Are schools fit for purpose?

A policy note that explores the extent to which North Macedonia is getting the most out of the country’s education resources.

Child raising hand in classroom
UNICEF/North Macedonia/Georgiev/2022


North Macedonia is facing a learning crisis, with students performing below the Western Balkan, EU and OECD averages. Most Western Balkan countries have been able to achieve better learning outcomes with slightly higher levels of expenditure in education. Sweeping demographic changes, including declining birth rates, migration and increasing urbanisation without major adjustments to the primary school network, have resulted in some schools having underutilized space and staff. In contrast, other schools are overcrowded and lack teachers, thus, having to organize classes in double and triple shifts – likely impacting learning outcomes.

Such changes have led to inefficient and inequitable allocation of resources. Currently, 87% of primary education expenditures go to cover the school staff salary costs, leaving insufficient funds for capital expenditures, updating and keeping facilities in good condition and investing in staff professional development. This is happening in a context where the overall budget allocations for education as a share of GDP and total budget expenditure has declined. This brief provides evidence and policy recommendations to urgently enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the primary education school network, whereas ensuring equity in school access.

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