STA, 7 September - Mladi Plus, a union representing students, pupils and the jobless under 35, has accused the Ljubljana and Maribor medical faculties of turning down all non-EU citizens who wanted to get enrolled with a vague explanation, alleging "discrimination based on nationality". The STA is awaiting the medical schools to respond to the allegation.
Mladi Plus, or Youth Plus, said on Tuesday that some places at Slovenian faculties are annually reserved for ethnic Slovenians without citizenship and foreign students.
It said the non-EU candidates had been promised at open days that the Ljubljana and Maribor universities would accept all of them if they met entry requirements.
But at the end of August, when it was already too late to apply to study at other faculties, they were told their applications would not be even considered.
The explanation was that all the places had been reserved for Slovenians without Slovenian citizenship, which the trade union said had never happened before.
The union finds problematic the fact the candidates, who had turned to it for help, had received the news when it was too late to apply at other faculties.
The number of rejected candidates is 123, of whom 101 at the Ljubljana faculty, said Youth Plus, which is affiliated with the country's largest trade union association, ZSSS.
It also said the chancellors and deans do not respond to invitations for a meeting with the candidates, while university services said the rejected candidates had the right to appeal.
The trade union said that foreign students represent almost 10% of all students studying in Slovenia, of whom more than half come from the Western Balkans.
STA, 2 September 2021 - Home schooling appears to be ever more popular in Slovenia with the number of kids taught from home spiking by 75% last year, which is attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic and measures related to it.
In the past school year 687 children were schooled at home, most of them the youngest children in the first two years of primary school.
The number of first formers taught from home rose by 75% to 126, from 72 in the 2019/2020 school year as the number of second formers rose by also as much, to 106, from 61 the year before.
Data for the school year that started yesterday will be available after 10 September as parents have time until 31 August each year to opt for home schooling, but a new rise is expected.
Lara Romih, the head of the Parent Councils' Association, believes the reason for the surge is that some parents opted for home schooling because they oppose vaccination and testing of their children.
More generally, the association attributes increased popularity of home instruction to classes being held remotely during the Covid-19 outbreak and often disrupting the family's daily routine.
Talking with the STA, Romih said the association had noticed parents wanting to home-school their children have been joining into various initiatives, mainly on social networks.
In the run-up to the new school year, there was an increase in queries on social networks about the terms of home schooling.
The Institute for Development of Home Schooling, a non-profit promoting home schooling, has currently 2,292 followers on its Facebook site.
Home schooling has been legalised in Slovenia since 1996, but has not been practised until 2004 when first cases were recorded by the Education Ministry.
The ministry says that under valid legislation primary schools cannot deny pupils the right to home schooling, but they can if the pupil fails to pass exams at the end of the school year.
To home instruct their children, parents only need to notify the respective primary school by the start of each new school year, without needing to state their reasons for it.
However, the requirement is that home-schooled pupils attain at least the level of education standard afforded by state school, which is tested by exams.
These are held from the end of May Day break until ten days before the new school year with the level of attainment assessed by a three-member exam panel appointed by the headteacher of the primary the pupil is enrolled in.
In the first three grades, home-schooled pupils are tested in maths and the Slovene language, or in areas with the Italian or Hungarian minorities in Italian or Hungarian.
A foreign language exam is added in the fourth to sixth form, with exams in several more subjects added in the final three years of primary school.
STA, 25 August 2021 - Schools and kindergartens have received instructions on how to act if staff does not adhere to the recovered-vaccinated-tested rule. The Education Ministry document obtained by the STA shows that a refusal to get tested for coronavirus will be sufficient ground for a lay-off.
Employees in kindergartens and education institutions must be either vaccinated, have proof of recovery, or tested once a week, a rule known in Slovenia as PCT.
This means that those who are not vaccinated or reconvalescent and refuse to get tested weekly do not meet the obligations from their employment contract, reads the document.
Employers are not obligated to give those who refuse to get tested the possibility of working from home or going on a furlough.
In case an employee refuses testing, a disciplinary procedure can be launch against them and the lay-off procedure started, which means that ultimately the employee can be fired.
A refusal to wear a face mask is also treated as a violation of the employment contract.
Students and pupils who will not wear masks must, however, not be banned from attending classes. But parents will be notified of the requirement and the school will report such cases to the school inspection.
Education institutions received the instructions on Tuesday afternoon after head teachers warned on several occasions they have no legal ground or instruction on how to act if employees refuse to adhere to the PCT rule.
STA, 23 August 2021 - With the start of the school year only a week away and facing criticism about inadequate preparedness, education officials provided assurances on Monday that educational institutions are prepared for another year of coronavirus restrictions.
Schools and kindergartens will operate according to what is called model B, which means in-person instruction for all children, mandatory masks for older children, distancing, extensive ventilation, and mandatory Covid certificates for staff.
Damir Orehovec, a state secretary at the Education Ministry, acknowledged at a conference for head teachers today that the rules concerning Covid certificates have not been finalised yet.
At present unvaccinated teachers have to be tested by an official provider of testing once a week, but it is likely that self-testing will be introduced soon.
Parents who wish to enter school or kindergarten premises will have to show a Covid certificate as well. It remains unclear who will check parents' status, though.
The rules for the school year have been issued in a 140-page publication for educational institutions and were presented today at the onset of a three-day conference for head teachers.
Vinko Logaj, the head of the National Education Institute, expects that the school year will start and finish in-person.
"The protocols that some schools have already finalised and others are still supplementing will make it possible to successfully carry out instruction in this school year," he said.
Education MinisterSimona Kustec was supposed to address the head teachers as well but she has contracted Covid-19 and is isolating at home with severe symptoms.
Responding to calls that she should resign, she said in a written message that she would "not accept threats, insults and unsubstantiated shaming, or attempt to dehumanise by those ... who abuse the educational system for their narrow, egotistic and often partisan interests".
Messages about sufficient preparedness were also delivered at a session of the parliamentary Education Committee, called at the request of the opposition with the argument that preparations for another epidemic school year have not been sufficient.
Education Ministry State Secretary Mitja Slavinec said the planned measures were a compromise between efforts to secure a safe learning environment and effective instruction.
He said the situation was changing fast and that restrictions were unpredictable, noting that it would be easy to set very strict rules from the start, like Italy did, but that the main goal of the restrictions was to keep schools open as long as possible.
The statement came after the centre-left opposition claimed the government was a complete failure when it came to getting schools ready.
Marko Koprivc, an MP for the Social Democrats (SD), said on behalf of the opposition that with one week to go before classes start, teachers still did not have any information and it was unclear what kind of restrictions will be in place.
He accused Minister Kustec of being "incompetent" and urged her to resign, while calling on the government to finally start working and make sure instruction can proceed normally.
STA, 17 August 2021 - Four centre-left parties are planning to file a motion to vote Education Minister Simona Kustec out of office, arguing that two weeks before the start of the new school year, it is still not clear how primary and secondary schools will organise the education process while the epidemiological situation in the country is deteriorating.
The announcement was made on Tuesday by Tanja Fajon, leader of the Social Democrats (SD) after a meeting of the leaders of the other three parties - the LMŠ, SAB and Left.
Fajon told the press that the no-confidence motion could be filed to the National Assembly within a week.
"It's as if the education minister has not been here for the past year and a half," Fajon said in reference to what the opposition sees as Kustec's inaction during the coronavirus epidemic.
The four parties are mulling more such motions, including against Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak, which Fajon said would be panned by the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ).
The other three party leaders did not speak to the press.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Sport said it could not comment on the motion until it had been filed to parliament.
It stressed however, that preparations for the new school year had been in full swing and running smoothly since the start of the summer holidays.
The first meeting with all kindergarten, primary and secondary school head teachers will be held tomorrow, featuring representatives of the education and health ministries and some other key health and education institutions.
No major changes are planned compared to the last school year, except for the new requirement of compliance with the rule of having recovered from Covid or being vaccinated or tested, the ministry explained in a written statement.
The centre-left opposition has mounted an ouster motion against Kustec in spring, but she survived it in a 41:38 vote, as 46 votes are needed to sack a minister.
It is for now clear from previous statements by health officials that secondary schools students and kids in the last three years of primary school will have to self-test as was the case towards the end of the last school year. If the country enters tier red of restrictions, testing is to become mandatory and more frequent.
STA, 16 August 2021 - Four centre-left opposition parties have requested a session of the parliamentary Education Committee to get answers from the government on how schools will organise when they reopen on 1 September given that coronavirus numbers are surging yet again.
"The new school year starts in just over two weeks but we do not have any answers about how classes will be organised," Marko Koprivc, a deputy for the Social Democrats (SD), said on Monday.
The opposition alleges Slovenia does not have a strategy for the new school year and that schools have not received any instructions from the Education Ministry yet.
They said Education Minister Simona Kustec had failed to use the summer for preparations, instead she attended the Tokyo Olympics as a tourist.
The parties expect Prime Minister Janez Janša to attend the committee session since it is him, not Minister Kustec, who holds the reigns in the educational system.
Indeed, Left deputy Željko Cigler said Janša should dismiss the minister lest he be held responsible for the "collapse of the Slovenian educational system".
The opposition has not yet discussed whether to seek a vote of no confidence against the minister, but Cigler said this was one way to "stop the destructive educational policy".
The Education Ministry has for weeks faced criticism from SVIZ, the teachers' union, and from several head teachers about the absence of instructions as to how school work should be organised.
In the last school year Slovenian pupils spent several months learning from home, before they returned to classrooms in spring.
It remains unclear for now whether there will be mask mandates at schools once again, while according to Health Ministry State Secretary Franc Vindišar, mandatory vaccination for teachers is not being considered.
STA, 11 August 2021 - Compliance with the recovered-vaccinated-tested rule will be a prerequisite for attending university lectures in the next academic year, Health Ministry State Secretary Franc Vindišar has said. The ministry proposes voluntary self-testing for secondary school students, but if Slovenia enters tier red, they will need the Covid certificate.
"Our wish is for schools to stay open. We know that was a major issue in the past and the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport will do its best to ensure they remain open," Vindišar told the press on Wednesday.
He said that student organisations had agreed to the condition of Covid certificate compliance in the case of university lectures.
The ministry's Covid-19 advisory group proposed the same rule for secondary schools, but "everyone wishes to move forward with the gradual model", which envisages Covid certificate compliance as a prerequisite for in-person education after the country moves to the red phase of epidemiological status under criteria by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the state secretary said.
In primary schools, pupils in the last three years could get self-tested if they wish so. If there should be any outbreaks or clusters of coronavirus cases in individual areas, local schools might be closed, however, generally speaking, the ministry will aim to keep schools open, he said.
Vindišar also noted that the vaccination rate among school workers was not sufficient with the ministry urging them to get a jab. According to some sources, the rate stands at approximately 50%.
National Institute of Public Health head Milan Krek called on youths to get vaccinated as well, pointing out that the latest cases most frequently stem from the 15-24 age group. The average age of the infected is 33, he added.
Vindišar said vaccination trends were not favourable as the figures were much too low to contain the epidemic, warning that the situation was deteriorating.
Currently, almost 40% of the population has been fully immunised and 45% has received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Some 31% of the 18-24 age group have been fully protected against Covid-19 and 37% has been jabbed once.
The ministry intends to launch additional mobile vaccination services next week as such units have proved successful, particularly in the countryside.
The Jožef Stefan Institute said today the country has already moved to the orange phase under ECDC criteria and will, given the current trend, move to red in early September.
Such epidemiological developments mean that the recovered-vaccinated-tested rule will have to become mandatory in all areas, including healthcare, education, the hospitality sector, culture, sports and public life, Vindišar said.
STA, 20 July 2021 - A group of 40 MPs led by the Left has tabled legislation revoking the requirement that foreign students must provide upfront proof of sufficient funding for their entire stay in Slovenia, which was enacted in May and has reportedly led to many students being unable to get temporary residency permits.
The amendments to the act on aliens enacted in May "prevent students already in Slovenia from continuing their studies, and prevent new students from enrolling in university," Left MP Primož Siter said on Tuesday.
The move comes in the aftermath of media reports showing that foreign students were having trouble proving their financial situation, even as the Interior Ministry claimed nothing had changed except the type of evidence they must present.
Siter said the legislation had unduly tightened conditions for studying in Slovenia by requiring students prove they have at least EUR 5,000 on their bank account, an amount he said was impossible for many to secure.
Previous legislation merely required that students present a statement from their parents to the effect that they will finance their children for the duration of their stay in Slovenia.
The motion to revoke the requirement has been signed by centre-left opposition deputy groups and the MP for the Italian minority.
STA, 15 July 2021 - There are six private primary schools with state-certified curricula in Slovenia that are entitled to state funding. Under the new rules passed today, their obligatory programmes, such as regular classes including maths or physical education, will be fully funded by the state, up from currently 85%.
The state's annual cost per primary school pupil is now EUR 4,129 - EUR 3,328 in private and EUR 4,136 in public primary schools, government data shows.
The government estimates the new legislation will increase the overall spending on primary education by over EUR 500,000 a year.
The six schools entitled to 100% state funding for mandatory programmes are the Ljubljana Waldorf School, which has another four units around the country; the Maribor Waldorf School; the catholic Alojzij Šuštar Primary School in Ljubljana; the Montessori Institute in Ljubljana; the Montessori Primary School in Maribor; and the LILA Institute in Ljubljana.
The schools had 1,793 pupils in the 2020/21 school year, the bulk of whom went to the Waldorf schools (771), followed by the Alojzij Šuštarj Primary School (475).
The Montessori Institute in Ljubljana was the only other schools with more than 200 pupils, namely 205.
The six schools employed 303 staff, of whom 251 teachers or other experts, with the bulk working at the Waldorf School in Ljubljana and the Alojzij Šuštar Primary School.
There are several other private primary schools in Slovenia, which are however not publicly funded.
They are accredited abroad and teach in foreign languages, the government said as it replied a question from opposition National Party (SNS) MP Dušan Šiško.
Members of the Italian and Hungarian ethnic minorities are meanwhile entitled to education in their respective language, so there are also eight bilingual schools.
STA, 12 July 2021 - A total of 5,461 final-year secondary school students or some 97% passed the national school-leaving exam, known as the matura exam, up from 94% last year and 95% in the pre-distance learning year of 2019. Full marks in the exam were achieved by 15 students, whereas 10 Slovenian students got all points in the international matura.
A total of 302 students who collected 30 points or more out of 34 available and will hence received a special commendation is also the highest in the past three years as the figure stood at 280 last year and 236 in 2019, show data by the National Examinations Centre released on Monday.
The number of those with the maximum yield of points in the spring exams is higher than last year (11) or in 2019 (8).
The international version of the matura exam could be taken at three grammar schools in the country. A total of 64 Slovenian students and 28 foreigners did the exam in Slovenia with ten Slovenians scoring all points.
Meanwhile, the national school-leaving exam for vocational students was passed by 8,058 or almost 94% of students, which compares to 93% both last year and in 2019. The number of those to receive a special commendation increased from 388 to 552, while the number of those with the maximum score (23 or 20 points) was up from 112 to 179.
The matura exam is a test that determines educational possibilities after secondary school. The autumn exams will take place between 24 August and 3 September.
The newspaper Delo reported today that 200 final-year primary school students have not made it to the secondary school of their choice this year. Head teachers have been warning for years that enrolment criteria for secondary schools should not be based merely on grades, Ciril Dominko, the head teacher of the Bežigrad Grammar School, told the paper.
"In the past two years we've witnessed zoom grades that are very high. Hence, students from Ljubljana will be driving to grammar schools elsewhere," he said, referring to the fact that most of those who have not been successful in the first round of enrolment are from the capital.