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Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina

6. Education and Training

6.1 General context

Last update: 19 February 2024

The publication “Youth Voices Reasrch on Young People in BIH” was created as part of the "Dialogue for the Future" project implemented by UNDPUNICEF, and UNESCO in partnership with the BiH Presidency. The "Dialogue for the Future" project is funded by the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office/Peacebuilding Fund (PBF).

Education and awareness

Formal education

When it comes to the respondents' education, the majority of respondents completed a three-year or four-year secondary education (58.6%). About 2% of young people have not completed any formal education and 7.6% have completed a university education. The respondents' parents most often completed secondary education, fathers somewhat more often than mothers (69.6% of fathers versus 57.1% of mothers). Comparing the results of the two surveys, we note the following: in 2016, we have about 2% of respondents who did not attend school (compared to 0% in 2011/12). That difference is within the limits of sampling error, which is below 3%. 12.5% ​​of young people completed primary school (compared to 9.3% in 2011/12), while 45.4% completed four-year secondary school (compared to 47.1% in 2011/12). 

The results for members of the Roma community and young people with difficulties (aged 18-30) from 2016 show that these categories of young people are significantly less educated compared to the general youth population. The largest percentage of respondents from the Roma community completed primary school or lower level of schooling (82.7% versus 78.8% in 2011/12). In 2016, 35.4% of young people with disabilities completed elementary school or lower school (compared to 38.6% in 2011/12). About 12% of the general population completed primary education or a lower level of education (compared to 8.1% in 2011/12). As we can see, in the period from 2011/2012 until 2016, there was a slight improvement in the educational status of members of the Roma community and young people with difficulties. Young people in BiH most often attend and graduate from public schools within BiH. The majority of respondents who completed formal education obtained it at a public school, that is, at a public university in BiH (97.5% in 2016 and 97.6% in 2011/12). A relatively low percentage of respondents was educated in private institutions (1.2% in 2016 and 2011/12). Also, a low percentage of respondents was educated abroad - 0.5%. Respondents who did not complete their education - whether it was elementary school, high school or university - talk about different reasons for not completing it. In 2016, respondents most often stated that it was for some other reasons: most often due to marriage or illness. Of the other reasons provided by the questionnaire, financial ones dominate. Those reasons were most often cited in the 2011/12 survey. years. The fact that the listed reasons, along with illness or disability, are the most frequently cited causes of not completing schooling indicates insufficient investment and concern for the education of young people, especially when it comes to people with disabilities. 5.6% of the respondents stated that they failed the school year during their education and studies. 

Respondents belonging to Roma communities (15.0%) failed the school year significantly more often than the general population (5.8%) and young people with difficulties (6.7%). The mentioned results could indicate that the existing educational plans and programs are adapted to the capabilities of the majority of students, but that they are not sufficiently adapted to students who belong to vulnerable population groups. Considering how much the acquired education will help them find employment in the future, the majority of respondents believe that it will be a mitigating circumstance to some extent (43.3%). Nevertheless, a relatively large number of young people, approximately 1/5, do not show such optimism. Lack of optimism could be one of the explanations for the lack of interest in completing education. Respondents who belong to vulnerable groups give the answers "not at all" and "insignificantly" significantly more often compared to respondents of the general population who give the answers "somewhat" and "to a large extent" significantly more often.

Based on Article 17 of the Law on the BiH Council of Ministers, the Council of Ministers of BiH, at its 24th session, held on January 28, 2021, made a Decision on the adoption of the document "Improving the Quality and Relevance of Vocational Education and Training in BiH - based on the conclusions from Riga (2021-2030)

Article 1.

(Subject of Decision)

(1) This decision adopts the document "Improving the quality and relevance of professional education and training in BiH - based on the conclusions from Riga (2021-2030)".

(2) The document "Improving the quality and relevance of professional education and training in BiH – based on the conclusions from Riga (2021-2030)" is an integral part of this Decision.

Article 2.

(Content and application of the Decision)

(1) The priorities and activities defined in this document are based on five goals for the development of vocational education and training in BiH, aligned with the Riga Conclusions agreed at the level of EU member states.

(2) The goal of the priorities defined in the document is that by 2030, the competent educational authorities in BiH achieve full implementation of the Conclusions from Riga, which will contribute to the integration of professional education and training in the so-called European area of ​​professional education and training and speed up the European path of BiH.

(3) The document adopted by this Decision represents a ten-year action framework for all institutions that, in accordance with their competences, are listed as bearers of activities for the realization of defined priorities.


Information about higher education in BiH

Higher education in BiH is regulated by the Framework Law on Higher Education in BiH. This law establishes: the organization of higher education in BiH, the responsibility of competent authorities in this area, the establishment of bodies for the enforcement of laws and international obligations of BiH, and the way to ensure quality in the field of higher education. The Law also established the basic principles and standards for obtaining higher education in BiH, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ETS No. 5, 1950) and its protocols, the Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the recognition and assessment of the quality of private higher education institutions, the Recommendation on access to higher education and the Recommendation on the research task of universities and other relevant principles of internationally recognized legal instruments whose contracting state is BiH, and in accordance with the Council of Europe/UNESCO Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education in the European Region (ETS No. 165, 1997).

On the basis of the Framework Law on Higher Education, the Law on Higher Education was harmonized in the RS, ten cantons in the FBiH and the Brcko District of BiH, with which BiH completely switched to the Bologna system of education.

Priorities for the development of higher education in BiH 2016 - 2026.

In the period 2013-2015, a joint project of the European Union and the Council of Europe entitled Strategic Development of Higher Dducation and Qualification Standards (financed from IPA funds) was implemented in BiH. One of its fundamental goals was the development of priorities for the development of higher education in BiH after 2015, the year in which the Strategic Directions for the Development of Education in BiH with an Implementation Plan 2008-2015 was highlighted and aimed at facilitating BiH's full accession to the European area of higher education. Good governance and management are reflected in a stimulating and effective framework of policies, strategies and legislation, as well as in the improvement of the quality assurance mechanism of higher education and its integral research component.

With the wholehearted engagement of the Project Advisory Group (made up of representatives of all public and several private universities), these recommendations were translated into Priorities for the Development of Higher Education in BiH 2016-2026. The priorities are grouped into seven key areas, each with its own leaders and participants, as well as the a timeframe for implementation. This document is the most comprehensive overview of activities to be undertaken to strengthen the development of higher education in BiH. 

Agency for the Development of Higher Education and Quality Assurance

The Agency for the Development of Higher Education and Quality Assurance was established by the Framework Law on Higher Education in BiH as an independent administrative organization. The BiH Council of Ministers, at its 33rd session held on January 10, 2008, adopted a Decision on the start of work and establishment of the Agency's seat. It was determined that the Agency headquarters is in Banja Luka.

The work of the Agency is independent and public. The independence of the Agency's work in the field of competence related to external quality assurance is achieved through legal, transparent and public procedures for the selection of domestic and international experts who evaluate and perform quality audits and make recommendations on the accreditation of higher education institutions.

Key recommendations for education in BiH

At the International Conference in Sarajevo, 10 key recommendations from the OECD Review on Evaluation and Education in BiH were discussed.

An international conference was held in Sarajevo on May 12, 2022, where 10 key recommendations from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Review on Evaluation and Assessment in Education in BiH were presented, and some of the useful policies and practices were discussed in more detail to improve the quality of evaluation of the work of teachers in the classroom. The conference was organized by UNICEF and OECD in partnership with the BiH Ministry of Civil Affairs and with the support of the Norwegian Embassy in BiH.

The ten key recommendations highlighted by OECD experts are: Evaluation as a function of supporting knowledge acquisition; Conducting external standardized tests for reliable measurement of student knowledge and competencies; Clear determination of expectations from teachers regarding reflection and development of teaching practice; Motivating and rewarding effective teachers; Preparing future teachers for the demands of the teaching job; Defining and monitoring the quality of school work; Self-evaluation of schools in order to improve the teaching process; Strengthening capacity to support schools; Setting goals and plans for improving education in BiH; Creating and providing comparable education data.

Analytical report - Opinion of the Commission on the application of BiH for membership in the European Union

On February 15, 2016, BiH submitted an application for membership in the European Union. Subsequently, on September 20, 2016, the Council of the European Union invited the Commission to submit its opinion on this request. This is in accordance with the procedure established in Article 49.

Treaty on the European Union provides that "Each European country that respects the values listed in Article 2 and is committed to promoting them, can apply for membership in the Union." BiH is in the early stages of preparation in the field of education and culture. The education system lacks common standards for different levels of education, as well as for the training of teaching staff and the evaluation of their performance. Curricula are outdated and are not aligned with the country's needs, leading to a large skills mismatch and a major barrier to graduates entering the labor market. It should be ensured quality, accreditation of higher education institutions and new study programs, as well as the development of common standards in education. BiH must harmonize the regulations at all levels with the framework laws on education, especially in terms of the mandatory application of the Common Core of Curricula. It is necessary to ensure social inclusion at all stages of education. Youth strategies should be developed and implemented across the country.

Recommendations of the Commission after the meeting of the Subcommittee

The Commission's recommendations after the Subcommittee meeting are grouped according to the relevant key priorities from the Commission's May 2019 Opinion on BiH's application for EU membership and reflect the short-term recommendations from the Report on BiH for 2022. The Commission recommended to the BiH authorities that strategies and legislation harmonized with the EU acquis/EU standards should reflect the common vision and commitment of the entire country, prioritize quality over speed, and be accompanied by appropriate consultations with stakeholders and by allocating adequate resources for the implementation of the objectives of the strategy/legislation. Furthermore, it is necessary to improve the collection of relevant statistics data and establish a mechanism for monitoring the implementation of strategies/legislation for the entire country. 

The problem of early school leaving in BiH

Due to the constitutional arrangement of the country, there is no unified education policy in BiH, that is, there is no departmental ministry of education at the level of the entire country. Currently, , there are 14 educational policies in BiH that are mostly autonomous. Each level of government (state, entity, canton, district) regulates its own educational policy. When it comes to education at the state level, it is under the authority of the Ministry of Civil Affairs. According to legal obligations, the Ministry receives and forwards international acts related to education and refers them to lower levels of government for adoption. Due to the autonomous operation of each unit from the available data and ways of conducting education, we did not see the possibility of networking educational systems into a single one, which would ultimately be more efficient and purposeful.

According to the Framework Law on Primary and Secondary Education in BiH, Article 4 states: every child has an equal right of access and equal opportunities to participate in appropriate education, without discrimination on any basis. Equal access and equal opportunities imply ensuring equal conditions and opportunities for everyone, for starting and continuing further education. Furthermore, in the same law, according to Article 16, primary education is mandatory for all children. Compulsory education begins in the calendar year in which the child reaches six years of age by April 1 and continues without interruption during a period that cannot be shorter than eight years. Competent educational authorities and schools in BiH are obliged, by June 2004 at the latest, to create all the necessary conditions for the normal start of nine-year primary school. Compulsory education is free. Free primary education is provided to all children. Article 17 states that secondary school education is available to everyone, in accordance with the success achieved in primary school, personal interest and abilities. Secondary education in public institutions is free in accordance with the law. 

Medium-Term Work Plan of the Agency for Preschool, Primary and Secondary Education 2020 - 2022 

In the draft of the Strategic Framework, prepared by the Directorate for Economic Planning, it was stated that of all the factors that increase the risk of economic uncertainty, unemployment, poverty and social exclusion, the most significant and influential is the level and quality of education.

It was also stated that quality education is the best tool for ensuring economic development, prevention of inequality, poverty and social inclusion. Early school leaving, low level of inclusion of children in preschool upbringing and education, inaccessibility of education, inequality, poor student achievements and education that is not connected to the labour market and that does not follow the new reform processes results in poorly educated people, who are uncompetitive on the labour market within BiH, but also outside it. It is important to note that the key strategies in the field of education expired at the end of 2015 (Strategic directions of education development in BiH 2008-2015Strategy for learning about entrepreneurship in educational systems in BiH 2012-2015Strategy to develop secondary vocational education and training in BiH 2007-2013). Urgent adoption of new strategies will contribute to the continuation of work on ensuring compatible educational policies at all decision-making levels and better correlation of educational programs with changes and needs of the labour market in BiH.

In 2011, the Agency for Preschool, Primary and Secondary Education adopted the first Strategic Plan of the Agency for Preschool, Primary and Secondary Education BiH 2012-2016, and after observing clearly defined needs for successful and quality implementation of education reform in BiH. Since the Agency for Preschool, Elementary and Secondary Education has its headquarters in Mostar and regional units in Sarajevo and Banja Luka, Strategic Plan is an important document for monitoring activities at the level of the institution, but also of all departments within the institution. The goal of this medium-term plan is to establish clear guidelines for the further development of the Agency for the period 2020-2022, at the level of medium-term and specific goals, in order to contribute as much as possible to the improvement of quality in education and to ensure its recognition and measurability at the international level.

Foundation for Mobility of Students and Teachers FBiH - FMON

Goals and activities of the Foundation

The main goal of the Foundation is to support the implementation of international academic and student mobility and exchange programs, encourage and stimulate the mobility of students and teachers, and develop and improve the field of higher education. The governing body of the Foundation is the Governing Board. The Governing Board consists of the president and two members.

The assets of the Foundation consist of:

Funds allocated by the Founder from the Budget of the FBiH and other levels of government, funds received from multilateral or bilateral support programs; voluntary contributions and gifts of natural and legal persons; income from interest, dividends, capital gains, rents, royalties and similar passive income; other income acquired in accordance with the Law on Associations and Foundations and the Statute of the Foundation.

Public call to co-finance of mobility projects of students and teachers of public higher education institutions with residence in the territory of the FBiH for participation in domestic or international conferences/congresses/scientific gatherings.

Funds to co-finance the project to support the mobility of students and teachers of public universities to participate in domestic or international conferences, congresses and scientific gatherings will be allocated from the Foundation's budget, approved by the FBiH Government  for 2022.

The selection of projects will be made for the following purpose:

  • Support for projects for the mobility of students and teachers of public higher education institutions in the FBiH for participation in domestic or international conferences/congresses/scientific gatherings.

More than 15,000 students from BiH went to study abroad

This is data for the academic year 2019/2020, which was prepared for Moja BiH by the Erudera platform.

Students from BiH, more precisely 15,095 of them, decided in the academic year 2019/2020 to attend higher education outside their homeland, and Erudera reveals to us which countries they chose for their studies. According to official data, BiH students enrolled in faculties in 30 countries in the mentioned academic year, but most of them chose the following countries:

  • Serbia - 6,073 students

  • Austria - 2,904 students

  • Croatia - 2,521 students

  • Slovenia - 866 students

  • Germany - 816 students

  • Turkey - 430 students

  • United States of America - 305 students

  • Saudi Arabia - 109 students

  • Czech Republic - 99 students

  • Italy - 92 students