Until the late 1990s, upper-secondary schools in Slovenia focused on integrated programs of vocational training and general education, designed to prepare students for both the labor market and higher education programs. With the education reforms at the end of the 1990s, Slovenia's education system now includes a variety of educational programs at the upper-secondary level with contrasting goals: shorter vocational training programs of two and a half to three years leading directly to employment after graduation and extended, four year training programs characterized by mainly general studies or by technical or vocational orientations. Gimnazija programs were reintroduced in the mid-1990s to offer students general and classical coursework as preparation for tertiary studies, and later in the decade more professionally oriented gimnazija programs were added to prepare students for careers in engineering, business, and the arts. Gimnazija programs culminate in the matura examination in five subjects, that was introduced in 1995 to replace the final examinations previously administered to graduating students. The gross enrollment rate for general secondary education was 21 percent in 1996. The new matura examination also serves as the entrance examination to higher education. Gimnazija students who do not wish to continue their education after completing upper-secondary schooling can take a vocational course and obtain qualifications in specific occupational fields. Four-year technical studies programs at the upper-secondary level are also possible, preparing students for vocational and professional colleges. After taking their final examination, or more recently the poklicna matura examination, students can proceed directly into postsecondary vocational and professional training from technical study programs at the secondary level. Graduates of secondary level technical programs can also take a special matura course to prepare for the regular matura examination that qualifies them for tertiary studies in any academic field.
With the education legislation passed at the end of the 1990s, vocational training programs were enhanced by better partnerships between vocational training institutions on the one hand and business and industry on the other. Short term vocational programs were established for elementary school graduates and for students with special needs and/or those failing to have completed basic education (i.e., the first eight or nine years of schooling) successfully. These training programs reinforce earlier training in general studies provided by elementary schools and also introduce general and vocational knowledge and skills to enable students to secure simple jobs. Passing the examination at the conclusion of the short-term vocational programs allows students to enter the job market or to proceed on to other secondary school programs. Those students who complete elementary schooling can enroll in vocational training lasting three years through vocational schools or in cooperation with employers through a work-study arrangement involving school-based education coupled with apprenticeship. The three-year vocational training programs typically finish with a final examination. The successful passing of this examination qualifies students to enter the labor market or to go on to two-year vocational-technical programs that culminate in the poklicna matura examination, the examination administered to students who go through upper-secondary level, technical-training programs. Additionally, graduates of the three year vocational programs can work for at least three years and then take an examination to qualify for postsecondary studies.
In the 1999-2000 school year, 105,455 secondary students were enrolled in 147 secondary schools—142 publicly funded and 5 private gimnazije. Of all secondary students, 30,608 were enrolled in vocational programs, 43,303 were enrolled in technical programs, and 97 took vocational courses, while 31,265 followed gimnazije programs and 182 were enrolled in the course preparing them for the matura examination. (Counts include full-time students and students with special needs.) The student to teacher ratio at the secondary level at the end of the 1990s was 12.1:1, an improvement over the comparable figure of 14.2:1 at the beginning of the decade.
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