Early Literacy Education in Preschool Curriculum Reforms: The Case of Post-Communist Slovakia

  • Oľga Zápotočná Slovak Academy of SciencesTrnava University, Faculty of Education
  • Zuzana Petrová Trnava University, Faculty of Education
Keywords: early literacy, curriculum reform, preschool teachers, early literacy development, Slovakia

Abstract

This paper describes the development of preschool literacy education in Slovakia, beginning with the
communist era, when the country was isolated from broader international academic discourse and early
literacy research, then the period after the fall of the totalitarian regime up to the present day. It describes
how the traditional approach to teaching literacy, relying on an obsolete model of reading and writing
instruction taught at primary school, has resulted in preschools having limited capacity to develop
children’s literacy. It also explains attempts to reform the preschool literacy curriculum after the fall of the
totalitarian regime. The first of these followed Slovakia’s most comprehensive education reform act in
2008, but it underestimated the specific role of written language in children’s language and cognitive
development and in subsequent academic performance. Consequently, the reforms merely reproduced the
traditional approach to literacy development within the new format of a decentralized curriculum.
The consequences of the 2008 education reform act, and the pressure exerted by the results of
international student assessments, resulted in a strong initiative from the academic field to reform the
preschool curriculum on an evidentiary basis. The authors of this paper describe how they developed the
thinking behind the new preschool literacy curriculum. The paper looks at how this became part of
Slovakia’s national preschool curriculum which was implemented in 2016, including the process in which
the curriculum was reviewed by the institutions of the Ministry of Education and by professional
organizations involved in early childhood education in Slovakia.

Author Biographies

Oľga Zápotočná, Slovak Academy of SciencesTrnava University, Faculty of Education

Oľga Zápotočná, PhD., is Professor of Education at
Trnava University, Trnava, Slovakia. She graduated in
Psychology at Comenius University in Bratislava (1980) and
received her PhD. degree from Slovak Academy of Sciences
at the Institute of Experimental Psychology (1988). Since
1990 she works also as senior researcher fellow at the
Institute for Research in Communication SAS, at present as a
leading member of the Centre for Research in Education,
founded in 2011.
Her research interests include language and literacy
development and education in early childhood. With her
scientific works (published about 130 articles including
books) she contributes to the reading research from the
perspectives of cognitive and sociocultural theories of
literacy. Her latest works and research projects are aimed at
the study of metacognition in reading and reading
comprehension, its development and specifically in relation
to children from low socio-economical background.

Zuzana Petrová, Trnava University, Faculty of Education

Zuzana Petrová, PhD., is Associate Professor of
Education at the Trnava University, Trnava, Slovakia. She
graduated in Primary Education at Comenius University in
Bratislava (2001) where she also received her PhD. degree in
Education (2005). In 2018 she received degree in Philosophy
at the Trnava University in Trnava. Main area of her
expertise is interconnectedness between (written) language
and learning in preschool age with particular focus on early
literacy development within Vygotskian perspective on
education and literacy. She is co-author (with O. Zápotočná)
of the national early literacy curriculum for preschools in
Slovakia (in force since 2016). On the international level she
is involved in the Federation of European Literacy
Associations (FELA), and in COST Actions IS1404 Evolution
of reading in the age of digitisation (E-READ) and IS1410
The digital literacy and multimodal practices of young
children (DigiLitEY).

Published
2018-06-27