The Slovenia Times

Foreign language classes to be mandatory for Slovenian 6-year-olds

Science & Education
Year one primary school children. Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Slovenian primary school children will have to learn a foreign language from grade one under amendments to the Primary Schools Act that the government confirmed on 30 November. A plan to introduce a mandatory second language in higher grades has been aborted.

Primary schools can currently offer the first foreign language, which is typically English, German or Italian, in the first grade as an elective subject and in practice many have been doing so for years.

Government data show that more than 90% of first graders learnt a foreign language in 2016/2017, and after the law is passed all schools will have to offer it as a mandatory subject. The first foreign language is currently a mandatory subject from fourth grade.

It was initially planned that a second foreign language would become mandatory in higher grades, but that has been met with strong pushback from educators.

They complained about a lack of staff, and claimed it would be too burdensome for students, especially immigrants who already speak their native language and have to learn Slovenian and English.

A consensus on this was not achievable, Education Minister Darjo Felda said. "Sooner or later this will become law. But before that happens, a deliberation about the curriculum is needed," he said.

The second major set of changes refers to home schooling to make sure the same attainment standards apply to all children.

Homeschooled children will have to pass exams on all school subjects in a given year and children who fail will lose the right to be homeschooled.

Another notable change is the introduction of nation-wide testing in third grade of the kind that is already conducted in the sixth and ninth grades. The government says this will provide additional feedback on student performance.

Secondary schools will have the option of taking the results of the ninth-grade test into consideration as an enrolment criterion.

Secondary school enrolment is currently based on the grades in the last three years of primary school. Only when two students at the cut-off point have the same grade-based score can the national exam results be used as an admission criterion.


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