National report on inclusive education presented
Progress achieved in inclusion of children from vulnerable groups
Belgrade, 23 November 2022 - Although conditions are in place for children from vulnerable groups to have equal access to education in the Republic of Serbia, there is still more work to be done on their full inclusion. The groups of children who most often have problems with inclusion and staying in inclusive education are children with developmental and/or other disabilities, as well as members of the Roma community and children of a lower socioeconomic status. These are just some of the conclusions of the National Report on Inclusive Education, which was presented today at the National Assembly, at the meeting organized by the Ministry of Education, UNICEF and the Delegation of the European Union to Serbia. The findings of this report will be the starting point for planning and implementing measures of importance for the development of this sector.
The process of transforming education into inclusive education in the Republic of Serbia began in 2009, with the entry into force of the Law on Foundations of the Education System, and many visible results have been achieved since then. The legislative, strategic and institutional framework has been largely reformed in areas relevant for the realization and protection of the rights of children from vulnerable groups, including changes in the field of education and anti-discrimination, as well as capacity-building for the implementation of inclusive education at the level of educational institutions, and at the local and national level. The reforms have also intensively continued through the adoption of the new Education Development Strategy until 2030.
“Since the introduction of judicial reforms in 2009, continual progress has been made in the implementation of inclusive education, primarily through an increase in the number of children from vulnerable groups at schools and preschools, in which the quality and capacity for implementation of inclusive education have been improved, as well as in the creation of an additional support system for children and students and their families. The number of children under the age of 3 included in preschool education programs is increasing, and in the school year of 2020/2021, for the first time in the past ten years, it was higher than 30 percent. The number of students exercising the right to an individual educational plan is continuously increasing, the number of primary school students at schools for children with developmental disabilities is decreasing as education at regular schools becomes accessible and good quality, while the number of students with developmental and other disabilities in secondary education is increasing to provide them with qualifications for the labor market. At primary schools, 17,000 students are being taught according to individualized teaching and learning programs, unique for each student. The number of personal assistants has increased, and this service is used by over 1,800 children with developmental and other disabilities, and support to these students.is also provided by 260 teaching assistants at schools. The Republic of Serbia has largely reformed the legislative, strategic and institutional framework, and although significant progress has been made, the data from the report indicate that certain challenges still remain, so in the coming period we must continue to work systematically on improving inclusivity of the education system,” said Branko Ružić, Minister of Education of the Republic of Serbia.
The inclusion of every child in the teaching and learning process is one of the main goals of the European Union's support to the process of reform of education in Serbia. For this purpose, the European Union has invested more than EUR 100 million in this sector since 2003.
“Serbia has made great strides in the past 13 years since a strong commitment to inclusive education was made. However, today’s report also indicates that there are children who are still left behind for various social or economic reasons. Keeping all these and other different needs in mind, education systems need to keep evolving to become flexible enough and ready to embrace every child, youth, or adult on their lifelong learning pathway and for this all stakeholders must be engaged. Quality and inclusiveness are among the fundamental strategic priorities that the EU strives to in its education system, and it will continue to provide coordinated support to Serbian education system as well,” said Emanuele Giaufret, Ambassador and Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Serbia.
The Delegation of the European Union to Serbia and UNICEF have been supporting the efforts of the Ministry of Education in improving inclusive education in the Republic of Serbia for years. This process particularly pertains to supporting the development of legal, strategic, institutional, human and technical capacities for planning, implementation, coordination and monitoring of inclusive education and its promotion as quality education for every child.
Data from the new external evaluation cycle show that among the most poorly achieved indicators are those that directly or indirectly show the inclusivity level of schools, and that there is significant room for improving various aspects of work of educational institutions. At the local level, there is often a lack of appropriate models and mechanisms that enable, support and improve the educational and social inclusion of children from vulnerable groups.
“The National Report on Inclusive Education is a good guide for how to proceed. Improving the capacities and empowering teachers and schools as agents for change is the first step. When teachers are motivated and skilled to include all children into their classes, the level and standard of learning increases – both for children with and without disabilities. When children learn in a mainstream class in mainstream schools where diversity is celebrated, education delivers its best outcomes for all students. In this way, social inclusion is enabled, while discrimination and education segregation are prevented, resulting in a decrease of school drop-out,” believes Deyana Kostadinova, UNICEF Representative in Serbia.
Accessible, quality, and fair education is only possible if all children, including those from vulnerable social groups, are included in a school system that provides them with quality support to learn what they need for life. The essence of inclusive education is to find the most effective way to give every child full support to learn together with their peers and develop the skills they need to progress. This is an investment in the present and the future - an investment in the children of today and in those who will shape our society in the future.
You can download the report in Serbian and the Executive Summary in Serbian and English HERE.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/serbia