The education system in Slovakia stands before a challenge: the last significant changes were implemented in the 19th century, yet the system is supposed to meet the standards of the 21st century. Thus the education system has to go through a radical transformation, not just a series of cosmetic changes.
The Slovak Ministry of Education announced the intention to conduct a significant reform of education system. The first step toward its realization was already made: a set of proposed objectives related to raising and educating the youth under 18 years old, which shall be achieved in the next 10 years, was put forward for a public discussion. Instead of criticitizing the ministerial suggestions, all affected parties should use this opportunity to present their own visions and expectations. And by all, we mean also: the employers.
Employers are a group that has a direct interest in ensuring that today’s pupils and tomorrow’s job applicants are employable in terms of their knowledge, skills, but are also ready to learn throughout their professional life. Schools will not be “producing” such students unless there is an essential change in the way we view knowledge, skills and the development of all students.
The current educational system in Slovakia is mostly unable to link the curriculum to the real world. The result is an insufficient motivation for students and their increasing disinterest in education. We need to re-evaluate the importance and applicability of what we teach in schools and at the same time ensure a better balance between theory and practice. We need a radical change of the school curriculum – a bigger emphasis on the development of critical thinking and the ability to effectively communicate and cooperate. These are the skills which will enable students to use the knowledge gained in schools and apply it in real life.
An integral part of efforts by schools should be to a much greater extent the development of a pupil or a student. Character traits such as leadership, moral standpoints, and working in stressful situations are viewed by employers as very important all around the world. The formation of such character traits currently does not primarily take place in schools, but rather in out-of-school environment such as sport clubs or scouting clubs.
In June 2016, the employer organizations associated with OECD in Paris released a position statement with business priorities in education, in which they plead for everyone to keep asking ourselves two questions: Is the education relevant for this century? Do we raise students to satisfying versatility in a world which is constantly changing and its demands are increasing every day? These are the questions that Slovakia must also find an answer to. The sooner, the better.
Translated by Filip Bolčo