KNOWLEDGE-BASED SOCIETY, EDUCATION AND CULTURE

The Government considers training, education, science, research and innovation, development of e-services and digitisation the main pillars of a knowledge-based society and economy. Training and education must lead people towards humanism, tolerance, solidarity, cooperation and a responsible approach to life, and provide for a systematic transfer of shared cultural and democratic values between generations.

The Government will concentrate its efforts on improvements in the standards and quality of education for all citizens, with the focus on young people, and on the development and utilisation of their knowledge and creative potential, while increasing demands on the adaptability and proficiency of individuals. The Government is aware that Slovakia’s competitiveness depends on the competitiveness of its people who are educated, skilled, creative and flexible.

The Government will build up a comprehensive educational system, from the pre-school level to lifelong learning. The Government will promote the development of an educational system directly linked with practice, with the focus on social and technological modernisation. The Government will provide conditions to boost education in natural sciences and technologies. It will promote development of financial education.

Measures in this area will be linked to the Europe 2020 strategy, with the main objective of maintaining solidarity and social cohesion and building a society based on learning and new knowledge.

With respect to the school system, the Government considers it crucial to bolster the importance and social status of teachers at all levels of the system; therefore, in addition to professional and social aspects, their position in society must be reinforced, e.g., through political, professional and general public support, and, of course, coupled with adequate financial remuneration, and the social prestige of their profession must be alleviated. To that end, the Government will introduce system solutions to improve the remuneration of pedagogical and non-pedagogical staff and experts, depending on the quality of their performance and the possibilities of the state budget.

The Government understands that restoring discipline at elementary and secondary schools based on the natural authority of teachers and improving the quality of training of future teachers and experts at tertiary schools are also essential to further development of the educational system.

As far as feasible under existing circumstances, the Government will seek to increase the volume of state budget funds spent to boost education, science and research, with the aim of enhancing their quality and effectiveness.
In its approach to education, the Government will take into consideration not only the ambitions of students, but their capabilities as well, and will create legislative conditions to force school founding authorities or schools to prepare educational plans that respond to the demands and needs of the labour market.

With respect to the funding of schools and school facilities, the Government will implement measures to make sure that educational services are not merely a lucrative business financed by taxpayers; therefore, it will make the existence and funding of schools primarily conditional upon the success rate of their graduates in the labour market in the fields they have studied, and will provide legislative arrangements for employers to conclude contracts with students to also secure the enforcement of their obligations.

The Government will promote the establishment of a so-called four-partite platform as part of the building of a society based on new knowledge in science and technologies, research, development and innovation by extending the existing tripartite format of employees, employers and the government to also include representatives of the scientific and research community and universities.

In addition to traditional areas of national security, increased attention will be paid to so-called intellectual security. The structure of basic and applied research will be reinforced and streamlined, and support will be provided to the commercialisation of the results of scientific, research and development efforts; enhanced innovation, establishment of knowledge and technology transfer centres and development of national technology platforms will create conditions for a functional and modern national innovation system.

The Government will continue building the information society, in particular through the development of public e-government services, digitisation of repository institutions, and access to broadband Internet.

Regional schools

The Government will gradually update national educational programmes to comply with the new priorities under the national educational policy, starting from pre-school education, and with the current demands in pedagogical practice - reconciling the content of education and practical training with existing labour market needs. In lifelong learning, increased attention will be paid to supporting citizens’ digital competencies.

In order to increase employment rates of secondary school graduates, the Government considers it of utmost importance to pay special attention to the quality of their knowledge and career development and consultancy until the end of their education and practical training. In this respect, the Government will encourage the introduction of educational processes to develop working skills of pupils at elementary schools to facilitate their decision-making concerning their future professional careers, especially towards studies at secondary vocational schools. For the sake of reconciling education and practical training with labour market needs, the Government will create conditions for a flexible exchange of the most recent information among schools, employers and the business sector, both at the regional and national level.

The Government will encourage further improvements in the quality of education of pedagogical staff and experts in the educational system. This will primarily involve:
-      simplification and facilitation of the credit system and removal of excessive red tape and administrative burdens;
-      stronger support for lifelong learning at schools through the engagement of several professional entities into this process.

The Government will guarantee more independence for the State School Inspection, creating better personnel, material, technical and legislative conditions to ensure a high degree of quality and professionalism in its performance, including through methodological assistance.

The Government will set up a new management and financing system for regional schools, as it will:
-      clearly define educational competences of local government, state administration and institutions managed directly by the Education Ministry, including a focus on their coordination with non-state schools;
-      gradually implement a model of financing according to the quality of the class, not only per pupil; through financial instruments and qualitative criteria for admission to grammar schools, it will ensure that the numbers of students at grammar schools are brought closer to realistic numbers;
-      find a solution to the funding of non-state schools and school facilities by local government, including with respect to local government competences to found and dissolve such schools and facilities;
-      reconsider existing normative financial allocations to vocational secondary schools taking into account higher economic costs of practical vocational training;
-      boost interest in studying at vocational schools; for example, through multi-source funding;
-      take action to encourage the private sector to participate in the funding of education, especially of vocational education and practical training;
-      reassess the system of financial remuneration for the quality of performance of employees in the educational sector;
-      introduce uniform conditions for all school founders with respect to securing human resources;
-      ensure pragmatic and transparent funding of after-school courses, schools’ capital expenditure, physical education and sports activities.

The Government will make sure that school system reform is thoroughly reviewed; by means of innovative processes in management and education, it will provide for qualified restructuring of state and public administration in the school sector, and improve the quality in the implementation of EU projects.

The Government will concentrate its efforts on the development and improvements in the quality of human resources, in particular by raising professional and personal competencies of employees in the school sector. It will increase the quality of educational processes by means of new teaching materials, equipment and technologies with digital support. It will promote improving the competencies of children and students to increase their competitiveness under European assessment standards, e.g., PISA.

With respect to the development of minority schools, the Government will promote high-quality education in native languages and an excellent command of the official language, as an important characteristic of a modern, inclusive civil society.

The Government will reconsider the possibility of reintroducing boarding schools for children from marginalised communities on a voluntary basis.

An emphasis will be placed at all levels of the school system on educating children in line with national, historical and cultural values and traditions, and knowledge of and respect for civil, national and Christian traditions and values. Patriotism will be encouraged through modern educational forms and methods, and more attention will be paid to education on the Holocaust and racially and ethnically motivated violence.

In order to raise pupils’ interest in technical fields of study, the Government will more vehemently promote teaching of mathematics and natural sciences.

The Government will support a more robust involvement of the business sector in the entire school system in order to boost its competitiveness and sustainability in the global environment.

Tertiary schools

The Government will guarantee that students can take one regular tertiary study programme at a public tertiary school free of charge, and support considerable improvements in the quality of training of their graduates.

Through changes in the funding of the tertiary schools, the Government will encourage their differentiation by the quality and results achieved in education, scientific research and in their linkage to social and economic needs with a view to setting up scientific and technology parks and delivering innovative outputs. Based on analyses, the indicative allocation of funds on tertiary education, research, development and infrastructure of tertiary schools will be refined over a longer time framework.

The Government will initiate changes in the appointment of professors, which will require their excellent creative and teaching capabilities and achievements, including the moulding of scientific and artistic schools of international reputation. Compliance with the uniform criteria of pedagogical and creative performance will be required for individual fields of knowledge.

Primarily through changes in the requirements in the profile of graduates of bachelor’s study programmes, the Government will create conditions for the full recognition of the first level of tertiary education, the bachelor’s degree, in practice. In the same vein, the Government will also reconcile educational outputs on other levels of tertiary education (master’s/engineer’s degree, Ph.D. programmes) with prevailing trends in the social and economic development in Slovakia and with the current level of knowledge and expertise in individual fields of study.

The Government will provide conditions for the Accreditation Commission to better consider the quality of tertiary school graduates, monitored by means of internal quality assurance systems which will be transparent, based on international standards, and which will provide enough objective information on the success rates of the graduates of particular programmes, fields of study, faculties and tertiary schools.

The Government will pay special attention to creating systematic conditions to retain or win back Ph.D. graduates from abroad and to reinforce the status of post-Ph.D. graduates at universities and in the Slovak Academy of Sciences. It will promote improvements in the quality of work with Ph.D. students and their participation in domestic and international scientific projects and educational activities.

In line with its priorities, the Government will support tertiary education, research and innovation, with a special focus on natural and technical sciences and linked to social needs and economic development, as well as the mobility of students, tertiary school teachers and research workers.

Research and development

The Government recognises that research and development is among the most crucial factors of Slovakia’s further development and growth in the quality of life of its citizens, even amid the current economic, social, financial and moral crisis.

The Government will encourage cooperation between the research community and business, as well as with institutions from the European research area, thus contributing to the building of links between domestic research and technological and innovative progress and research development in the European Union and other advanced countries of the world.

The Government understands that, without higher total research and development expenditures and better involvement of the business sector, no considerable achievements can be made in the area of innovation, in boosting the competitiveness of domestic economy, and in their practical application in manufacturing and technological processes in cooperation between research and development in the Slovak Republic.

In research and development, the Government will support:
-      transformation of the Slovak Research and Development Agency (SRDA) into a public institution and strengthening its super-sectoral position;
-      establishment of an implementing agency to finance industrial research, experimental development and innovation in industrial companies;
-      continued implementation of the Modernisation programme Slovakia 21 with the use of best recommendations for practical applications;
-      financing of new innovative activities by means of venture capital;
-      continued participation in the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme and the future 8th Framework Programme known as Horizon 2020;
-      formation of a framework and conditions to reduce “brain drain” from Slovakia, or to increase the chances for the return of excellent scholars and researchers, along with the possibilities to further develop international cooperation, while seeking to ensure state of the art laboratory equipment and excellent working conditions at universities, scientific facilities, research facilities of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAS) and some sectoral workplaces - for example, in agriculture and food quality;
-      further integration of education and science - universities and the SAS in order to set up joint scientific and research teams and to improve SAS’ participation in Ph.D. study programmes;
-      assessment of the results of the research centres of excellence in Slovakia in order to form a national and international network of the common European educational and research area and centres of excellence in the EU;
-      implementation of research projects linked to Slovak and EU priorities in the area of research, development and innovation with a clear supra-sectoral and inter-disciplinary focus, e.g., in energy sectors, green technologies, transport materials and systems, biomedicine, biotechnology, IT, machine engineering and the electronics industry;
-      legislative changes to provide such conditions which will attract excellent third country students and researchers to study and work in Slovakia;
-      improved information exchange and communication among scientific and research structures within the EU, a better institutional linkage with our permanent representation to the European Union;
-      creation of legislative conditions to increasingly encourage the private sector to raise its spending on research, development and innovation;
-      creation of a functional national innovation system, knowledge and technology transfer centres, scientific and technology parks, and a knowledge-based environment under the implementation of the Danube Strategy, a European supra-regional project.

Youth and sport

The Government will support and promote the creation of conditions to facilitate sports activities of the general public, as well as the social and educational function of sports and its positive impact on health, and pay attention to the position of young people in society and their involvement in numerous domestic and international projects.

To that end, the Government will:
-      promote conditions for national teams, training of talented athletes and the building of sports infrastructure;
-      participate in the project and multi-source funding for the construction of the National Football Stadium in Bratislava;
-      draw up new laws concerning the establishment, activities and funding of sports schools and sports classes;
-      prepare a new National Sports Development Programme of the Slovak Republic, a model of financing and a draft act on sports;
-      submit a new strategy on work with talented young athletes;
-      as regards children and youth, support and promote conditions to improve the quality of their life, social justice, equal opportunities, right to their own identity, employment opportunities and public participation;
-      pay special attention to supporting child, youth and academic sports development in cooperation with regional and local authorities.

Culture

The Government, asa government of certainties for citizens, considers culture a core foundation of society, one that shapes its values and contributes to creating its unique national, ethnic or local identity. Culture has the ability to humanise, cultivate and convey an aesthetic quality to life, while nurturing creativity and originality in people. It also forms an important part in the process of education and upbringing and leisure activities of the population while fostering social cohesion. Moreover, culture has an appreciable potential to contribute to economic and social development within society.

The Government is aware that culture has been neglected and its importance underestimated in the long run, and realises the lack of systemic changes facilitating adequate conditions for its development. A policy that would recognise the social importance of culture and provide a more ample support is necessary. This is not a sector where spending should be curbed in years to come. However, financial support for culture must stay within the real economic limits of the country, yet it should suffice in meeting the realistic targets, priorities and expectations of the cultural community.

Culture is seen as a creative sector that can contribute its part to the development of a knowledge-based society, overall competitiveness and, ultimately, to Slovakia’s social and economic growth. It is an integrating element for the entire Slovak society. The Government will prepare the Culture Development Strategy for 2013 – 2020, the contents of which will emanate from a broad dialogue leading to the creation of a programme accepted by the entire society, one that will serve as the basis for the state cultural policy and gradual systemic changes in the culture sector.

The Government will set up a Government Council for Culture which, in its capacity as an advisory body, should promote the importance of culture and underscore the need for day-to-day dialogue and coordinated action between the Ministry of Culture, other ministries and central government bodies, local government representatives, and personalities of the cultural community. The Government will make sure that the issue of culture and arts finds its way into the strategic development documents of the central government bodies, as well as scientific and research institutions operating nationwide.

The Government deems it important that culture should continue to receive public funding, yet it will seek new options and models. The existing grant scheme of the Ministry of Culture will be transformed into a public institution, the revenues of which – earmarked for the support of culture – will be supplemented, by law, with proceeds from gambling and lotteries.

As part of Slovakia’s common starting points concerning the financial strategic framework within the EU for 2014 – 2020, a separate priority axis for culture with clearly defined programming objectives primarily focusing on the protection and restoration of cultural heritage, in particular national heritage, should be created at a minimum.
The Government considers the role of national cultural institutions to be irreplaceable and, therefore, their further development will be supported.

The Government deems it necessary to improve the legal and social status of artists and cultural workers in society, including freelance artists, by revisiting the remuneration policy in the culture sector, as well as by introducing more realistic payroll taxes for artistic staff to better address the specific nature of their profession.
The Government will continue to channel public funds into supporting the creation of new works of art, cultural activities and their presentation. Special focus will be on support of original literature, as well as access to and a suitable environment for the popularisation of contemporary art.

The Government will explore the options to support fine arts and make public buildings more aesthetically appealing by introducing an obligation to spend a fixed percentage of the total cost of public building construction on purchases of works of art. Within a dialogue with the professional cultural community, the Government will set the priorities and a timetable for establishing an adequate institutional and spatial background for the individual areas of fine arts.

The Government will introduce a suitable organisational, legislative and financial framework for the operation of the public broadcaster. Its institutional structure in terms of individual bodies, their composition, establishment and powers will be standardised. The sources of funding for the public broadcaster’s operation and content creation will be stabilised in order to increase its viewership and the number of listeners, with a particular emphasis on the role and importance of public service.

Through the Audiovisual Fund, the Government will focus on developing original audiovisual production as an important bearer of cultural values, as well as on improving the availability of audiovisual cultural content by means of an effective system for supporting the distribution of Slovak movies and cinema digitisation projects. The Government will also seek other avenues of funding audiovisual culture and industry in the context of trends prevailing in Europe.

The Government will make preparations for recasting the copyright law in order to adapt existing legislation to current European trends in the creation, distribution, use and protection of copyrighted works, performances, recordings, broadcasts and databases. Attention will be given to mass digitisation processes and to improving the access of the general public to the cultural heritage of the Slovak Republic with a focus on the implementation of EU law.

The Government will continue creating conditions to save and restore the cultural heritage of the Slovak Republic and to preserve and make it systematically available for cultural, educational and promotional purposes, in particular through digitisation projects.

The Government will adopt a strategy for repository institutions for 2013 - 2020 in order to ensure the sustainability of the digitisation process and also protect and expand the collection and information resources. Multicultural and community activities pursued by libraries, museums and galleries will also be supported.

Traditional folk culture, which the Government considers to be the mainstay of our cultural identity, will be given due attention, since it contributes to the furthering of amateur cultural and social events staged by towns, municipalities and regions. The Government will prepare the conditions for satisfying the cultural needs of all Slovak citizens in the spirit of effective cooperation between the state administration, towns, regions and non-governmental organisations. Emphasis will be on creating a sustainable co-funding system for cultural activities at the local and regional level, including amateur cultural activities.

The Government will support the activities pursued by national minorities living in the territory of the Slovak Republic which contribute substantially to the shaping and evolution of cultural diversity as a traditional and integral part of the development of Slovak society. It will also be attentive to the cultural needs of marginalised and disadvantaged groups with a view to preventing their cultural and social isolation.

The Government will make sure that information used in public communication be available in the state language within the entire territory of the Slovak Republic. In addition to taking care of the state language, it will protect a favourable climate for the use of minority languages in accordance with the applicable legislation.

 The Government is keen to maintain a permanent partnership dialogue with churches and religious communities. It will promote the care of important cultural monuments owned by churches and continue the discussion on the funding of churches, with a particular focus on technical aspects of this issue.

Culture is considered by the Government to be a part of diplomacy and is perceived as an instrument of foreign policy that lends itself to promoting the Slovak Republic in the international arena, enhancing its prestige and building better relations with other countries. This dimension of culture will be strengthened in particular by showcasing high-quality projects at international festivals, trade fairs and exhibitions of contemporary art, which can provide an impetus for promoting the economic interests of the Slovak Republic and its positive image abroad.

The Government will encourage cultural projects marking the anniversaries of significant milestones in the history of Slovakia and highlighting notable personalities of the cultural and artistic life. It will prepare a dignified commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Constitution of the Slovak Republic and the formation of an independent state, as well as the anniversary of the arrival of Saints Cyril and Methodius in our territory.

The status of minorities – a permanent part of modern Slovak society

The Government notes the existence of full and effective equality between persons belonging to a national minority and those belonging to the majority in all areas of economic, social, political and cultural life in the long run.

The Government is aware that national minorities form an important part of modern Slovak society, contributing their cultural wealth and substantial historical heritage.

The Government views the protection and support for the development of national minorities as its natural role in shaping a modern Slovakia.

The Government will lay the groundwork for the development of national minorities in terms of preserving and developing their identity, language, culture and traditions that are conducive to the general evolution of the entire society.

The Government guarantees decent conditions for the development of any national minority in the spirit of the Slovak Constitution, international treaties and conventions, while maintaining the status quo and balanced relations between the majority population and national minorities through tolerant dialogue in Slovak society.

The Government will set up the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary for National Minorities and Civic Society that will possess all relevant coordination and decision-making powers.
7747