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Education in Serbia

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development has the overallresponsibility for developing and implementing education policy in Serbia. Schools and preschool institutions have a significant level of autonomy in organizing and realizing educational programmes and other educational activities.  Higher education institutions enjoy wide autonomy.

Institutions for all levels of education can be state (public) and private. Public educational institutions are mainly funded from the state budget. The system of their financing is an input-based system.  Private educational institutions do not receive any direct or indirect public funding.

Establishment of educational institutions is monitored by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development and competent authorities of the province of Voivodina. The procedure is the same for preschool, primary and secondary education institutions, regardless of the type of their founder. All higher education institutions must be accredited before obtaining the working license issued by the Ministry.

Educational system in Serbia consists of  Early Childhood Education and CarePrimary EducationSecondary Education and Higher Education. Primary education and preparatory preschool programme are mandatory and free. Secondary education is free but not mandatory. All citizens have access to higher education under equal conditions.

As of the school year 2010/2011, a system-wide implementation of inclusive education occurred. The Law on Foundations of the Education System (2009) put emphasis on prohibition of discrimination and segregation, individual education plans, new assessment and evaluation policy, introduction of teaching assistants, inclusion of children with special education needs into regular schools by providing support to schools and new financial policy.

Initial education of preschool teachers is provided at colleges of applied studies (preschool teacher education colleges) or universities (teacher education faculties). Teachers who teach at first four grades of primary education (class teaching) earn their degree at teacher education faculties. Subject teachers (grades 5 to 8 of primary education and entire secondary education) complete their studies at other faculties for specific subjects (i.e. mathematics, biology, chemistry etc.)

Neither specialisation nor Master programmes are required for preschool teachers. Teachers in primary and secondary education must hold a Master degree, whereas those involved in tertiary education teaching processes are required to have a PhD degree.

Teachers working in early childhood and school education are obligated to pass a license exam after one year of induction period during their first employment to continue their teaching career. For tertiary education teaching staff, there is no such requirement.

Teacher’s professional development is required and specified by the law. Teachers have to commit a certain part of their working time to professional development training in order to keep their position and license. Professional development of academic staff is not required or regulated by the law, but it is necessary for career progression and is mostly based on scientific work.

Stages of the education system

Educational system in Serbia includes preschool, primary, secondary and higher education.

Preschool education and care is intended for children from 6 months old until they start with primary education. It comprises three levels determined by the age of children:

  • nursery (children from 6 months to 3 years of age)
  • kindergarten (children from 3 to 5½ years of age)
  • preschool preparatory programme (PPP)

Nine months long preschool preparatory programme is the first part of compulsory education. It accepts children between 5 ½ and 6 ½ years old.

Primary education is compulsory, takes eight years and is carried out in two educational cycles.

  • Cycle I: 1st to 4th grade
  • Cycle II: 5th to 8th grade

Most subjects in Cycle I are taught by class teachers. Each subject in Cycle II is taught by subject teachers.

Public primary education is free and the only admission criterion is the age. All children have to be enrolled in primary school between 6 ½ and 7 ½ years old with the certificate of preschool programme attendance.

Secondary education consists of:

  • four years of general education
  • two to four years of vocational education

There are two types of grammar schools:

  • grammar schools of general type
  • specialized grammar schools intended for education of talented students in certain areas

Secondary vocational education is acquired at vocational school in 15 different areas.

Pupils are usually 15 years old when they enter secondary education. They are admitted to schools based on primary school achievements and final exam results.

Pupils who graduate from grammar schools can enroll at almost any faculty. Vocational school students can proceed to tertiary education at faculties and colleges fitting their specialisation. Students enrolled in three-year vocational education and training (VET) programmes can take additional exams to qualify for taking university entrance exams.

Higher education system has two types of studies:

  • academic studies organized at universities
  • applied studies organized either at colleges of applied studies or at universities

Reform of Serbian higher education system started by joining the Bologna Process in 2003. It received its legal support in 2005 by the adoption of a new Law on Higher Education. This law introduced the:

  • European Credit Transfer System
  • three-cycle system of study
  • diploma supplement

All new attendants study under the new reformed study programmes at all higher education institutions as of 2007/08.

Academic studies

The three-cycle system of academic studies includes:

  • Bachelor and undergraduate studies (lasting 3-4 years, carrying 180 to 240 ECTS),
  • Master and specialised studies (lasting 1-2 years with 60 to 120 ECTS)
  • PhD studies with a minimum of three years of study or 180 ECTS.

Integrated studies are introduced in the field of medical science and pharmacy. These study programmes last 6 or 5 years and carry 360 or 300 ECTS.

Applied studies

Vocational studies comprise two levels:

  • Colleges of Applied Studies, last three years and have 180 ECTS
  • Specialised Colleges of Applied Studies, carry 60 ECTS and last one year

Adult education can be formal or non-formal.

Formal is realised in regular primary or secondary schools or in schools specialised in adult education. Non-formal adult education is not in the school system. It is realised through different forms of professional development training.

Primary adult education takes from three to five years. It is organised by grades. Two grades are completed in 1 school year. Students who turned 15 can be admitted to adult education. There are 14 schools for adult education in Serbia. Regular primary schools can also implement programmes for primary adult education.

Schools for secondary adult education can offer:

  • a special curriculum for adult education
  • vocational training programme
  • training

To implement special programmes in the areas of adult education other associations or individuals have to meet prescribed standards for the implementation of special programmes and receive approval from the Ministry.

Source and more information: Eurydice

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