Country information for Slovakia - Systems of support and specialist provision
According to the Education Act (2008), a learner with special educational needs (SEN) is a learner that has been diagnosed with SEN by the educational counselling and prevention centre.
The Education Act secures such a form of education for learners with SEN, which enables them to achieve the same level of education as their peers. The main aim of education for learners with SEN is to reach the same level of education as their peers and to support social inclusion.
Learners with SEN are enrolled in mainstream schools, special schools or special classes.
The levels of education of learners with SEN at special schools are equivalent to the levels of education of the mainstream population. Differences arise from the kind of disability.
Admission requirements and choice of school
Children are usually enrolled in mainstream or special kindergartens from three to six years of age. Learners with SEN usually start basic school at the age of six. The basic schools (mainstream and special for learners with SEN) have 9 or 10 grades. Basic schools for learners with SEN can have a preparatory grade. The preparatory grade and grades 1–4 comprise the first stage of basic school (International Standard Classification of Education – ISCED 1); grades 5–9 comprise the second stage of basic school (ISCED 2).
If the learner is not ready for school attendance from the point of view of their cognitive development, they can start the preparatory class, or the head teacher can postpone school attendance until the next year based on the results of the related examinations. The parents are advised to visit the educational counselling and prevention centre, which examines the learner and prepares documentation. Based on the above examinations, the head teacher decides on the learner’s enrolment in the basic school (mainstream class or special class) or in a special school. The learner must enrol in the first grade by the age of eight at the latest.
An incentive to integrate the learner into the special education system may come from the parent, physician, head teacher of the special school or establishment, head of the educational counselling and prevention centre or social institution.
The head teacher of the school or school facility decided on admission of the learner to the special education system. Following the Declaration of Human Rights and the Education Act (2008), parents have the right to express their opinion on the proposal for integrating their child into the education system. They accept or reject the proposed solutions and recommendations through their signature.
Learners can be completely or partially exempt from schooling in particular subjects for all or part of the school year. Learners are exempted by the head teacher on the basis of a recommendation from the special teacher, psychologist and doctor. The school provides individual schooling for at least two lessons a week for learners who are exempt from compulsory school attendance and are in home care.
In the system of special schools for learners with SEN, there are schools up to the level of upper-secondary education – this means that there are kindergartens, basic schools, secondary grammar schools (gymnasia), secondary specialised schools and vocational schools. These are differentiated for learners according to their needs. The basic schools offer the possibility of a preparatory grade.
Classes in special schools have a lower number of learners than classes in mainstream schools. The minimum number of pupils in a class in a special school is four; maximum numbers are set according to the individual kinds of disability and types of schools (from 8–12), except for classes with individual educational programmes in which the highest number of pupils is four (pupils with autism and pupils who are deaf-blind). The maximum is 5–6 pupils in classes of special basic school, variant C.
After completing the entrance interviews, school leavers from basic schools (pupils with hearing, visual and physical impairment, with impaired communication skills, special learning difficulties, special behavioural difficulties and autism) may also continue their schooling at mainstream secondary schools. Education received at the same type of mainstream and special secondary school is equal.
School leavers from basic schools for pupils with cognitive impairment who have to gain prerequisites to master education are offered a secondary vocational school. The education at secondary vocational school for pupils with cognitive impairment lasts from one to three years; prior to that a preparatory grade can be provided. Vocational education is completed by issuing a document which is presented by final certificate and certificate on apprenticeship. The maximum number of pupils per class is 14, with 5–7 in vocational training groups. The school leavers are ready for work in simple professions and crafts.
Pupils with cognitive impairment, who after completing compulsory school attendance are unable to complete secondary vocational school, have the possibility to be educated in a practical school for one, two or three years. The maximum number in practical school classes is ten. The school leavers are ready for simple professions.
The National Programme of Education is the basic document for education in kindergartens, basic schools and secondary schools in general. It is an obligatory document and defines the aims, the key competencies, the number of individual subjects and the frame of the curriculum at the particular level of education. The curriculum of education for the appropriate type of school is determined by the school educational programme. The National Programme of Education is approved by the Ministry of Education, and the school educational programme by the head teacher of the school. The school curriculum of the particular school is part of the school educational programme. It is derived from the curriculum framework and the framework educational standards determined by the National Programme of Education. There are no educational standards for pupils with cognitive impairment.
In accordance with the Education Act (2008), in addition to the National Programme of Education, the education of children and pupils with SEN is based on the following programmes designed for children/pupils who:
- have cognitive impairments;
- have hearing impairments;
- have visual impairments;
- have physical impairments;
- have impaired communication abilities;
- have autism;
- have multiple impairments;
- have behavioural disorders;
- have specific learning difficulties;
- have specific behavioural difficulties;
- are ill and physically weak;
- are deaf and blind.
These programmes are part of the National Programme of Education.
Most of the pupils with SEN in mainstream schools have an individual education plan.
In special schools for pupils with intellectual impairment, teaching is carried out according to the internal differentiation of the school in three variants:
- A (pupils with mild cognitive impairment)
- B (pupils with moderate cognitive impairment)
- C (pupils with serious cognitive impairment).
Special basic school for pupils with intellectual impairment, educational variant A, has a preparatory grade and nine grades. Preparatory grade and grades 1–4 comprise the first stage; grades 5–9 comprise the second stage. Special basic school for pupils with intellectual impairment, variant B and C, has a preparatory grade and ten grades which are divided into four stages – the lower and the middle ones are for three years, the higher and the working ones are for two years. Pupils proceed to the individual stages according to their age and the curricula are adapted to their cognitive abilities.
The curriculum in schools for pupils with cognitive impairments contains almost all the same subjects as in mainstream schools. However, the content is reduced and the subjects have more instructional time.
According to the National Programme of Education, subjects (in mainstream schools and special schools) are divided into compulsory and optional. Compulsory subjects include: Slovak language and literature, foreign language, Science, History, Geography, Civic Education, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Work Education, Art and Crafts, Music, Physical Education, and Religious Education (which is taught in alternation with Ethics). In special schools for pupils with cognitive impairment there is no foreign language, Religious Education is an optional subject and Ethics is part of Civic Education. According to the type of disability and special educational needs of pupils, optional special subjects can be included, e.g. individual speech therapy intervention, development of communication skills, mobility and orientation training, Braille, etc.
In special schools, according to the individual grades there are 20–30 lessons weekly which means 4–6 lessons per day, each lesson lasting 45 minutes. The practical class and a practical training lesson takes 60 minutes (50 minutes for pupils with visual impairment). For pupils in hospitals who are ill and physically weak, individual teaching is organised for a duration defined by the head teacher with a physician. The order of individual subjects is set by a timetable, which is approved by the head teacher. The school can exercise the different ways of organising teaching by taking into account the special educational needs of pupils, mainly by dividing teaching hours into shorter time segments, by introducing breaks, block teaching and other organisational forms (§ 2, section 14 of Decree No. 322/2008 on Special Schools).
In the case of pupils in special schools, for whom, for different reasons, following the curriculum of particular school or particular educational programme is not possible (e.g. pupils with diverse abilities, multiple disabilities, combination of disability and social disadvantage, etc.), it is appropriate to follow an individual education plan.
In special schools, therapeutic-preventive care is also provided by the appropriate physician within the framework of the school health service.
Recently, the National Programme of Education has been developed. It includes several objectives related to inclusive education. It insists on the development of individualised learning and on the importance of parents’ active engagement with the school’s functioning. The National Programme of Education is published on the website of the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport (Source: CPRA – Slovak Republic Country Report).
Teaching methods and materials
Children with SEN in mainstream and special kindergartens receive speech care via speech therapists and teachers, who help with correct pronunciation. All children are instructed by teachers in the development of communication skills in the course of the whole day, even during individual activities with children. Special education and other professional care for children with diagnosed SEN and their parents is provided by the special educational centres and educational psychological and prevention centres. In the process of developing some personality areas, individual support programmes are used, e.g. programmes for speech development, graphomotor skills, etc.
Special educational methods used in special education may be summed up as follows:
- Re-education – special educational procedures which are aimed at the affected function
- Compensation – special educational procedures aimed at developing compensatory unaffected functions
- Rehabilitation – special educational procedures aimed at socialisation/integration of the person with disabilities in the community.
Within the framework of the above methods, methods and forms of special education are used which are suitable for individuals. Furthermore, various compensatory aids, such as computers, hearing aids, ICT, various optic aids, etc., are also used. These compensatory aids are used individually or collectively – within special classrooms such as video studios, speech therapist’s room, etc.
The right to education in sign language is also secured for children/pupils with hearing impairments.
The entire special education system is conceived in such a way that each pupil with SEN can acquire a certain level of education according to their abilities and possibilities.
Each school publishes a report on educational activities annually, specifying the results and conditions. The report has a given structure by a particular regulation (Source: Raising the Achievement of All Learners in Inclusive Education – Slovak Republic Country Report).
Progression of pupils
After pupils with SEN successfully complete their compulsory school attendance at a basic mainstream school, special class or special school, they can apply to study at mainstream or special secondary schools – secondary grammar schools, secondary specialised schools, secondary vocational schools and practical schools. The admission of learners with SEN depends on their level of achievements at basic school.
The head teacher appoints an admission commission comprising educational staff, psychologists and physicians which, on the basis of conditions fulfilled for preparation at the secondary school, decides on admission of the pupil to the secondary school or practical school.
After successfully completing secondary school, the pupil with SEN may further apply for higher education study at a higher education institution (university). At present, the Supportive Centre at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of Comenius University provides professional counselling services to students with visual impairments in higher education institutions. All higher education institutions have co-ordinators for students with SEN.
Last updated 05/02/2020