VET in Slovakia comprises the following main features:
- Employment rate of 20- to 34-year-old VET graduates has increased since 2014
- Almost 7 out of 10 upper secondary learners are in VET programmes
- The share of early leavers from education and training has significantly increased during the last decade
- Dual VET was introduced in 2015/16 and it is gradually expanding
- Participation in lifelong learning is well below the EU-28 average.
Distinctive features ():
IVET is strongly State-regulated, predominantly school-based, combining provision of general education and developing key competences with vocational skills. A broad variety of upper secondary programmes contributes to high youth education attainment and, despite a negative trend, still low early leaving from education and training (8.6% in 2018).
Ties between VET schools and the business world loosened during the early period of economic transformation in the 1990s. Since then, with new legislation, involvement of social partners in VET has been increasing in programming, curriculum design and qualification award. Since 2015, social partners have been also more actively involved in VET governance.
Stronger engagement of the business world in informing VET schools about skill needs via sectoral (skills) councils () should help IVET better adjust to a rapidly changing labour market.
Deterioration in many international indicators calls for action:
- decreasing performance in reading, mathematics and science, visible from PISA ( ), negatively affects participation in mechanical and electrical engineering VET programmes, leading to shortage of supply of technically skilled graduates in the national economy;
- early leaving from education and training data of Eastern Slovakia deteriorated extremely, being in a long-term over the EU 2020 target;
- participation in lifelong learning is well below the EU-28 average (4.0% compared to 11.1% in 2018).
The 2012 European Council country-specific recommendations have identified three areas for action:
- strengthening labour market relevance of education and vocational training;
- improving education of vulnerable groups, including Roma;
- ensuring labour market reintegration of adults.
They are still relevant: ESF projects have had some impact, but more time is needed to address them fully. In spite of substantial progress in reforming VET since 2008, systemic changes, including additional investments, are needed to:
- secure up-to-date equipment in VET schools to improve training quality;
- increase the attractiveness of the VET teacher and trainer profession and improve their in-service training substantially;
- strengthen VET research and labour market analysis, focusing on graduate tracking and identification of transferable skills, to improve understanding of labour market and skill needs;
- support more systematically the mobility of learners, VET staff and experts, and learn from international expertise and experiences to mainstream activities;
- bridge the worlds of learning and work by ensuring that experts with a business background can inform VET schools on emerging skill needs, particularly by reinforcing the position and role of sectoral (skills) councils;
- make the qualification system more flexible through continuous revision (linked to the work on the Slovak qualifications framework) and development of validation procedures for non-formal and informal learning.
Information based on VET in Slovakia Spotlight 2016 ().
Population in 2018: 5 443 120 ()
It increased by 0.6% since 2013 ().
As in many other EU countries, the population is ageing.
An old-age dependency ratio is expected to increase from 20 in 2015 to 59 in 2060 ().
Population forecast by age group and old-age-dependency ratio
Source: Eurostat, proj_15ndbims [extracted 16.5.2019].
Life-births decreased severely from 73 256 in 1993 to 50 841 in 2002, followed by a slight increase up to 57 639 in 2018. Population decline resulted in a surplus of places in schools and caused intensifying competition among education providers. The number of secondary VET schools decreased from 506 in 2008/09 to 444 in 2018/19 (performing arts schools excluded).
Furthermore, a shift towards ISCED 354 programmes, entitling to apply for higher education, to the detriment of ISCED 353 programmes leads to a lack of skilled workers in some professions, and craftsmen in particular: only 22% of upper secondary VET graduates completed ISCED 353 programmes, while 78% completed ISCED 354 programmes in 2017.
The population is composed of Slovaks (80.7%), Hungarians (8.5%), Roma (2%) and other minorities (less than 1% each) (). About three quarters of ethnic Roma declared other than Roma nationality. Hungarian minority is served by schools with Hungarian as the language of instruction from kindergartens to higher education; provision of VET is limited compared to general education. In 2018, there were 444 VET schools, of which 392 had Slovak as the language of instruction, 25 had Hungarian and Slovak, 12 had Hungarian, 13 had English and Slovak and 2 had German and Slovak.
203 092 out of the 219 466 companies registered in Slovakia as of 31 December 2017 were micro-sized (0-9 employees).
26.2% are employed in large enterprises, while 73.8% in other enterprises; 44.7% of employees are working in micro companies, 13% in small companies and 15.1% with medium-sized companies ().
Main economic sectors:
- wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles;
- health and social work activities;
- transportation and storage.
The Slovak economy is among the most open economies in the EU heavily depending on exporting industry products, mostly automotive; the country is a world leader in manufacturing of cars per capita.
The two faster growing sectors are professional, scientific and technical activities (+28.8%) and health sector and social work activities (+21.3%).
There are 290 professions in Slovakia, according to the EU regulated professions database ().
Trade Licencing Act (455/1991) is very relevant for secondary VET, as it stipulates preconditions for starting a business via listing the crafts requiring a certificate of apprenticeship (or fulfilling other prescribed requirements) and a list of trades requiring a variety of certificates of proficiency, often in addition to formal education certificates.
Furthermore, there is a variety of sectoral legislation prescribing requirements for entering respective working positions, sometimes set in cooperation with professional organisations.
A full list of regulated professions is available (in Slovak) at the education ministry portal ().
Total unemployment () (2018): 5.9% (6.0% in EU28); it decreased by 2.6 percentage points since 2008 ( ).
Unemployment rate (aged 15-24 and 25-64) by education attainment level in 2008-18
NB: Data based on ISCED 2011; breaks in time series; low reliability for ISCED 5-8, age 15-24.
ISCED 0-2 = less than primary, primary and lower secondary education.
ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
ISCED 5-8 = tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, lfsa_urgaed [extracted 16.5.2019].
Unemployment is distributed unevenly between those with low- and high-level qualifications. Unemployment of low-qualified has been in decrease since 2015. The crisis influenced medium- and high-qualified young people more than low-qualified.
In 2018, the unemployment rate of people with medium-level qualifications, including most VET graduates (ISCED levels 3 and 4) was lower than in the pre-crisis years. Furthermore, the unemployment rate of people with medium-level qualifications aged 15 to 24 is significantly lower than the unemployment rate of tertiary education graduated aged 15 to 24.
Many low-skilled Roma living in segregated communities of low living standard can hardly escape the poverty trap without specific interventions. Emerging social enterprises is one of policy tools that are now targeting disadvantaged groups.
Employment rate of 20- to 34-year-old VET graduates increased from 73.8% in 2014 to 82.1% in 2018.
Employment rate of VET graduates (20 to 34 years old, ISCED levels 3 and 4)
NB: Data based on ISCED 2011; breaks in time series.
ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, edat_lfse_24 [extracted 16.5.2019].
The increase (+8.3 pp) in employment of 20-34 year-old VET graduates in 2014-18 was higher compared to the increase in employment of all 20-34 year-old graduates, from 69.1% to 76.3% (+7.2 pp) in the same period (). Employment rate is negatively affected by the low employment rate of people without at least lower secondary education.
Eurostat data show that in Slovakia the share of medium-level educated population in the age group 25 to 64 is the second highest in EU (67.1% compared to 45.7% in EU28), while the share of low educated is the fourth lowest (8.3% compared to 21.8% in EU28). When it comes to high educated, Slovakia however performs below the average of EU (24.6% compared to 32.2% in EU28), despite substantial growth in the share of young tertiary educated people (37.7% compared to 37.1% in EU28 in the age group 30 to 34 in 2018) ().
Population (aged 25 to 64) by highest education level attained in 2018
NB: Data based on ISCED 2011; low reliability for ‘No response’ in Czech Republic, Iceland, Poland, and Latvia.
ISCED 0-2 = less than primary, primary and lower secondary education.
ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
ISCED 5-8 = tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, lfsa_pgaed [extracted 16.5.2019].
Share of learners in VET by level 2013-17
Source: Eurostat, educ_uoe_enrs01, educ_uoe_enrs04 and educ_uoe_enrs07 [extracted on 16.5.2019].
Share of initial VET learners from total learners at upper-secondary level (ISCED level 3), 2017
NB: Data based on ISCED 2011.
Source: Eurostat, educ_uoe_enrs04 [extracted 16.5.2019].
In 2018/19, in full-time programmes 45% of VET learners were females, while in part-time programmes females were 66% ().
In textile and clothing and teacher training (including child and social care) full-time programmes more than 90% of learners are females, while in healthcare and veterinary females are more than 80%. In technical studies, such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, wood-processing and ICT more than 90% of learners are males, while in construction more than 80% are males.
60% of part-time learners participate in healthcare, teacher training and economics and organisation programmes, which are programmes that females chose more often. Professions related to these studies are also more strictly regulated compared to others.
The share of early leavers from education and training has increased from 4.9% in 2009 to 8.6% in 2018. Although it is still better than the EU-28 average of 10.6%, it is well above the national target for 2020 of not more than 6.0%.
Early leavers from education and training in 2009-18
NB: Share of the population aged 18 to 24 with at most lower secondary education and not in further education or training; break in series.
Source: Eurostat, edat_lfse_14 [extracted 16.5.2019] and European Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/info/2018-european-semester-national-reform-programmes-and-stability-convergence-programmes_en [accessed 14.11.2018].
Moreover in 2017, the share of female early leavers from education and training was for the first time in history above the EU 2020 target of not more than 10%, increasing from below 5% in 2008-2012 to 10.3% in 2017 (). Severe regional disparities are visible from 14.7% of early leavers in NUTS 2 region – Eastern Slovakia.
Participation in lifelong learning in 2014-18
NB: Share of adult population aged 25 to 64 participating in education and training.
Source: Eurostat, trng_lfse_01 [extracted 16.5.2019].
Participation in lifelong learning in Slovakia has remained stable, but very low in the past decade. In 2018, it reached 4.0%, still well below the EU-28 average (11.1%).
Share of ISCED 2 to 5 VET learners by age groups (%)
Source: Slovak Centre of Scientific and Technical Information data, tabled by ReferNet Slovakia.
While the share of VET learners in the youngest age cohort decreases, it is only slightly changing in other age cohorts. Comparably high influenced by post-secondary programme structure, within which only VET programmes are offered. Adults prefer VET over general education, or enter tertiary education.
The education and training system comprises:
- pre-school education (ISCED 0);
- integrated primary (four years, ISCED 1; EQF 1) and lower secondary general education (five years, ISCED 2; EQF 2), nationally referred to as basic education);
- lower secondary VET (ISCED 2; EQF 2-3);
- upper secondary general education (ISCED 3; EQF 4);
- upper secondary VET (ISCED 3; EQF 3 and 4);
- post-secondary non-tertiary VET (ISCED 4 and 5; EQF 4 and 5);
- academic higher (tertiary) education (ISCED 6 to 8; EQF 6 to 8).
Pre-school education starts at the age of three.
Compulsory education starts at the age of six and includes nine years of basic education (integrating four-year primary and five-year lower secondary education) and at least one year of upper secondary education. This mechanism is intended to prevent leaving education early, as learners usually stay at upper secondary education after the mandatory first year.
Upper secondary general education can take the form of either an eight-year programme starting after completing grade five of basic education () or of a four-year programme after completing basic education (bilingual programmes are five years). Upper secondary general education graduates receive the maturita school leaving certificate allowing access to higher education.
Higher (tertiary) education comprises bachelor, master (or integrated bachelor and master) and PhD programmes. Labour market oriented bachelor programmes emerged, supported by the ESF. Professional bachelor studies in mechanical engineering started in 2017/18. Tertiary educational attainment in the age group 30-34 is in steep increase, it has almost tripled since entering the EU: from 12.9% in 2004 to 37.7% in 2018.
Special programmes cater for learners with special education needs.
The Slovak education and training system is still based on the 1970s model aimed at providing all learners with at least upper-secondary education, mainly through school-based VET. In addition to work-based learning backed by school-company contracts, ‘dual’ VET providing work-based learning in companies based on contracts with individual learners was introduced in 2015 ().
VET at lower, upper and post-secondary levels is delivered by secondary VET schools (SOŠ, stredná odborná škola). VET schools, similarly to general education schools, are highly regulated through legislation and detailed curricula, although they are legal entities and are also obliged to adjust their curricula within the limits set by the national curricula. Most VET schools are public.
VET can be currently offered as:
- school-based programmes with practical training (mainly) in school workshops;
- dual VET, where learners (or their parents) have contracts with enterprises for provision of in-company training, while companies and schools have agreements on provision of dual VET specifying in detail duties of both partners;
- mixed scheme, with school-based learning along with training provided by a company within the framework of school-company contract specifying numbers of trainees and a share of training performed by the company.
Most VET programmes are provided at upper secondary level. The strong majority of secondary VET graduates receive the maturita school leaving certificate allowing access to higher education. There are programmes with extended component of practice that offer the maturita school leaving certificate and a certificate of apprenticeship.
Three-year VET programmes, regardless whether school-based or offered in cooperation with companies offer a VET qualification (nationally referred to as certificate of apprenticeship). Graduates of these programmes can enter a two-year programme to receive a maturita school leaving certificate.
Participation in lower secondary VET and post-secondary programmes is low.
Dual VET was introduced in 2015/16. Companies can sign individual training contracts with learners for in-company practical training, complemented with an institutional contract between secondary VET schools (SOŠ) and companies. Learners are considered VET students and not employees. Training in dual VET is offered by company instructors in specific company training premises, but can be complemented also by training in school workshops or other companies’ premises.
Four-year (occasionally five-year) and three-year (occasionally four-year) upper-secondary programmes (ISCED 354 and 353 respectively) can be offered as school-based or ‘dual VET’. From 2018/19 school-based and ‘dual VET’ will be based on the same national curricula. Companies participating in dual VET are expected to contribute to respective school educational programme development. Although enrolment in dual VET has been gradually increasing, its overall share is still (at the time of reporting) less than 3% of all learners starting upper secondary level ().
Institutions of VET governance
A new VET governance architecture was created in 2009 and revised in 2015 and 2018 (). It consists of the following coordinating and advisory bodies:
- National VET Council is the coordinating body affiliated to the government ( ) that discusses VET policy, such as regional and sectoral strategies. 18 working groups covering selected study fields support adjustments in VET programmes better matching them to labour market needs. A working group for the verification of labour market needs focuses on assessing self-governing regions activities related to secondary VET regulation;
- Regional VET Councils are composed of representatives of state, self-government, employers and employees. They are advisory bodies to the heads of the eight self-governing regions; they prepare regional VET policy documents, discuss number of places to be offered in respective schools and programmes, etc.;
- Sectoral (skills) councils ( ) are voluntary independent associations of employers' representatives, trade union representatives, education institutions, state administration and self-government authorities regulated by the Act on Employment Services (5/2004). The Alliance of Sectoral Councils’ is their umbrella organisation ( ). Sectoral (skills) councils provide expertise to policy-makers concerning labour market needs in terms of knowledge, skills and competences required in occupations and cater for delivery of occupational standards for labour sector-driven information system on the labour market ( ), and support the creation of a national qualifications system (NQS) ( );
- Sectoral assignees (institutions of the world of work selected from chambers and employers’ associations) represent employers’ interests in each VET study field as professional counterparts to education authorities and experts. Sectoral assignees should play a prominent role in adjusting VET to labour market needs and in assuring its quality. The Employer Council for Dual VET ( ) encompassing sectoral assignees involved in dual VET, coordinates their activities;
- Expert groups and ad hoc working groups affiliated to the State Institute of Vocational Education covering respective fields of study focus on diverse curricula issues and conditions of provision of VET (material, spatial and equipment-related requirements).
Schools are headed by directors appointed by school establishers for a five-year term, based on a tender organised by a school board (rada školy). School board can also have impact on development plans of schools and can also suggest dismissing of the director. School board is as a rule composed of 11 members representing school staff, parents, school establisher, students, and, if requested, also sectoral assignee. School director is not a member of school board.
In 2018, there were 444 VET schools, out of which 87 private and 17 church-affiliated. The rest of schools are established by self-governing regions with few exemptions of schools established by the state.
Since 2009, the influence of employers on VET policy has been gradually increased also concerning school-based VET. VET schools must submit their school educational programmes (autonomously elaborated school curricula reflecting and adjusting national curricula to local/regional needs) to sectoral assignees unless they were elaborated in cooperation with companies participating in dual VET or discussed with companies offering practical training within the mixed scheme (). In 2017/18, sectoral assignees for the first time checked assignments related to school leaving examinations. There is also a strong engagement of sectoral assignees in dual VET in assessment and certification of companies offering practical training and in training of in-company trainers (instructors).
Regulation of secondary VET
Self-governing regions are responsible for maintaining public secondary VET schools and for regulating inflow of learners into schools in their territory. VET programmes and numbers of students are strictly regulated to address regional labour market needs, based on macroeconomic forecasting data and opinion of regional stakeholders. The education ministry supports schools by providing regulations for content, pedagogy, qualification of staff, etc. Some VET schools are under the responsibility of the interior and health ministries.
In relative terms, total public expenditure on education in Slovakia is lower than in EU28. Furthermore, substantial inflow comes from the European structural and investment funds.
General government expenditure on education in Slovakia and EU28
Source: Education ministry, finance ministry; Eurostat, table gov_10a_exp; last update: 17.8.2018 [extracted 23.8.2018].
Expenditure on secondary education including secondary VET (0.8% of GDP) is substantially lower than the EU28 average (1.9% of GDP). Despite more generous support for dual VET, financing secondary education and in particular VET remains critically low.
Initial VET, regardless of ownership, is subsidised from the state budget. In 2019, per capita contribution varied between EUR 1 917.68 to EUR 3 657.65 depending on school category (). This type of financing often forces VET schools to attract learners regardless of their capabilities and personal aspirations. Capital expenditures are covered by bodies that establish schools (and by the State in case of emergency). Schools must attract additional funding to complement state subsidy. Private schools can collect fees. Church-affiliated VET schools can benefit from parish community donations.
Continuing VET is funded by learners, employers, public finances and EU funds. Cost per person is substantially lower compared to EU-28.
Cost of CVET courses (EUR)
NB: (b) = break in time series.
Source: Eurostat Continuing Vocational Training Survey (CVTS) [trng_cvt_17s], last update: 14.6.2018, [trng_cvt_18s], last update: 14.6.2018 [extracted 5.9.2018].
Labour market training
Labour market training for unemployed and employed job seekers heavily depends on ESF funding.
Trends in training expenditure within labour market polices (million EUR)
(*) Expenditures on training per person wanting to work in purchasing power standard (PPS).
NB: mill. = million; LMP = labour market expenditure.
Source: Eurostat, [lmp_expme_sk], [lmp_ind_exp] [extracted 5.9.2018].
In VET, there are:
- general subject teachers;
- vocational subject teachers;
- trainers in school (nationally referred to as ‘masters of practical training’);
- in-company trainers (nationally referred to as ‘instructors’); from 2018, also head instructors can be employed by companies).
Teachers and trainers in VET schools in 2010/11, 2015/16 and 2017/18
NB: Full-time teachers only, including (deputy) directors. Data on in-company trainers are not available.
Source: Slovak Centre of Scientific and Technical Information.
The number of in-company trainers has been in gradual increase, though still limited, as the share of dual learners is less than 3% of all first-year learners in upper secondary education. Companies often employ trainers from schools in the case of lack of own employees able to serve as in-company trainers.
General and vocational subject teachers are university graduates. Graduates from non-pedagogical programmes need to also complete pedagogical studies to obtain a full VET teacher qualification.
General subject teachers are trained and also fully qualified for the general education stream. They are adjusted to the VET learner needs within their continuing professional development and in-service training.
Trainers in VET schools are formally required to have a maturita school leaving certificate or completed pedagogical studies. However many of them have a Bachelor’s degree, as it provides better remuneration.
The 2015 legislation amending the 2009 Pedagogical Staff Act has made qualification requirements more flexible to attract (more) people from business and industry to teaching and make it easier to change subject areas/positions:
- specialists in occupation-oriented areas are not required to comply with qualification requirements in pedagogy provided that they teach at most 10 hours per week; ensuring/assessing their teaching competences is the school directors’ task;
- those who would like to move to other areas/positions, would only need to do the pedagogy part required for the new position.
In-company trainers are not considered pedagogical staff. Since the introduction of dual VET in 2015, in-company trainers are required to:
- have at least a certificate of apprenticeship in the respective study field;
- have three-year experience as a fully qualified worker in the respective occupation;
- have completed an ‘instructor training’ offered by sectoral assignees ( ) within one year of their first appointment.
Responsibility for teachers’ continuing professional development (CPD) is with school directors and is based on annual plans. Provision of in-service training is very sensitive to ESF sources. Traditionally, most of the training is provided by the Methodological-Pedagogical Centre much of it focuses on pedagogy and general issues. There is a lack of training aimed at innovations and changes in the business world. Although it is not their responsibility, professional and employer organisations also provide CPD for teachers. Some offer places in courses for business and industry professionals for reduced fees or for free. Eligibility for public funding is linked to competence development in areas covered by the respective professional standards.
The Act on Pedagogical and Professional Staff (317/2009) specified four career levels of teachers/trainers: beginner, independent teacher and attested teacher (first and second (advanced) level attestation); it also defined the professional standards of each level and introduced credits in continuing training. In April 2019, a fully new Act on Pedagogical and Professional Staff (138/2019) was approved abolishing both a heavy criticised credit system and the Accreditation Board responsible for accreditation of continuing training programmes. Instead of this, the new legislation speaks about professional development and financial bonus for completion of training specified by the law or passing the state examination in foreign languages. In fact, CPD has been again reduced to traditional in-service training, as also visible from renaming in-service teacher trainers to trainers of professional development.
Pre-service training of teachers and trainers also faces changes due to the transformation of higher education already in progress (). New accreditation procedures interlinked with assessment of internal quality assurance system by a newly established independent Slovak Accreditation Agency for Higher Education are in the pipeline.
Responsibility for analysing and forecasting labour market development lies with the central labour office according to the Act on employment services (5/2004). In initial VET, as stipulated by the VET Act (61/2015), chambers and/or employer representatives, empowered as sectoral assignees (), should support the central labour office in analysing and forecasting labour market development ( ).
There are two models of macroeconomic forecasting available (). The supervised by the labour ministry model forecasts additional labour market needs by ISCO ( ) groups. The forecasting data are transformed into estimation of ceilings for each programme and each school, and used for further negotiation on regulation of the inflow of new entrants into secondary schools and secondary programmes.
Furthermore, analyses of job vacancy data from online job portals () and information on regional players can also influence decisions of self-governing regions’ heads on VET entrants and, subsequently, graduate supply.
Forecasts have been used by national authorities to enforce stronger regulation of secondary VET in response to employer criticism of secondary school graduate supply. The central labour office regularly presents information to all VET governance players based on forecasting and analysis of registered unemployed data. Self-governing regions and individual schools are also offered data about graduate unemployment rates and their transition to the labour market between September and May. These indicators should inform families and lower secondary students about their chances on the labour market. However, they are only proxies as administrative data on employment of graduates are lacking.
In February 2019, the labour ministry also launched a new portal () to offer detailed data on graduates of respective programmes (average wages, employment and unemployment rates, and estimation of prospects) regionally and nationally. It is expected that these data will inform students, education counsellors and career guidance counsellors about prospects of respective professions and fields of study.
Additionally, new lists of jobs have been developed by the labour ministry to indicate professions lacking labour force in all eight regions in Slovakia (). This also indicates what kind of graduates from secondary VET and what kind of labour market training for the unemployed is needed.
About 150 jobs were identified in total nationwide. In districts with very low unemployment, short-track procedures for employment of foreign labour force in relevant professions have been introduced.
Occupations requirement in main sectors until 2020
NB: ISCO-08 categories; Statistical Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community (NACE Rev.2) sectors in the legend.
Source: Central Office of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, 2015, based on Trexima Ltd. data.
The most significant employment growth is forecasted in manufacturing and wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles sectors, and in the education sector.
See also Cedefop’s skills forecast () and European Skills Index ( ).
Three sets of standards are under development and/or further refinement:
- occupational; and
Educational standards were developed backed by the 2008 Education Act (245/2008). These educational standards were developed under the lead of the State Institute of Vocational Education and National Institute for Education (both directly managed by the education ministry) and predominantly driven by educators’ experience. Educational standards are composed of so-called content and performance standards, as stipulated by the Education Act (245/2008). Performance standards can be seen as learning outcomes that students are supposed to achieve during their studies and demonstrate when completing them. Assessment standards are considered a tool to help evaluate whether learners have achieved the performance standards. Assessment standards are to be developed by schools and set within school educational programmes (school curricula) specifying criteria and assessment procedures for achieving performance standards corresponding to respective school environment.
Occupational standards were developed by the sectoral (skills) councils (). Their development was initiated by the labour ministry, backed by the Act on Employment Services (5/2004) ( ). Development of occupational standards has been significantly affected by employers’ representatives active in sectoral (skills) councils. Occupational standards have an important information function and contributed also to improved information of job seekers within the information system on the labour market managed by the labour sector ( ). However, occupational standards have no normative power for recognition of qualifications.
Qualification standards started to be developed under the supervision of the education ministry backed by the Lifelong Learning Act (568/2009) and supported by the ESF project ‘Creation of the national qualifications system’. Within this project an online qualification register () and the Slovak Qualifications Framework (SKKR) have been created.
Qualification standards in the register should inform the education sector and in particular schools in updating their school educational programmes.
Since 2008, curricula development has been decentralised. The state is responsible for developing national curricula, officially titled as ‘state educational programme’ (štátny vzdelávací program). These contain educational standards. Subsequently, schools prepare their own school curricula, officially titled as ‘school educational programme’ (školský vzdelávací program) based on a respective ‘state educational programme’. School educational programmes must be discussed with sectoral assignees and representatives of companies offering practical training. In the case of dual VET, companies offering practical training directly participate as co-authors of respective school educational programme.
Currently there are 28 state educational programmes (). These documents are prepared by the State Institute of Vocational Education in cooperation with expert commissions containing experienced practitioners from the world of education and the world of work ( ). They are also discussed with sectoral assignees. A draft document is submitted for discussion to the respective tripartite working group of the National VET Council. Thus, state educational programmes are commented by representatives of social partners specified by law ( ) before submitting for final approval and issuing by the education ministry. These programmes cover all major VET fields under the responsibility of the education ministry and contain specific framework requirements for all relevant ISCED levels and educational standards for individual programmes. The ministries of health and interior are autonomous in programming initial VET under their responsibility.
State educational programmes also reflect all key competences set by the European reference framework (). Originally, they reflected all individual competences separately, from 2013/14, only three overarching key competences are set and subsequently also reflected in school educational programmes:
- act independently in a social and working life;
- use interactively knowledge, information communications technology (ICT), communicate in Slovak, mother tongue and foreign language;
- work in heterogeneous groups.
To cover general education requirements in VET, the National Institute for Education responsible for national curricula for general education also develops educational standards for all relevant general subjects for VET programmes by ISCED levels (). In the case of foreign languages, standards are set in compliance with the respective levels (A1 to C1) of Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
Since 2015, developing curricula for dual VET has been in progress based on requirements from chambers and employers’ representatives. From 2019, the same curricula documents apply for school-based and dual VET.
The so far applied national/regional quality assurance approaches are traditional in terms of governance and methodology. The European quality assurance in VET (EQAVET) principles have not yet been implemented.
Regional schooling including VET schools
The State School Inspectorate is a main stakeholder that checks VET quality. It is an independent state administration body headed by the chief school inspector appointed for a five-year period by the education minister; its evaluation work is based on annual plans and resulting in yearly reports presented to the parliament.
According to the Act on State Administration and Self-governance (596/2003), directors are responsible for the quality of their schools’ performance. They can be replaced by a self-governing region upon the chief school inspector’s request based on justified severe failures.
The National Institute for Certified Educational Measurements is responsible for developing national testing instruments and implementing national and international testing. It informs about results and suggests improvements. It is responsible for monitoring and assessing quality of education, as stipulated by the Education Act (245/2008). The institute develops, on an annual basis, tests in mathematics and languages that are used in maturita school leaving exams in grammar schools and ISCED 354 programmes of VET schools.
However, both institutions predominantly focus on general education subjects. Despite envisaged expansion of national testing and quality checking, both institutions would require extra staff to cover respective VET fields. This is why employer representatives are expected to help more to check the quality of VET. They are however not assigned the ultimate responsibility for quality assurance in practical training and achieving qualification standards by individual learners due to lacking personal and financial capacities. Currently, sectoral assignees () focus primarily on input and process, e.g. on certifying company premises established for provision of practical training within dual VET, certifying instructors and head instructors responsible for practical training within dual VET, awarding a title VET centre to outstanding VET schools according to their criteria ( ). Sectoral assignees only assist a) the State School Inspectorate in quality checking of practice-oriented training provided by companies within dual VET and b) schools in quality checking within final examinations.
According to the law, schools are still responsible for quality of their graduates in both theory and practice, but with an increasing share of training in companies they have no sufficient control to guarantee it.
It is important to improve financial and personal capacities of sectoral assignees and enhance responsibility of training companies for the results of training.
Continuing VET and adult learning
Detailed accreditation of further education programmes and authorised institutions for examinations are stipulated by the Lifelong Learning Act (568/2009). Despite addressing quality in its recent amendments, this legislation focuses predominantly on ‘input’ assessment. Evaluation processes are still under development. Assessing course provision by graduates’ rating was suggested by the education ministry, however not put in place so far. New legislation is needed to address quality assurance in more detail and in the full range, as the current Lifelong Learning Act applies to programmes provided by the education sector only. Quality assurance in other sectors depends on sectoral authorities and is regulated in various ways.
There is no genuine and appropriately developed national model for validation of non-formal and informal learning. The Lifelong Learning Act (568/2009) created some preconditions for gradual progress but it in fact refers only to certification of the ability to run a business originally restricted to certificate of apprenticeship holders.
The following are data indicating the trend in issuing certificates ‘verifying professional competences’, entitling people without a certificate of apprenticeship (required by the Trade Licensing Act) to start a business.
Number of certificates of professional competences in 2013-2017
NB: (*) Except 2 387 certificates issued by the National Lifelong Learning Institute within the ESF project targeting employed job seekers.
Source: Education ministry.
Certificates verifying ‘professional competence’ are not equivalent to those from formal education. They substitute a ‘certificate of apprenticeship’ for the purpose of starting a business only. These certificate holders are entitled to start a craft regulated by the Trade Licensing Act (455/1991), but they are not allowed to progress within formal education based on these certificates, as they do not certify the respective education level.
The following incentives for learners are in place:
- performance-based state-funded motivation scholarships for learners in programmes related to occupations that are in high demand on the labour market. These equal 25%, 45% and 65% of the national subsistence minimum, depending on their school performance;
- company scholarships amounting up to four times the national subsistence minimum;
- remuneration for productive work during training which has no ceiling to allow companies to better value quality performance of learners;
- state scholarships for socially disadvantaged learners who perform well to support completion of secondary VET.
The Government will create Individual learning accounts in amount of EUR 200 annually for adults and fiscal incentives in support of employees’ training. In total, EUR 15 640 000 is to be allocated between 2020 and 2027 in support of adult learning and CVET.
Incentives for unemployed learners (covering travel costs, meals, childcare during participation) can be currently also offered by public employment services. Currently, the most attractive and successful retraining schemes for the unemployed (RE-PAS and KOMPAS) can be considered as a sort of learning vouchers. Requalification Passport (RE-PAS) scheme entitles an unemployed person to attend a retraining course of his/her choice for free. The choice of training can be drawn from a list of accredited or some specific non-accredited courses (e.g. ICT related) offered by public or private providers. The cost of the selected course must be approved by the labour office. The administrative burden lies with training providers who actively attract unemployed and not individual learners. The ‘KOMPAS’ (abbreviation stands for competence passport) scheme focuses on provision of courses aimed at strengthening key competences important for transition into the labour market. Both schemes are supported by the ESF under the responsibility of public employment services and currently operated as RE-PAS+ and KOMPAS+ schemes indicating further improvement of the original schemes.
Since 2015, the new Act on VET (61/2015) has introduced corporate tax reliefs for enterprises involved in dual VET; additional stimuli were introduced by the amendment of this act in 2018:
- a tax exemption for certified companies that train VET learners reduces training costs by 21%;
- companies also receive a ‘tax bonus’ of EUR 1 600 or 3 200 for each learner depending on the hours (200 or 400) of training provided per year;
- the remuneration for learners for productive work is also exempted from levies (up to 100% of a minimum wage);
- companies that offer 200 to 400 hours of training per year will receive direct per capita payment EUR 300, and those offering more than 400 hours will receive EUR 700. SMEs qualify for EUR 1 000.
Non-financial incentives were also introduced simplifying administrative procedures or expanding the period for entering dual VET.
According to the Education Act (245/2008) guidance and counselling in the education sector is provided by
- centres of educational and psychological counselling and prevention;
- centres of special education guidance and counselling;
- individuals directly employed in schools.
The services are provided by educational counsellors, school psychologists, school special pedagogues, therapeutic pedagogues, social pedagogues and prevention coordinators. They address learners at primary and secondary schools. Educational counsellors are regular teachers with specialisation gained through continuing training. Nevertheless, they can offer just information and some guidance, but not a genuine counselling, as they are not professional psychologists. Positions of educational counsellors and specialised career counsellors were newly stipulated by law ().
In the labour sector, offices of labour, social affairs and family offer career guidance and counselling for job seekers. Currently, there are over 150 labour office counsellors nationwide retrained to work with personal portfolios. Furthermore, external counsellors are involved in the portfolio initiative for the unemployed.
Two institutions capitalise on international networking and guidance experience. Euroguidance Slovakia () focuses on guidance practitioners and policy-makers from both the education and employment sectors. The Association for Career Guidance and Career Development ( ) has developed into an important professional body commenting and influencing policies.