Every girl and boy, everywhere, is entitled to high quality inclusive education.
What we do?
UNICEF Serbia supports national institutions in realizing every child’s right to a quality education, with particular focus on boys and girls coming from low socio-economic background families, children with disabilities, those from national minorities and refugee and migrant children.
UNICEF has been working in close cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development in:
- developing legal and strategic framework,
- strengthening institutional capacities and providing capacity building of education professionals,
- designing and piloting models to increase access to education and improve its quality and inclusiveness,
- establishing and strengthening networks of education professionals and institutions to support the reforms, and creating a wide partnership national institutions, the academic community and professionals that leads to broader reforms in the education sector.
Our priorities include improving access, quality and inclusivity to Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC primary and secondary education so that the most marginalized groups benefit equally and acquire the knowledge and skills required to lead a quality and meaningful life.
We provide professional assistance to the Ministry of Education to further advance and align the national policy and strategic framework to international standards, and support capacity development for teachers, expert associates and leaders to provide quality and inclusive education (IE). We also realize that the needs of the most marginalized children are complex and therefore introduce innovative approaches in addressing them, as well as intersectoral collaboration between the education, health, social and child protection sectors. This is particularly relevant for children with disabilities when it comes to support services to facilitate their inclusion in regular education. We promote evidence-based policy-making by supporting national and local institutions for data collection and research.
UNICEF promotes the use of digital technology and work to address the digital divide affecting the most marginalized children and supports provision of assistive technology essential for children with disabilities to fully participate in all aspects of life. We place special emphasis on building resilience of the education system and increasing preparedness for education continuity during emergencies (floods, earthquake, refugee and migrant crises and the COVID-19 pandemic).
We support children’s and young people’s empowerment to claim their rights and participate in decision-making concerning their education and life. This also includes working together with parents and families.
The right to education begins with the right of every child to have access to quality and inclusive early childhood education.
The introduction of inclusive education is comprehensive and requires changes at national, local and school level including reform in education financing and governance. Although the foundations for inclusive education are in place, results are not yet achieved uniformly and at scale. Despite Serbia’s significant investment in Inclusive Education reforms in the last decade, data indicate that many children are still left behind:
7% of children aged 3 to 5 living in Roma settlements are covered by pre-school education
79 per cent of the poorest children attend secondary school
92 per cent of children living in Roma settlements are included in primary education
Only 28 per cent of children living in Roma settlements are included in secondary education, including 27 per cent of Roma girls
64 per cent of enrolled students living in Roma settlements complete primary education
61 per cent of enrolled students from Roma settlements complete secondary education
- Although the number of children in special schools/classes has been decreasing, in the school year 2020/21, 4,204 primary school children and 2,320 secondary school children were still enrolled in special schools and classes.
External evaluations of schools found that almost one quarter of primary schools and one third of secondary schools did not meet the school quality standards related to support to children from vulnerable groups. This fact indicates that the already developed and proven school support mechanisms should be upscaled (e.g. network of professionals, model institutions for IE, horizontal learning) and that additional support measures are needed, such as establishment and development of resource centres for supporting education of children with disabilities.
Most recent findings from PISA 2018 study show that nearly four in ten 15-year-old students are not performing even at the basic level of reading, mathematics, and science literacy. This places them well below OECD average, although the results are comparable to those of neighbouring countries.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, many children from vulnerable groups were not able to participate in distance learning in the school year 2019/20 – for example, 17 per cent of Roma students in primary education.
We are supporting education reform aimed at quality inclusive education, including dropout prevention, antidiscrimination and data management. We have provided technical input for development of the new Education Strategy 2030, based on global knowledge and locally generated data and research.
Serbia has introduced major reforms over the past decade aimed at shifting the culture of teaching and learning in schools to be more learner-centred and to provide quality learning experiences for learners. These reforms, which included among other things the introduction of new learning standards and a competency-based curriculum, require an important and sustained investment in improving teachers’ competencies. Professional development of teachers is seen as the main instrument for the implementation of the reformed curricula in pre-university education.
UNICEF supported the Ministry of Education and the Institute for Improvement of Education (IIE) for capacity-building of education professionals in quality inclusive education, through blended learning, classical training, on-line, mentoring, coaching, peer learning. The IIE Learning Platform for Educators, established with UNICEF’s support, is an important foundation for strengthening capacity building for teachers.
Piloting and modelling represent the foundation of UNICEF’s support, serving to inform policy reforms, test innovations and assess new approaches for policy implementation, especially in the areas of dropout prevention, inclusion of refugee and migrant children, and broadening access to preschool education.
We also supported the Ministry of Education to respond to COVID-19 crisis in the preschool education system, improving the quality of distance learning, providing psychosocial support to students, parents and teachers, and developing monitoring for e-learning, especially for the most vulnerable children.