STA, 29 January 2020 - The number of students with special needs in primary and secondary schools in Slovenia has been rising in recent years. Almost 7% of primary school students and even more secondary school students have been formally recognised as having a disability that qualifies them for special treatment. Opinions on the reasons why this is so vary.
Data from the Education Ministry show that in the 2015/2016 school year, 5.91% of primary school students had an eligibility decision guaranteeing special treatment based on their disability; in this school year the share rose to 6.97%, which means 13,075 students.
A similar trend can been seen with secondary school students, where the ministry has been keeping records since 2010/2011. In the last decade, the share of special needs students almost doubled from 3.36% to 7.27% (5,331 students).
By far the largest share of eligibility decisions issued by the Education Institute, are for learning disabilities. For primary school students this share is at 40% and for secondary school students at over 50%.
These statistics have prompted the Education Ministry to open a debate on whether any changes are needed in the current system.
There have been questions as to whether there are indeed more children with special needs, or whether society has only become more sensitive to disabilities.
The head of the department for children with special needs at the Education Institute, Natalija Vovk Ornik, believes the answer is a little bit of both.
She thinks the reasons for the higher share of children with special needs could be medical progress, larger cohorts, the impact of the environment, or a number of other factors.
"One of the reasons is definitely that the diagnostic standards for recognising certain disabilities have changed, and the awareness of both experts and the public about disabilities in general has increased," she said.
She thinks the system is not being abused very often. But there are various types of "pressure" coming from parents as well as daycare centres and schools for a child to receive the eligibility decision and thus additional assistance, she said.
Janja Čolić, a teacher at the Janko Kersnik Brdo primary school, agrees. "Indeed, we are better at recognising children with special needs today. But on the other hand, it also happens that parents and teachers immediately think of additional assistance when a child is not performing well, rather than analysing potential causes in more detail.
"All too often parents are the initiators of additional assistance when they are not happy with their child's grades, as Cs and Ds are no longer acceptable grades in primary school," she said.
Meanwhile, an association bringing together representatives of school councils warns that parents are not to be blamed for the rise in the share of students with special needs.
They note that parents indeed have the right to initiate the procedure but that the final decision is made by a commission of experts and the Education Institute.
They believe the Education Ministry should conduct an independent analysis to determine whether the number of eligibility decisions is indeed too big and then determine why this is so.
They also propose several changes to the decision-making process, most notably uniform criteria.
The Education Institute agrees changes are needed. Vovk Ornik thinks the types of assistance that a child with special needs is entitled to should be determined by law. She also called for changes to the composition of the commission and the conditions for initiating the procedure.
According to a Statistical Office report, there were 75,991 students enrolled in tertiary education in 2018/19. This is 0.7% less than the year before and the ninth consecutive year in a row that saw a decline in number of students enrolled in higher education. Currently 34.2% fewer students are enrolled in higher education than ten years ago, when there were 115,445 college and university students studying in Slovenia.
While number of students enrolled in the 1st and 2nd Bologna cycles (Bachelors and Masters Programmes) is on decline, the number of doctoral students seems to be rising. Compared to the previous academic year, the number of enrolled students in the 3rd Bologna cycle rose from 2,824 to 3,089, or by 9.4%.
As for field of study, the largest group of students in the 2018/19 academic year were in study programs of engineering, manufacturing and construction (13,974 or 18.4%), followed by business, administration and law (13,784 or 18.1%), and health and social security (10,224 or 13.5 %). In contrast, the fewest students were enrolled in the fields of agriculture, forestry, fisheries and veterinary medicine (2,320 or 3.1%) and information and communication technologies (3,842 or 5.1%).
For more information on this data, please click here.
STA, 18 December 2019 - The National Assembly passed on Wednesday a proposal tabled by the opposition Left introducing an extra day of paid leave for the parents of first-graders on their first school day. The law applies to both the private and public sectors.
The head of the Left deputy group, Matej T. Vatovec, said on Tuesday that public sector officials already have the right to paid leave on the first day of school of their first-graders, which puts those working in the private sector and their children in an unequal position.
Deputy groups agreed that this inequality should be done away with and backed the Left's proposal.
Karla Urh of the senior coalition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) said the first school day was a stressful experience for a child, which was why children should be accompanied to school by their parents, regardless of where the latter were employed.
The coalition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) and the opposition Democrats (SDS) agreed this was an exceptional day for every child and parent.
There is no excuse for this discrimination between those working in the public and private sectors, they argued.
The opposition National Party (SNS) praised the proposal as "good or very good", while the coalition Social Democrats (SD) noted that schools even expected that children were escorted by their parents on the first day.
The coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) said the unanimous support was an "important indicator of an advanced society guaranteeing equal rights to all".
Aleksander Reberšek of the opposition New Slovenia (NSi) regretted the fact that the proposal had not been backed by the Economic and Social Council (ESS), Slovenia's main industrial relations forum.
Mojca Žnidarič of the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) said the social dialogue was "obviously" weakening and that the passage of the bill could be a dangerous precedent for passage of bills without a consent from social partners.
The ESS voiced objections to the proposal last week, saying that employees were free to take one day of leave whenever they want as it was and that parents of children of up to the age of 15 had one extra day of leave.
All our stories on education in Slovenia are here
STA, 9 December 2019 – The British business newspaper the Financial Times has ranked the University of Ljubljana's School of Economics and Business among the 95 best business schools in Europe for the second consecutive time [at 89]. The faculty sees this achievement as a recognition of its quality in the international arena.
The Financial Times has thus put Slovenia on the map of top-quality business education, said the Ljubljana-based faculty when it first made the cut.
The ranking requires having at least one of the top international accreditations - the AACSB and EQUIS-accredited Ljubljana school has both as well as the AMBA accreditation, while its International Master in Business programme has been ranked as one of the best business programmes.
The faculty pointed out that its students had at their disposal exchange programmes at five foreign business schools which had also made the grade, including French KEDGE, Norwegian BI, French Audencia, Portuguese ISCTE and French ESSCA.
The Ljubljana School of Economics and Business also hosts a PhD summer school programme along with the Swiss St. Gallen University business school, which traditionally ranks among top four schools according to the Financial Times. It also takes part in the EUTOPIA partnership of six European universities.
STA, 3 December 2019 - The University of Ljubljana, Slovenia's largest institution of higher learning, is celebrating its centenary with a series of events that culminated on Tuesday, the day exactly 100 years ago when the first lecture was delivered in the Slovenian language.
The university awarded out a doctorate to Kenneth Brian Frampton of Columbia University in New York today and will hold a special ceremony in the evening when it will receive the Order of Merit for Distinguished Service from President Borut Pahor.
The university started out with five founding members - the faculties of arts, medicine, law, technology and theology - after King Alexander signed a law establishing what was then the University of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in Ljubljana.
The first lecture was delivered in the building that remains the seat of the university to this day, the former Carniolan Provincial Court in the centre of Ljubljana, by the linguist Franc Ramovš and the topic was the historical grammar of the Slovenian language.
In the first academic year the university boasted almost a thousand students and by the start of the Second World War enrolment had increased to almost 2,500.
While male students far outnumbered women in the first years, the first person ever to get a doctorate was a woman, Ana Mayer, who received her PhD in chemistry in July 1920.
The university continued to grow after the Second World War and by the 1960s it already had nine faculties. In 1979 it was renamed to Edvard Kardelj University, in honour of the Slovenian Communist ideologue, but in 1990 it reverted to the University of Ljubljana.
After independence, especially under the 1993 higher education act, it transformed into what it describes as a "classical European university," with greater emphasis on scientific research and greater autonomy.
It presently comprises 26 faculties and academies and its 38,000-plus students are enrolled in 158 bachelors', 196 masters' and 21 doctoral programmes ranging from the arts to social sciences, natural sciences, engineering, medicine and law.
"A hundred years later we are a university that has gone beyond national borders and helps build the European university of the future," Chancellor Igor Papič told the STA.
He said the University of Ljubljana ranks among the top three percent of universities in the world, which was "probably unimaginable a century ago, when we were fighting to get the university in the first place and faced constant pressure that it be shut down."
In the latest Shanghai Rankings, considered a benchmark for higher education institutions, the university ranks 501-600, down from 401-500 last year.
At the ceremony today Papič said that the university was "in excellent shape". While it wants better financing, it is glad it does not currently have problems paying salaries. The main challenge at the moment is securing funds for the construction of several new faculty buildings and cutting-edge research equipment.
STA, 3 December 2019 - The results of Slovenian 15-year-olds in reading, scientific and mathematical literacy tests are above the OECD average, shows the recent PISA study. Compared to the previous such study, the students have come off as less accomplished in reading and science literacy though.
The results of the study, which was conducted last year among some 6,400 15-year-olds, mostly secondary school first year students, have confirmed that Slovenian students of this age group excel in mathematical literacy.
Their scientific literacy is above the OECD average as well; however, the latest performance in this category shows a slight downturn - the same goes for the students' reading literacy, which significantly improved in 2015 compared to the PISA studies conducted in 2009 and 2012, but has now declined a bit.
Compared to the 2006 study, the first time such a study was conducted in Slovenia, the students' reading literacy in 2018 was pretty much the same, their mathematical literacy improved and scientific literacy slightly deteriorated, according to the Educational Research Institute, which carried out the Slovenian part of the study.
Last year's decline in reading literacy is a result of a worse performance across the spectrum, with the share of worst performers increasing by three percentage points to 18%.
Commenting on these developments, Education Minister Jernej Pikalo said that his ministry might have to discuss the efficiency of related measures from 2009.
Regarding scientific literacy, the average downturn resulted from a worse performance of the best performers, with their share dropping by four percentage points to 7%.
Meanwhile, girls achieved better results than boys in reading as well as scientific literacy last year - the former's performance was significantly better on average than in other OECD countries.
Slovenian students are also less motivated than their OECD peers worldwide - compared to 2009, the students' enjoyment experienced during reading in 2018 remained below the OECD average, with the students often expressing disappointment over the engagement and support of their teachers of the Slovenian language.
The minister is concerned over this lack of motivation, saying digital media were a distraction that pulls students away from books, while also highlighting that the signal regarding the teachers of Slovenian needs to be acknowledged.
The study also showed that the students spent an hour more on the internet in 2018 than in 2012 - altogether, more than three hours per day, which Pikalo thinks is another cause for concern.
The minister pointed out that the results did not necessarily always depict the actual situation in schools; however, he did acknowledge that Slovenia's educational system should cater better to gifted students.
He also highlighted that students needed to be able to not only understand texts but also to contextualise and use new information in the future.
All our stories about education in Slovenia are here
STA, 17 November 2019 - Some 46% of 20-24-year-olds in Slovenia are students, which is the highest share among EU countries, according to the Statistics Office. Slovenia had almost 76,000 students in the 2018/19 academic year, mostly women. More than half of all students enrolled in the first cycle graduate successfully, the statistics show.
In terms of the share of students among people aged between 20 and 24, Slovenia is followed in the EU by Greece (44%) and Poland (40%), the Statistics Office said ahead of World Students' Day, 17 November.
There are more women studying in Slovenia than men, and the share of women is also higher in most fields of tertiary education - pedagogy, health, social security, humanities, art, social sciences, information sciences, business and administrative studies, law, agronomy, veterinary studies, natural sciences, mathematics and hospitality and tourism.
Male students predominate only in technical studies, construction and ICT.
Some 60% of women and 42% of men enrolled in the first cycle of tertiary studies in 2010/11 finished their studies.
According to the Statistics Office, young people whose parents have tertiary education are more likely to enrol in tertiary education. In 2017/18, 71% of 19-24-year-olds with at least one parent who finished at least tertiary education enrolled in tertiary education.
STA, 22 October - Parliament backed on Tuesday legislative changes that raise the minimum net hourly rate for student work from EUR 4.13 to EUR 4.56. The opposition Left, which initiated the raise, had been pushing for more, but failed to get support from the coalition and remaining opposition parties, which fear businesses may have trouble handling the new rate.
After the minimum rate for student work, a flexible labour form much sought by employers, was first set only in 2015, the Left made additional regulation one of its conditions for its support to the minority government.
The party put forward its own proposal for changes to the fiscal balance act in July, proposing that the minimum gross rate be raised from EUR 4.89 to EUR 5.90.
The Left later lowered the figure to EUR 5.63, saying this was a compromise reached in negotiations with the coalition, only to see the coalition members of the Finance Committee reduce it further to EUR 5.40 or EUR 4.56 net.
Although voting in favour, coalition MPs also seemed reluctant to back the final figure in today's plenary vote, with Aljaž Kovačič of the senior coalition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) for instance arguing the raise - which will take effect on 1 January 2020 - could lead to more undeclared work and actually harm the students.
Soniboj Knežak of the coalition SocDems also argued more focus should be put on inspections "as opposed to measures that could destroy student work" and Mojca Žnidarič of the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) criticised the Left for drawing up its proposal without consulting the ministry.
The opposition National Party (SNS) party voted in favour, arguing the raise was only symbolic, New Slovenia (NSi) said it would not oppose the raise while warning the rate needed to calculated so as not to disrupt the market, while the Democrats (SDS) said they could not support it but would also not oppose it.
"For many companies, especially those outside of central Slovenia this means a substantial additional cost. It could happen that this will lead to significant decree in the amount of student work," the SDS's Suzana Lep Šimenko said.
The Left's Miha Kordiš begged to differ, arguing the competitive edge of student work lie not in the hourly rate but in its flexibility. He also called for a comprehensive plan that will make sure "no student's mere survival will depend on them accepting underpaid and indecently precarious labour".
STA, 25 September 2019 - Responding to the scandal involving millions in contentions payments at the University of Maribor, the SVIZ teachers' trade union urged Chancellor Zdravko Kačič to consider resigning for failing to immediately present all the facts to the public and notify the police of potential irregularities.
By resigning, Kačič would facilitate a process in which the payment of some EUR 50 million would have to be cleared up, the union said on Wednesday.
"It is completely unacceptable that the chancellor of the public university Zdravko Kačič did not immediately notify oversight institutions and law enforcement of the findings of the audits into fees payments and of other irregularities which point to suspicion of crime and liability for payment of damages," it said in a release.
The union believes that by failing to act on time, Kačič, chancellor since June 2018, is responsible for major damage the scandal has caused to the country's second-largest public university and its staff.
The SVIZ recalled that a few years ago, the Supreme Court had ruled the university's pay system was unsuitable, failing to remunerate staff in line with academic titles.
The university thus broke the law and saved a lot of money on the back of many of its junior staff, while its elite has been receiving indecent fees, the SVIZ said.
Responding to the appeal, Kačič said he had acted as soon as he received the report, so there was no need for his resignation. "I didn't 'misplace' the document, forget about it or conceal it ... but immediately started dealing with it," he said in a release.
He reiterated that he checked the document, which is neither an audit report nor a legal or expert opinion, on 20 June 2018, the day he took office, then talked to auditors to discuss reviewing the financial transactions, presented it to deans in January and then handed it to university members for comments.
"I kept the university board up to date on all steps and handed all the papers on 9 May to an independent institution for a comprehensive review and a final audit report, which will serve as a basis for the university to take action," the chancellor explained, adding the final report is expected next month.
The SVIZ trade union also called on Education Minister Jernej Pikalo to ask the Court of Audit to review the university's financial operations.
Also responding to the scandal, the VSS trade union of university teachers said it expected Kačič to present documents proving the payments were justified and to sanction the cases when staff had abused office for personal gain.
The VSS urged the state as the founder of the university to change legislation and improve oversight to prevent such cases and to enable science and university education to develop even if they brought no short-term profits.
The head of the VVS shop at the university, Marija Javornik Krečič, said university staff was both disappointed and shocked at the controversial fees.
While the media report about payments worth millions of euro, the trade union had to fight legal battles for proper pay of many of university staff, she said.
The alleged abuse is not just a result of vague rules, but of their disrespect coupled with wild corporate logic penetrating universities and some university teachers appropriating certain faculties and areas of research.
Yesterday, Kačič came out strongly against Friday's media report questioning around EUR 50 million euro in payments to its professors through works contracts.
He said the TV Slovenija report was based on incomplete facts from two reports rather than on audits as stated by TV Slovenija.
The chancellor said he had not been acquainted with the 2017 report by the previous leadership, while he knew about the second one from February 2018.
While stressing that neither had found any irregularities, but merely pointed to potential risks, Kačič said he would present the second report once it was reviewed by an independent institution and became final. Only then would the university take action if necessary.
As for the sum of EUR 50 million, Kačič said it referred to the works contracts for the entire period between 2010 and 2016.
STA, 25 September 2019 - Italian students who have started studying or have already graduated from physiotherapy in Slovenia are prevented from finishing their studies due to an amendment of the health services act adopted in 2017 which requires them to gain a B2 level certificate in Slovenian even if they are not planning to work in Slovenia.
A lot of them are thus not able to pass an examination on professional competence since the certificate is required to sit the exam and complete their studies, the students highlighted at today's press conference in Ljubljana.
They have set up Initiative 300 Italy, an action group that raises the issue of their predicament. The amendment will strip the young of their careers and future and destroy many of their lives and families as well as their financial stability and health, said the students.
They pointed out that 18 students passed the exam in professional competence with an interpreter before the law changed, while the rest have been prevented from doing that.
About 150 Italian physiotherapy graduates are waiting for the law to change, while some 30 are still studying. The Alma Mater Europaea Faculty stopped running this course in a foreign language after the amendment, causing about a hundred students to switch faculties.
The Health Ministry told the STA that the students had been misled. In 2016, the then minister endorsed an agreement that allowed students to pass the professional competence exam with an interpreter, but the new legislation does not envisage that anymore.
The remaining students have been informed about the change and thus cannot be exempted from passing the B2 level, according to the ministry.
Lawyer Mihaela Pudgar, who is representing individual students, said today that the amendment had put the students in an unequal position, making them unable to finish their studies in a language in which they were pursuing them and under the conditions that were stated at the start of their studies.
Moreover, Pudgar said that Slovenia had wrongly implemented the European directive on recognition of professional qualifications.
According to her, the 2013 directive lays down that a language certificate needs to be acquired after completing the studies, while Slovenia requires the students to submit it before that, Pudgar told the STA.
She highlighted that the country should not be preventing students who are not to work in Slovenia from finishing their education using the directive.
Pudgar added that the current legislation was in violation of the Slovenian constitution, including a ban on retroactive force of legal acts, equality before the law and the right to education.
It also violates the general administrative procedure act, which lays down that students are entitled to an interpreter, said Pudgar.
The ministry believes that the students can kick off a procedure of recognizing education gained in Slovenia in Italy, thus continuing their educational process in their home country.
However, the students said today that Italy had let them know they should first pass the professional competence examination in Slovenia.
The students have informed a couple of former health ministers about their predicament - former Health Minister Milojka Kolar Celarc, who was at the helm of the ministry when the issue emerged, and her successor, former Health Minister Samo Fakin.
They said they had been promised a withdrawal of the amendment, but that has not yet happened. They have informed current Health Minister Aleš Šabeder of the issue as well, but have not yet received a response.
They have also prepared another health services act amendment and informed President Borut Pahor and Ombudsman Peter Svetina about the situation.
Moreover, the students are deliberating to take the issue to the court if it does not get resolved before. Some of them are also considering to bring damages actions.