The First Action Plan raises great expectations   

The European Commission has brought proceedings against the Slovak Republic for disproportionate placement of Roma children in the special education and for their practical segregation in mainstream schools.1 In 2020, the Ministry of Education has taken several steps towards introducing inclusive education we mentioned in the first renewed issue of Minority Policy in Slovakia.2 The fact that the Ministry has acknowledged the problem at all and has actually started taking steps to tackle it is a significant shift. This shift is likely the result of the change of government after the general elections in spring 2020. It is also due to the increasing pressure from the European Commission demanding from the Ministry to deal with the issue and to ensure equal access to education for all children.

The introduction of the „First Action Plan to the Strategy for Inclusive Access in Education for year 20213“ made public by the Ministry of Education at the end of November is yet another step towards improving education not only of Roma children but also of children with disabilities and other impairment.4

The First Action Plan introduces specific measures divided into five basic areas and assigned to particular objectives to be met. Each measure has a performance indicator assigned, as well as an explanation of the impact the measure will have. Each measure has a lead assigned to it, and there is also information whether a particular measure will require allocations of financial resources in order to be implemented.

Desegregation and inclusion are the main pillars of action plan

In the first part, Desegregation of education system, there is a proposal for several legislative changes. The Ministry proposes introduction of the term segregation and inclusion in the Education Act, embedding prohibition of segregation in the process of creating school regions, and shifting school management authority in the field of education from District Offices of the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Education. Introduction of a segregation in education monitoring system and a subsidy scheme for municipalities funded from ESIF5 to carry out desegregation activities is also included.

Inclusion at early and pre-school age (0-7 years) is another area the First Action Plan addresses. Here, the action plan’s objective is to successfully implement a compulsory pre-primary education and to ensure professional care for children at early age. As for specific measures listed in this part, there are measures to make early care for children up to 3 years of age more professional or to improve accessibility of pre-primary education (e.g. a subsidy scheme for providing transport to kindergartens and primary schools, removing barriers in kindergartens or capacity building for inclusion), as well as legislative changes such as establishing school regions for kindergartens and determining school catchment area for each child.  The Ministry also proposes setting rules for placing children with special educational needs (SEN) in kindergartens and retaining the so called „zero year or zero grade“ preparing pupils with health impairment for school attendance.

In the area of Inclusion of primary school and secondary school pupils, the action plan proposes measures to introduce eligible support measures for pupils that would reflect their individual needs. This should improve access to completing the lower secondary education. At the same time, the system of scholarships for secondary school students should be designed to address their needs better in order to increase their motivation to study at secondary schools. The action plan expects improvements for pupils who have insufficient knowledge of the language of education by strengthening teaching Slovak as a second/foreign language. The tools for assessing the level of education achieved at ISCED 1 and ISCED 2 level should be unified.

Methodology and staff support should also improve

The action plan defines most measures in the field of Support and personnel conditions of inclusion. It proposes important legislative changes such as enabling access to the lower secondary education (ISCED 2) of pupils with mild cognitive impairment, introducing inclusion as a principle of education, defining individual education programmes and other support measures. At the level of methodology, the action plan intends to improve conditions for inclusion for instance by adopting the Strategy for Inclusive Approach in Education for years 2021 – 2027 and by implementing a pilot project of transformation of a particular special grammar school to a mainstream grammar school. Availability of support staff at schools (education assistants) should also improve by adopting certain legislative changes but also by defining specific criteria for allocating funds for education assistants to schools.   The proposal for transformation of future teachers’ preparation for inclusive education is also crucial.

In the last part, Special pedagogical support in education and counselling, the first action plan defines only one measure, which is, however, much broader as it proposes developing a detailed reform of the network, authority and funding of counselling facilities, special schools and special education facilities so that individual support of school children is ensured.

The action plan comes before the inclusive approach strategy

There are several things to criticise the First Action Plan for. For instance, the fact that it came before the adoption of the strategy for inclusive approach it is connected to. The strategy is one of the tasks the action plan defines. Since the strategy for inclusive approach should be drafted in 2021, the overall objectives the action plan and the implementation of measures in it should help meet are not clear.

On the other hand, the attitude of the Ministry of Education is understandable if the intention is not to waste any more time and to start implementing measures that have been talked about for a long time as the ones that can be implemented without enormous financial costs. What is needed is a different perspective, a review of methodical guidelines or minor legislative changes (e.g. defining school regions so that they do not segregate Roma children or children from disadvantaged background).

Some measures are worded in a very specific way and their positive impact is obvious; other are rather general and their specific form unclear. One of the very important and very specific measures is, for instance, making secondary school education (ISCED 2 level) accessible to young people with mild cognitive impairment. Up until now, these young people could only study at special secondary schools regardless their effort or individual progress made, which is an example of a significant systemic barrier in access to education and to labour market.

Schools will certainly welcome definition of criteria for allocating funds for education assistants as so far, the system has been rather vague, and schools did not know how the funds were being allocated. There are, however, several measures that are much less specific. For instance, the definition of support measures in education in the legislation or the reform of counselling facilities, special schools and special educational facilities. Since there is no explanatory note attached to the action plan, we do not know what the specific idea behind the measures is.

As it is an action plan for 2021, another question naturally comes up – why the document does not define measures for minimizing the negative impact of coronavirus pandemic on children from socially disadvantaged background, children with special education needs and children with no access to online learning.6 The change to distant forms of education has highlighted even more the inequities in the area of equal access of children to education, which often depends on the social and economic situation of their families. It is expected the pandemic will have a very negative impact on children from the above groups and the crisis situation is likely to continue throughout next year.

Despite some minor shortcomings, the First Action Plan can be seen as a step towards promoting inclusive education in schools. At the same time, it is important the action plan defines measures also for the area of early age childcare and pre-primary education because starting with inclusive education at primary school certainly would not be enough. The First Action Plan raises expectations about the reform of the special education stream and counselling facilities, which will require a lot of effort on the part of policy makers and will go beyond the time frame of the First Action Plan. Therefore, it will be crucial how the planned strategy for inclusive education tackles the issue.


  1. European Commission (2019), ʻOctober infringements package: key decisionsʼ, 10th October 2019, available at:
  2. Chudžíková, A.H. (2020), ´The long-awaited change – the Ministry of Education acknowledges the problem of segregation of Roma children and is taking steps to change it´, Minority Policy in Slovakia, 1/2020, available at:
  3. Ministry of Education, Science and Sport of the Slovak Republic (2020), The First Action Plan to the Strategy for Inclusive Approach in Education, available at:
  4. Ministry of Education, Science and Sport of the Slovak Republic (2020), ʻThe First Action Plan is the primary starting point for speedy start of functional changes towards increasing inclusion in educationʼ, 24th November 2020, available at:
  5. European Structural and Investment Funds.
  6. Educational Policy Institute (2020), Main findings of questionnaire survey in grammar and secondary schools during distance learning in school year 2019/2020, available at:; Educational Policy Institute (2020), How to ensure education for all children at the time of crisis, available at: