Ljubljana related

16 Jul 2019, 09:17 AM

STA, 15 July 2019 - The National Council, the upper chamber of parliament, vetoed on Monday legislative changes that cut state funding for private primary schools, arguing the cut was in opposition to the Constitutional Court decision ordering that funding be equalised with that for public schools.

The veto could spell trouble for the controversial changes, adopted last week in a 42:36 vote after a tug-of-war over the interpretation and enforcement of a 2014 top court ruling.

For the lower chamber to override veto, the changes would require absolute majority, meaning 46 MPs. The repeat vote is expected to be held on Thursday, but Gregor Perič of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), the coalition party that abstained from voting last week, already confirmed today the SMC would not change its mind and could not support the bill.

He said the SMC was not afraid of its decision having political consequences, arguing the party had played with open cards all along.

The councillors who filed the veto proposal argued the changes mean a cut in funds and run contrary to the December 2014 decision of the Constitutional Court that ordered full state funding for publicly approved curricula.

The opponents of the changes claim the legislator introduced an unfair distinction between publicly approved curricula and those that obtained public certification, the latter applying for private schools.

The changes introduce full state funding for the segment of private schools curricula corresponding with the public curricula, but completely scrap state funding for additional programmes, which continue to be covered for public schools.

Until now, private schools got 85% of the total state funding received by public schools. Opponents of the changes say that the cut also affects programmes that are part of compulsory primary education, which runs against public interest.

Education Minister Jernej Pikalo defended the changes today, arguing they were in line with the Constitutional Court ruling.

He said international documents also clearly stated that while the state should enable parents to raise their children in line with their world view, the state was not obliged to fund this.

A special commission of the National Council met ahead of today's vote to reject the veto proposal 6:1, with its chair Branimir Štrukelj arguing that private education caused segregation.

National Council president Alojz Kovšca disagreed, saying this was a political and ideological issue, while some councillors argued there are regions in Slovenia where parents do not have the option to send their child to a private school at all.

The opposition right-leaning parties rejected the changes last week. While the Left backed the coalition to help pass them, the SMC abstained from voting.

All our stories in education are here

12 Jul 2019, 11:23 AM

STA, 11 July 2019 - Although there are no courses and exams at Slovenian universities during the summer break, several faculties organise a number of activities, with summer schools for students from around the globe becoming increasingly popular.

It is the summer schools organised by the University of Ljubljana's Faculty of Economics and Faculty of Arts that have the longest tradition and attract many students.

The Faculty of Economics launched the 20th Ljubljana Summer School this week, termed Take the Best from East and West.

Interest in it growing, so over 400 students from more than 90 higher education establishments from almost 40 countries are attending.

While the first summer school in 2000 featured 35 students from five countries, the faculty has hosted more than 4,000 students since then.

This year's three-week programme features 30 internationally acclaimed lecturers teaching 25 courses.

The faculty says its summer school is one of the largest summer schools of business and economics in Europe.

Courses, held in English, are also open to Slovenian students and all those who wish to improve their knowledge of various aspects of economics.

While one segment offers graduate and post-graduate courses in business, economic and business law, and business English, the other one focuses on Slovenian culture.

Apart from getting an unforgettable experience, students take an exam at the end of the summer school to get additional credit points they can use at their faculties.

Having just completed the the Faculty of Social Sciences' summer school, Angelika Lomat, a Belarus studying in Poland, says it was an exceptional experience.

The 4th Academia Aestiva Internationalis, which was attended by 20 students from eleven countries, was her first summer school "an experience I'd like to repeat".

"It was an incredible opportunity to meet experts from different areas and share your own experience with students from other countries," she has told the STA.

The Faculty of Arts, or its Centre for Slovenian as a Second and Foreign Language, has organised the Slovenian language summer school for the 38th year running.

More than 100 foreigners from 32 countries could choose a two- or a four-week Slovenian language course to improve their reading, writing and speaking skills.

The faculty's department of Slavic studies meanwhile organised the 55th seminar of Slovenian language, literature and culture.

Since the century of the University of Ljubljana and of Prekmurje's reunification with Slovenia is observed in 2019, the seminar's focus is on 1919 as reflected in the language and culture.

The seminar has brought together students, university teachers, Slavic studies experts, translators and other scholars from 26 countries.

Slovenian language courses are also organised at the University of Primorska, which is based in the coastal town of Koper.

Its Faculty of Humanities has organised the 26th summer course of Slovenian language dubbed Hallo, Slovenia's Mediterranean Calling!, offering not only language studies and an insight into Slovenian culture but also two relaxed weeks at the seaside.

11 Jul 2019, 11:15 AM

STA, 10 July 2019 - The National Assembly passed on Wednesday the controversial government-sponsored changes to the law on the financing and organisation of education which alter the way in which the state funds private primary schools.

The bill was backed in a 42:36 vote despite criticism, also among some coalition parties, that it falls short of implementing a constitutional court decision on 100% state funding of publicly approved curricula at private primary schools.

It sets down the state fully financing publicly approved curricula at private primary schools, but any publicly approved curricular content considered above-standard (pre- and after-school classes etc) will be exempted from state funding.

Since both programmes are now funded 85%, the new legislation means the amount of public funds received by private primary schools will drop.

The bill has been strongly criticised by two centre-right opposition parties and by parents of the children going to half a dozen private primaries for not providing 100% funding as ordered by the court in December 2014.

It has also been criticised by the government and parliament's legal services, which warned it could be unconstitutional, noting it would worsen the legal position of private primary schools with parents paying more for their children's education.

But the new financing regime will not apply to those who are already in primary school. It will only start applying to those who start primary school in the 2020/2021 school year.

The changes were backed by four of the five coalition parties with the help of the opposition Left and both minority MPs.

The coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) abstained, while the opposition Democrats (SDS), New Slovenia (NSi) and National Party (SNS) voted against.

Defending his bill after the vote, Education Minister Jernej Pikalo of the Social Democrats (SD) said parliament "draw a clear line between private and public education".

He said this concept had already been set down in the 1995 White Paper on Education, and had now only been confirmed in parliament.

"It is not about whether I'm happy or not. My key task is to try to improve the education system," he said, adding he was not worried about a constitutional review.

Stressing many laws are sent to the Constitutional Court, Pikalo said "this is a normal process in a democracy ... Every branch of power has its own tasks and does its part of the job".

As reflected by the vote, today's parliamentary debate brought no convergence of stances on the legislation.

The Left's Miha Kordiš, however, explained the party had decided to support the bill "because it does not improve the status of private schools".

The party believes that public money should be spent on public schools, and that the Constitution should be changed to draw a clear line between private and public.

Tomaž Lisec of the SDS accused the supporters of the bill of cutting the funds for private primary schools, thus causing discrimination "because of leftist ideology".

Gregor Perič of the SMC said "the bill is far from what we should do".

His party colleague Igor Zorčič added that "if the court said the 85% funding is too low for private schools, we cannot pass a bill which further cuts the funds".

Jožef Horvat of the NSi believes the rule of law is at stake in this case. "If the legislator was not able to change a simple article in four and a half years to implement the court decision, then we have a problem with the rule of law."

He noted that only 0.84% of primary school children go to private schools, so another EUR 300,000 spent on them would be no problem for the national budget.

Aljaž Kovačič of the Marjan Šarec Party (LMŠ) assessed the court decision was not that straightforward as some would like to think, but said the LMŠ trusted Pikalo that the bill implemented it.

Supporting the bill, Maša Kociper of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) wondered whether it was reasonable that a mere "nine Constitutional Court judges decide on the most vital social issues".

Matej Tonin (NSi), on the other hand, reiterated his view that the court should first annul the new law and then implement its decision from 2014 itself.

Disappointment was also expressed by the parents of the children going to private schools.

They hope the bill will be vetoed by the upper chamber and then voted down when it is put to a revote in the lower chamber, where it will need at least 46 votes.

Marko Balažic of the United Parents civil initiative warned the bill would introduce elitism, as many parents could not afford to pay the school fee any more.

The school fee for the publicly approved curriculum will more than double, with the cost of the above-standard curriculum also rising, he said.

Balažic said that Prime Minister Marjan Šarec had sacrificed the rule of law for the survival of the ruling coalition.

All our stories on education in Slovenia are here

02 Jul 2019, 10:00 AM

STA, 1 July 2019 - The parliamentary Education Committee has endorsed, in a narrow vote, a controversial government-sponsored bill designed to implement a 2014 Constitutional Court decision under which the state must provide 100% funding for publicly approved curricula taught at private primary schools.

The committee on Monday rejected all amendments, so the changes to the law on financing education will now be put to vote at a plenary in the form adopted by the government in early June.

Under the changes, the state is to finance fully publicly approved curricula at private primary schools. However, any publicly approved curricular content considered above-standard (pre- and after-school classes etc) will be exempted from state funding. At the moment, both programmes are funded 85%.

This is what the centre-right Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi), pushing for full state funding of all services, had tried to change with their amendments.

The amendments filed by four coalition parties, which had acted after the parliament's legal service found the changes rather problematic, were also voted down.

However, unofficial information indicates further changes are possible, as the coalition has not yet given up on trying to come to an acceptable model of financing.

The coalition is apprehensive the bill, if passed as it is, would be sent into constitutional review and found unconstitutional again.

If the state provides no funds for publicly approved above-standard activities which are part of normal daily routine, the overall funds Slovenia spends on private primary schools would drop.

The parliament's legal service believes the lower amount of public funding would encroach upon the legal position of private primary schools.

One of the amendments filed today by the ruling Marjan Šarec List's (LMŠ) had thus tried to raise the funding a bit.

It said the state would fund part of the publicly approved extra-curricular activities such as classes for under- and over-performing students and morning day-care for first graders.

The amendment was a kind of a compromise reached by four coalition parties bar the Social Democrats (SD), which met before the committee session to negotiate a deal.

The SD, on the other hand, insists on the original bill, which was drafted by the Education Ministry, led by Jernej Pikalo from its ranks.

During the debate Marko Koprivc of the SD said the bill was in line with the court decision, and he was happy it would not dismantle the network of public schools.

"For us, it would be absolutely unacceptable to finance public and private schools equally. This would lead to further stratification," he said.

The debate on the committee was expectedly held along partisan lines, focussing on differing views on public vs private education.

SDS and NSi MPs said passing the bill unchanged would be in breach of the court decision.

Jožef Horvat of the NSi criticised the coalition for wanting to "destroy private schools". "The bill contains some very clear signals that private schools are not welcome in Slovenia," he said, adding Slovenia would most probably find itself before the European Court of Human Rights.

The opposition Left, meanwhile, called for changing the Constitution, arguing it is not clear about financing private schools.

Several MPs regretted though that the court decision, made four and a half years ago, had not yet been implemented.

The bill will now be sent into second reading in the National Assembly, which has recently already held a public debate on it.

All our stories on education are here

27 Jun 2019, 09:35 AM

STA, 26 June 2019 - The parliamentary legal service has issued its opinion on the controversial bill on the funding of private primary schools related to a Constitutional Court decision, saying it is questionable in several places from the aspect of constitutional order, and even unconstitutional in certain points.

The nine-page opinion was issued after the bill passed first reading in the National Assembly last week and as the parliamentary Education Committee was scheduled to debate it again today, but postponed the session after the legal opinion was issued.

Under the bill, private primary schools are to get full state funding to teach publicly approved curricula, with pre-school or after-school classes, which are otherwise a normal part of daily life at school, not financed at all.

In the amendments to the act on the financing of education, which is meant to implement a 2014 Constitutional Court ruling mandating full rather than just 85% state financing of publicly approved curricula at private primaries, any curricular content considered as above-standard will be exempted.

The parliamentary legal service says in its opinion the main shortcoming of the bill is the "strict focus of the initiator on realising very narrowly defined goals".

The government proposes broader and, in certain points inconsistent, changes to the existing education system compared to those demanded by the Constitutional Court, while not providing well argued reasons for this, it added.

The legal service has also made remarks on concrete articles, including the one on the funding of private primary schools, establishing that the proposed amount of public funds for this purpose would actually be lower compared to the current amount.

"The lower amount of public funding thus encroaches upon the legal position of private primary schools," it says, adding that private schools could transfer the burden of financing on the student's parents.

According to the legal service, this worsens the legal position of students and their parents, who could not count on such an initiative from the government in the wake of the Constitutional Court's decision.

It adds that the government has failed to explain what the public interest is that justifies the worsening of the legal position of private primary schools and their students and their parents.

There is also no explanation in the bill as to why the government is abolishing the co-funding of the part of the extended programme which is uniformly specified for all primary schools in Slovenia.

The bill also opens up several questions about compliance with the general principle of equality before the law, it says, adding the proposal that the educational programme of private schools must differ from that in public schools is also disputable.

What is more, the differentiation between publicly approved curricula and curricula that have gained public validity could be disputable from the aspect of the constitutional right to the freedom of expression, and from the aspect of the constitutional prohibition of discrimination based on personal circumstances.

Following the legal service's opinion, coalition parties met to discuss the new development, opting to postpone the Education Committee's session. The committee then put the debate off by a few days.

MP Marko Koprivc of the Social Democrats (SD), who gave the initiative for the postponement, said they had only just received the legal service's opinion, so they had not had the time to study it yet.

Education Minister Jernej Pikalo welcomed the committee's decision to postpone the session, saying it was right the legal service's opinion was studied, "especially if we want to have quality legislation".

Nevertheless, he defended the solution to fund the mandatory part of publicly approved curricula 100% and not to fund any extra activities at all. He insists this is in line with the court's ruling.

However, since last week, the opposition has already filed a number of amendments. The Democrats (SDS) would not just like private primary schools which teach publicly approved curricula to get full state funding, they also propose that private music and secondary schools get 85% of its costs covered by the state.

During last week's parliamentary debate, only the parties of the minority coalition supported the bill, but some of them only under certain conditions. Some of them announced their final opinion would depend on the opinion of the parliament's legal service, so further changes during the legislative seem possible.

Other stories on this bill can be found here, while all our stories on education in Slovenia are here

07 Jun 2019, 15:18 PM

STA, 6 June 2019 - The government has confirmed a controversial legislative motion under which private primary schools are to get full state funding to teach publicly approved curricula, but what constitutes curricula has been effectively narrowed to the extent that private schools are calling it a betrayal of constitutional commitments.

The amendments to the act on the financing of education implements a 2014 Constitutional Court ruling mandating full rather than 85% state financing of publicly approved curricula at private primaries.

But 100% financing refers only to a narrowly defined mandatory programme, with services such as pre-school or after-school classes, which are otherwise a normal part of daily life at school, not financed at all. Similarly, any curricular content considered as above-standard will be exempted.

The amendments would apply to students who will start school next year, while those currently enrolled would be subject to the financing scheme currently in place: 100% financing of mandatory curriculum and 85% financing of expanded curriculum.

But private schools say that the bill contravenes the landmark Constitutional Court decision since it would affectively reduce financing from 85% to around 65%.

Education Minister Jernej Pikalo said that the proposal was based on the ministry's interpretation of the court's decision that what must be funded was the mandatory programme, and not also the extended programme.

The minister stressed that the primary school act did not define the latter as mandatory, although the state was currently financing it.

Regarding the premise that private schools would not be competitive if they did not provide pre-school or after-school classes, he said that the "network of public schools where all this is organised is available to every parent".

"They meanwhile have every right to enrol their children in a private school," Pikalo said, adding that the state did not want to limit the private initiative in education, "which must be present".

"But every country can decide on their own to what extent it will finance this private initiative and what the entry conditions will be," the minister said at a press conference as he presented the changes.

The centre-right opposition has long been vociferously opposed to the proposal arguing that it actually circumvents the Constitutional Court decision, and even some coalition partners have been reserved.

The Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) said that the motion must not reduce the existing rights of private schools in this respect, while the Modern Centre Party (SMC) will listen to the opinion of the parliamentary legal service.

Brane Golubović, the head of the deputy group of the ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), said the party believed the minister, adding that "we will examine all remarks from the public debate and make our decisions based on that".

On the other hand, opposition New Slovenia (NSi) president Matej Tonin said on Twitter that the government's proposal actually lowered the financing of private school "to the ridicule of children, parents and the rule of law".

30 May 2019, 18:18 PM

May 30, 2019

Have your kids entered the public school system in Slovenian and just found “school in nature” (šola v naravi) on the school’s calendar, but have no idea what this is?

According to the official definition of the Ministry of Education, “school in nature is an organised form of educational work that takes place outside the school premises for three or more days in a row. (…) School in nature is organised by a school, which defines the content, execution and financing of a particular school in nature in its annual plan.”

Due to the autonomy of the schools in the public education system, the number of such trips for each generation of students varies from school to school.

It is mandatory for schools to organise at least one school in nature for each generation of elementary school children, although in most cases two week-long trips away from home are expected by most of the kids: a summer swimming trip at the end of grade four, and a winter skiing trip in grade six or seven.

It is perhaps important to mention that the first mandatory 20-hour swimming course takes place in either second or third grade. Students are expected to know how to swim by the time they finish elementary school, just like knowing how to ride a bicycle or to read and write.

This is also the reason why the summer school is part of the mandatory programme, and also the one school offers subsidies for. School in nature costs between EUR 120 and 140, and up to about 180 for winter school, but the expenses for students from financially weaker families are usually covered from the so-called School Fund. As a parent you can contribute to the school fund yourself. Usually, schools send monthly School Fund invoices to parents of their students and they can decide whether they will or can contribute or not.

School in nature usually takes place in Centres for School and Outdoor Education (CŠOD), which are best equipped for these type of activities, can house a large number of students and aren’t profit oriented, hence relatively cheap.

School in nature is certainly a very exciting event and a great bonding opportunity for the kids of each generation. Besides, school in nature continues to present a travel opportunity for many who would otherwise not be able to afford one in a private family setting.

30 May 2019, 10:03 AM

STA, 29 May 2019 - Slovenia, Finland and Norway have placed third on the list of the safest countries for children to grow up in globally, according to NGO Save the Children's latest End of Childhood index, released on Tuesday.

Slovenia, always ranking very high by child safety, has thus slipped from the first place it shared last year with Singapore, which remains the world leader.

The index measures health and prosperity of children around the globe, taking into account nutrition, access to education, infant mortality, child marriages, child labour, teenage pregnancies and regional conflicts.

Slovenia recorded 0.5% of child marriages, slightly more than four teenage girls per 1,000 gave birth, and 2.8% of children did not go to school in 2013-2018.

Related: Primary, secondary and tertiary education in Slovenia

Save the Children said in the latest report The Many Faces of Exclusion the situation had improved from last year's report in 173 out of 176 countries.

Nevertheless, an estimated 690 million are still being denied a carefree childhood due to disease, death, child marriages, premature pregnancies and undernourishment.

However, this is an improvement on 2000, when the figure was put at 970 million, the report said.

The situation is worst in some African countries, whereas the best countries to grow up in are Singapore and Sweden in second place.

Except for Singapore and South Korea, the list of best-rated countries come from Europe. The US again placed 36th.

The charity's director Helle Thorning-Schmidt urged governments to do more to give every child the best possible start in life.

The full report can be seen here

21 May 2019, 17:00 PM

STA, 21 May 2019 - Debates have been raging on for years about whether schoolwork is stressing children out. A study commissioned by the National Education Institute appears to show that Slovenian school children are exposed to stress, progressively so as they get older, but to a much lesser degree than widely assumed.

 The study measured self-reported stress levels in over 8,300 children in sixth and eighth grade from 269 primary schools. Their average stress level was 37.5 on a 15-75 scale, well below the mean value.

"Children are telling us that things we find potentially tasking are not such a great burden for them," Tanja Rupnik Vec, one of the authors of the study, told the press on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, the study shows that stress increases with age, with eighth-grade children reporting higher stress levels than those in sixth grade.

Grading is the biggest source of stress together with the large number of subjects, whereas relations with teachers and other children, parental expectations and extracurricular activities are not a significant source of stress.

The study also examined how stress affects students. It found that negative consequences are rare on average, with the exception of fatigue, inability to concentrate and tension, which is two-thirds of students experience frequently.

Boys respond to stress with negative behaviour, while girls are more likely to react with insecurity, anxiety and loss of appetite.

Another major issue the study looked into was workload, especially homework, in the wake of a petition launched earlier this year that gained a lot of traction by proposing a radical reform including elimination of grades and homework.

The results show the vast majority of children, almost 56%, spending less than half an hour a day on homework, with another almost 30% doing homework for up to an hour. Almost two-thirds of students study less than an hour a day, except before tests.

Most children have been shown to have plenty of time for mobile devices, with almost 28% using them up to 30 minutes per day, 30% up to an hour a day and almost a quarter from one to two hours per day. Only a quarter of students use mobile devices to search for school-related information.

The survey was designed in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, which plans to use it as an input for a White Paper on education.

15 May 2019, 18:43 PM

STA, 15 May 2019 - Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, wrapped up his two-day visit to Slovenia by attending a MEPI youth event and planting a tree of friendship between the UK and Slovenia in Ljubljana's Tivoli Park together with President Borut Pahor on Wednesday. He also took part in a debate on the importance of non-formal education.

Pahor and Prince Edward met with students involved in the international Duke of Edinburgh Award programme (known in Slovenia as MEPI), which supports the young in developing their interests and skills and prepares them for future life and work.

They also observed the participants' workshops and attended a students' performance celebrating the friendship.

The Earl of Wessex has been the chairman of the trustees of The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award Foundation since 2015, advocating the benefits of the programme in the UK and abroad as well as presenting the MEPI gold awards. Pahor is the honorary patron of Slovenia's MEPI programme.

UK Ambassador to Slovenia Sophie Honey said that the aim of the visit was to celebrate the countries' strong bilateral ties as well as historical ones and strengthen them in many areas, including security, business, education, science and culture.

"Brexit may change the institutional links between us but I don't think it changes the friendship, I don't think it changes the will and the drive to work together in all of these areas," said Honey.

Prince Edward later took part in a business event hosted by the British-Slovenian Chamber of Commerce and promoting the importance of non-formal education in the business world.

The Earl of Wessex shared his thoughts on how programmes like MEPI assist young people in preparing for the job market through active participation in a variety of activities.

He pointed out that besides teaching young people how to pass an exam, the education system should also prepare them for life and work afterwards.

"Knowledge is knowing that tomatoes are fruit, wisdom is knowing that you're not going to put tomatoes in a fruit salad," he quipped.

The prince believes the educational systems should take into account that the young are individuals with specific interests, who should be able to choose from a variety of opportunities and activities.

According to him, such programmes help the young develop confidence outside the classroom which then translates to other areas, improves their school results and prepares them for the challenges ahead.

"What happens outside the classroom could be more or at least equally important as what happens inside it," he pointed out.

Other participants agreed that skills acquired through the MEPI programme should be valued by employers as well.

Gregor Deleja, the head teacher of the Celje Center Secondary School, called for education reforms and stressed the importance of the inclusive leadership concept.

He also said that the MEPI programme enabled the young to develop an inclusive way of thinking and solidarity as well as perseverance in pursuing their goals.

NLB bank chairman Blaž Brodnjak said that in this instant-gratification culture, the educational system should focus on the importance of patience and effort in achieving long-term goals, promoting deeper feedbacks not just superficial and constant likes as seen on social networks.

The Earl of Wessex is visiting Slovenia at the invitation of the president to celebrate the first Slovenia-UK Friendship Day and promote the importance of non-formal education.

He and Pahor planted an alder tree symbolising the friendship in the city's most popular park. This particular type of alder tree is indigenous to Slovenia and thrives in wet soil.

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