Ljubljana related

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.

04 Apr 2019, 14:30 PM

STA, 3 April 2019 - Education Minister Jernej Pikalo has announced that the coalition has come up with an agreement on the state funding of private primary schools, under which the mandatory state-approved curriculum would be fully funded, but the extended curriculum would not get any funds.

The announcement on Wednesday comes as the five-member minority coalition is trying to implement the Constitutional Court's ruling from 2014 mandating full state funding of private primary schools teaching state-approved curricula.

Currently, private primary schools have 85% of both their mandatory public curriculum and extended programme covered by the state. Extended programme includes remedial classes for struggling students and additional classes for outperforming students, as well as pre- and after-class activities.

Under the planned changes to the organisation and financing of education act, the generations already attending primary schools would have their mandatory public curriculum fully financed, while extended programme would be financed at a 85% rate.

For the generations enrolled after the changes enter into force, mandatory public curriculum would be fully financed, while extended programme would not be financed, Pikalo explained.

He added that the proposal, which will now enter public consultation, clearly defined the conditions for such state funding and instructions to institutions on how to meet these conditions.

The minister hopes the public consultation would result in a solution which would be accepted before the start of the next school year.

Pikalo noted that the wording of the changes had been discussed today only by the coalition, adding that the talks with the Left, the government's tentative partner from the opposition, would be held separately.

Announcing the proposal, the minister said that it implemented the Constitutional Court's decision on the one hand, and protected the network of public schools on the other.

He said that the proposal "brings together what is sometimes perceived as impossible", adding that his personal opinion was that it was not right that same primary education programmes were funded differently.

Pikalo said he would look to secure the broadest possible consensus on the proposal, adding that he would present it to all parliamentary deputy groups.

But the first reactions from the opposition are that the proposal is unconstitutional, while some coalition parties are also cautious despite the minister saying that the proposal had been agreed on.

The Democrats (SDS) noted that the Constitutional Court's decision stipulates full funding of publicly approved programmes, where extended programmes belong.

Tomaž Lisec, an MP of the largest opposition party said on Twitter that the proposal was "unconstitutional".

The opposition New Slovenia (NSi) said it supported "100-percent funding of publicly approved programme, without the artificial differentiation between the mandatory and extended part."

The NSi noted that a very small number of private primary schools in Slovenia would be eligible for full funding under that proposal. "This would not threaten public education in any way," the party said on Twitter.

Aljaž Kovačič of the ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) said it was only a proposal on which other stakeholders would give their opinion, adding that constitutional experts would also needed to be consulted.

Igor Zorčič, the head of the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) deputy group, said the party expected from Pikalo to consult jurists on whether the proposal was appropriate in order to prevent possible new unconstitutionalities.

The proposal is supported by Pikalo's Social Democrats (SD) and the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), with the latter saying that the public education network should be protected.

In Slovenia, primary education is provided to all children, the SAB said, adding that Slovenia was one of the least socially stratified societies in the world, which needed to be preserved.

The party believes that the "material Minister Pikalo presented to the coalition parties, despite some remarks, addresses the issue appropriately".

All our stories on education are here

12 Feb 2019, 16:29 PM

February 12, 2019

From February 12 till March 18, 2019 prospective students can apply to programmes at Slovenian universities for the study year 2019/20. Following the first enrolment round the second will take place between August 22 and August 29 to fill any remaining vacancies.

For every student still not certain about their programme of choice, open days will be held by universities and colleges across the country on the 15th and 16th of February, 2019.

For anyone interested please click here  for the online enrolment application procedure.

More detailed information can be found at specific universities’ websites (University of Ljubljana, University of Maribor, University of Nova Gorica, University of Primorska), or browse this website for the contact information of other independent tertiary schools and colleges in Slovenia.

11 Feb 2019, 13:00 PM

STA, 11 February 2019 - More than 21,000 people have signed a petition urging reform of the Slovenian education system to make it more children friendly. However, two former ministers warn that rash and radical changes may backfire.

The petition has been launched by a parents' association called the Parent Council, whose chairman Nataša Šram says that "generations before us have been warning something is amiss with our education system".

The initiative calls for reducing the volume of syllabus and homework, for more descriptive grading, and for transforming the school-leaving exams into entrance examinations for secondary schools and colleges.

The parents propose reducing the syllabus by getting rid of useless content in the curricula, and cutting down on homework by giving the teacher more scope for revision at school.

"The petition was drawn up because we realised that as parents we cannot do much through parent councils [at schools] and because the petition is the only way to impact the education system's regulation," Šram told the STA.

She would not single out any of the 14 changes proposed in the petition, also because many are interlinked so several should be implemented at once.

Parents complain about pupils’ workloads, class sizes and grades

She believes that the changes affecting the scope of the syllabuses and homework and those concerning grading could be carried out quite fast. One of the demands is reducing the size of class to 24 children.

Anton Meden, the chairman of the Parent Council Association, an association bringing together parent councils at Slovenian primary schools, would like a sober debate based on arguments.

"It's hard to say whether the students are over- or under-burdened, but fact is they have many more subjects and more grading than in comparable European countries, in particular in final years of primary school.

Related: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Education in Slovenia

"As far as homework is concerned, there are no objective data as to whether there's too much, but we have reports from parents that its volume has been increasing in recent years," Meden told the STA.

He has compared primary school syllabuses with those for the same subject at secondary school and at the university, "finding that they are taught a lot of complexity in primary school".

He said that parents were also reporting that increasingly complex content was being moved down to ever younger children and students.

However, Meden also says that before any changes are made analysis should be conducted and then changes made only based on the findings.

More data needed before action is taken

"Our association wrote down our observations (some of them similar to those in the petition) last spring before the general election, but we didn't offer ready-made solutions because we believe we need hard data first and then a thorough rethink before we take measures."

Similarly, two former education ministers, Slavko Gaber and Maja Makovec Brenčič, warn against too fast or too radical change.

"The worst thing that can happen to the schools system is an ad hoc approach," Gaber told the STA on the sidelines of a debate on private schools hosted by President Borut Pahor last week.

Gaber, who served several terms as education minister in 1992-1999 and 2002-2004, does not support proposals such as reintroducing entrance examinations or scrapping national school leaving exams.

He also has misgivings about any "disburdening" of primary or secondary school students. "Our school is comparable to schools elsewhere around the globe, even to the best ones," he said.

He believes that investing time and money pays off, adding that Slovenia "can also have a system that won't demand almost anything, if that's what we want, but the outcome will be such as well".

The debate will continue…

Makovec Brenčič, the education minister between 2015 and 2018, says that any change should be taken step by step and based on a consideration as to what it is that you want to give to the students.

She is a supporter of the national school exams, and introducing such exams, currently held in the 6th and 9th year of primary school, for year 3 children to check on how their learning is upgraded throughout school.

In response Šram says that it is not radical changes that their petition calls for and that the parents would be happy if at least something changed, such as halving the number of grades.

The petitioners have been invited to discuss the issues and proposals they have highlighted with Education Minister Jernej Pikalo at a meeting on Tuesday.

31 Jan 2019, 19:20 PM

STA, 31 January 2019 - The National Assembly passed legislative amendments on Thursday which transpose the EU directive setting down the conditions of entry and residence of third-country citizens for the purposes of research, studies and training.

The directive, which entered into force in May 2016, should have been translated into national law by member countries by 23 May 2018. Missing the deadline, Slovenia has already received a reprimand from Brussels.

The directive also deals with the entry of third-country nationals for the purposes of voluntary service, pupil exchange schemes or educational projects and au pairing.

Education Ministry State Secretary Jernej Štromajer said that the amendments to the research and development activity act entailed only minor changes.

The amendments were passed by unanimous vote, but many MPs said they expected much more from a bill reforming the act more thoroughly which is already in the pipeline.

However, the Left abstained from the vote, airing misgivings about the elimination of certain proofs in acquiring residence permits for third-country citizens hosted by research agencies.

The EU standards can be found in many languages and formats here

29 Jan 2019, 15:32 PM

STA, 29 January 2019 - Scoring 60 points, Slovenia ranked 36th among 180 countries in Transparency International's (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) rankings for 2018, a drop of one point and two spots from 2017, respectively. The country has thus made no major progress since 2012, TI Slovenia said in a release on Tuesday.

Based on independent sources, the CPI ranks the countries according to how corrupt their public sectors are perceived to be.

The countries are ranked by scoring from 0 to 100 points, with 0 meaning the country is perceived as highly corrupt and 100 that it is "very clean".

Commenting on Slovenia's placement, Transparency International (TI) Slovenia and the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (KPK) highlighted the lack of will for systemic change which would result in a breakthrough in Slovenia.

Both pointed to the slow pace of adopting changes to the law on integrity and the prevention of corruption, with TI noting that after a lengthy government procedure, parliament was dissolved before it discussed them.

"We are waiting for these changes for a long time. Far too long," TI Slovenia boss Alma Sedlar was quoted as saying in a release, urging for systemic measures to effectively prevent corruption as soon as possible, including the changes to the umbrella integrity law.

Her view was fully echoed by the KPK, which however believes the shortcomings could only be eliminated by drafting a brand new law to regulate corruption prevention in a more efficient manner and give it more powers to take adequate action.

The Justice Ministry, meanwhile, responded by saying it would send the changes to the integrity law into government procedure in the first half of the year.

But it noted it was impossible to assess whether the lengthy process of adopting these changes directly affected Slovenia's CPI rankings.

It believes Slovenia has achieved "an expected result", having regularly placed around the 35th spot and having scored 57-61 points.

The ministry also highlighted the fact that the index measured whether the public sector was "perceived" as corrupted, not whether it was actually corrupt.

This reflects the level of trust in institutions promoting the rule of law in fighting corruption (KPK, prosecution or courts), it said.

The ministry also noted it had drafted changes to the criminal procedure law, the purpose of which was also to give law enforcement tools to prosecute corruption.

TI Slovenia boss Sedlar also noted that lobbying, the revolving-door phenomena and the protection of whistleblowers were still waiting to be systemically addressed.

There is also no progress in promoting integrity of top office holders, as parliament has not yet adopted a code of ethics for MPs, said Sedlar, a view also supported by the KPK.

Given that GRECO has urged the code's adoption, Sedlar believes failure to meet international recommendations puts all public institutions in a bad light.

Non-transparent and negligent use of public funds also affects the perception of corruption, TI Slovenia noted.

It also said that a comparison of the CPI and other indicators showed countries where press freedom was not guaranteed ranked lower.

There is also a link between the CPI and how much space civil society groups have to carry out their activity.

In its response to Slovenia's slipping two spots, the KPK said this exposed decision-makers' failure to act when institutions in charge discovered corruption.

"Thus not even flagrant cases such as the TEŠ 6 coal-fired power station have been addressed by the government and parliament in a manner that would reflect their zero tolerance to corruption," the KPK added.

Out of Slovenia's neighbours, only Austria placed higher on the CPI rankings, at 17th spot, while Italy placed 57th, Croatia 63rd and Hungary 64th.

Among the least corrupt countries in the world in 2018 were Denmark, which scored 88.1 points, New Zealand with 87.2 and Finland with 85.3.

The countries at the bottom are those where a war is raging or has ended, with Somalia placing 180th with 10 points.

Slovenia falls one place in talent competitiveness index

STASTA, 29 January 2019 - Slovenia has slid one spot in the Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) compiled by the Insead Business School, Adecco temping agency and Tata Communication. The country ranks 29th out of 125 countries included in the survey, a spot down from 2018 and four spots down from the first GTCI index in 2013.

Slovenia scored 54.44 points, more than 27 points less than Switzerland, which tops the ranking. Yemen, placing last, got a score of 11.97 points.

While 29th overall, Slovenia ranks 19th in Europe. Interestingly, it is also one spot ahead of South Korea.

It ranks 38th in terms of enabling talent, 47th in terms of attracting talent from abroad, 34th in growing its own talent and 27th in terms of retaining talent.

The index also compares cities, with Ljubljana ranking 50th, after finishing 49th last year. This is the second time Ljubljana was included in the ranking of cities.

Adecco Slovenija said in a press release on Tuesday that there was a lot of room for improvement in terms of Ljubljana's connectivity to airports and simplification of hiring.

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