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SLOVAK REPUBLIC: EDUCATION AS A SOFT POWER TOOL

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 The role of education in international prestige has increased in recent years, because of the major changes in global economy. Nowadays, education is used as a means of promoting national interests around the world. 

    The turning point of the Slovak Republic was the year of 2004, when Slovakia’s accession to the European Union was accompanied by its accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The Slovak Republic has several resources that can potentially increase its soft power with plenty of ways. Though, compared to other V4 countries, Slovak universities have the worst position in the ranking in terms of the total number of universities represented. According to the QS World University Rankings (QS WUR), none of the Slovak universities is represented in this ranking for the whole period 2012 – 2020 (Čajka, 2019). Nevertheless, Slovakia puts greater focus on digital competences. The broad ‘Strategy for digital transformation of the Slovak Republic 2030’ and its 2019-2022 action plan outline the priority investment areas, including the adaptation of education and training for the digital age and enhancing competences for participating in digital society (digital citizenship) (Slovak Government, 2019). Investment in education and training remains comparatively low. In 2018, general government expenditure on education as a share of GDP remained below the EU average: 4% v 4.6%. Spending as a share of total public expenditure, at 9.5%, was also below the EU average (9.9%). Annual public spending per student in purchasing power standards remains among the lowest in the EU. Development of digital skills supported by the European Union Social Fund (ESF).  (Commission, 2020)

    In the field of science, as a soft power factor within the EGPI, the situation in Slovakia is similar to the level of education compared to the V4 countries. Slovakia ranked lowest among the V4 countries. The same lowest ranking is encountered on spending on research and development (R&D). Though, investment in science and research has increased almost twice in relation to the GDP over the last decade. The number of patents is low compared to the V4 countries. In the statistics of the European Patent Office, Slovakia is ranked 24th (in EU 28) with 41 patent applications. At the same time, the low number of patents granted shows the low activity and capacity of the country to benefit from new knowledge. (Čajka, 2019)

    According to Joseph Nye, every state has soft power instruments.  Slovakia is trying to benefit from its limited political, economic and strategic assets. As the authors strongly believe, Slovakia seeks to overcome spatial constraints and thus open up wider opportunities to increase their impact abroad and on the international stage. According to the Elcano Global Presence Index soft power assessment, the Slovak Republic lags significantly behind all V4 countries throughout the reporting period of 2010–2018. The situation in science and research, in comparison with education, is not so significantly different with larger inter-state differences. Finally, the situation of Slovakia is actually the worst among the V4 countries.  (Čajka, 2019)

Georgios Kourousis

Sources:

Čajka, P. (2019, April 7). Education and science as a soft power tool in Slovakia and V4 countries. Faculty of Political Science and International Affairs, Matej Bel University , σσ. 1-18.

Commission, E. (2020). Education and Training Monitor. 

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