Remarkable Turnaround for Education in Serbia

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BELGRADE — Education in Serbia is broken down into four systems: preschool, primary, secondary and higher education. Though the education system begins with mandatory studies, students in this Balkan country have a wide leeway in shaping their program of study suitable to their individual needs and wishes.

Preschool education offered by kindergartens makes up the first step of mandatory studies in Serbia. Children at the age of five or six are able to attend preschool education, which lasts one year. This is followed by primary education which is compulsory for all children between ages seven and 15. Primary education is divided into two equal cycles that allow children to spend four years at a primary school.

Secondary education in Serbia is broken down into two types of schools: gymnasiums and secondary vocational. This form of education is provided in high schools, is not compulsory and generally lasts for four years. At the gymnasiums, students are able to choose among the subjects of natural and social sciences, and language and mathematics.

Students also have the option of attending secondary vocational education offered by vocational schools. In these institutions, students may elect to study for two years and utilize their vocational training directly in a specialized field or an employment program. Alternatively, students can complete their studies in the usual four-year period to gain further skills.

Finally, secondary education is followed by higher education in Serbia. Students have the option to enroll in two-year university education programs or obtain their bachelors, masters and/or doctorate studies.

The education system in Serbia has faced criticism in the past for a lack of funding and resistance to reform. The government of Serbia has taken steps to address these deficiencies in its Strategy for Education Development in Serbia 2020 report, acknowledging that it needs to increase in investments, reform the education system as a whole and promote business environment as part of a long-term business strategy.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), conditions in the education system in Serbia two decades ago were detrimental to retaining school teachers. Lack of financing, teaching materials and aids, increasing numbers of refugee and poor students and poor working conditions were found to undermine morale of teachers. This led to a lack of highly sought-after teachers in mathematics, English language and computer science.

There has been a remarkable turnaround since then. Polices in place after 2000 and 2003 legislation introduced career advancement schemes for teachers and linked salary increases to progression in four career steps including advisors, mentors, instructors and senior advisors.

Additionally, in Universitas 21 development-adjusted rankings for 2017, which is a benchmark standard taking into account levels of economic development in ranking national higher education systems of different countries, Serbia led the other countries in the world. However, the country still ranked at 39 in the overall top 50 ranking in terms of absolute performance.

Nonprofits like the Educational Research Association of Serbia (ERAS) emphasize collaboration between researchers in the field of education in Serbia and connect them to greater Europe and the wider world. One of the major objectives of ERAS is to connect researchers with policymakers for better decision-making in the field of education.

The Mission to Serbia initiative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) works with Serbian educational institutions to reach out to young people. According to the Mission’s website, it “organizes training courses on anti-discrimination for municipal youth office leaders and runs projects to connect young people from the entire region of south-eastern Europe.”

Serbia has come a long way in providing quality education to students and compensating teachers more fairly. The government still has much to do in the way of progress, including addressing corruption in education and helping refugee children deprived of educational opportunities.

Rebuilding lives of all students, irrespective of their backgrounds, and supporting a sustained educational infrastructure will make the future of education in Serbia brighter and better.

Mohammed Khalid
Photo: Flickr

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About Author

Mohammed Khalid

Mohammed Khalid writes for The Borgen Project from the quiet suburbs of Maryland. His personal and academic interests include journalism, cybersecurity, counterterrorism, writing, and constitutional and immigration law. Mohammed was born in the United Arab Emirates and grew up in both Pakistan and the United States. He is passionately (and perpetually) involved in building empathy by engaging with others and learning about their lives and stories.

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