Education policy of the Slovak Republic after 2010
In this paper, we conceive of education politics as a concept that should be the starting point for further thinking and action in the field of education. It should be the starting point for addressing the problems of education policy, regardless of which government is currently in power. The concept of education policy is based on principles such as the principle of equality of opportunity for education or lifelong learning, the principle of individualisation and differentiation, and the principle of internationalisation. Education policy is decided independently by all Member States, but at EU level they set common objectives and share best practice. The EU budget funds a number of programmes that offer EU citizens the opportunity to make the most of their personal development and to make the most of the EU's economic potential by studying, training or volunteering in other countries.
"There was a time when education politics was taken for granted and policy-making was considered a democratic consensus process rather than a political ... Apparently, this is no longer the case. Today, education politics are the subject of considerable controversy and apparent public competition...Educational politics making has become highly politicized"
(Olssen et al. 2004, 2-3)
Development trends in advanced societies suggest that fundamental changes are taking place in education policy. Changes that lead to the creation of a new model for the development of a knowledge-based society. This means that it will be a society based primarily on the production and distribution of the acquisition, transmission and use of information and knowledge.
Education policy occupies an important place in most countries. The level of general education is considered to be an essential condition for the stability of society, the development of democracy and economic growth. Education acquires international significance by making it possible to compete with people of different nationalities.
Education policy is one of the most important policy sectors. In developed countries, according to Brdek and Vychova [1, p. 13], it is given considerable importance. The importance of this policy stems from the very importance of education, which is considered one of the most important factors of economic growth. Education thus becomes the source of the future well-being of the state. The indispensable importance of education in society has led economically advanced countries to expand their political and economic support for education. Education policy is thus becoming one of the priorities of the state.
The content of the term educational policy is defined differently in the literature. Kalous and Veselý [3, p. 8] define educational policy as principles, priorities and methods related to the application of public influence on education. This decision-making includes strategic goals for the development of education, the legislative framework for the activities of educational and educational entities, the method of financing, the definition of educational goals and content, the stimulation and influence of the activities of educational entities and the methods of their control.
Educational policy can be defined as a set of concrete actions and measures, as stated by Krebs et al. [5, p. 420], by which the state in particular, but also other entities influence the whole educational sphere.
Průcha et al. [7, p. 272] understand the term educational policy as a professional activity creating basic strategies for planning, evaluation, future development of the educational system, composition and plurality of education, accessibility of education, legislative foundations of the educational system.
As Kalous and Veselý [3, p. 12] point out, educational policy is not only made at the level of the nation-state. They distinguish the following levels of educational policy:
- global level,
- transnational level,
- nation states,
- regions (counties),
- local level (municipalities),
- schools and universities,
- organisational units of schools (faculties, departments...),
The importance of education policy lies in education itself. Education is of indispensable importance in the whole of society, affecting all spheres of human life. Education is considered to be one of the most important factors that play an essential role in the economic growth of a state, manifesting itself in competitiveness and in the ability of individuals to enter the labour market.
1. Education policy of the Slovak Republic
1.1. Education policy at national level
The nation-state and its central institutions (government, parliament, ministry) are so far the key level of education policy at the national level. The task of education policy at this level is primarily to set clear priorities, the educational concept, the institutional organisation of the education system, the method of financing and the establishment of a functioning legislative framework. In the Slovak Republic, as in most countries, the Ministry of Education is the central authority for education policy.
Kalous and Veselý [3, p. 14] list the following main functions of the Ministry of Education in a democratic society:
- concept and strategy formation – long-term concept and vision, strategic planning, management and implementation of change and innovation
- political activity – creating mechanisms to enable social partners to participate and balance interests, encouraging public debate and criticism
- funding, governance, and legislation – an efficient, fair state finance with an incentive mechanism for the distribution of funds, legislation, selective intervention in crisis situations
- quality assurance – monitoring, evaluation and information feedback, standards, accreditation, central examinations, compulsory part of the curriculum, school inspection, teachers (recruitment, upgrading and retraining).
Education policy in Slovakia is an open system, which includes all processes of management, financing, organisation and functioning of internal and external relations with educational stakeholders in the field of education. The main aim is to promote equal educational opportunities for pupils, applying the principles of lifelong learning so that they acquire the qualifications required by the labour market and employers.
The intentions of the education policy in the changing society, in the changing socio-economic conditions of the Slovak Republic after November 1989 are expressed in the programme declarations of the governments (both the federal government and the National Assembly of the Slovak Republic).
1.2. Education policy in the Programme Statement of the Government of the Slovak Republic 2010 – 2014
In the aforementioned Programme Statement, the Government of the Slovak Republic considers the main principle of education policy to be equality of opportunities for all young people regardless of social situation, region or ethnicity and orientation towards the needs of children, pupils and youth. The Government of the Slovak Republic wants to support the introduction of an international dimension at all levels so that educational and research institutions communicate, compete and be competitive not only within Slovakia but also internationally, as well as openness and the implementation of changes with the participation of stakeholders from parents and pupils to teachers, founders, and employers.
In the field of regional education, as stated in the State of Education Report 2009 – 2011, the Programme Statement sets out the following objectives:
- an efficient school system;
- quality education and training, quality vocational training, quality and socially respected teachers;
- education accessible to all, providing children and pupils with the basis for a healthy lifestyle.
Given the demographic development of society, the concept of lifelong learning is one possible response to responsible political representation. The Government of the Slovak Republic will ensure that every citizen has equal access to quality lifelong learning after school, during the working life and in retirement.
1.3. Education policy in the Programme Statement of the Government of the Slovak Republic for Education, Science and Research for 2012 – 2016
In the aforementioned Programme Statement, in the section Knowledge Society, the Government of the Slovak Republic considers education and culture as a fundamental pillar of the knowledge society and economy. Education and learning must lead people to humanism, tolerance, solidarity, cooperation and responsibility towards life and carry out systematic transmission of common cultural and democratic values in the international process.
The Government is aware that the competitiveness of Slovakia depends on the competitiveness of people who are educated, skilled, creative, and adaptable, and will therefore create conditions for strengthening education with a natural science and technology focus. It will support the development of financial education. Measures in this area will be linked to the Europe 2020 Strategy with the main aim: of preserving solidarity, social cohesion and a society based on learning and new knowledge.
Within the framework of lifelong learning, increased attention will be paid to promoting citizens' digital competences. The Government will support the improvement of the quality of further education of teaching and professional staff in education.
The Government's attention will be focused on developing and improving human resources, in particular by enhancing the professional and personal competences of education ministry staff. It will improve the educational environment with new teaching resources and material and technical equipment with digital support. It will support the improvement of children's, pupils' and students' competences with a link to the creation of competitiveness of the Euro-Roman standard of assessments, e.g. PISA.
The government will support significant activities of the business sector in the field of education, as a tool for competitiveness and sustainability in the global environment.
1.4. Education policy in the Programme Statement of the Slovak Government for Education, Science and Research for 2016-2020
The education of the citizens of the Slovak Republic, which is to be ensured first and foremost by quality school education, is a fundamental and necessary prerequisite for its long-term existence and prosperity. Therefore, the development of education is one of the Government's top priorities.
Society expects graduates to be prepared not only to enter the labour market successfully and to be economically active, but also to live their lives meaningfully, to fulfil their personal and family goals and to co-create a prosperous and tolerant country.
Most European countries, including our neighbours, have launched a global competition in education in recent decades because they have realised that the level of education determines their economic and political strength in the future. According to OECD analyses, Slovakia has not yet responded to this trend, and in many indicators, we are falling to the bottom of the European rankings. Key areas where Slovak education needs to improve include results in reading and mathematical literacy, the attractiveness of the teaching profession and the ability to educate children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Government therefore notes that it considers the current state of Slovak education, both regional and higher education, to be a major challenge. Improving this situation requires major internal and external systemic changes, and the Government is determined to prepare and implement them without delay.
The Government will ensure a significant increase in public investment in education, coupled with major internal changes to the education system. The increase in resources for education is even more urgent because the current situation, as has been repeatedly pointed by major international institutions such as the OECD and the European Commission, clearly shows signs of underfunding in terms of international comparisons. Inadequate funding is first and foremost reflected in the low salaries paid to teachers, not only in comparison with other countries, but also in relation to other university-educated citizens of the Slovak Republic. This has a direct and priority negative impact on the quality of education.
The proposed solutions in regional and higher education are closely related to the improvement of the quality and performance of the educational and training system of the Slovak Republic, which has an impact on the preparation of graduates for the needs of society in the present and in the future and their personal growth.
The Government's strategic aim is an effective regional school system providing quality education and training, responding to the current and expected needs of individuals and society, and in particular to the needs of economic practice, accessible to all sectors of society, providing children and pupils with the joy of acquiring knowledge and their personal growth, as well as the basis for a healthy lifestyle, and ensuring that teachers are promoted and rewarded in a manner commensurate with the particular importance of their work.
The Government's efforts to guide regional education towards this strategic goal will focus on implementing measures to ensure that all its components are fulfilled. An integral part of these measures will be the provision of sufficient financial resources for their implementation, subject to their efficient use.
The above-mentioned programme statements are the dominant indicators of education policy in Slovakia. They were based on the direction of European education policy, even though there is no single European education policy. Each state tries to give its own direction to education so that it is efficient, of high quality and so that graduates are best used on the European labour market.
The decentralisation of education policy in Slovakia has allowed schools to develop their own identity based on the possibilities that each school has. These possibilities are based not only on the management of the school, but also on the quality of the teachers, the ability of the school to cooperate with the public and the development of pupils' competences. Based on the two-tier model of education, which has been in force in our country since 2008, each school has the opportunity to create its own profile. This is the responsibility of the school that offers its quality on the education market.
As Petrová [6, p. 85] states, in 2008 a new school law was adopted, which, in addition to the transformation of the school system in Slovakia contributed to the international ISCED standards, brought a two-level model of curriculum policy. With these steps, Slovakia has become one of the countries in which the neoliberal ideology is transforming the education system into an education market with the school as an education provider adapted to the requirements of clients (parents and pupils), regional specificities and labour market needs.
Education policy should be a concept that would be the starting point for further reflection and action in the field of education. It should be the starting point for solving school policy problems, regardless of which government is currently in charge. The concept of education policy is based on principles such as the principle of equality of opportunity for education or lifelong learning, the principle of individualisation and differentiation, and the principle of internationalisation. Education policy is decided by each Member State individually, but at EU level they set common objectives and share best practice. The EU budget funds a number of programmes that offer EU citizens the opportunity to make the most of their personal development and to make the most of the EU's economic potential by studying, training, or volunteering in other countries.
In conclusion, we can state that the current educational policy at the national level is strongly influenced by educational policy at the global level, through various international organizations or at the supranational level through memoranda, programs... National education policies are tending towards the homogenisation of European education policy.
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