National and local authorities agree on the need to optimize primary school resources for more equitable and quality education for every child in North Macedonia

A high-level meeting on primary education ends with agreement on the need to improve the allocation of resources between primary schools and secure sufficient funding for municipalities

10 November 2022
UNICEF ECA RD Afshan Khan and UNICEF Representative Patrizia DiGiovanni discussion at Government of North Macedonia
UNICEF/North Macedonia/Georgiev/2022

Skopje, 10 November 2022 - UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia Afshan Khan joined today a high-level meeting led by the Deputy Prime Minister for good governance policies, Ms. Slavica Grkovska, to discuss efforts to improve efficiency, effectiveness and equity in government spending in primary education.

During the meeting that brought together Ministers, members of the Parliament, representatives of the World Bank and mayors, partners concurred that improving how resources are allocated and utilized is key to ensuring all primary schools can deliver quality education in line with national educational and infrastructural standards.

“The human capital of a country depends on quality education. A society can only progress if it has an education system of high-quality, which will prepare human resources who will drive positive social change. Unfortunately, all international reports show that we have a problem with the knowledge and vocational training of young people. The alarm has been sounded, both for the Government and local governments, as well as for all education sector employees.  If we do not take immediate concrete measures, it will be too late. We no longer have the right to make mistakes, we no longer have the right to improvise, we no longer have the right to political party divisions, we no longer have the right to label reforms as ‘ours’ and ‘yours’. Let's all roll up our sleeves together. Let's reach a consensus that education and our young people are most important to us, and let's get to work,” said Ms. Slavica Grkovska, Deputy President of the Government in charge of good governance policies.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than half of all fifteen-year-olds in North Macedonia were failing to meet basic proficiency levels in reading and math, which is below the average for the Western Balkan and the European Union. School closures and disruptions to learning during the pandemic have increased learning losses.

“Adequate resources to schools and tailored support to teachers are critical to ensuring every child can learn and reach his or her full potential. The Government of North Macedonia has made tremendous efforts to increase investment and improve efficiency and equity in education spending so that every child, no matter who or where they are, is accessing quality education. Getting every child’s learning back on track requires strong partnerships and UNICEF remains committed to working with the government and all partners to make that a reality” said Ms. Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia.

An analysis supported by UNICEF and World Bank shows how demographic changes led to 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. There is a need to improve efficiency and the equitable allocation of resources.

“The Government is working to bring the country’s public expenditures on education as a percentage of GDP closer to the levels of developed countries, thus ensuring sufficient funding for capital expenditures, teaching aids, inclusive education, education in languages of various ethnic communities and teacher professional development,” said Mr. Jeton Shaqiri, Minister of Education and Science.

UNICEF is supporting national and local authorities to strengthen their capacities to finalize and implement a new system for transparent and equitable allocation of funding for primary schools. Ten pioneer municipalities are currently receiving support to prepare local optimisation plans, in close consultation with students, parents and teachers.

This initiative is part of UNICEF’s cooperation with the World Bank in support of the Ministry of Education and Science efforts to improve the adequacy, efficiency, effectiveness and equity of public spending in primary and secondary education.

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