Parliament makes English compulsory

ENGLISH will become a compulsory part of Slovak students’ curriculum in the next school year, as an amendment requiring it was passed by parliament on December 14. Although no significant objections about the good intentions of the law have been voiced, schools are warning that implementation might prove problematic because they lack qualified teachers.

Reading in English can prove a challenge. Reading in English can prove a challenge. (Source: SME)

ENGLISH will become a compulsory part of Slovak students’ curriculum in the next school year, as an amendment requiring it was passed by parliament on December 14. Although no significant objections about the good intentions of the law have been voiced, schools are warning that implementation might prove problematic because they lack qualified teachers.

The amendment to the School Act, as passed by parliament, introduced several other changes. In addition to making English compulsory, the legislation scraps mid-term certificates for students beginning in January 2011 and introduces an obligation for school holidays to be scheduled and published three years in advance. The requirement that the Education Ministry must publish information on school holidays three years in advance is expected to help transport operators and businesses engaged in tourism. The legislation also requires new editions of existing textbooks and entirely new textbooks to be published in Braille.

The law leaves the actual decision about the grade level at which English will be compulsory to the Education Ministry. Education Minister Eugen Jurzyca has already announced that it will most likely begin in the third grade of primary school (age 9) and that the law will be effective for the school year beginning in September 2011, the Sme daily reported.

The goal is for secondary school graduates to fluently speak English, reaching the B2 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for foreign languages. The amendment does not, however, require that students graduate in English. The Education Ministry has stated that knowledge of English will improve job applicants’ competitiveness at home and abroad, the SITA newswire wrote.

The Sme daily reported that at the first levels of primary school (the first four years) there are not enough qualified teachers of foreign languages at the moment. Only a teacher with a secondary-school-leaving exam in English is considered qualified to teach young students in their first years of language studies. An estimated 57 percent of teachers currently teaching English do not have a university-level English qualification.


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