A new private school inspired by a similar one in Florida, US, should soon be established in Zvolen, central Slovakia, by the Živica Centre for Environmental and Ethical Education.
It should be a model school for the whole country, testing various pedagogical innovations on a diverse sample of children.
Despite the fact that the school will be private, students will not pay any fees. The idea is that all children should have access without any restriction, regardless of their background.
"The sample of children will copy the real situation in Slovakia. This means the social and ethnic composition of society," says teacher Juraj Hipš, member of Živica.
The PK Yonge school in Florida served as an inspiration. Pupils are selected by lottery and their composition must reflect the demographics of the state's school-age population.
"We want to build on European values such as freedom, democracy and equality. Thanks to our contacts, which we have in Slovakia and abroad, we can get external resources and experts for the school to help start it up, so that it's an inspiration for the whole country," Hipš says.
The operation of the school should be exclusively funded from the state contribution.
Živica wants to establish the school on the premises of Jednotka (One), the oldest primary school in Zvolen. The change should start in July 2024. Originally a sports school attended, for example, by Olympic champion Elena Kaliská and hockey goalkeeper Ján Lašák, it has recently struggled with an increasingly small number of students.
205 pupils currently attend the school, the vast majority of whom are children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds and marginalised Roma communities.
However, as the number of students from marginalised Roma communities increased, the share of school students from the majority gradually decreased. Thus, the segregation of Roma children has arisen instead of their integration in a mixed school.
Both the school board and the teachers supported the idea of a new model school. Živica guarantees all teaching and non-teaching staff a transition to their private elementary school.
In a private school, they want all social groups to be equally represented among the students. "Children from the majority, from marginalised groups, talented or even with disadvantages: that is the principle of the model school," Hipš explains.
"It should be a school where different children with different life stories meet," he adds.
The return of children from the majority should be guaranteed by quality.
"We will try to convince the Zvolen public, and I hope we will succeed very quickly, that it's worth sending children to this school."