Slovakia, which has been forced to return millions of euros for flaws revealed in various European Union-funded projects, is now under pressure to revive its dual education system. Launched two years ago to train employees, only some 2,800 students from 80 secondary vocational schools have studied within the system.

As reported by The Slovak Spectator, the goal was 12,000 students by 2020.

According to the Slovak Automotive Industry Association (ZAP), the situation critical and is calling for improving the operation of the national project.

“If Slovakia fails to meet this goal, it will have to return the money to the EU,” said Juraj Sinay, president of ZAP.

Sinay also warned that the entire dual education system is not working properly. He said there is insufficient support for employers and schools to join dual education. Though the state has money for this purpose, if it is not used, the interest in participating in the system will decline, Sinay explained.

According to the education ministry, officials are systematically working on attracting pupils to join the system.

“We are mainly using direct communication with employers and school headmasters through personal interviews, conferences, communication with career advisors and students at events focused on promoting secondary vocational schools in the regions,” the ministry’s press department told The Slovak Spectator.

What is more, the ministry plans to open so-called “dual points” in all the regional capitals by the end of this year.

However, ZAP says it is more important to open eight career orientation centres managed by employers.

“The problem is the decentralised education system,” Sinay said, explaining that while primary schools are run by municipalities, secondary schools are administered by the self-governing regions and universities have their own management.

ZAP is proposing the construction of special sectoral centres whose aim would be the support of small and medium-sized enterprises.

ZAP has also warned that if Slovakia does not boost its skilled labour force, multinational companies whose subsidiaries are established in the country may decide not to invest into modern technologies here.