Early care is getting ever more attention, because it is considered to be the foundation for success or failure later in life. Baby care is being linked to the systems of primary education and lifelong learning, and to the health care and social systems. The professional approach to young children is being advanced based on knowledge from neuroscience, psychology, and social and biological anthropology. Child care is not a barrier to the economic activity of parents and there are a number of ways of combining work and parenting.
How will the system of early care recognize and take into account the specific needs of children? Will people succeed in linking and balancing the "home care" and the institutional care of children at an early age? Will we succeed in making sure that the ageing population does not slow down the development of early care or investments in this area? How will education and other public services adapt to population changes?
In the future, family or the community care of people will predominate as the most important "safety net". In fact, only a third of people think that, in the event of an emergency, it should be the government to take care of a person. According to most people (55%), a person should be able to take care of themselves.
For almost half of people, parents are not qualified enough experts in education, therefore they should not interfere with it. Nevertheless, a significant part of the responsibility for education is being given to parents. According to most people, parents should help their children learn at home. Only 8% of people prefer the idea that children should learn everything in school.
At present, over 95% of children in Slovakia are vaccinated against 10 infectious diseases. Due to the high vaccination coverage of children, polio and neonatal tetanus were eliminated as early as 1960. The last known case of diphtheria was reported in 1980, the last case of measles at home was recorded in 1998.1 In 2014, 1,137 cases of refusal of some type of mandatory vaccination were recorded. In 987 children, a full rejection of mandatory vaccinations was reported with parents refusing all the required vaccinations for the child also into the future. 2
While in other EU countries, the employment rate of women is continuously on the rise, the situation is different in Slovakia. In 2013, the rate of women in employment was 3.6% lower than the average for the EU. 3 In Slovakia, women face more difficulties participating in the labor market, particularly because they stay at home with young children for longer. Usually mothers stay home with their children until they are at least three years of age. Maternity leave in Slovakia is among the longest of the OECD countries. 4
„In the future, a lot will be handled by family and community. There will be a return to families of multiple generations and to nature.“ a workshop participant in Banská Bystrica
An important factor that affects the rate of participation of women in the labor market and their career advancement is the ability to reconcile the role of a parent with their work obligations. Yet, flexible work contracts are not too widespread in Slovakia. While the participation of women in flexible forms of work has been slowly growing, it still lags behind the EU average. While in the EU, flexible forms of work are used by one woman in seven, it is only one woman in fourteen in Slovakia. 5 Slovakia is also lagging behind in terms of shorter working hours. While in the EU, part-time jobs are held by one woman in three, it is only one woman in seventeen in Slovakia. In addition, only one woman in twenty-five works from home in Slovakia.6
That more than two-thirds of people in Slovakia see their current work-and-family arrangement as satisfactory, despite only a minimum of them having flexible working time or working from home, can be explained by the fact that people in Slovakia generally do not expect their employer to help them find balance. Family responsibilities and how they are handled is still considered to be an entirely private matter in Slovakia. When seeking help, people prefer to turn to their spouse or other family members.7
lovakia, along with the Czech Republic and Hungary, belongs to the countries with the lowest levels of institutional childcare for children under three years of age. In 2013, only 4% of children used nurseries. The lack of public nurseries is off-set by help from grandparents or private daycare services. 8 Parents in Slovakia have also long been troubled by the insufficient capacity of kindergartens for children above three years of age. While in 2004, 1,667 applications for admission to a kindergarten were rejected, that number rose to more than 11,000 in 2014. Alternative and mostly private forms of care are typically more expensive. The result is that in some low-income families, one of the parents – usually the mother — will remain out of work up to the time when the child enrolls in school.9
Social inclusion programs only provide children from poor families with basic support. Children in families receiving unemployment benefits or low-incomes are eligible for free meals and school supplies and an exemption from paying fees in pre-school. However, only a very small proportion of poor children attend pre-school. Experts estimate that this is one of the reasons why these kids more often do worse in school, repeat the grade or drop out early.
GOOD TO KNOW
In Slovakia, the problem of lacking capacity in kindergartens is being addressed by the gradual reconstruction of older kindergartens or the construction of new ones, especially so-called modular kindergartens. This is a temporary solution, offering the advantage of relatively low financial requirements and quick implementation. The first modular kindergarten in Slovakia was opened in the village of Hrabušice. Putting together four containers, four classrooms were created for 76 children.10
„To raise a child with a disability is a 24-hour job, seven days a week. In Slovakia, there are three early intervention centers available to such families in Bratislava, Žilina and Prešov. We visit families, we spend a lot of time on the ground, in the natural setting of the children. The families are grateful that they do not have to travel to see different experts, but someone comes to them instead. A mom tells me that she knows her child needs to see a speech therapist, but how is she supposed to make that happen if she has more children at home to attend to? We all get in a car, arrive to see them and within an hour and a half they get all kinds of assistance.“ Katarína Gromošová, director of Early intervention center in PREŠOV
The Japanese architect Takaharu Tezuka designed an interesting kindergarten that was built in Tokyo. The kindergarten respects the need for children to have a lot of freedom, a space for running around, climbing, or even getting dirty. The kindergarten is circular, open, intentionally blurring the boundaries between external and internal environments and between classrooms. Children are free to run out of and return to classrooms without getting lost. "Architecture can change the world and human life," the architect claims.11
„When you come home at seven in the evening and you have one hour to spend with the child with whom you would like to be with a lot more, you try to squeeze everything into that one hour – to feed the child, wash them, play with them, educate them, and read to them. The result? Terrible tension.“ Pavla Koucká, psychologist
Researchers from Duke University in the United States studied to what degree investments in comprehensive early care may positively impact the results of pupils in primary schools. The research has confirmed that the comprehensive care of children at an early age is a worthwhile investment for the state, if supplemented by expert assistance from psychologists, social workers, and adult family members. Children who have been placed in such programs did clearly better in primary schools than children to whom this form of care was not provided. They even had 39% higher likelihood of not needing additional assistance from special educators, assistants, or psychologists. The cost-benefit analysis also showed that investments made in prevention and early intervention may ultimately be less expensive to the government than investments incurred to address the problems of children already in schools. 12
 Úrad verejného zdravotníctva SR (2015) Správa o zdravotnom stave obyvateľstva SR za roky 2012 – 2014. Bratislava. Dostupné ako pdf.
 Hanzelová, E., Kešelová, D. (2014) Zdroje a prekážky rastu zamestnanosti žien s dôrazom na zosúladenie pracovného a rodinného a osobného života. Bratislava: Inštitút pre výskum práce a rodiny. Dostupné ako pdf.
 Ľapinová, E., Gubalová, J. (2014) Determinanty využívania flexibilizácie práce v SR z pohľadu rodiny a ich implementácia do sociálneho systému. Zborník z medzinárodnej konferencie. Banská Bystrica: Ekonomická fakulta UMB. Dostupné na: www.ef.umb.sk
 Hanzelová, E., Kešelová, D. (2014).
 Šimoňáková, M. (2014) V Hrabušiciach otvorili prvú modulovú škôlku na Slovensku. In Novoveský Korzár, 02.09.2014. Dostupné na: http://spisskanovaves.korzar.sme.sk
 OECD Education (2011) Reflections by Takaharu Tezuka on Fuji Kindergarten, Tokyo, Japan at the launch of OECD's Designing for Education: Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilties 2011 in Paris, 29 September 2011. Dostupné na: www.slideshare.net
 Muschkin, C. G., Ladd, H. F., Dodge, K. A. (2015) Impact of North Carolina's Early Childhood Initiatives on Special Education Placements in Third Grade. In Eduational Evaluation and Policy Anaysis, 2.2.2015. Dostupné na: http://epa.sagepub.com