SLOVENSKÉ ŠKOLSTVO = THE SLOVAK EDUCATION SYSTEM
Elementary school (základná škola) lasts for eight or nine years, and children enroll at the age of six. After that, the students continue on to secondary school (stredná škola), which typically lasts for four years. There are several different types of secondary schools - some of them offer vocational training, while others (especially the 'academic' secondary schools - gymnázium) focus on preparing students for university. Secondary school studies finish with a school-leaving examination (maturita) that is quite demanding - students have to pass oral exams in several subjects before a committee of teachers. Before leaving secondary school, of course, the students organize their prom - stužková. Universities (vysoká škola or univerzita) typically last for five years. Doctors and lawyers often spend six years in university, and can begin their studies - unlike in the United States - immediately after finishing their secondary education.
In Slovak elementary and secondary schools run from 1 to 5, where 1 is the best grade, and 5 is the worst:
1 = výborný (excellent)
2 = chválitebný (praiseworthy)
3 = dobrý (good)
4 = dostatočný (sufficient)
5 = nedostatočný (insufficient - failing grade)
1s and 2s are seen as relatively 'good' grades, whereas 3, 4, 5 are not seen as good. A 1* (jednotka s hviezdičkou - 'one with a star') is roughly equivalent to an A+.
Unlike most people in the United States, Slovaks wear their university degrees on their sleeves - they will use them in e-mail signatures, in official documents and letters, and put in on their apartment doors and mailboxes. There is, in fact, a time-honored tradition to spray your last name, along with your newly-attained degree, on the sidewalk in front of your university building when you graduate. (Not everyone does this, of course.)
Here are some degrees you might see:
Ing. (inžinier, inžinierka) for someone with a 5-year degree in, say, engineering, mathematics or economics
Mgr. (magister, magistra) for 5-year degree in the social sciences or law (most teachers have this degree)
MUDr. (often shortened simply as doktor) is a medical degree
MVDr. for veterinarians
JUDr. is a law degree (like juris doctor)
RNDr. is an advanced graduate degree in the natural sciences (mathematics, physics, biology, etc.)
Bc. is a bachelor's degree
A Bc. is rarely someone's final degree. Someone with only a bachelor's degree is, in fact, often seen as a university dropout. This is because, in the past, university programs lasted five years. Only recently did Slovak universities have to adjust, due to Europe-wide harmonization efforts, to the 'Bologna system' of a three-year Bachelor's degree, followed by a two-year Master's degree.
Most degrees come before the name: Ing. Ján Novák, Mgr. Anna Petríková, MUDr. Jozef Dúbravec, Bc. Katarína Slaná. The exceptions are doctoral degrees: Today, these would mostly be Ph.D., but in earlier times common doctoral degrees included CSc. (candidate of the sciences) and DrSc. (doctor of the sciences). So you could see something like this: Ing. Juraj Kolesár, Ph.D., or Mgr. Veronika Nagyová, CSc.
There is a persistent, commonly repeated, myth in Slovakia that our elementary and secondary school education is world-class. This is false: Slovak students, in fact, achieve only average results on international education comparison tests - not very far, as it happens, from the United States, and well below the best performers (East Asian countries and Finland). Slovak universities are generally regarded as low-quality, and in fact are quite terrible, with - sadly - very little original research activity and ripe with plagiarism. Partly for this reason, employers often simply require that someone has a university degree, but do not care much about which university it came from, or what grades the student earned.
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