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The Republic of Slovenia, commonly known as just Slovenia, is a Slavic country located in the South-Central region of Europe, with a total geographic area of approximately 7800 square miles. Situated at the crossroads of European cultural and trade routes, Slovenia shares borders to the west with Italy, to the north with Austria, to the south and southeast with Croatia and to the northeast with Hungary. The country is a parliamentary republic and a member of the European Union, United Nations and NATO among other organizations. The capital and largest city in Slovenia is Ljubljana, which is also the country’s educational, cultural and economic hub.
According to census data released in 2011, Slovenia has an estimated population of 2.05 million and a population density of around 262 people per square mile—a figure that is low compared to other countries in the same region. Native Slovenes are the largest ethnic group in the country, accounting for roughly 83 percent of the population, while at least 13 percent is made up of people from other parts of former Yugoslavia. There are also smaller populations of Hungarian and Italian nationals, communities that are protected by the Slovenian Constitution.
The official language of Slovenia is Slovene, a language that belongs to the South Slavic language family. It is used for all official purposes in the country, including government, commerce, media, and in education, used as the language of instruction and for printed materials. It is also the most widely spoken language among the Slovenian people, spoken as a first language by over 92 percent of the population. This statistic places Slovenia among some of the most linguistically homogenous countries in the world. In terms of religion, although Slovenia is now a very secularized society, Roman Catholicism remains the most popular religion, practiced by nearly 60 percent of the population. Other faiths include Greek Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity and the various Protestant religions.
Education in Slovenia
Slovenia’s Ministry of Education and Sports is responsible for educational oversight and regulation in the country. Education is free at all levels and compulsory for nine years—the years that make up a student’s primary education. The system of education is divided into three main levels: primary education, secondary education and tertiary or higher education. Preschool is also available prior to entering primary school, although this level is non-compulsory.
Primary education spans nine years in Slovenia and serves children between the ages of 6 and 15. This level is further subdivided into three phases, each spanning three years. Following primary school all students must sit for the national examinations. The scores on these exams, which test a student’s proficiency in language, mathematics and science, are used in conjunction with their grades and parental input in determining the type of secondary education that student will pursue.
Despite being non-compulsory, nearly 98 percent of Slovenian students make the transition to secondary school, which is seen as an important, if not absolutely necessary, step in shaping one’s professional future. At this level students are placed in one of three educational tracks: vocational, technical or general education, each spanning four years. The vocational and technical programs offer instruction and training in relevant Slovenian occupations and trades, allowing the more career minded students to get a jump start on their working future. The general secondary program, on the other hand, is purely academic, culminating with final exams and a diploma called a “matura,” which is required for entrance into the country’s university system.
There are currently three large public universities in Slovenia, located in the cities of Ljubljana, Maribor and Primorska, along with one private university and one international university. Together they offer students the opportunity to earn undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate degrees in a number of academic and professional fields.
As of the last census, Slovenia had one of the world’s highest adult literacy rates (99.6%), which is a true testament to the value placed on education and the excellence of the country’s education system.
Map of Slovenia