School Education in Slovenia. Basic School
If you already live in Slovenia or are planning to move, and your child is already a pupil and soon turns 6 years old, it is time to think about school. In Slovenia, there is no division into primary and secondary schools, and at the age of six, children start their primary or basic education, which lasts for 9 years that is until they reach 14–15 years.
During the first four years, one teacher conducts all lessons, and in the first grade, there is one additional tutor. Subsequently and for the remaining 5 years of basic education, subject teachers will conduct classes. It may not be stated that the quality of education is better at certain schools. In Slovenia, the curriculums of all schools are publicly accredited. This means that children receive the same quality of education both in the capital’s centre and in the smallest settlement.
Enrolment to a Basic School
The enrolment of children to public primary schools is regulated by the applicable law. Based on this law, children of the foreign citizens residing in the Republic of Slovenia have a right to compulsory general education under the same conditions as the Slovenes that is free of charge if they study in one of the public schools. However, school lunches (about € 2.5 per day for the academic year 2015/2016) and snacks (about 80 cents per day for the academic year 2015/2016) are to be paid. Books, stationery and excursions are paid as a one-time fee. In some cases, it is possible to apply for a meals subsidy.
Parents must apply for admission of their children to the first grade if in the current calendar year they turn 6 years old. It must be done in February of the current academic year so that your child could start leaning on 1 September. For foreigners, however, an exception could be made. Since school education in Slovenia is compulsory for everyone, a child could also be enrolled to school even later. For example, if you have recently moved to Slovenia, your schoolchild can immediately join the study process. Enrolment to school takes place in accordance with the age and grade completed in the previous school. All public basic schools are assigned to the regions, so that the application should be submitted to the schools at a place of residence. If there are vacant places in other schools, a child can be enrolled to any of them. In addition, there are academic programs in schools for children with special educational needs.
Will my Child Cope with the Program?
Each child is unique. For some children it is easy to study in a foreign language, for others it may be a bit more complicated. According to our experience, the younger the child is, the faster he/she adapts to the new environment. Do not worry: all teachers are ready to help, willing to give extra classes, ready to explain as much as you need. In addition, foreign students often receive free extra lessons of the Slovenian language, which are held as a “zero” lesson or after the main classes.
All school work under the five-point grading scale. Russian mark “3” matches the Slovenian mark “2” and “unsatisfactory” is “failing”. A non-achiever in Slovenia will sound like [tsvekar] or [tsvekarka]: [tsvek] is translated as a “nail”. It is compulsory to study thoroughly: you can get mark “5” only for your excellent knowledge. Never worry if your child repeats the grade. Adapting of each child to the school system, language and a new environment passes differently and takes different time. Nevertheless, from our own experience and experience of our friends, children quickly and confidently adapt to the new environment, especially if they participate in school life and attend different clubs and activities.
Documents for Enrolment
The necessary documents include a birth certificate/passport and a confirmation of temporary/permanent address of the child’s residence in Slovenia. When moving from other schools, a list of disciplines and marks from the prior place of learning translated into the Slovenian language and a certificate of grade completion will be required as well.
Academic Year in Slovenia
Academic year for schoolchildren begins on 1 September and ends around 26 June. Saturday, Sunday and public holidays are days off. A list of holidays in Slovenia can be found at the following link.
In addition to public holidays, the Slovenes celebrate the Easter Sunday and the Easter Monday; the Day of the Holy Trinity (Pentecost); 15 August (the Assumption of the Virgin Mary), 21 October (the Reformation Day), and 25 December (the Nativity of Christ or Christmas).
School vacations in Slovenia for the academic year 2015/2016 were as follows:
26 October 2015
30 October 2015
25 December 2015
31 December 2015
15 February 2016
19 February 2016
28 April 2016
30 April 2016
26 June 2016
31 August 2016
Approximate Day Schedule
Lessons start at 8 a.m., but those parents who need to go to work earlier, can lead a child to school as early as 6:30 a.m. Teaches will take care about children for an hour and a half before the classes start. A school academic hour lasts for 45 minutes. After the second lesson, there is a long 25-minutes break, during which children have a snack. Snack typically includes a sandwich and fruit.
From 11:40 a.m. to 1:45 p.m., children can have a hot lunch. After the sixth lesson, at 1:15 p.m., there is another long break. Typically, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, children should have an afternoon snack. At the end of classes, children can visit the extended day-care group and stay there until 4:30 p.m.
Which School to Choose?
For foreigners, who moved to Slovenia with school-age children, there are many opportunities of choosing a right school: public or private schools, English-speaking international schools, supplementary schools for Russian-speaking children. If your goal is the steepest child’s adaptation to the new environment, it is better to choose a school where the training will be held in the Slovenian language, so that a child could be able to quickly learn the language, to get acquainted with a new culture and make friends among the Slovenes, “join the team”. A list of public basic schools can be viewed here. On average, adaptation will require six months to a year, but it all depends on the individual characteristics. It is important to support your child. If you have troubles, you can make an appointment with a school psychologist.
Another option would be a four-year Russian-language elementary school at the Russian Embassy in Slovenia. There are also two supplementary schools focused on the Russian language and literature as well as the culture, history and traditions of Russia: “Happy Children” and “Stairs“. The methodology of teaching in these schools is as close to the Russian one as possible and the programs are focused on the curriculum of general education schools of the Russian Federation. If parents wish, they can also register their child for one year of training in a Russian-language supplementary school before enrolment to a basic school.
In addition, children can study in private schools:
- The Waldorf Basic School in Ljubljana and Maribor (Waldorfska šola). The school uses an alternative teaching method.
- The Alojzij Šuštarj Basic School (Osnovnа šolа Alojzija Šuštarja). Study programs of this school are based on the Catholic school programs.
- The Montessori Institute (Montessori inštitut). This institution uses the program of pedagogy and education developed by Montessori.
Finally, there are four international schools in Slovenia. The British, American and French schools offer the academic programs from the education systems of three countries, respectively. Most of the teachers in these schools are native speakers. The IBSL cannot be ignored as well, which is the International Bilingual School of Ljubljana.
In Slovenia, schoolchildren are taught to love active lifestyle from a young age: they participate in school fairs, performances, sports teams and clubs, go on excursions, hiking in the mountains and so on.
In the 6th and 9th grades, schoolchildren pass the mandatory state exams. In the 6th grade of a basic school, the exams include tests in mathematics and the first foreign language, as well as an examination on the Slovenian, Italian or Hungarian languages, depending on the region of residence. In the 9th grade, children pass examinations in mathematics and the Slovenian, Italian or Hungarian languages, as well as in one more subject chosen by a child from an approved list.
After the 9th grade, schoolchildren move to the next educational level. They can go to a regular grammar school or to a specialized gymnasium with a focus on certain subjects or profession.
Learning in Slovenian gymnasiums will be described in the next article.