Maribor is only 70 km south of Graz and can be reached by train or by car in less than an hour.With 110000 inhabitants, Maribor is the second largest city in Slovenia. The main building of the University of Maribor is located in the city center, right next to the dome of Maribor, but some of the faculties are widespread in separate buildings in city and its surroundings. The Faculty of Education for example is located on the west side of the city and is connected to the public transport system appropriately.On the banks of the river Drava you can find the historical and most fabulous part of Maribor’s city center, called Lent. On the one hand here is a good place to enjoy a coffee with friends in one of the pleasant coffee shops, on the other it is the location of an impressing sight of the city, the oldest grapevine in the world, called “Stara Trta”. Its age is estimated to be over 400 years and it still giving a rich harvest of grapes every year, which is used to prepare a special edition of delicious wine.
Running through the city center, the Drava river was of great importance in history when for example raftsmen used it as a main traffic route between Slovenia and Croatia and Serbia. But still the river is dominating the city, giving its unique charm and separating the old historical from the newer part of the city. In the city you can find not only lots of possibilities for shopping, but quite a lot of green areas and parks too. With small and charming coffee shops, great restaurants and bars enabling a diversified night life, Maribor has a very unique charm inviting everybody to slow down a little bit and enjoy life.
Comparison of the school system and teacher education system
The school system of Slovenia is very different from the Austrian system. Compulsory basic education in Slovenia is organized in a single structure nine-year basic school attended by children aged six to fifteen years. The basic school comprises three three-year cycles. In the first three-year cycle, children are taught by a general (class) teacher. It is recommended that the same teacher teaches the class for all three years. Half of the lessons in year one, a preschool teacher is also present. In the second cycle a general classroom teacher delivers most lessons in grades 4 and 5 but up to two specific subjects (e.g., music, English, sports) are taught by specialists. In the 6th grade the children are taught by specialist teachers for all subjects. In the third cycle, lessons are delivered by specialist subject teachers. A four years study program at the faculty of education enables you to become a teacher in Slovenia. One of the main differences of this education in comparison to the Austrian curriculum is the fact, that students have to do an internship only once for one month in their last semester. The classes and the topics that the students have are similar to the classes we have in Austria. Students have to write lesson plans and prepare lessons that they teach to their classmates, while in Austria we can teach to classes of children within the extensive internships in every semester of the curriculum.
During my Erasmus+ semester in Maribor I had to participate at two different course, both of them covering much more ECTS credits, than I was used from the courses in Austria, which are in all semesters a lot in quantity, but with smaller amounts of credits. Although it may sound to be just minimal work to attend only two courses, the values were really reflected in the time you had to spend for the tasks and for learning for the final written and oral exams. Moreover I had to complete an internship at a school in Maribor, which I had to organize myself, since internships are not part of the education program provided to Erasmus students by the University of Maribor.
The grading system at the universities in Slovenia is somewhat different from the system in Austria. They have grades 1-10 and 10 is the best. Everything below 5 is a fail, while In Austria the system is just from 1-5 and grade 1 is the best one and grade 5 is the only grade to fail.
MATHEMATICS EDUCATION I (R036)
In this course the main focus was on the big field of Mathematic didactics. As a theoretical basic for all this concerns, we used the book Elementary and Middle School Mathematics by John A. Van de Walle, which is a great compendium of theoretical and practical inputs for teaching Mathematics. To reflect the main chapters of this book was also the requirement for the final written exam. Within the classes, we did a lot of discussions and comparisons of school systems and teaching in different countries, although most of the other international students came from different regions of Spain. Once I gave an extensive talk of about 50 minutes about the comparison of the Austrian and Slovenian education systems, including the common history, the actual differences, the teacher education systems and lots of other details. Sometimes we got some reading homework, so throughout the semester I was reading six scientific papers about teaching prepared written summaries. In general I can say, it was a quite interesting course, and I got a lot of input and possibility for critical reflection. It was somewhat different to courses I was used from Austria, but that was the aim: to see things running different.
TEACHER AS RESEARCH PRACTITIONER IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND MATHEMATICS (B622)
Attending this course for the first time, the Professor told me, it was a course for the Master studies and I was the only international Student attending, so I had not to attend all of the lessons, which were held in Slovenian language, but I had some additional special meetings with the professor throughout the Semester. Nevertheless it was a great chance to learn a lot: the course was focused on the one hand on concepts of bringing science to the class and motivate pupils to learn about scientific approaches with the help of asking questions of their surrounding world, creating hypotheses, planning and fulfilling practical experiments and finally reporting and evaluate results. On the other hand the second focus was on the scientific approach of educational studies. For this we used the book Research Methods in Education by Louis Cohen et al, which is a compendium of all kind of possible strategies, styles and methods in educational research as well as quantitative and qualitative evaluation methods. For this course I had to create several written concepts for classes with students as well as doing a scientific study including a questionnaire for students of mathematics and give a report about the results.
INTERNSHIP: Osnovna šola Bojana Ilicha Maribor
I was for several weeks at the Osnovna šola Bojana Ilicha Maribor, located in the city center.
I had to organize this myself, so I came in contact with the headmaster Štefan Muraus first, who arranged the supervision of Jože Senekovič for me. He is a teacher of Mathematics at this school, who is very ambitious and established in Didactics of Mathematic, being author of several textbooks.
The school hosts students from class 1 to class 9 in one building, which has one big gym, a library and a kitchen, providing lunch for most of the students and the ever day common class snack at 09:30, consisting of warm tea and bread with butter, jam or honey. For 4th till 9th grade, they have specialized classrooms for different subjects, like geography, mathematics and biology. Almost every classroom provides a beamer and a white board, some of them even an interactive whiteboard. In the beginning I could attend several lessons of Mathematic and Biology in different classes, then I was teaching Mathematics myself in classes of the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grade in English language. This was easier than I was expected, since the English skills of the students was quite impressing, and the really had fun with the special concept of learning mathematical topics in a foreign language. After some days, a German teacher found out, that there is German native speaker at the school for internship and she asked me to do some classes with her, in order to give the students a better impression of right pronunciation. Although I am not a German teacher and I will never become one, I was happy to get this spontaneous possibility too and it was a nice experience to teach German to the Slovenian students for several classes. So after few days, I got in contact with lots of students and most of the teachers, so that nearly everyone was greeting in a friendly was in German or English in the hallway, so that I felt as a stranger at all!
What was really impressing for me is the fact, that homework in Slovenia is not obligatory: Teachers give homework to their students, in order to provide material for practicing, but students can decide themselves, whether thy do it or not. Is has no direct impact on their graduation.
Another impressing thing was the really good and modern equipment in the rooms. Nearly every room had its own beamer, and all of the class-book registration is done in a digital system. It was also interesting to see, that there exist optional subjects in grades 7 -9, which are chosen by the students themselves. I was very surprised that there were students, who had chosen to attend this optional course for two hours a week in Mathematics…
To apply as an Erasmus+ student at the University of Maribor you have to sign into an online-platform. Here you can see all the classes for the field of studies available for foreign students. The course descriptions are quite precise and you can see which language is offered and what the main educational goals of the course are.
One important thing for students from Austria who have to attend an internship the University of Maribor does not provide: a course including an internship. I contacted the university about an internship and they confirmed that they would not arrange any internship for exchange students and I had to organize myself. So I contacted some schools and asked them for the possibility of an internship and in the end I was successful after some trials.
After the online application process was finished, you receive a letter of acceptance with further information.
University of Maribor, Faculty of Education:
Univerza v Mariboru
Koroska cesta 160
Erasmus coordinator for the Faculty of Education:
Koroska cesta 160
2000 Maribor, Slovenija
+386 (0)2 22 93 853
ESN office Maribor:
ESN Maribor (Erasmus Student Network)
Slomškov trg 15
Osnovna šola Bojana Ilicha Maribor
+386 (0)2 22 83 440
Since Maribor is small city, you easily find your ways and life is easy and relaxing. So best way is to walk around or try to find a cheap bicycle to explore the city and its surrounding landscape.
There are student’s dorms in the walking distance to the city center of about twenty minutes right next to the faculty of education. The university provides a lot of information about different accommodations, so it is quite easy to find the appropriate room for your wishes.
The ESN (Erasmus Student Network) Maribor additionally is providing any kind of help and information for international students and is organizing lot of social events, starting with a Welcome Week to see sights all over Slovenia and a Welcome party and different kind of activities like for example Ice-Skating, Football evenings, and International meetings throughout the semester.
Food and living is somewhat cheaper than it is in Austria and additionally Slovenia has a great student coupon system. In the beginning of the semester you get your own Slovenian SIM-card and the ESN office loads coupons for restaurants on your phone.
For each day you spend in Maribor you have a four euro coupon which you can use in restaurants for dinner or lunch. You just order your menu and pay with your phone one part and the rest, which was about two euro, you pay in cash. So meeting friends or colleagues for lunch in one of the restaurants involved in the coupon-system is not that expensive and always a pleasure. What I will really miss, are the charming small coffee shops in the city center where the coffee is not just really good but also really cheap. Moreover I really enjoyed the bakeries with great diversity of sweet stuff for breakfast…
What I really like about Slovenia in general is the fact, that it is so close to my hometown and that I can come back here in future whenever I want to. Moreover it was a great chance to learn more about the culture, language and education systems of our close “neighbor”.
Review of my stay abroad in academic terms
All of my courses were held in English, so I could learn lots of vocabulary related to the pedagogic topic. But I think I was able to improve my English in general, since I did a lot of communication, reading and writing in this language during this semester. I could learn few words in Slovenian language too, especially expressions connected to the topic of mathematics, which were important while teaching during my internship
During my internship I did not only get an intense impression of the Slovenian school system, I met interesting people and I am still in contact with my supervising teacher from that school, who is using really good concepts in teaching Mathematics.
Review of the stay abroad in cultural terms
Since Slovenia was part of Austrian Empire in the history and is the closed neighbor to Styria, the culture is quite similar to our own culture. Maribor is dominated by historical buildings in the city center and combines these with new buildings.
I had the impression, that anyone I met during my stay was friendly, helpful and especially the younger generation is very open-minded. In general I had the impression that for Slovenians family in a broader sense is of very big value, it seems to be even more important than I am used to it in Austria. As a biologist, I really enjoyed Slovenia’s nature and the great diverse landscape, whenever I had the possibility I tried to come around in the small weekend excursions.
Review of the stay abroad in social terms
I would like to recommend the stay abroad to everyone who is interested in getting to know new people and new cultures, but moreover to learn a lot about yourself in new surroundings. So it is a very valuable impression to learn how to feel in institutions like universities and schools being a “stranger”, especially in terms of language. You will learn to appreciate the possibility to communicate in a common foreign language and you will reflect about being open-minded to any kind of people. Going to study in Slovenia for me was the right choice because I can always go back and stay connected to the people I could get in touch with.
Written by Johannes Rabensteiner, Slovenia, Univerza v Mariboru, Pedagoška fakulteta