses

Evaluation and assessment

  • National standardised assessments (2005-15) in the Slovak Republic have gradually been introduced at all education levels, at primary level as of 2015, and lower secondary and upper secondary (Maturita, or graduation) as of 2005. The tests focus on the assessment of students’ knowledge in mathematics, the Slovak language, and languages of national minorities, as well as, in the case of the Maturita, foreign languages. The national tests at different educational levels are also used as a means of gathering evidence and feedback on the performance of individual schools (European Commission, 2015[486]). From 2014, at upper secondary level, the National Institute for Certified Educational Measurements (NÚCEM) has calculated the added value of a school’s impact on student outcomes in both Slovak language and literature based on standardised assessments. The results are sent to school directors, and a list of schools with higher than expected added value is published (MINEDU, 2018[487]).

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Progress or impact: From 2013 to 2015, the European Social Fund (ESF) co-funded the project, “Increasing the quality of primary and secondary education with the use of electronic testing” to prepare the conditions for electronic assessment, with a total budget allocation of EUR 28 220 000 (NÚCEM, 2018[488]). The National Institute for Certified Educational Measurements (NÚCEM) set four main objectives: 1) improving the quality of education in primary and secondary schools using e-testing; 2) developing a nationwide electronic database of tasks and tests; 3) developing a more effective comparison of schools’ results in the regions; and 4) supporting the expert potential of teachers (NÚCEM, 2015[489]).

The NÚCEM started to implement a national project for electronic testing in the areas of Language and Communication, Humans and Nature, Humans and Society, Mathematics and Information Work in 2013. The e-test reports provide information on the students’ results in each test subject and thematic area, as well as offer insight on how students perform compared to their peers at other schools (NÚCEM, 2018[490]). The school leader receives the reports through the online portal (www.etest.sk). Overall, 1 656 schools participated (1 100 elementary schools and 556 secondary schools), 4 000 teachers were trained in the development of testing tools, and 3 210 teachers were trained to work with the e-test system (NÚCEM, 2015[489]).

Additional education policies of potential interest to other countries

School improvement

  • The Slovak Republic has made a number of efforts to reduce the unnecessary administrative workload for education professionals in recent years. In 2015, the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport (MINEDU) established a working group composed of ministry officials, teachers and school leaders tasked with identifying a list of actions to reduce unnecessary administrative workload. Several processes were eliminated or simplified, and in some cases, authorisation was given to automate processes. The commitment to addressing workload issues is anchored in the current Government Manifesto (2016-20) and in the first action plan of the National Reform Programme for Education (2018-19), which is the first implementation stage of the key strategic document for education until 2027 (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Slovak Republic, 2016[491]; Ministry of Finance, 2018[492]). MINEDU is also developing a new information system to replace the various statistical collections within the system by a single electronic application. The first trial data collections took place in 2016, and the new information system was used for funding purposes for the first time in 2019/20 (National information reported to the OECD).

  • The government of the Slovak Republic passed decrees between 2011 and 2015 to increase teacher salaries, resulting in recent years, in teacher salaries growing faster than in other public sector professions. As part of the current Government Manifesto (Programové vyhlásenie vlády Slovenskej republiky, 2016-20), the government committed to further increasing salaries by 6% in 2016, another 6% in 2017 and by 10% in 2019. A further increase of 10% is planned for 2020. Early-career teachers in compulsory and higher education will also receive a 9.5% increase in salaries from 2019 (Ministry of Finance, 2018[493]; Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Slovak Republic, 2016[491]). It is estimated that teacher salaries will be equivalent to 68% of the average salary of the tertiary educated workforce in 2020, compared to 64% in 2016 (National information reported to the OECD).

  • To tackle teacher shortages, student teachers in certain subjects (for example science, technology, engineering and mathematics) may apply for scholarships. In 2017, annual payments of around EUR 1 000 were received by approximately 15% of students in each targeted subject. Individual higher education institutions receive a subsidy from the government for these incentive scholarships and can set the level of per-student support. The breakdown of subsidies to public higher education institutions from the state budget for 2017 is based on the provisions of Act No. 131/2002 Coll. on Higher Education Institutions and on Amendments to Certain Acts and the Methodology of the Grant Schedule for Higher Education Institutions for 2016 (MINEDU, 2018[494]). MINEDU submitted a proposal for a breakdown of subsidies to the representative bodies in 2016 (National information reported to the OECD).

  • In 2015, MINEDU took steps to prevent the dismissal of teachers during the summer vacation months (July and August). Previously, in many cases, schools dismissed teachers at the end of the school year to spare the resources assigned to wages. Schools then recruited teachers again for the next school year in September. Teacher representatives have put forward numerous requests to stop this practice in recent years. In 2015, an amendment to the labour code was passed, legislating that teachers’ temporary contracts can only be terminated on 31 August.

Systems

Selected education policy responses

Governance

  • In 2015, the Slovak Parliament adopted a new Act on Vocational Education and Training (VET) that established a dual VET system, including apprenticeships, and sought to reinforce the link between education and employers. The act also proposed to regulate funding allocations for VET programmes according to labour market needs. From 2015, the funding allocations per student in VET increased by 10% for students enrolled in programmes identified by the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport as being in high demand with respect to labour market needs. For students in fields identified as being in oversupply, per-student allocations decreased by 10%. The list of programmes is updated annually (European Commission, 2017[495]). The act also imposed new regulations through which self-governing regions must define the number of students in different fields of study in individual upper secondary schools.

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Progress or impact: In 2015/16, the first students enrolled in the new dual VET system. At that point, 89 contracts between companies and VET schools had been established, and 1 438 training places were offered by companies. However, this was much higher than the number of students who took part, with some sectors in particular (media, agriculture and textiles), receiving little interest (Vantúch and Jelínková, 2016[496]).

An amendment of the 2015 Act on VET entered into force in 2018, which sought to improve co-operation between education institutions and employers. The amendment, for example, ended funding cuts to schools resulting from the shift of practical education to companies, and companies no longer have to prove their readiness to offer practical education. In the same way, the amendment allowed the curricula for dual and non-dual programmes to be unified to enable companies to adjust the provision of practical skills to their needs. (European Commission, 2018[497]).

The number of students enrolled within the dual VET system has increased significantly from 1 869 in 2017, to 2 789 in 2018 (National information reported to the OECD).

In 2017, an analysis of the first years of the new funding mechanisms and new regulation showed mixed findings: in some cases, the number of students enrolled in training for employment fields with an excessive supply of graduates decreased, while the number of students in fields with labour shortages increased only in a few cases. (Martinák and Zápražná, 2017[498]) The report also identified a lack of consistency across regions and sectors. It, therefore, recommended introducing funding mechanisms and regulations with a more regional focus to enable the VET system to better respond to local trends and needs.

In 2018, MINEDU implemented clearer indicators and weights for student allocation mechanisms that are to be applied consistently in every region; the region then has the right to apply its own criteria with a total weight of 20% (Martinák and Zápražná, 2017[498]). MINEDU will also issue study fields for financial regulation once every three years for each region individually, to reflect economic cycles and differences in regional labour markets. The analysis also recommended applying other methods for assessing labour market demand and supply (e.g. graduate and employer surveys), strengthening the current database and reducing information asymmetry (e.g. through better career counselling) (National information reported to the OECD).

  • The Slovak Republic’s Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport introduced a new state curriculum for pre-primary schools (optional from 2015; mandatory from 2016), as well as for primary, lower secondary and general upper secondary schools/gymnasiums (mandatory from 2015). MINEDU identified a need to strengthen instruction of natural sciences, due to low performance on PISA, and English as a first foreign language from Grade 3 (National information reported to the OECD). Stakeholders involved in the process included teachers, experts, the State Pedagogical Institute and MINEDU officials. Various discussion sessions were organised with special subject committees, as well as consultations with stakeholders. The new curriculum defines education areas, focuses on the development of logical thinking and working with texts and increases the number of compulsory hours of instruction in mathematics and natural sciences.

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Progress or impact: MINEDU identified a number of valuable lessons learned from the development and implementation of the new state curriculum: 1) active incorporation of relevant stakeholders leads to a wider acceptance of new measures and raises their quality (pre-primary schools); and 2) supporting relevant stakeholders through instruction seminars and methodological support materials is crucial for the implementation stage (pre-primary schools). The new curriculum continues to be implemented gradually under the direction of the National Institute for Education (Štátny pedagogický ústav) (National information reported to the OECD).

Funding

  • Optimising funding allocations for ECEC and primary and secondary schools has become a priority for the Slovak Republic in recent years, driven by demographic changes and fragmentation within the school funding system. According to OECD research, the number of births per year in the Slovak Republic decreased from 80 000 to 55 000 between 1990 and 2000 respectively. This has led to a steady decline of the school-age population. During 2005-12, there was a 21% reduction in the number of students across all education levels, and therefore a fall in the number of schools and teachers needed. The decline in student numbers was particularly acute in the secondary vocational sector, where the share of students decreased by 27% compared to close to 20% of students in basic schools and general secondary schools (Santiago et al., 2016[499]). The government intends to re-invest the costs saved by optimising school funding in future salary increases for the education workforce (European Commission, 2016[500]). The funding optimisation process was informed by an OECD review on the effectiveness of resource use in schools (Santiago et al., 2016[499]).

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Progress or impact: The Ministry of Education, Research and Sport has revised the funding model to reflect individual schools’ resource needs more accurately, by, for example, taking into account the experience levels of the teacher workforce within a particular school, bearing in mind that years of experience determine teacher salaries (National information reported to the OECD).

Concurrently, in response to demographic decline among primary education cohorts, a 2017 review announced efforts to rationalise the primary school network and called for more specific and transparent criteria to inform the allocation of additional funds to schools or teachers (Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport; Ministry of Finance, 2017[501]).

Increased funding has so far targeted supporting students educated in a minority language and to improve access to ECEC for pupils from low-income backgrounds (Ministry of Finance, 2018[502]). Other reform efforts have included linking VET funding to labour market relevance and employability. Additional investments from EU funds target increasing ECEC capacity, where returns to education are highest, and there is a growing demand for places.

Additional education policies of potential interest to other countries

Governance

  • The Slovak Republic’s Educational Policy Institute (Inštitút vzdelávacej politiky, IVP, 2013) aims to support a drive towards more evidence-based policy making. Its mission is to provide expert advice on strategic policy decisions, based on analyses and forecasts using data from national and international sources and best practices from other countries. It also aims to stimulate and improve debates concerning education, science and research. In 2019, the team consists of six analysts and a director; this will grow to eight in 2020 (National information reported to the OECD). The IVP has also co-ordinated with international organisations, for example working with the OECD on the OECD Economic Survey: Slovak Republic (2017; 2019). In 2017, IVP participated in the education spending review along with MINEDU and the Ministry of Finance on the project “Value for Money” (see below). IVP has also contributed to a cross-sectoral spending review on specific groups at risk of poverty and social exclusion (Government of the Slovak Republic, 2019[503]).

  • The Slovak Republic’s Effective, Reliable and Open State Administration (ESO, 2013) reform set out to streamline, reduce and modernise the state administration (MINV, 2018[504]). Information reported to the OECD indicates that the reform shifted responsibility for the departments of education within regional states (which mainly established schools for special educational needs) from MINEDU to the Ministry of Interior. Since then, all schools (except those established by self-governing regions) are financed by the Ministry of Interior’s budget.

  • In 2018, the Parliament of the Slovak Republic passed an amendment to the Act on Higher Education and approved a new Act on Quality Assurance in Higher Education, both of which came into force in November 2018. The amendment opens up professor and associate professor positions to applicants from abroad, or to those who have been professionally active within an industry relevant to the field of study (OECD, 2018[421]). The Act on Quality Assurance in Higher Education proposes the creation a new accreditation agency for higher education in a bid to separate the accreditation of tertiary programmes and institutions from any evaluation of the scientific performance of higher education institutions (Ministry of Finance, 2018[502]). These processes will now be carried out by two different bodies: the new agency will conduct accreditation, and a panel of mostly foreign experts will evaluate scientific performance, which will then feed into funding allocations from 2021. New accreditation standards will be presented by 2019, and the new agency will come into operation from January 2020. There are also provisions supporting the agency to become a member of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA). Although there is consensus on the need to fulfil European guidelines on accreditation, stakeholders have divergent perspectives on how to approach it (OECD, 2018[421]).

Funding

  • In 2017, the Slovak Republic changed the methodology used for the allocation of public subsidies to public universities for research performance. The funding now uses a scientometric indicator (JCR) to better distinguish the quality of research publications. The OECD defines the field of scientometrics as the quantitative study of science, communication in science, and science policy (Hess, 1997[505]). Over time, this field has evolved from the study of indices for information retrieval from peer-reviewed scientific publications to include other types of documents and information sources relating to science and technology (i.e. datasets, web pages or social media). 

  • The Slovak Republic works towards increasing public spending efficiency and effectiveness in all sectors through the “Value for Money” initiative. A review of education spending, carried out as part of the project in 2017, focused on further optimising the primary and lower secondary school network, increasing the attractiveness of the teaching profession and improving remuneration for teachers. For higher education, the review paid particular attention to the accreditation process, as well as funding and the evaluation of university research results (Ministry of Finance, 2018[502]). Two key recommendations identified in the education review to improve the quality of the system were: to provide further support for teachers, especially beginner teachers; and to better recognise the link between adequate remuneration and quality of teaching and learning. The review also estimated that further rationalising the regional education network, cancelling bonuses for continuous education credits and redressing the very high proportion of tertiary students advancing from undergraduate to master and doctoral studies compared to the total number of students in tertiary education, could potentially save costs amounting to EUR 88 million per year. The intention would be to then reallocate the savings within the overall education sector to redress underfunding (MoF, 2018[506]). The Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport began implementing some of these measures in 2018 and 2019.

More information is available at http://www.oecd.org/education/policyoutlook.htm.

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