Between 2008 and 2013 Slovakia went through a curricular reform. The impact of the reform on technology education at lower level of secondary education was evaluated from 2013 to 2015. The need to reinforce some qualitative aspects of this analysis led in 2015 to a decision to carry out an additional research based on a personal inquiry, particularly on focus group interviews. The aim of the additional research was to find out how the teachers teaching the subject Technology (which before the curricular reform was known as Technical education), either as qualified or unqualified to teach it, evaluate impact of the curricular reform on teaching Technology as well as on technology education in general. The main intention of the research was to find out both positive and negative facts caused by the curricular reform in teaching Technology at the lower level of secondary schools and to evaluate whether the introduced changes supported quality assurance of technology education. The paper describes research methodology of the carried out focus groups interviews and the main results of the research.
Keywords: Technology educationlower secondary education (ISCED 2)teaching assessment
In Slovakia Technology education has always been an integral part of general education being
taught as freestanding subject in lower secondary education – ISCED 2. The learning outcomes of this
subject have been to acquire basic knowledge of technology including the use of various devices and
equipment, to form favourable attitudes towards technology and technology focused disciplines,
eventually profession. However, despite of the importance of this subject (EU, 2001), for a long time
we have been facing increasing space limitation offered to technology education at primary and
secondary schools (Olsen, Prenzel, Martin, 2012; Lukáčová, 2009).
Before 1995 in Slovakia, Work Education, a freestanding school subject taught within 2 lessons per
week, delivered technology-related topics to students in grades six to nine (ISCED 2 – ages of 11-15).
This policy was changed twice, in 1996 and in 2008. First, the name of the subject was changed from
Work Education to Technical Education and the number of weekly lessons to each grade was reduced
from twice to once. The next change was done within the curricular reform which came into operation
through enactment of the new Law on Education in 2008 (Law No. 245/2008). The curricular reform
changed the name of the subject from Technical Education to Technologyand cut its instructional time
to a half of a lesson per week taught only in 7th and 8th grades, or the school can determine the grade in
which the subject is taught. However, at the same time an important change was introduced by the
curricular reform and it became possible to use the so-called disposable lessons; Using these lessons, a
school can enhance education in some areas according its mission, the conditions of its region, or its
parents` demands. Technology can also “fit into” disposable lessons; The State Educational
Programmes introduced in the Law on Education (ŠIOV ISCED 1, 2008; ŠIOV ISCED 2, 2008),
prescribing 70 % of content of the compulsory subjects; the remaining 30 % is prerogative of individual
schools in their School Educational Programmes.
Legislatively stated changes started to be introduced into the practice in the beginning of the
academic year 2008/2009 and were completed in 2012/2013, when the teaching process in all grades
5th – 9th was already carried out in accordance with the new School Educational Programme.
Consequently in years 2013 – 2015 a project Analysis of the Consequences of the Curricular Reform
on Technology Education in Primary and Lower Secondary Schools was carried out to evaluate the
impact of the curricular reform on technology education at the lower secondary education (Hašková,
The project, Analysis of the Consequences of the Curricular Reform on Technology Education in
Primary and Lower Secondary Schools, had two goals.The first was to find out how the schools utilize
the disposable lessons to support technology. The second goal was to identify the main obstacles to the
successful implementation of curricular reform in technology education. Two questionnaires collected
the necessary data: one was designed for head teachers and the other one for Technology teachers.
Although the questionnaires developed to collect the research data offered to respondents some
space to express their own opinions, comments or critical remarks (additionally to the exactly
formulated questions aimed at the inclusion of the subject Technology into the School Educational
Programme, its time allocation, inclusion of disposable lessons and optional subjects related to
Technology or technology education into the School Educational Programme, factors influencing
inclusion or rejection of the increased scope of teaching Technology, numbers of qualified and
unqualified teachers ensuring teaching Technology and to it related subjects, the factors influencing
assignments of the particular unqualified teachers to teach Technology and to it related subjects, etc.),
they could not create an appropriate space to express their personal professional experiences and on
them based professional assessments of the previous and current situation. To further substantiate the
findings of this evaluation, qualitative research was conducted by way of personal interviews as well as
focus group. Participants were all teachers of Technology (formerly Technical Education), whether
they were qualified to teach the subject or not. The main objective of the research was to find out
whether curricular reform in teaching Technology at secondary schools would have a positive or
negative effect on the quality of education.
To obtain teachers` opinions on the curricular reform in teaching Technologyand the development
and current state of technology education at schools there was used one of the kinds of personal
inquiry, particularly focus group interview (panelling). Focus group interview is an interview where a
group of people have been working together for some time or common purpose, or where it is seen as
important that everyone concerned is aware of what others in the group are saying (Watts, & Ebbutt,
1987). It is a form of group interview, where the discussion is led less between the interviewer and a
group, but it is led rather in form of interactions within the group, among the members of the group
who discuss a topic supplied by the researcher (Morgan, 1988). So the data necessary for the research
as well as the outcomes emerge from the interaction of the group participants. The reason of choosing
this alternative of the personal inquiry was the fact, that a group interview can generate a wider range of
responses than it is generated in individual interviews (Lewis, 1992) and can be useful for gaining an
insight into what might be pursued in subsequent individual interviews (Bogdan, & Biklen, 1992).
Moreover the group interview does not demand such a lot of time as individual interviews with all
members of the group.
In our case there was used panelling with four focus groups. It means the group of the members of
the panel discussion was divided into four subgroups and each subgroup solved the same problems
(questions). Consequently each of the subgroups presented its conclusions to the given problems
(questions) they discussed and solved. At the end the four subgroups, based on a mutual discussion,
were to come to a common consensus to each of the solved questions.
Beside the curricular reform the scope of the questions to be solved during the panelling was
significantly influenced by two very serious facts. One of them was innovation of the State Educational
Programme introduced in 2008, which arose out of the general criticism of the introduced curricular
reform as well as of the preliminary results of the analyses of the curricular reform impact on practice.
Following the innovated State Educational Programme from September 2015 the lesson allocation of
the subject Technology has been 1 lesson per week at each grade of the lower secondary education
(grades 6th – 9th).
The second fact, which influenced the scope of the panelling questions, was the national project
Support for Professional Orientation of Pupils of Primary and Lower Secondary School to Vocational
Education and Training Through the Development of Polytechnic Education Aimed at Developing
Work Skills and Work With Talents (ŠIOV, 2013), by teachers and the professional community called
in short as the project
EU structural funds, was a consequence mainly of the obstacles which occurred in the context of the
curricular reform of Technology and natural science subjects. Realisation of the project started in 2013,
i.e. 5 years after the curricular reform had started. Within this project a total of 48 schools were selected
for the pilot research and they were fully equipped with newly established workrooms, teaching aids,
tools, instruments, apparatus and educational facilities for teaching Technology and natural science
subjects. The main goal of the project was to enhance pupils` interest in vocational education and
training. This was to be achieved just by the means of the newly established specialized classrooms for
teaching chemistry, physics, biology and also Technology; The established classrooms (workrooms)
should create at schools a platform for development of pupils` working skills through so-called
polytechnic education, based on the use of modern forms and methods of education.
The two above-mentioned phenomena, having a great impact on teaching Technologyat schools,
were taken into consideration during designing the panelling frame. The main components (topical
areas) of the panelling frame are presented in Figure
The topics of the focus groups interview were reflected in eight basic interview questions:
1.What is the mostly used way of Technology teaching (how, in which way are the teachers
teaching subject Technology)?
2.What is the spirit of Technology teaching in your opinion (what is the teachers´ point of view on
teaching the subject Technologyat schools, its mission, goal, objective, purpose)?
3.Are there any differences in the position of the subject Technology before and after the
curricular reform (what was the subject position before the reform and what is it nowadays?)
4.How do the pupils perceive the subject Technology (pupils' attitude towards this subject, to its
5.Is there any support given to the subject Technology at school? Is the subject Technology
supported by the school management (in which way)?
6.What is your opinion on the carried out changes in relation to teaching Technology? In your
opinion, how did the curricular reform influence teaching Technology?
7.In your opinion, what would be the ideal state of teaching Technology (how would teaching
Technology in a “perfect case/way” look like)?
8.How do you assess the conception of the national project
The panelling was done in two cycles.
The first time we used the opportunity that in April 2015 the administrators of the national project
representatives of 12 schools from Žilina region, one of the eight territorial districts of the Slovak
Republic, which were engaged in the project. We asked the workshop organizers to incorporate into the
programme of the workshop, as one of its items, also the activity of the focus groups interview led by
The second time we used the methodological seminar organised for teachers of physics organized by
the Methodology and Pedagogy Centre (Institution for in Service Teachers´ Education and Training in
Žilina) in Dolný Kubín in June 2015.
The group of the members of the first panel discussion consisted of 12 teachers (consequently
divided into the four sub-groups), with one exception all qualified Technologyteachers. The one
exception was a teacher with qualification in teaching pupils with special needs. Most of the concerned
teachers had teaching practice more than 15 years and undertook also a leading position at their schools
(head teachers or deputy head teachers). Only two of the participants taught less than 2 years and one of
them only 6 months.
The group of the members of the second panel discussion consisted also of 12 teachers
(consequently as well divided into the four sub-groups), from which 11 were qualified and 1
unqualified to teach Physics (as it was above-mentioned the seminar in frame of which the focus groups
interview was carried out was organised for Physics teachers). Most of them were qualified to teach
also the subject Technology, as the combination of the majors physics – Technology(Technology
Education) belongs to the most often ones. All of the participants had teaching practice more than 15
years and 4 undertook also a leading position at their schools (head teachers or deputy head teachers).
The process of both discussions, the discussion led within the subgroups as well as the mutual
discussion led among the subgroups, was very interesting. In the first case the teachers with the short
length of their teaching practice more or less did not enter into the discussions, as they did not know the
situation before the curricular reform. But on the other hand they would like very much to be engaged
in these discussions, but they felt that they are not competent to assess the weaknesses or strengths of
the reform. The teacher with 6 month teaching practice (but qualified for Technology teaching) was out
of the discussed issues, she did not understand most of the discussed problems. Moreover also the
issues of the
an intensive cooperation with a mentor teacher and some additional training (Gadušová, Vítečková,
2014; Dovalová, 2014; Pisoňová, Tóblová, Nagyová, 2011). On the contrary a very useful for the discussion development was just the unqualified teacher. This teacher appreciated the possibility to express her opinions and encouraged very much the other to express, too.
Based on the content analysis of the transcription of the discussions led within both cycles of the panel discussion to the eight stated questions the overview of the findings related to technology education development at schools in Slovakia is summarized in following items.
The ways of teaching Technology do not depend on the length of the teachers` teaching practice.
The methodology of Technology teaching strongly depends on the school facilities, technical equipment, material possibilities and conditions of the school. If the teachers have at disposal a workroom or a special classroom, they prefer to teach Technology based on practical activities and work in the workroom. Unfortunately, in the past there were better conditions for technology education at schools (premises, workrooms, tools and material equipment) as they are at schools today. This is a reason why Technologyis taught at schools at a ratio 20 – 30 % to 80 – 70 % in favour of the theory (i.e. nowadays highly prevailing theoretical way of teaching Technology at schools), although the teachers are aware of the fact that this subject should be taught mainly practically (it should develop pupils` practical manual skills and in a matter of fact also the teachers prefer practical ways of Technologyteaching).
There are great barriers also as to the scope of the pupils` skills which are developed in frame of the practical way of teaching Technology. The main barrier is the material the schools have at disposal (mostly only paper plus wood and plastic) and the second one is the fact that currently the classes (pupils) are not divided into groups neither for the practical teaching (as it used to be before).
In general the teachers evaluate teaching Technology at schools before the curricular reform as more on the practice oriented while nowadays as more on theory oriented (i.e. more theoretical).
Mainly the teachers with teaching practice over 20 years expressed their opinion that nowadays the subject has no seriousness and acceptance (neither at parents).
Another highly criticised fact was a low quality of current text-books. The teachers evaluate the text-books used before the reform as better ones, mainly from the point of view of the methodological aspects. Because of the insufficient quality of the text-books teachers are forced to prepare most of the teaching materials, tasks and teaching aids by themselves. Another
weakness of the current state of technology education at schools is a low interconnection of
curricula of such subjects as Technology, Math, Physics, Chemistry are.
On the other hand the teachers evaluate the subject Technology as an important one for pupils
(which should develop their manual skills through practical training and practical activities). At
the same time in opinion of some of the teachers the subject Technology should be taught only
in special “technical classes” (classes of pupils with instruction with enhanced Technology
Very interesting finding is that the reform has reinforced the feeling of teachers that the state has
not any great regard for the work of teachers, and specially the work of Technology teachers,
and absolutely does not accept teachers` opinions. Moreover the state creates and introduces
worthless obstacles acting against their meaningful teaching practice (high level of bureaucracy,
requirements to proceed and elaborate useless reports, tables and other different materials of a
great extent, etc.).
As to the attitude of the pupils towards the subject Technology, in the opinion of the teachers
with teaching practice 15 - 20 years the pupils are not interested in it, or even they are bored by
it as they do not like the theory oriented teaching of this subject. In the opinion of the teachers
with teaching practice over 20 years, the pupils join in the discussions, they ask questions related
the taught topics but they lack practical activities and handling with different kinds of materials,
tools and devices. And just the work with different materials (mainly with wood and also
plastics, as the work with iron is too arduous for the pupils of this age), own construction of
different products and their presentations are the things which are most attractive for pupils. In
general nowadays pupils do not already prefer the work with computers, they like more the
practical manual activities. In case of practical activities supported by computers, these activities
must not take the whole lesson not to lose the interest of the pupils. What the pupils like very
much is computer supported technical drawing.
The highest variability was characteristic for responses to the question on the support given to
teaching Technology. The responses to this question were within the range from no support
given, through the support gained from the side of the pupils` parents or given by the school
leaders, up to the support given to this subject also by the teachers of other majors (who consider
this subject to be an important one for pupils). But most of the responses stressed the role of the
school leaders in supporting the subject, mainly the head teacher`s approach to this subject, how
s/he perceives Technology, its meaning for pupils and importance of its teaching.
A very negative finding is that it is not a rare case, that the school management does not solve
the unqualified teaching of the subject Technology at their school, i.e. school leaders do not try
to recruit a teacher qualified to teach just this subject and prefer to spread this duty among the
teachers they have at disposal (because of the financial aspects and the fact that Technology has
a low lesson allocation, so mainly for small schools it is difficult or even impossible to ensure
for Technologyteacher to have assigned to teach only his/her majors).
From the point of view of Technologyteachers the innovations in technology education at
schools are proposed people who do not know school practice and school operation. Having bad
experience with the innovations introduced to schools after 2008 the teachers are afraid “where
teaching Technologyis going”. In their opinion the changes are introduced to schools very often
(and very often from political reasons) and the current state is evaluated by them as “chaos and
mess in the system”.
Another very interesting finding resulted from the teachers` responses to the question what
would be the ideal state of teaching Technology, what should be improved. The teachers did not
mention any improvements of the methodology Technology teaching, improvements related to
its content, material and technical equipment, but what they called for was direct communication
with professionals, methodologists, offer of possibilities to participate at methodological
workshops and trainings, organized events given them possibilities of mutual meetings,
discussions, consultations, experience exchanges (including visits in other schools), etc. The
teachers would appreciate also a web portal through which they could share their opinions,
experiences, teaching materials etc., but they would like to have this portal chats and discussions
with ensured responses from the side of adequate experts (Bánesz, 2012). In the panelling there
occurred also a radical point of view to the current state of Technologyteaching according
which it is necessary to change, i.e. to improve everything. To very frequently mentioned
suggestions these following belonged: to establish regional centres for delivery of relevant tools
and materials to schools, to create text-books, technical sheets (manuals of working processes to
constructing different products) and working sheets (teaching materials) of appropriate high
quality, to absolve teachers from administrative bureaucracy and the necessity to prepare
everything by themselves, i.e. let them to teach and do not force them to prepare and develop
everything by themselves.
As regards the national project
this project as very beneficial for both particular Technology teaching as well as general
technical education. Teachers teaching at schools which participated in the national project
pupils but for teachers, too. On the other hand not only positive notes occurred in relation to this
project. The most serious remarks were related to the small number of schools involved in the
project and to delays or even omitance of teacher training for the work in the newly, in frame of
the project, established workrooms.
The findings of our research completely correspond to the problems connected with the realisation
of general technical education at schools listed by Pavelka (2013) as well as with cardinal changes
required by Kozík (Kozík, Kuzma, Kožuchová, Vargová, Pavelka, Lukáčová, Ďuriš, 2013) to
promote positive changes of technical education at schools.
As the most significant problems Pavelka (2013) lists:
insufficient number of teaching lessons prescribed to Technology,
high number of unqualified teachers covering Technology teaching (2011 – almost 40 %),
out-of-date hence unattractive equipment and facilities (lack of textbooks, out-of-date teaching
aids, out-of-date tools and appliances, lack of technical equipment, lack of technical materials to
create any products, lack of special classrooms/workrooms),
almost no systemic support given to technology and facility infrastructure development,
more or less disrespect and negative status of handicrafts and manual work in the society.
The changes which should be done to promote technical education at schools Kozík (Kozík et al.,
2013) calls for are regarding mainly two areas:
1.Premises and technical and material conditions ensuring Technology teaching
by means of legislative proceedings from the side of the Ministry of Education to oblige the
school founders to establish, support and develop workrooms at school assigned to Technology
in cooperation with the relevant state bodies and production practice authorities to elaborate and
implement into the practice a new prescription defining for schools basic facilities (teaching
premises) including their obligatory equipment and material supplies for theoretical education
and practical training in technology education,
in cooperation with boards of education to ensure establishment of the regional centres of school
services and to broaden the scope of their activities also by systematic and complex activities
focused on delivery the needed technical materials, tools and devices to schools,
by means of legislative proceedings from the side of the Ministry of Education to oblige the
school leaderships to allocate a part of the school budget for development of the technology
education carried out at schools,
based on the cooperation among the faculties preparing Technology teacher trainees, and their
cooperation with the practice, to create conditions for development, research and distribution of
the specific teaching aids,
to ensure efficient revisions of the premises and technical and material equipment of schools
carried out by the State School Inspection as well as by the Safety Inspectorates,
to design a proposal of the system of the general technology education at the lower secondary
education and implement it into the practice.
2.Time allocation, content and specific goals of the general technology education at primary and
lower level of secondary education
to make changes in the State Educational Programmes for ISCED 1 and ISCED 2 to increase the
time allocation of the subjects ensuring development of the general technology education at
schools (was done in 2015),
to change content and specific goals of the subject Technology (its education standard), i.e.
repeatedly introduce education content and performance standard of the previous technology
education and regularly to innovate them.
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Hašková, A., & Dvorjaková, S. (2016). Analysis of Technology Education Development at Schools in Slovakia. In Z. Bekirogullari, M. Y. Minas, & R. X. Thambusamy (Eds.), Cognitive - Social, and Behavioural Sciences - icCSBs 2016, May, vol 8. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 236-245). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2016.05.24