What the Enlargement Package says on Education and Culture

The European Commission's "Enlargement package", adopted in October 2022, provides a detailed assessment of the state of play and the progress made by the Western Balkans and Türkiye on their respective paths towards the European Union, with a particular focus on implementing fundamental reforms, as well as clear guidance on the reform priorities ahead. Education and culture, as well as youth and sports are covered in Chapter 26. Below we provide the texts and recommend looking into the full reports.

Chapter 26: Education and culture

The EU supports cooperation in education and culture by funding programmes and the coordination of Member State policy through the open method of coordination. The EU and the EU Member States must also prevent discrimination and ensure quality education for children of
migrant workers, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds.


Albania is moderately prepared in the field of education and culture. Some progress was made with the adoption of the 2021-2026 National Strategy for Education and the related action plan; the strengthening of the new National Agency for Employment and Skills; the continued restructuring of the National Agency for Education, Vocational Training and Qualifications; and the implementation of the Albanian Qualification Framework and the Vocational Education and Training Law. Further efforts are required to strengthen quality and inclusiveness of education, with a special focus on the proper implementation of the competence-based approach and digitalisation. Appropriate resources should also be allocated to ensure the implementation of the new policy reform. Further efforts are required to finalise the implementing legislation of the
Law on Cultural Heritage and Museums.
In the coming year, Albania should in particular:
→ ensure the optimisation of the VET system to develop services and competences in line with the needs of the labour market;
→ improve professional development and training of teachers and trainers, with a specific focus on pedagogical skills related to the implementation of the competence-based inclusive approach and digitalisation from pre-primary to university level, including VET education;
→ adopt the 2022-2029 National Youth Strategy.

On education and training, 2021 was a year of adjustment and planning after the shocks due to the 2019 earthquake which damaged 24 % of educational facilities and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a consequence of the earthquake, 21 000 children in 11 municipalities were moved to host schools and attended classes in shifts, straining resources and affecting the quality of teaching. At the end of 2021, 87 schools damaged by the quake reverted to normal.
As last year report notes, both the consequences of the earthquake and the prolonged COVID-19 had an impact on the educational system, which was not equipped with adequate teachers’ training and teaching practices to ensure effective blended education. The results of the skills gaps analysis conducted in 2021 show that 60 % of the teachers still lack the necessary IT skills to ensure meaningful digitalisation. Albania started training 2 362 teachers in 2021 out of 30 000, but more efforts are needed to increase the level of investment in teachers’ ICT education. In terms of equipment, on average, Albania provides one computer for 26 pupils according to UNICEF, which is inadequate to ensure digitalisation and remains much lower than the EU average of five pupils on one computer.
With regard to quality in education, progress was made with the adoption of the new National Strategy of Education and Action Plan 2021-2026 with clear pillars on quality, inclusiveness and equity in education, and covering all levels, from primary education to university. Despite these objectives, Albania’s budget allocation to education in 2021 remains low, estimated at 3.6 % of GDP, only 0.9 pps. higher than in 2020. Overall, more resources are needed to modernise the educational system and ensure quality, equity and inclusiveness in education for all pupils. The school financial autonomy has not progressed in 2021, as the sublegal acts and provisions for providing actual financial autonomy in the school were not developed, despite legislation exists since 2018. Anti-corruption measures continue to have a limited impact in education, which remains a particularly vulnerable sector in this respect.
Albania has adopted a new competence-based curriculum and developed a set of textbooks from grade 1 to 12 in pre-university education system to match the new content and methodology, which were successfully implemented in 2021. The number of students benefiting from free textbooks increased during the year to 260 953, including vulnerable children.
On inclusive education, the 2020 guidelines on assistant teachers decreasing the ration teacher/pupil with disabilities to 1 for 2 to 3 pupils, at national level is under implementation but there is still an insufficient number of teaching assistants in regions where the number of pupils with disabilities per teacher is higher, such as Tirana, Tirana District, Durrës and Kamëz.
Meanwhile, additional efforts are also needed to shift from a system with dual education towards a system where children with disabilities are integrated into inclusive mainstream schools.
No progress was registered for the implementation of preschool reform. Resources remain inadequate with only 0.5 % of GDP allocated for pre-primary education in 2021. ICT standards for teachers were quickly developed and over 600 teachers benefitted from ICT training in 2021.
Furthermore, partnership with local authorities is essential, to avoid school disruption and ensure useful cooperation in education.
Enrolment rates in the pre-university education system decreased to 72.9 %, with a notable decrease of 9 % in the preparatory/pre-school education for five to six years old, most probably due to the persistent impact of the COVID-19 crisis. 286 486 pupils are currently enrolled in basic education 158 528 in primary education, and 127 958 in lower secondary education.
Attendance in basic education dropped by 2.5 % compared to the previous academic year.
Although already very low, the participation rates of Roma and Egyptian children declined in both pre-university (13 086 against 14 515 in 2019-2020) and early childhood education 2 514 against 2 996 in the year 2019-2020) and care. The gap in access to education between Roma and Egyptian children and other children living in the same areas remains very large. The situation has worsened due during the COVID-19 crisis and the lack of possibilities to follow online classes. The measures planned to facilitate access to universities (a quota system and university
fee waivers) are in general not implemented.
Implementing legislation on establishing sectoral skills committees is in place and an ICT skills committee was initiated. The first meeting took place in April 2022. Albania has also prepared the referencing of its National Qualifications Framework to the European Qualifications Framework. This is a step forward on aligning the Albanian Qualification System with the European Qualification System. In May 2021, the National Catalogue of the Professional Qualifications was approved for the levels 2-5 of the AQF, including 122 professional qualifications. Validation of non-formal and informal learning has so far been confined to pilot projects.
Regarding Vocational Education and Training (VET), the legislation implementing the 2017 VET Law is still not yet fully adopted, and the legislation on financial autonomy of VET providers still needs to be adopted. The government consolidated the VET institutional framework, by further reinforcing the National Agency for Employment and Skills, keeping restructuring the National Agency for VET and Qualifications, including through provision of additional human resources to cover the function of continued professional development.
Nevertheless, further efforts are needed to finalise the VET related staffing of both agencies, to reinforce the quality assurance framework and to strengthen planning, monitoring and evaluation functions at central level.
The Optimisation Plan of VET providers, endorsed in 2020, is not yet implemented. Albania has to adopt the implementing legislation on organisation, functions and activities of VET providers as well as on their financial autonomy, and fully implement this Plan by 2023 to ensure the rationalisation and modernisation of the VET offer. In 2021, 66 VET teachers received “basic didactics” training, covering pedagogical, assessment, soft and digital skills, from 22 teachers in 2020. Further training is required in 2022 and 2023 to ensure the implementation of digital education and ensure digital competences for online teaching in VET. Despite promotional activities and support to students from rural areas in following VET education, participation in VET is low with only 17.7 % of upper secondary students enrolled in vocational schools in 2021 (18 279 students out of 103 467), 0.5 pp less than the previous year.
Albania benefits from the international dimension of the Erasmus+ programme. The ring-fenced support for the four Western Balkan countries non-associated to the programme provided by the Instrument for Pre-Accession assistance III (IPA) amounts to EUR 374 million for 2021-2027 programme period.
Albania continued to participate actively in EU programmes, in particular Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps.
Regarding the culture sector, the national strategy 2019-2025 is under implementation, focused on cultural education for child and youth; creative industry in music and dramaturgy; and international cooperation. During 2021, the ministry adopted implementing legislation regarding the creation and administration of the database of stolen cultural assets, rules of monitoring and evaluation of entities that have cultural assets under administration. From June to December 2021, 108 internal projects were carried out, while for 2022, 185 projects are approved.
In March 2022, Albania ratified the agreement to participate in the new EU Creative Europe programme 2021-2027, for which the Ministry of Culture has established the adequate administrative structures.
The remaining bylaws were approved for the implementation of the law on youth but further efforts should be made for the establishment of relevant youth structures. No new youth centres have been established during 2021.
The Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth has to finalise and adopt the National Youth Strategy for the period 2022-2029 and the action plan.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina is at an early stage of preparation in the area of education and culture. There was no progress in the area, with Bosnia and Herzegovina failing to participate in 2021 PIRLS or 2022 PISA. A fully functional system of accreditation of higher education institutions and in particular study programmes is still lacking. Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to align legislation at all levels of government with the framework laws on education, and ensure application of the common core curriculum based on learning outcomes. Social inclusion at all stages of education needs to be ensured. Youth strategies across the country should be developed and implemented. Having only been partly addressed, the recommendations of the 2021 report remain relevant.
In the coming year, Bosnia and Herzegovina should in particular:
→ extend and update the action plan for the national qualification framework (NQF) and establish an inter-sectoral commission for NQF;
→ ensure a fully functional system of (re-)accreditation of higher education institutions and study programmes across the country;
→ ensure continued participation in international assessment studies (International Student Assessment – PISA, Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study – TIMSS and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study – PIRLS, International Computer and Information Literacy Study – ICILS, Teaching and Learning International Survey – TALIS) and implementation of findings to improve PISA results.

In the area of education and training, Bosnia and Herzegovina failed to participate in 2021 PIRLS or 2022 PISA. Coordination of the processes linked with participation in international assessment studies needs to be significantly improved. No clear measures have been taken by Bosnia and Herzegovina to address the findings of 2018 PISA and 2019 TIMSS; in lack of a country wide approach, some cantons have started reforming their curriculum based on students learning outcomes to improve quality in line with 2018 PISA and 2019 TIMSS recommendations.
Activities on implementation of the recommendations for action policies with the roadmap for promotion of inclusive education in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be intensified. The education of children with special needs remains a challenge, particularly in terms of ensuring the necessary infrastructure, provisions, transportation and school assistants to support both children and teachers.
Although the legal framework regulating the collection and systematization of data for the country is in place, there is no mechanism in place to systematically measure or monitor the quality of education inputs, outputs, or outcomes. Data does not feed back into the policy-making process. Legislation at all levels needs to be aligned with the framework laws on education.
The education system lacks common standards for the different levels of education, as well as in teacher training and performance evaluation. Comprehensive teacher training focused on developing students' key competences should be provided and a systematic approach for
application of the common core curriculum based on learning outcomes ensured.
Due to demographic changes, the number of students enrolled at all levels of education is gradually declining. In early childhood education and care (ECEC), the enrolment rate remains very low at around 12% but with a positive trend (+16.9%). Only 25% of three-to-six year olds (and only 3% of Roma children) are enrolled in pre-school education, the lowest rate in Europe. Enrolment generally remains lower than average for Roma children.
A countrywide policy document on vocational education and training (VET) is in place since 2021, based on the Riga conclusions (2021-2030). No noticeable progress followed its adoption.
There is no progress in developing a national qualification framework for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The related action plan expired in 2020 and should be extended and revised, since it was never operational and no specific commission for the national qualification framework has been established. The process of developing qualifications and occupations remains slow and requires better coordination and harmonisation across the entire country.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s national qualification framework is not yet referenced to the European Qualification Framework, neither is there a mechanism for validation of prior learning.
The cooperation between the two accreditation agencies, the one at state level and the one in the Republika Srpska, has improved. Bosnia and Herzegovina should significantly intensify efforts to ensure a fully functional accreditation system of higher education institutions and in particular study programmes. Implementation of the Commission’s recommendations on the subject remains limited.
Bosnia and Herzegovina benefits from the international dimension of the Erasmus+ programme, however there were no international mobility or capacity building in higher education calls in 2021.
In the area of culture, Bosnia and Herzegovina is implementing measures under the UNESCO Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expression. The country has to ensure a permanent solution to the legal status and financing for the seven cultural institutions of significance for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Implementation of the decisions of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments rests on the entities and there is room for improvement. The budget allocation for culture on all levels of government should be increased with longer term, multi-annual funding decisions to provide stability for cultural creation and operation. Bosnia and Herzegovina has to establish formal partnership structures enabling transparent and organised participation in cultural policymaking. The Creative Europe 2021-2027 programme was adopted by the Presidency only in April 2022.
Although there are youth strategies at some levels of government, Bosnia and Herzegovina should work on a countrywide youth strategy that would ensure equal treatment of young people and address brain drain. Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the European Week of Sport in September 2021 within the initiative of the European Week of Sport Beyond Borders.


Kosovo is at an early stage of preparation in the field of education and culture. While there has been some progress, the quality of education needs to be improved and key legislation (including on pre-school education, higher education and accreditation agency) should be adopted by the Assembly. The COVID-19 pandemic further constrained the quality of teaching at all levels of education.
As last year’s recommendations were partially implemented, in the coming year Kosovo should in particular:
→ systematically apply quality assurance mechanisms at all education levels, particularly in the pre-university and professional education; in the area of higher education, continue post-accreditation monitoring of programmes;
→ finalise the implementation of the new curricular framework for basic education with quality textbooks and by providing sustainable training to teachers;
→ increase the provision of quality vocational education and training for professions in demand in view of the Youth Guarantee.

Kosovo’s public spending on education in 2021 remained unchanged, at 4.6% of GDP (14% of the total budget). Similarly, there were no changes with regard to the structure of expenditure, with over 80% of the budget spent in teacher salaries, leaving very little funds for students per capita and for investment in quality education. Kosovo should consider a detailed assessment of the existing per capita allocation formulas, focusing on adequacy and equity, especially given the demographic changes and new policies. During 2021, classes were mainly organised with physical presence in schools. Schools in urban areas, which are overcrowded, had to organise lessons in more shifts in order to comply with recommendations for COVID prevention. The Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) also obliged schools to organise additional classes and lessons to compensate for the lost learning hours. All these put an additional pressure on the education sector. Authorities should continue efforts to increase financial support to scale up community-based social and health services for children with disabilities and to integrate them effectively into educational institutions.

In recent years Kosovo has made considerable progress in increasing access to pre-primary and primary education, but more needs to be done to equitably increase coverage of pre-school and secondary education. Enrolment of children in compulsory education - primary, lower and upper secondary education - is universal (100% attending grades 1-5, 90.5% 5-9 and 86.6% 9-12). Participation of children in pre-school education and care (age 0<5) remains low, well below the OECD average (over 87%) or the 2020 education and training targets (95%). A persistent problem remains the small number and uneven distribution of pre-school institutions in Kosovo (44 public kindergartens in 23 out of 38 municipalities), lack of appropriate infrastructure and lack of didactic materials. The new Law on Pre-school Education is yet to be approved, and the curriculum for levels of education 0-2 has been developed. The number of students in higher education is decreasing (from over 133 000 students in 2017 to over 95 300 in 2021); yet more concerning are the low graduation rates.
Kosovo has prepared a new Education Strategy 2022 - 2027, which for the first time includes plans for digitalisation of schools. The strategy is pending formal adoption by the government. The quality of education remains poor, as evidenced by the last two OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) evaluations, with Kosovo ranking third from bottom. Kosovo participated in the 2019 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and in participating in the in the 2021 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and PISA 2022. In TIMSS 2019, Kosovo was among the ten poorest performers. Reforms are still lagging behind due to the lack of suitable textbooks, teaching materials and sustainable professional development schemes for teachers. Another major issue is the mismatch between education outcome and skill requirements. The ministry needs to not only consider legislative changes, but also to increase capacities of education inspectorate.
Higher education institutions should invest more in research and appraise the scientific achievements, publications and performance of teachers. Academic integrity remains an issue, despite improvements as a result of public scrutiny. The Ministry has adopted a decision on the compatibility of scientific works and publications of the academic staff with ethics in research, obliging programme holders to upload their research in indexed platforms ahead of accreditation of their programmes. The contracts of the academic staff are based on teaching hours, not taking into account the additional work on research, science and innovation. Provisions of the Law on Performance-based Funding for Public Higher Education Institutions are not implemented. The ministry needs to have a clear policy guidance on how to increase accountability of the public universities based on the above-mentioned provision. Apart from the University of Pristina, all public universities depend financially on the state budget. Progress was made in meeting minimum transparency criteria (according to international norms) of higher education institutions. During the reporting period, the Assembly adopted the pending statutes of remaining public universities, and the affected institutions harmonised their existing regulations with the
new provisions of the new statutes, and in some cases, developed new regulations. All of the public universities have now in place strategic documents that will boost their future development.
Kosovo should adopt the new Law on Higher Education that would strengthen the autonomy and academic integrity of higher education institutions and improve quality assurance.
The Kosovo Accreditation Agency (KAA) continued efforts to regain membership of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education and the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education. Kosovo should adopt the Law on Accreditation Agency, to increase its operational independence and transparency of appointments of the KAA management. The new draft law addresses the issue of declaration of wealth by international members of the board, which has pushed international members to withdraw from their posts.
Over half of upper secondary schools students enroll in vocational education and training (VET), however, they are often a second choice for those unable to enrol in gymnasiums, since VET schools do not have entry criteria. The statistics for the 2021/2022 academic year show that out of 70 850 students enrolled in upper secondary education, 37 585 students are enrolled in vocational education schools, compared to 33 265 students enrolled in gymnasiums. VET profiles offered by vocational schools are not based on occupational standards, thus not aligned to labour market demands. Progression from VET to university education remains very high.
Funding for vocational education has not increased over the last few years, and is insufficient to provide the necessary materials for students. The legal framework is fragmented and needs to be revised and consolidated to regulate all VET aspects as well as to capture latest developments
(e.g., the recent regulations governing practice in enterprises, the new VET profiles piloted and the establishment of career guidance centres). The development of the core curriculum for VET has been initiated and its implementation is under way.
Work-based learning, integrated in the current VET curriculum, is not systematically delivered. To a large extent, teaching in the workplace is organized in the form of a block system only for students in the 12th grade, while for lower grades, there is only practical teaching in school. In recent years, there has been progress in the establishment of partnerships between VET schools and employers, but work-based learning remains too limited to substantially improve students’ prospects in the labour market. Acceleration of thorough reform in VET is crucial also to implementation of important aspects of the Youth Guarantee. For the first time, the Ministry has introduced dual education for a limited number of profiles, with the aim to expand it further in academic year 2022/23.
Kosovo needs to continue efforts to provide children with disabilities access to quality education. A positive development is the decision to increase the number of assistants for children with special needs for 100 per year, at least until 2024 (the recruitment for 100 assistants in 2021 is finalised and budget for recruitment of 100 assistants is allocated for 2022).
With the help of an EU funded project, the Ministry for Education organised trainings on inclusion and treatment of children with special needs for teachers and principals of six regional resource centres. Kosovo has engaged 11 civil society organisations to help with children with special needs (age 0-6) by providing training for educators and preschool institutions’ staff.
The dropout rate remains higher among Roma and Ashkali children though statistics are unreliable. During reporting period, trainings were organised for dropout prevention teams and municipal departments to increase their capacities for implementing child protection policies,
also to prevent dropouts.
Kosovo benefits from the international dimension of Erasmus+. During 2021, one project was selected for Erasmus Mundus Design Measures, and nine students received scholarships.
On culture, Kosovo should maintain efforts to meet the standards of the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. There has been no progress on drafting the Law on cultural heritage, reflecting its commitments under Annex V of the Ahtisaari Plan. The Implementation and Monitoring Council needs to resume meetings and identify joint solutions to be reached between Kosovo and the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Kosovo currently participates in the Creative Europe programme, as a partner. In December 2021, Kosovo signed the Agreement to participate in the Creative Europe programme 2021-2027 as an associated country in all actions of the Culture Strand and in the action to support the establishment of Programme desks contained in cross-sectoral Strand. Kosovo is to apply for the MEDIA sub-programme and initiate efforts to apply for full membership, once legislation is aligned with the EU audio-visual media service directive.



Montenegro has a good level of preparation in this area. Some progress was made regarding the recommendation on inclusive education but for other recommendations much more effort is needed and thus, they remain valid.
In the coming year, Montenegro should in particular:
→ adopt a costed plan for wide ranging education reforms including inclusive education and improving access to quality education at all education levels;
→ implement the new strategy on early and pre-school education 2021-2025 to improve pre-school enrolment for all children;
→ finalise then initiate the national Vocational Education and Training (VET) implementation plan 2022-2023 of the VET Strategy 2020-2024, as well as putting in place the evaluation mechanism of practical learning at VET and higher education levels.

On education and training, the government adopted the strategy on early and pre-school education 2021-2025 with a related action plan 2021-2025, and the strategy for digitalization of the education system in Montenegro 2022-2027, with the action plan 2022-2023 in October and December 2021 respectively.
According to the Economic Reform Programme of Montenegro, 2022-2024, spending on education was 4.3% of GDP in 2021. The preschool enrolment rate stood at 48.71% (male: 49.09% and female: 48.30%) in 2020-2021, still well below the EU 95% target. This enrolment of students was however affected by the COVID-19 context. The number of children in preschool education returned to the 2019 level (72% of children aged 3-6), and the number of children with disabilities in both preschool and primary education increased by 21% and 7%, Online schooling continued during the school year, and regular schooling restarted as of 1 September 2021 (with 30-minute classes) continuing the supporting measures on digital exclusion taken in the previous year, and taking into account that many children lacked internet access, Telekom of Montenegro provided internet coverage for 100 branch units of primary schools (or 50% of total number of branch institutions) located in rural areas. This is the first phase of a broader initiative planned by the strategy for digitalization of education system, i.e. to make internet available in all schools in Montenegro and providing all children attending school with a possibility to use digital content. Furthermore, the government approved in December 2021 the Strategy for Digitalization of Education (2022 – 2027), which is fully aligned with the EU Digital Education Action Plan. Although an analysis of the education systems has been completed, Montenegro still does not have a qualitative, budgeted, multi-annual education strategy and plan for sustainable reforms. This would require broad discussions with all relevant stakeholders, including civil society taking in issues of youth with disabilities, minority groups, as well as a gender dimension focusing on the specific needs of girls and boys.
The provision of additional free textbooks in primary schools, additional mentors and associates engaged at primary and secondary schools for Roma and Egyptian pupils continued. As in 2020, free transport was provided for 600 primary school students (again Roma and Egyptian) in Nikšić, Podgorica, Cetinje and Berane municipalities. Scholarships were provided for 172 Roma and Egyptian students at secondary and 12 at university-level. Montenegro has still to more closely align with the Poznan Declaration on Roma integration in order to fully implement the strategy for inclusive education 2019-2025. This strategy is being implemented through a range of actions, such as counselling for schools with integrated classes promotional activities for local communities, and trainings to schools’ management, teachers and professional staff. Teaching aids and IT equipment were ensured through an EU-funded project. However, results on an EU-funded project aimed at improving access for persons with disabilities in eight schools were not yet finalised.
The new strategy on early and preschool education was adopted in Q4 2021 and its implementation started including support to all pre-school institutions for conducting campaign on enrolment, capacity building of staff to implement the parenting programme, a workshop on partnerships with Roma and Egyptian families. Regarding the Strategy on lifelong entrepreneurial learning (2020-2024) the report on the implementation of its 2021 action plan is ready, as well as the action plan for 2022-2023 and their adoption is expected in the next government session. Montenegro has developed key competences, specifically those linked to STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) within an EU-funded project dedicated to the integration of key competences at all levels of the education system.
In the area of skills and vocational education and training (VET), and in line with the related action plan 2020-2021, 27 occupational standards, 27 professional qualification standards and ten standards of qualification levels of education were developed with EU funds. A report on the implementation of the Action Plan 2020-2021 of the VET strategy 2020-2024 is, however, not yet available nor is the action plan 2022-2023. Montenegro is committed to implement and monitor the 2015 Riga Conclusions on VET and participates regularly in the policy dialogue on VET reforms at EU and regional level. Montenegro has been following initiatives by Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and Education Reform
Initiative (ERI SEE). Regarding the Osnabrück Declaration 2021-2025 and commitments stemming from the declaration signature (commitments to the European Education and Training Area and the international dimension of VET), Montenegro has finalised the related National Implementation Plan. Montenegro organised dual education (the school year 2021/2022) in 25 schools in 17 municipalities for around 600 students (17 educational programmes) with the involvement of 230 employers. According to the Ministry of Education, the report on dual education for 2020/2021 has been prepared, however it is not yet available. In cooperation with the European Training Foundation, the document on career development was drafted in 2021, and the Programme for lifelong career guidance and counselling 2021-2023 with the related action plan was developed in Q4 2021. In January 2022, the annual plan for adult education for 2022 was adopted as part of the wider Adult Education Plan 2019-2022.
The Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports revised strategy for higher education to cover the period 2022-2026 and draft a new Law on Higher Education. However, their adoption is pending and tangible results are not yet in place. Developing a structured monitoring and evaluation of practical education in higher education programmes remains to be an area that requires specific attention.
Montenegro benefits from the international dimension of the Erasmus+ programme. The ring-fenced support for the four Western Balkan countries not yet associated to the programme provided by IPA amounts to EUR 374 million for the 2021-2027 programme period. In 2021, Montenegro applied for two calls under the EU’s programme Erasmus+. While there is not information on the implementation of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PISA) and the 2021 action plan and recommendations for improving education quality, Montenegro is still active in these processes.
On culture, in December 2021 Montenegro signed an agreement with the European Commission for its participation in the EU Creative Europe 2021-2027 programme. Montenegro still needs to establish an overall management system to implement protection measures for the preservation of Kotor's (Boka Kotorska Bay) UNESCO World Heritage status.
The newly formed Ministry of Youth and Sports is responsible for the new Strategy on Youth and while the previous strategy ended in 2020 as yet a new one has not yet been approved. As part of the Youth Law, 11 Administrators were appointed for youth centres but most lack institutional support and a budget for activities. Youth centres need to establish new Action Plans but are dependent of the approval of the new Strategy on Youth. The National Youth Council, established in 2020, has representatives from the Montenegrin Youth Network and the Network, with 46 members’ organizations, is actively participating in the EU Youth dialogue on unemployment, organized by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and Europe House. The outcomes of the Youth dialogue should also be incorporated into the Youth Guarantee which is under development.

North Macedonia

North Macedonia is moderately prepared in the area of education and culture. Limited progress was made in the reporting period, still impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The implementation of the 2018-2025 education strategy is slow, as is the development of a proper monitoring system.
The recommendations of last year’s report were only partially addressed and most remain valid. In the coming year, North Macedonia should in particular:
→ adopt the Vocational Education and Training (VET) law and establish and operationalise the regional VET centres;
→ finalise and adopt the Law for Adult Education;
→ improve access to quality education for all, in particular children with disabilities and children from Roma communities increase pre-school enrolment and continue improving support for teachers’ training and professional development.

The Law on Primary Education started to be implemented in the 2019-2020 academic year, providing a basis for inclusive and quality education for all. According to the Concept for Primary Education, a new curriculum for students in the first four grades was adopted for the academic year 2021-2022. A significant number of trainings of teachers on the new curricula was conducted.
The new VET law still has not been adopted. It emphasises work-based learning and the role of five regional VET (RVET) centres to be established across the country, expecting to provide specific trainings targeted to the local job market needs in coordination with the business community. RVET should also eventually become centres of excellence with major investments carried out in providing support to schools. A campaign was developed to promote vocational education in the country under the motto “Learn smart, work professionally”. Business companies, vocational high schools, the Chambers of Commerce and the Ministry of Education are supporting the development of a curriculum in schools with an increased number of internships in private companies. To this purpose, almost 100 dual-education classes were opened, with an increased number of practical education supported by public private partnerships. The Law for Adult Education needs to be adopted urgently and further clarity is needed on the next steps of the reform

Public spending on education and training increased slightly to 3.76% of GDP in 2021, which is still far from the EU average of 5%. After a period of budged reduction due to the pandemic, the 2021 education budget prioritised investment to improve the quality of primary and secondary education. Although some progress was made on pre-school education, the overall level of enrolment remained low, especially in the COVID-19 context. Whereas the EU Education and Training target for 2020 on early childhood education and care attendance is set at 95 %, only 45 % of children from 3-6 years of age in North Macedonia were enrolled in licensed early childhood education institutions in 2020-2021. This is a slight increase compared to the previous year. In addition to expanding the capacities for inclusion of a larger number of children in pre-school education, efforts have been done to improve the quality of pre-school education.
As for the other educational levels, 90.8 % of children were enrolled in primary education (90.6 % male, 91% females) and 78.9% in secondary education (Females 79.8 % Males 78.1 %) in the 2020-2021 school year. The total amount is 71 811 students out of them 35 200 females. Significant progress was made in boosting VET education at secondary level: the rate of student’s participation in the secondary VET system is marked by a constant increase: 64% in 2021, compared to 62.1% in 2020 and 61.8% in 2019. In higher education, the overall enrolment remains low. The number of university students enrolled in the first year of studies has been declining in the last three years.
In 2021, the main testing for the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS 2021) was conducted. A database was sent to the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) and has been approved. The State examination centre has participated in preparation of the regional report about the students’ achievements in PIRLS 2021. Agreement for participation in the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS 2024) was signed. The working group in the state examination centre for the conduction of the study was created.

In the school year 2021-2022, a concept for inclusive education was adopted, in accordance with the new Law on Primary Education: during this period, the special schools continued to operate as primary schools with resource centres, whose aim is to support the learning process of students with disabilities. In the academic year 2021-2022, 151 students with disabilities, who are included in regular education were awarded scholarship, reaching a total of 470 students under this project. The percentage of Roma students enrolled in higher education institutions has increased in the last three years from 46 % to 52 %. For the academic year 2021-2022, a total of 130 scholarships were awarded to Roma students from public and private higher education institutions and universities in the country.
The professional exams for teachers in primary and secondary schools are implemented since school year 2020-2021, in accordance with the regulation. The new rule books clearly define the obligations, conditions and the manner of the realisation of the internship and the professional exam, providing transparency to the entire selection process.
The country continues to actively participate in the Erasmus+ programme and the European Solidarity Corps, as a programme country. Under the 2021 call, overall 118 projects were awarded grants, including 22 projects in the Youth sector. It is forecasted that in 22 granted Youth projects, 615 youth participants, out of which 77 fewer opportunities participants will be involved. The forecasted figure of participants in all awarded projects under 2021 call is close to 2000.
The proposals amending the legal framework on culture and protection of cultural heritage have been withdrawn from the parliamentary procedure, while revision of the national strategy for protection of cultural heritage was further delayed. The implementation of the 2018-2022 national strategy for culture development has not been supported with appropriate budget allocations. The disbursement of funds under the annual programme for projects continues to be criticised by numerous cultural operators, for a lack of transparency in approval of the grants. The functional analysis of the Ministry of Culture and specialised bodies, emphasised inter alia the need of reforms taking into consideration the new cultural practices, growth of cultural and creative industries, the impact of digital technologies. There is a need for further strengthening of the capacities of the Ministry of Culture and other institutions, for the creation and management of cultural policies. There is a poor institutional response and inter-institutional cooperation in the protection of cultural heritage and prevention of illegal constructions, and denationalisation of the cultural heritage with ‘particular importance status’, such as Ohrid and the Skopje Old Bazaar. The country’s cultural heritage is not sufficiently safeguarded and enhanced. The number of beneficiaries of the Creative Europe Programme continues to be satisfactory, with a total of 24 projects during the period 2020-2021.
In the area of youth policy development, the Agency for Youth and Sports maintains a register of youth organisations in which 80 organisations have been registered since the entry into force of this measure. The agency adopted a Rulebook on standardisation of Youth Centres in a transparent process and several centres have been created in the country. In addition, the agency supported the opening of four Youth centres providing technical assistance and equipment.


Serbia remains at a good level of preparation in the area of education and culture. Some progress was made on the implementation of last year’s recommendations, by consolidating the national qualifications framework (NQF) system and taking some steps to ensure compliance of the quality assurance system in higher education with the recommendations of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA). The COVID-19 pandemic somewhat disrupted the organisation and quality of instruction on all levels of education. The recommendations for the 2021 report remain largely valid.
In the coming year, Serbia should in particular:
→ increase participation in early childhood education and care, in particular of children from disadvantaged backgrounds;
→ continue with the operationalisation of the NQF system, with additional focus on the quality and scope of non-formal education;
→ ensure full compliance of the policy and insitutional framework for quality assurance in higher education with the recommendations of the ENQA.

In the area of education and training, mechanisms to monitor the implementation of the new education strategy until 2030 and its action plan were established. The student population has continued to decrease due to negative demographic trends and emigration. Enrolment and attainment rates in pre-university education remained high. The total coverage of children with pre-school education aged 6 months to 6.5 years in 2020 decreased from 57.4 % to 55.5 % year-on-year, whereas the enrolment rate of mandatory pre-school education decreased from 97.4 % in 2019 to 96.4 % in 2020. Further efforts are needed to achieve equitable pre-school education for the most disadvantaged children, by strengthening governance and expanding the scope and quality of infrastructure and services. In 2021, the rate of early school leavers was 6.3 %, while lifelong learning participation was 4.8 %.
The hybrid education model established during the COVID-19 pandemic is still being in place but only used depending on its incidence. Further efforts are still needed to compensate for learning gaps caused by digital exclusion, in particular among disadvantaged students. The digital transformation of the education system continued. While the development of the education management information system has progressed, it requires further consolidation, including capacity-building of staff to use data for policy-making and monitoring purposes.
The reform of the general secondary education curriculum continued. No significant change is reported in the low take-up of general secondary education of vocational education and training (VET). Serbia should continue modernising and streamlining qualifications standards to improve VET relevance and further develop the national work-based learning model for VET. The institutional, financial and logistical preparations for introducing the final examinations in secondary education should accelerate to ensure their full implementation as of the 2023-2024 school year. There is a wide gap in learning outcomes across VET and general education, with vocational students having weaker literacy and numeracy skills than their peers do in general education. The number of secondary VET graduates that enter higher education continued to increase to 63.6 % in 2020 from 59.7 % in 2019. Serbia remains committed to the Osnabruck Declaration on VET as an enabler of recovery and just digital and green transitions.
Following the adoption of amendments to the Law on higher education in June 2021, aimed at facilitating compliance with the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) recommendations on better governance and quality assurance principles, concrete operational steps are still pending to strengthen the policy and institutional framework for quality assurance in higher education. The Serbian national accreditation body is eligible as of 2022 to re-apply for renewed membership of ENQA, following its suspension in early 2020. The first dual study programmes and modules in higher education with a reinforced work-based component were accredited as of the 2021-2022 academic year. The attainment of tertiary level qualifications for persons aged 30-34 (ISCED levels 5-8) remained at 33 % in 2020, still below the EU target of 40 %. The sector, higher education in particular, remains vulnerable for corruption. In October 2021, a specific operational plan was adopted to fight against corruption in the field of education under the action plan for chapter 23.
The institutional set-up under the national qualifications framework (NQF) should be further strengthened. The pace of adoption of qualification standards is picking up but should further accelerate, with stronger focus on higher education. The system of validation of non-formal and informal learning was piloted and relevant implementing legislation has been adopted, but is yet to be scaled up systematically. Two rulebooks were adopted in December 2021 and February 2022 aimed at facilitating the accreditation and assessment of adult education providers. Efforts to create a more favourable environment for standardising and expanding career guidance and counselling services should be further sustained.
Further progress was made in increasing the participation of disadvantaged students at all levels of education. The implementation of measures to reduce drop-out rates and segregation needs to be strengthened, especially at local level. Following the adoption of relevant legislation and the selection of eligible schools, the set-up of assistive technology resource centres needs to become functional to provide relevant additional support services for inclusive education. It is necessary to remove obstacles to the engagement of teaching assistants for children with disabilities as a new service in the education system. Further efforts are needed to develop teaching materials and empower teachers to build student competences related to gender equality, health, reproductive health, mental health, sexuality education, prevention and response to all forms of gender-based violence, including sexual abuse.
Serbia continued to participate in several international assessments, including the progress in international reading literacy study (PIRLS) in 2021, as well as the international civic and citizenship education study (ICCS) and the program for international student assessment (PISA) in 2022. Piloting of trends in international mathematics and science study (TIMSS), international computer and information literacy study (ICILS) and Teaching and learning international survey (TALIS) were conducted in 2022.
In 2021, Serbia formally joined the Erasmus+ programme as an associated country for the period 2021-2027. Overall, Serbian institutions are participating in more than 550 projects (decentralised actions) granted in 2021. Under the 2021 call for proposals, the Serbian National Agency “Tempus Foundation” awarded 136 projects, including 18 in the youth sector. In total, around 1900 mobilities of students, staff and pupils are planned to take place in the framework of these projects. In addition, Serbia participated in various initiatives such as the Erasmus Days and the European Youth Week. Serbia is successfully implementing the new cycle of the Erasmus+ programme, including the new DiscoverEU component.
In the area of culture, the cultural policy of Serbia is implemented within the ‘Strategic priorities for the development of culture of the Republic of Serbia from 2021 to 2025’. The Council for creative industries continued the communication campaign ‘Serbia creates’.
The activities of Novi Sad as European capital of culture 2022 are being implemented. In December 2021, Novi Sad Capital of Culture was awarded the Melina Mercouri prize.
According to the foundation ‘NoviSad 2022’, 95 % of the cultural projects have European partners, against 13 % before.
Serbia is implementing measures under the UNESCO Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expression and is also member of the Intergovernmental Committee of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. The Law on gender equality, adopted in June 2021, foresees provisions to promote gender equality in the field of culture.
Serbia actively participates in the creative Europe programme. The Ministry of Culture and Information provides support to domestic cultural entities that succeed in Creative Europe calls. Following the agreement on Serbia’s participation in the creative Europe programme, the Creative Europe Desk Serbia was established and started operating in June 2022 building on the successful experience from the previous programme.
The new youth strategy until 2030 is yet to be adopted. It needs to be followed by an action plan and mechanisms to ensure inclusive monitoring and reporting. The national youth council remains active and involves youth representatives. Youth policy and support mechanisms are unevenly developed at local level and should be further strengthened. The revision and/or preparation of local youth action plans in line with the provisions of the planning system law should be accelerated. The trend of emigrating young and skilled people continued. The unemployment and inactivity rates among young people remain high. The action plan for the implementation of the youth guarantee mechanism is yet to be adopted.


Geographical focus
  • Western Balkans
Scientifc field / Thematic focus
  • General

Entry created by Elke Dall on October 16, 2022
Modified on October 16, 2022