Quality Inclusive Primary and Secondary Education
Every child deserves access to quality inclusive primary and secondary education
In 2009, major legislative reforms in Serbia contributed to changing the paradigm to quality inclusive education, based on nurturing an individualised approach for every child, removing various barriers affecting children’s learning, and transiting from a medical to a social model of disability.
While progress has been made, during 2020/2021 school year 4.204 children in primary school group and 2.320 children in high school age group were still enrolled in special schools and classes, outside the mainstream education system.
UNICEF also continues to support the Ministry of Education in prioritizing reform towards equitable, quality and inclusive education, with particular emphasis on supporting children from vulnerable groups and improving the quality of education, including by harnessing the potential of technology.
Despite the significant progress, this is an unfinished agenda that still requires investment to fulfil the rights of all children to learn in a mainstream and high-quality education system.
Programme Area Goals
UNICEF’s goal is to uphold the rights of boys and girls to quality inclusive education, particularly those affected by poverty and exclusion. In this regard efforts will continue to support primary and secondary schools and strengthen educators’ pre-service and in-service training to ensure delivery of quality and inclusive education by focusing on the learner’s perspective, and geared towards development of key competencies for life, including social and emotional skills, and child well-being. Key strategies include use of digital technologies for learning and increasing the capacities of the education system to deliver education in different settings and modes, including online and remotely and blended learning.
We will also support parental participation and focus on efficiency and effectiveness of budget allocation and spending to assure more equitable spending on education and improve services and outcomes.
By 2025, all children learn and develop their competencies through quality, inclusive education that fosters their well-being and active participation in the community. In that respect UNICEF will work towards that by 2025, teachers have the necessary skills and practices to apply modern pedagogical approaches of quality inclusive education and are supported through effective policies, monitoring and assessment.
Our goal is that by 2025:
- 85 per cent of children with low socioeconomic status attend upper secondary education.
- 35 per cent of children of Roma nationality (boys 35 per cent; girls 35 per cent) attend upper secondary education.
- 75 per cent of children age 15 reach at least minimum proficiency level in mathematics, reading and science.
Although progress has been made in terms of inclusion of vulnerable children in education, children with disabilities, children of Roma nationality, children with low socioeconomic status and children living in rural or remote areas are still less likely to benefit from inclusion in mainstream quality education than other children. This situation has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 64 per cent of enrolled students from Roma communities complete primary education 79 per cent of the poorest children attend secondary school
- Only 28 per cent of children from Roma background attend secondary education
- 4/10 15-year-old students do not achieve even the basic level of reading, mathematics and science literacy, rising to more than 50 per cent for children with low socio-economic status
Despite some progress in recent years, during the 2020/2201 school year 4,204 primary school children and 2,320 high school children with disabilities are still not educated in mainstream schools but continue to be enrolled in special schools, and only 2 per cent of students learn based on individual education plans.
Differences also exist between developed and underdeveloped municipalities and regions, and the level of economic development in many ways shapes the implementation of inclusive education. Additional support to children in need is often insufficient and inequitably distributed across municipalities, along with the support to schools and teachers to use new models and innovations, including dropout prevention and acceleration of quality learning using digital technologies. Incoherent policies and models of education funding aggravate the implementation and development of inclusive education.
UNICEF and partners will support the Ministry of Education and related education institutions in the following areas:
- Strengthening institutional capacities for policy development, financing, management, coordination and monitoring of quality inclusive education.
- Capacity development of teachers to apply modern pedagogical practices.
- Reform of the system for teachers’ professional development and modernization of initial teacher training.
- Using innovations and quality, modern inclusive practices in education, through improvement approaches to transform schools into learning organizations, developing support mechanisms for schools and teachers, and use of digital technologies.
UNICEF and the Ministry of Education, with support from the European Union, are implementing the projects ‘Bridging the digital divide in Serbia for the most vulnerable children’ and ‘Enhanced equal access to and completion of pre-university education for children in need of additional support in education’, to strengthen the resilience of the education system, ensure children’s equitable access to learning during times of emergency and improve the quality and inclusiveness of education for all children in Serbia.