Education in Slovakia

Education in Slovakia consists of a free education system based on 10 years of compulsory school attendance.

General characteristics

Most schools, especially universities, are owned by the state, though since the 1990s there are also church-owned and private schools (see Statistics section).

Slovakia has 10 years of compulsory education.

Students go to school five days a week, from Monday until Friday. Saturdays as school days were cancelled before the 1980s. Summer break is from the 1st of July until the end of August (at universities also in June). Other breaks occur a week around Christmas and Easter, in spring, and on official holidays.

A school year consists of two semesters. The first one ends at the end of January in all schools, the second one before the beginning of the summer holidays (see above). Primary and secondary school students usually have around 6 classes a day (less at the beginning of the education, more later). Classes last for 45 minutes, and there (several short ones and one longer one – the so-called "big break" (or by the students often just "big one")). The state financed education and all textbooks and instructional material below the university level are free (returned at the end of the semester) – in most cases at least. However, there are also private schools which are paid.

Students at standard schools receive marks in almost all subjects. The marks go from 1 (best) to 5 (worst), and may include unofficial intermediary marks such as to assess a single project, test, etc. but never on student's final reports). Compared to western European countries, there is an intrinsic "tradition" of teachers granting students rather more marks at the "good" end of the scale, i.e. more 1s, 2s and 3s than they would receive in western Europe, for example. Students below the university level receive school reports (lists of final marks) at the end of each semester.

All state-run educational institutions have suffered from a lack of funding since the fall of communism, i.e. from the early 1990s onward. School fees for university-level schools have been prepared for years, but the parliament has been unable to pass legislation requiring them due to strong citizen opposition. Many state-financed schools of higher education finance themselves by means of various semi-legal "extraordinary" and "auxiliary" fees, etc.


See: Education in Czechoslovakia and List of colleges and universities in Slovakia


Level/Grade Typical age
Infant School
Nursery School 0-3
Kindergarten 4-6
Primary School
1st Grade 6-7
2nd Grade 7-8
3rd Grade 8-9
4th Grade 9-10
5th Grade 10-11
6th Grade 11-12
7th grade 12-13
8th Grade 13-14
9th Grade 14-15
High School
1st Grade 15-16
2nd Grade 16-17
3rd Grade 17-18
4th Grade 18-19
Post-secondary education
Tertiary education (College or University) Usually three years of bachelor's degree and two years of master's degree

Primary education

Primary School in Lučenec

Primary schools are usually preceded by kindergartens where children can spend up to 4 years, which in turn can be preceded by day nurseries.

As a rule, children start the primary school in the year in which they have their 6th birthday. Standard primary schools last 9 years (8 years before approx. the mid-1990s), however since the early 1990s students can visit "8-year gymnasium" after 5 years (after 4 years prior to school year 2009/2010) on primary school (high school lasting 8 years and "extended" by the last grades of primary schools).

The primary education system is formally divided in two "stages". The second stage is characterized by many changes in the subjects treated as compared to the first stage:

Many primary schools have been closed down since about 2000 due to an unfavourable demographic development.

Subjects at the second primary education stage (many of them are taught even earlier however) include:

There also many facultative "primary art schools"- afternoon schools for particular music instruments, theatre, painting etc. These have had a long tradition in Slovakia and are attended by a large majority of pupils.

Secondary education

Gymnasium in Košice

Before entering any school of secondary education (including 8-year gymnasium) for which there are more applicants than places offered, the applicants have to pass entrance examinations.

As a rule, secondary schools last for 4 years (from the age of 16 to the age of 19). A "gymnasium" can also last for 8 years (up to the age of 18) depending on how many years did the student spend in the primary school (see primary education).

There are four types of secondary schools:

The gymnasia (high schools) are usually considered "prestigious" schools, because they explicitly prepare for higher education and because they are often highly selective - only the brightest students from elementary schools advance to them. In fact, most students who attend them later continue their education at a school of higher education in Slovakia or abroad. The high schools that are the most competitive ones are usually located either in Bratislava (Gamča, Gymnázium Metodova, Gymnázium Jura Hronca (GJH), etc.), in Košice (Gymnázium Poštová etc.) or in other main cities. These schools annually accept only a very low percentage of applicants. Despite providing general education, many gymnasia have specialized classes . Some of them specialize in languages or are even "bilingual" Slovak-German/English/French etc. (e.g. Gymnázium Metodova, Gymnázium Jura Hronca, Gymnázium Bilíkova), others are specialized in mathematics or computer programming, for example Gamča and Gymnázium Jura Hronca. Gamča is notable for being founded in 1626 [1] which is exactly 113 years after the gymnasium in Levoča was founded in 1513.

After finishing secondary school students usually take a school-leaving exam (matura in German, "maturita" in Slovak), which is a basic prerequisite for visiting a school of higher education (college), especially a university. Before 1990 this included obligatory exams in mathematics (written nationwide standardized + oral), Slovak incl. literature (written nationwide standardized + oral) and Russian and in one subject of the students's choice. After 1990, the system was changed, so that every school prepared its own tests and questions – at gymnasia in the subjects: Slovak incl. literature (written and oral), a foreign language (written and oral), two subjects of the student's choice (oral). The obvious problem of this system was low or missing comparability of the results. The maturita system was modified in 2005 again. The new system is supposed to replace the current entrance examinations to schools of higher education (colleges) in the future. The main changes are: one additional exam subject (for gymnasia), nationwide unified written tests for languages and mathematics (other subjects are supposed to follow in the future), a high degree of standardization of other exams, as well as the possibility for the student to choose whether they want to pass an A-level exam (the simplest one), a B-level exam or a C-level exam (the most difficult one, only for languages). At gymnasia, the exam subjects include: Slovak incl. literature (written and oral), a foreign language (written and oral), a natural science subject, and two other subjects of the student's choice [Details in Slovak: ]

Higher education

Comenius University headquarters at Šafárikovo námestie in Bratislava

The Slovak term "vysoká škola" ("school of higher education", literally "high school", compare the German name Hochschule), which for lack of other expressions is also translated into English as "college", can refer to all schools of higher (i.e. tertiary) education, or in a narrower sense only to those schools of higher education that are not universities.

The first university on the territory of Slovakia was the Universitas Istropolitana (=Academia Istropolitana) founded in 1465. The main and largest current university in Slovakia is the Comenius University. For other current universities and colleges see List of colleges and universities in Slovakia.

The 2002 Act on Schools of Higher Education dinstinguishes public, state, and private schools of higher education (colleges):

Studies at the state and public universities is available free of charge for residents of Slovakia (?)and of the EU. School fees are being planned, however. Other students have to pay from USD 2,500 to USD 6,500 for one academic year.

Before entering any school of higher education for which there are more applicants than places offered, the applicants have to pass entrance examinations. These examinations take very different forms at particular schools. The "maturita" results of the applicant are usually also taken into account when evaluating whether he can become student of the school. Since the number of branches of study and of schools of higher education increased considerably in the course of the late 18th century (although at the cost of quality of the studies), the general percentage of those not being accepted to these schools decreased considerably over the same time period. Also, an increasing number of Slovaks studies abroad, especially in the Czech Republic due to a low language barrier, a slightly better economic situation (and job perspectives) in that country, as well as similarities of the two educational systems. As a result, the percentage of Slovaks with higher education has increased considerably over the last decade.

The studies are organized within the following study programmes and "stages" (also translated as levels). Each school must provide at least Stage 1:

The Act on Schools of Higher Education 2002 dinstinguishes:

The academic year begins on 1 September of the current year and ends on 31 August of the next year (in reality, however it ends in May/June). The studies in one academic year may be divided into two semesters or rarely in three trimesters. The teaching process includes various forms of instruction such as lectures, seminars, exercises, laboratory work, projects, practical training, consultations, etc.. The credit system following the rules of the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) has been introduced in 1998 for the organisation of all levels and forms of higher education study. The student's standard load is expressed by the number of sixty credits per academic year and thirty credits per semester. The school of higher education determines the total number of credits required for due completion of the study in its respective stagess.

Financing problems of schools of higher education are described in the introduction.


Schools and students (school year 2004/2005)

Unless stated otherwise, the numbers give daily studies (i.e. non-external studies). The first number gives the number of schools, the number in brackets the number of students.

A) Kindergartens and primary education (excl. special schools)

Kindergartens (materské školy) : 3000 (147317) state, 16 (598) private, 30 (1317) church
Primary schools (základné školy): 2217 (530 770) state, 16 (1159) private, 109 (25392) church
Primary art schools (základné umelecké školy): 180 (92146), 34 (7934) private, 7 (2239) church

B) Secondary education (excl. special schools)

Note: Strictly speaking, this section also includes professional schools and vocational schools that are post-secondary education."

Gymnasia/grammar schools/high schools (gymnáziá): 161 (84984) state, 22 (3362) private, 51 (14392) church, - (1634) external st. at these schools; out of which:
Secondary professional schools + professional schools (stredné odborné školy + odborné školy):
"Grouped" secondary schools (združené stredné školy): 105 (62772) state, 3 (1310) private, 1 (656) church, - (1248) external st. at these schools; comprise:
Secondary vocational schools + vocational schools (stredné odborné učilištia + učilištia):202 (63886), 26 (8433), 5 (1206), - (3848) external st. at these schools; comprise:

C) Special schools (špeciálne školy)

D) Schools of higher/tertiary education (vysoké školy)

Other statistics

Graduates (tertiary education: calendar year 2004, otherwise: school year 2003/2004):

Teachers 2004/2005:

Average monthly teachers' pay in 2004:

Number of schools:

Number of graduates from tertiary schools (including postgradual "doctor" degree):

Language of all schools as of 2004 (incl. kindergartens):


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