1. Key indicators
Figure 1 – Key indicators overview
|EU-level targets||2030 target|
|Participation in early childhood education
(from age 3 to starting age of compulsory primary education)
|Low achieving eighth-graders in digital skills||< 15%||35.8%13||:||:||:|
|Low achieving 15-year-olds in:||Reading||< 15%||21.2%09, b||17.9%18||19.7%09, b||22.5%18|
|Early leavers from education and training (age 18-24)||< 9%||5.0%||4.1%||13.8%||9.9%|
|Exposure of VET graduates to work based learning||≥ 60%||:||:||:||:|
|Tertiary educational attainment (age 25-34)||≥ 45% (2025)||31.3%||45.4%||32.2%||40.5%|
|Participation of adults in learning (age 25-64)||≥ 47% (2025)||:||:||:||:|
|Other contextual indicators|
|Education investment||Public expedienture on education as a percentage of GDP||6.5%||5.5%||5.0%||4.7%19|
|Expenditure on public and private institutions per FTE/student in € PPS||ISCED 1-2||€7 20712||€7 03218||€6 07212,d||€6 35917,d|
|ISCED 3-4||€5 35312||€5 80318||€7 36613,d||€7 76217,d|
|ISCED 5-8||€8 35912||€9 74918||€9 67912,d||€9 99517,d|
|Early leavers from education and training (age 18-24)||Native||4.5%||3.8%||12.4%||8.7%|
|Upper secondary level attainment (age 20-24, ISCED 3-8)||89.1%||92.8%||79.1%||84.3%|
|Tertiary educational attainment (age 25-34)||Native||32.4%||48.2%||33.4%||41.3%|
Sources: Eurostat (UOE, LFS, COFOG); OECD (PISA). Further information can be found in Annex I and in Volume 1 (ec.europa.eu/education/monitor). Notes: The 2018 EU average on PISA reading performance does not include ES; the indicator used (ECE) refers to early-childhood education and care programmes which are considered by the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) to be ‘educational’ and therefore constitute the first level of education in education and training systems – ISCED level 0; FTE = full-time equivalent; b = break in time series, d = definition differs, u = low reliability, := not available, 09 = 2009, 12 = 2012, 13 = 2013, 17 = 2017, 18 = 2018, 19 = 2019.
Figure 2 - Position in relation to strongest and weakest performers
Source: DG Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, based on data from Eurostat (LFS 2020, UOE 2019) and OECD (PISA 2018).
- A legal framework for ensuring well-being exists and teachers are provided with training and information.
- Investments are mostly focused on digital education and resources for distance education.
- New support measures for migrant and Roma pupils have been introduced in basic schools.
- Employment rate of recent vocational and educational training (VET) graduates and participation in adult education decreased significantly.
3. A focus on well-being in education and training
Slovenia aims to ensure well-being by providing safe and stimulating learning environments. In 2016, the amendment of the Act on the Organisation and Financing of Education1 included provisions for safe and stimulating learning environments, and banned violence and unequal treatment of children based on gender, origin, religion, race, and physical and mental development. In 2018 the Safe and Encouraging Learning Environment website2 was established to provide education professionals and parents with professional material and good practice examples, guidelines on preventive action and response, and classroom management strategies for dealing with adverse behaviour. In November 2020, the Programme for Children 2020-2025 (Program, 2020) was adopted, which aims to improve the well-being of children, create equal opportunities and more inclusive early childhood education and care (ECEC) and school education.
In recent years, education professionals have been provided with training and information on how to ensure well-being in education. Emotional and social competences, inclusive education, well-being, and approaches to creating a good school climate are part of the continuous professional development programmes supported by EU funding. The Slovenian Network of Healthy Schools3, connecting 60% of educational institutions, focuses on strengthening mental health, preventing addiction and developing social and emotional competences. In schools and ECEC, special attention is devoted to nutrition through national dietary guidelines4, and sports activities are encouraged (e.g. Youth Sport programme)5. In basic schools, an experimental extended programme is testing different activities that would contribute to pupils’ wellbeing through two content sets: 1. Movement for physical and mental health that includes subsets movement (focussing on sports, relaxation and creativity), nourishment, (healthy dietary habits, hygiene etc.), health and security (physical and mental health, healthy environment, safety, prevention of addiction and violence, quality free time); and 2. Culture and tradition with a subset called Culture of coexistence (culture of dialogue, social learning, developing school and citizen culture). The Safer Internet Centre Slovenia provides information, support and training on how to safely use the internet6. However, no monitoring mechanisms for school climate and well-being are in place apart from school self-evaluation.
Students’ sense of belonging is high and bullying is not frequent, but students with migrant or low socio-economic background are more often affected. Compared with the EU average, more students feel that they belong in their schools (73.7% vs EU 65.2%), though this sense is lower for disadvantaged students (0.21 points gap) and students in schools with a high concentration of students with a migrant background (0.06 points gap). Sense of belonging strongly affects reading performance in PISA (9 pps difference per one unit increase after accounting for a student’s and a school’s socio-economic status (SES)). Fewer students are bullied at least a few times a month compared to the EU average (20.9% vs 22.1%), but bullying is increasing since 2015 (+4.5 pps). Boys are more frequently bullied than girls (8.5 pps gap). Worryingly, disadvantaged students and students with a migrant background are also more affected by bullying (4.6 pps and 6.6 pps difference, respectively). The same is the case for students from schools with high concentration of students with low SES (14.5 pps), public schools7 (difference of 12.1 pps, the highest in the EU) and schools with high concentration of students from migrant background (3.7 pps v EU 2.7 pps). High rates of bullying in school have strong negative effects on students’ reading performance. Nevertheless, school principals tend not to see this as an obstacle to learning (44.1% think it is not an obstacle at all vs EU 28%). The negative effects that stem from the feeling of not belonging in school and from bullying are reflected in the gap in the educational outcomes between the students with a migrant background and the native students (European Commission, 2020). A national study on the effects of special needs, migrant background and SES on educational outcomes confirmed their strong correlation with lower educational outcomes (especially in mathematics and Slovene) and tracking into VET upper secondary schools (Cankar, 2020).
Figure 3 - Change in PISA reading performance when students report that they feel like they belong at school, 2018
Source: OECD, PISA 2018. Note: Data for FI and IT are not statistically significant.
COVID-19 posed new challenges to well-being in the education system. There are no data on the impact of distance learning on well-being, but the media reports that education professionals, psychologists and parents have warned about the negative effects of closures on ECEC children and pupils, and of growing differences in knowledge. However, the results of the matura exam8 and the national assessment of knowledge9 in 2021 were comparable to previous years. In 2021, several stakeholders have conducted evaluation activities (coordinated by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport) on the effects of distance learning, but they are still in progress. Studies show that the mental health of young people aged 18-29 is worsening with up to 25% being at risk of a depressive disorder10. Another study discovered that students (mostly aged 18-29) fear an uncertain future (94.1%) and losing freedoms (85.3%). They face a decline in concentration or motivation to study, lack of contact with peers, lack of free time and feelings of guilt when taking time for themselves, and they doubt their abilities. Almost all students have at times noticed signs of depression and anxiety (89.5%), a negative attitude towards themselves (88.2%), and chronic fatigue (84.5%). Many felt they need psychological help (47.5%), but few have asked for it (only 12.5%). Teachers experienced fatigue, apathy, reluctance and sadness, as well as lacked contact with students. Major causes of stress were the coordination of work with family, engaging pupils/students, lack of physical face-to-face communication, preparation of materials, guidance in the interpretation of material, use of ICT tools, and written assessment (Kerč, 2021). A study on higher education (HE) students found that only 23.3% did not experience anxiety, depression was pronounced (77.6%), and resilience low. They were more likely to ask for help since the pandemic began, but less inclined to seek help from experts. Students were dissatisfied with distance education (Gabrovec et al., 2021).
IT equipment was provided systematically, while other support measures depended on schools’ own initiative. Initially, support to vulnerable pupils mostly concentrated on providing computer equipment for distance education, though counselling and learning support were also provided. Guidelines for distance teaching required teachers to adjust students’ burden, enable two-way communication, offer counselling and help students with special needs or status. Schools also published guidelines for home-based education (ZRSŠ, 2020). Upon returning to school, teachers were instructed to talk to students about their feelings, linking these talks to the curricular objectives (social and emotional learning, health), and to create safe and stimulating learning environments, especially for vulnerable groups (ZRSŠ, 2020a). During the second closure, schools were also advised to organise Slovene language lessons for migrant students, if possible. However, didactic instructions were missing, causing differences in provision. Some schools contacted students’ compatriots, and organised tutoring with engagement of teachers, students and NGOs. Some teachers provided more individualised tuition for migrant pupils, establishing direct dialogues, offering moral and emotional support, and narrowing the learning content to allow students to concentrate on learning the Slovene language. For Roma pupils in areas with a significant Roma population, Roma assistants helped in distance education and ensured communication between the schools, parents and pupils. Counsellors of the Centre of School and Outdoor Education, which led the project in which Roma assistants were provided11, also offered support to other disadvantaged students. Municipalities provided free daily warm meals to low SES pupils during distance education (at school, home or pick-up point)12. The ‘TOM telephone’ helpline, which has been running for over 30 years and has nearly 200 qualified consultants provided online and phone support to children and students and ideas on lockdown activities13. HE students with a permanent residence in Slovenia received a solidarity benefit of EUR 150 from the State budget twice, students studying abroad once. Cultural institutions offered online culture and art activities on the platform Cultural Bazaar14 intended for children, pupils and students, and staff in kindergartens and schools.
The Ministry of Education faced opposition for closing educational institutions. Stakeholders deemed the complete closure of ECEC facilities unacceptable, because it negatively affected the development and well-being of children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds (ZRSŠ, 2020b). Education professionals warned of the negative effects of distance education in increasing knowledge gaps between pupils. An upper secondary students’ initiative (‘We demand school’) petitioned the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport in January 2021 for an immediate return to school (demanded by 55% of upper secondary students), and demanded that grading be carried out exclusively in schools, to avoid inequalities. They also asked for amendments to the Matura exam. On 9 February, a large number of upper secondary students boycotted distance learning15.
4. Investing in education and training
Investment in education and training is higher than the EU average and growing, but expenditure per pupil is decreasing. The education budget for 2021 increased by 9.2% compared with 2020. EUR 2.2 million is earmarked for free ECEC places for siblings. In 2019, the spending on education both as a share of GDP (5.5%) and as a share of total general government expenditure (12.6%) were higher than the EU average (4.7% and 10%, respectively)16. Between 2013 and 2018, annual expenditure per pupil increased for almost all levels of education, except in primary education: -5.9%17. This may have been due to the increase in the number of pupils enrolled in primary education between 2013 and 2018 (+17.1%). In November 2020, the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport adopted the Decision to allocate EUR 0.7 million for information-communication technology (ICT) and licence purchase to public higher education institutions (HEIs) in 2020.
Figure 4 – Trends in pupils enrolled in primary education and in annual expenditure per student in primary education, 2013-2018
Source: educ_uoe_fini04, educ_ipe_ernp05, nama_10_gdp. Values for annual expenditure per student are deflated.
EU funds will provide substantial support for distance and digital education. Due to the shortage of computers and access to internet for teachers and pupils, Slovenia reallocated EUR 4 million under the Coronavirus response investment initiative to purchase laptops and provide internet access for pupils in need. It requested an additional EUR 10.5 million under the REACT-EU programme to help implement blended learning. HEIs will receive the equipment necessary for developing the didactic bases for blended learning enabling a quick transition into quality online teaching. EUR 66.73 million from the Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) will be used to provide better data connections to the 228 education institutions, new IT applications and 40 permanent long-distance 100 Gbps inter-urban fibre connections for academic and research network ARNES.
Box 1: The National Recovery and Resilience Plan
The Slovenian RRP18 is worth EUR 2.483 billion: around EUR 1.78 billion in grants and EUR 705 million in loans. Reforms and investments in education and skills related measures represent almost 14% of the total RRP. Planned reforms and investments cover all education levels, supporting the development of digital and sustainable development competences and improving the labour market relevance of education and training.
5. Modernising early childhood and school education
Participation in early childhood education and care for children over 3 years old is slightly below the EU average. Participation in formal childcare of children under 3 is high, at 46.9% in 2019 (EU average: 35.3%), and almost all of them spend 30 hours or more in ECEC (44.4% vs EU 21.5%)19. Participation in ECE between age 3 and the starting age of compulsory primary education was 92.1%, 1 pp. higher than in 2018, but below both the new EU-level target of 96% and the EU average of 92.8%20. In January 2021, the ECEC Act was amended to increase enrolment, providing the right to free ECEC to a second sibling attending at the same time or to further children from the same family regardless of the older siblings’ education level.
National tests and the Matura examination are being resumed. In 2020, basic schools were closed throughout most of the autumn and part of the winter. National tests for sixth and ninth grade pupils in basic schools took place in May 2021 to measure the effect of distance education on education outcomes. Upper secondary schools were closed longer than basic schools; they applied blended learning in the spring. The Matura examination took place as usual21, with the possibility of vaccination before (end of April) and the requirement of a negative PCR test for quarantined pupils22.
Educational performance is generally good, but there are significant differences between the native-born and pupils with a migrant background. At 4.1%, the early leavers from education and training rate is among the lowest in the EU (EU 9.9%) and below the EU-level target of less than 9%23. While still low compared with other EU Member States, the percentage is nearly double for foreign-born pupils (7.4%)24. The percentage of low-achieving 15-year-olds in basic skills is above the EU-level target of 15% for mathematics and reading, but better than the EU average in all three skills: mathematics 16.4% (EU 22.9%), science 14.6% (EU 22.3%) and reading 17.9% (EU 22.5%) (OECD, 2019, Vol. I). However, underperformance in reading is much higher for students with a migrant background, with 20.1 pps gap between them and the native-born students, one of the largest in the EU. There is also a big gender gap, with boys performing significantly worse in reading (OECD, 2019, Vol. II). The share of 16-19 year-olds with above basic digital skills is relatively high (72% vs EU 57%) and significantly increased between 2015 and 2019 (16 pps v EU 5 pps)25.
New measures to support migrant and Roma pupils apply in basic schools from academic year 2020/2021. For migrant pupils, new curricula for Slovene apply from 2020/2021. Migrant pupils have the right to language lessons organised in groups. Furthermore, schools with over nine migrant pupils can hire an extra teacher to teach them Slovene (Pravilnik, 2021). The number of hours for Slovene lessons for migrants also increased in upper secondary schools (Cedefop and ReferNet, 2021). For Roma pupils, it is now possible (in line with the Strategy of Education of Roma 2020 – 2031) to employ a Roma assistant (previously this was only financed temporarily through projects). Basic schools with 16-30 Roma pupils are entitled to a Roma assistant working half-time; those with more can have a full-time assistant, and if needed, apply to the Ministry of Education for additional Roma assistants. Similar solution regarding Roma assistants applies to kindergartens.
New legislation introduces changes in ECEC and the Ministry is starting to modernise education programmes for ECEC and schools. In December 2020, Slovenia adopted an ‘Act on the Intervention for Children and Youth with Emotional and Behavioural Disorders in Education’, providing flexible support and systemic solutions for integrated treatment of such children and pupils, and establishment of preventive centres (ZOOMTVI, 2020). The promotion of staff working in social welfare institutions providing adapted ECEC and special education programmes for children and young people with special education needs has become similar to that in mainstream educational institutions (MESS, 2021). In 2020/2021, modernised upper secondary programmes began including obligatory active citizenship content. A general modernisation of education programmes began in February 2021.
The RRP will focus mainly on developing digital and green skills by integrating them into the curricula and into teacher training. Despite previous substantial investments in digital education under the Digital Slovenia 2020 strategy, a survey of basic and upper secondary schools in the summer of 2020 showed that schools were not prepared for distance learning. Among other things, only 37 schools out of 111 provided regular training for employees and teachers so they could develop their digital competences26. Even though in TALIS 2018 basic school head teachers in Slovenia reported the smallest shortage of digital technology (4.2% vs EU-22 27.6%) and least insufficient internet access (1.8% vs EU-22 23.8%), infrastructure and resources were insufficient for the new needs of distance education. Lower secondary teachers were also the second most confident in the EU: 67% felt well prepared for the use of ICT for teaching, and only 8.5% reported that they needed professional development in that area (OECD, 2019b, Vol. I). However, the use of ICT for project work was low and in practice many needed help. Therefore, digital education has been selected as one of the main priorities for the RRP, encompassing integration of digital competences into curricula at all levels and into the training of education professionals, the development of digital teaching materials and IT applications, and of supportive systems (RRP, 2021). A Strategy for Greening Education and Research Infrastructure will also be developed as a part of RRP reforms that will include the design of modern learning spaces supporting innovative pedagogical approaches. Additionally, investments into greening educational infrastructure will be also supported (EUR 145 million).
6. Modernising vocational education and training and adult learning
In 2020, the employment rate of recent VET graduates dropped significantly. In 2019, total enrolment in upper secondary VET was 70.8%, the highest in the EU (average: 48.4%). Between 2018 and 2020, the employment rate of recent VET upper secondary graduates decreased from 84.5% to 71.6%, worse than the EU average (from 79% to 76.1%). Youth employment was particularly affected by the indicated economic trends.
The pilot apprenticeship scheme, which forms part of the reform of upper secondary VET, continued. The evaluations carried out in 2020 showed satisfaction with its organisation and quality, and interest in its continuation (Cedefop and ReferNet, 2021), despite the added challenges of distance education.
The RRP includes measures to increase the labour market relevance of education and enable transition to the labour market. Actions include promoting VET and apprenticeships, training mentors in companies, improving the labour market relevance of vocational and professional education, strengthening cooperation between schools and employers (in particular for practical skills in health, ECEC and social care), and developing a VET graduate tracking application. These measures should help achieve the EU-level VET target of increasing by 2025 the share of recent VET graduates benefiting from exposure to work-based learning during VET to at least 60%.
Box 2: Transition of young SEN people to the labour market
The Project Transition of young people to the labour market (https://prehodmladih.si/) aims to help young people with special needs (up to 29 years of age) transition from school to the labour market. They are provided with tailor-made professional counselling (taking into account their interests, skills and ambitions) and information on suitable schools and professions, to provide them with equal opportunities as they enter the labour market.
Beneficiaries: 1 576 young people with special needs.
The results (confirmed by several relevant stakeholders) show that this is an important, much-needed project that makes a significant difference, contributes to more inclusive society and to reducing discrimination against young people with special needs who are looking for a job.
Total funding: EUR 4.2 million (EUR 3.4 million from the European Social Fund)
Project duration: January 2018 – December 2021
Participation in adult education and among low-qualified adults significantly decreased in the past year. The share of adults who participated in adult learning 4 weeks before the assessment, dropped from 11.2% in 2019 to 8.4% in 2020. The participation rate of low-qualified adults decreased by 0.6 pps to 1.7%, leaving room for improvement27. To address the decreasing participation of adults in lifelong learning, three important documents were adopted in 2020: Guidelines for implementing adult education guidance as a public service28; Guidelines for preparation of educational programs for adults29 (implementation started in 2020); and the Rules on standards and norms for financing and performing public service in the field of adult education30.
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed challenges to adult learning. The COVID-19 measures had a negative impact on adult learning. The duration of the closure of relevant facilities was the longest in the EU31. Learners attending basic school programmes for adults were badly affected32. The main challenges identified in a survey of the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education on the well-being of learners and teaching staff during the pandemic were access to ICT tools, a lack of ICT skills and the organisation of distance learning. The Institute provided recommendations for adult learning providers33 and they were also addressed by the law on temporary measures to mitigate the consequences of COVID-1934.
7. Modernising higher education
Tertiary education attainment has already reached the EU-level target, but major gaps between the genders and native and foreign-born people persist. In 2020, the rate of 25 to 34 year-olds with tertiary education stood at 45.4% (1.3 pps higher than in 2019), above the EU average of 40.5% and the EU-level target of 45% for 2030. The gender gap is one of the highest in the EU (20.8 pps vs EU 10.8 pps)35. There is also a large gap between the native-born population (48.2%) and the foreign-born (23%)36. The employment rate of recent HE graduates (89.2% in 2020, above the EU average of 83.7%) has slightly decreased by 0.4 pps in the last year, probably due to the effects of the pandemic37.
Higher education relocated mostly online during the pandemic. According to the government’s guidelines for organising study courses in HEIs in the winter semester of 2020/2021 (MESS, 2020), they could take place on the premises if it was indispensable and could be organised safely (e.g. laboratory or clinical work). Activities at HEI premises partly resumed in February 2021, with shorter closure from 1 to 10 April. From February onwards, students could sit exams, take part in seminars involving up to 10 participants, do laboratory work, and attend individual lectures. HEI staff was tested weekly and hygiene rules had to be followed. Testing was also recommended for students (MH, 2020).
Requirements for enrolment in HE were amended. In October 2020, the Communicable Diseases Act was amended, requiring all candidates for secondary and HE programmes in the fields of health, education and social welfare, to be vaccinated as specified by the Minister responsible for health, or exempt from vaccination for valid health reasons (ZNB-B, 2020). Another Act, adopted in October, allowed HEIs to amend the compulsory elements of study programmes in 2020/2021, and determined that enrolments for 2021/2022 were to take place digitally (Zakon, 2020). Amendments to the Foreigners Act requires non-EU residents to prove sufficient means of subsistence to be allowed residence. This includes foreign students, who need to have nearly EUR 5000 for one year of studies, and it might negatively affect the internationalisation of HE38. Slovenia currently participates in two European Commission initiatives under the Erasmus+ programme, in collaboration with the OECD, which contribute to higher education policymaking (particularly the national HE strategy and masterplan, and RRP planning): (i) HEInnovate, that provides guidance for more innovative and entrepreneurial HEIs, and the (ii) ‘Labour Market Relevance and Outcome’ (LMRO), which identifies policies and measures to improve labour market relevance of HE.
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Annex I: Key indicators sources
|Indicator||Eurostat online data code|
|Participation in early childhood education||educ_uoe_enra21|
|Low achieving eighth-graders in digital skills||IEA, ICILS.|
|Low achieving 15-year-olds in reading, maths and science||OECD (PISA)|
|Early leavers from education and training||Main data: edat_lfse_14.
Data by country of birth: edat_lfse_02.
|Exposure of VET graduates to work based learning||Data for the EU-level target is not available. Data collection starts in 2021. Source: EU LFS.|
|Tertiary educational attainment||Main data: edat_lfse_03.
Data by country of birth: edat_lfse_9912.
|Participation of adults in learning||Data for the EU-level target is not available. Data collection starts in 2022. Source: EU LFS.|
|Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP||gov_10a_exp|
|Expenditure on public and private institutions per student||educ_uoe_fini04|
|Upper secondary level attainment||edat_lfse_03|
Annex II: Structure of the education system
Source: European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2021. The Structure of the European Education Systems 2021/2022: Schematic Diagrams. Eurydice Facts and Figures. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.
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