Special Initiatives in Mathematics and Science Education
Several projects have been implemented in Slovakia with the support of the Ministry of Education, Science, Research, and Sport aiming to increase the motivation and interest of students in mathematics and science. In 2014, 49 primary schools were equipped with new specialized schoolrooms for physics, biology, and chemistry under the framework of a national project (Supporting Guidance of Primary School Students for Vocational Education and Training through the Development of Polytechnic Education Aimed at Developing Job Skills and Working with Talent). The project has contributed to introducing a new investigative teaching method to education and to enhancing its quality and appeal.26
The national project Electronization of the Education System of Regional Education,known as Digischool (Digiškola), brings electronic resources to the educational system by introducing electronic services and digital classrooms in schools and generating digital teaching content. An interesting component of the project is the traveling program Digischool on Wheels (Digiškola na kolesách). A truck, assembled as a classroom equipped with tablets and an interactive board and supplemented with five digital kiosks, visited 18 cities and brought an interactive teaching experience to 3,400 students and 260 teachers. The program also offered sample lessons for students and professional lectures on digital education.27
Methodology and pedagogy centers, universities, and other education institutions work to enhance student interest in natural science and mathematics by organizing various educational programs for students (e.g., Physics Live, Natural Science for Everyone, Young Scientists, and the AMAVET Festival of Science and Technology). Schools also participate in international projects (e.g., NANOYOU and A Taste of Maths).
Students who achieve excellent performance in any subject or who have been identified by the Centre of Pedagogical-Psychological Counseling and Prevention(hereafter referred to as the Centre) as possessing special academic talent may be admitted to schools or classes for students with special academic talent (e.g., classes with extended instruction in mathematics and natural science, foreign languages, or the humanities) depending on parental discretion and entrance examination results. Teaching content and the organizational structure of education in these classes are adapted to incorporate additional and supplementary topics, and the number of instructional hours might be increased if necessary. Students with special interest in mathematics and natural science may participate in national competitions (e.g., Mathematical Olympiad, Pytagorics, and Mathematical Kangaroo) or in correspondence seminars (e.g., MAKS, Genius Logicus, PIKOFYZ, and PIKOMAT).
Students who achieve low academic performance may be referred to the Centre, which provides complex psychological, special pedagogical, diagnostic, and educational counseling and preventive care for children, particularly to address disorders in psychological development and behavior, academic failure, and learning difficulties. Depending on the diagnoses and recommendations issued by the Centre, schools may apply programs of individual integration for students with special education needs to provide education for them in regular classes according to an individual educational program tailored to their needs. The abilities of students with special education needs are taken into account in the evaluation of their learning performance and behavior.
Schools also provide special accommodations for children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds to ensure they receive a good education and upbringing. Schools have introduced preprimary education, teaching assistant and pedagogical consultant positions, and Grade 0 in order to support these students in the following ways: integrate them into the education system; reduce the number of students per class; provide full day programs; and enhance cooperation with families. These students are educated in regular classes, and schools may implement an individual educational program for students in one or more subjects, if necessary.