Summary 2022 Enlargement package Bosnia and Herzegovina. A focus on the educational issues.

Freedom of expression and non-discrimination

According to the 2022 European Commission Enlargement Package in relation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, no progress was made in adopting countrywide human rights and anti-discrimination strategies. The 2009 law on the prohibition of discrimination is still not applied effectively in Bosnia Herzegovina. In addition, disputes over education continue and systemic solutions for ensuring inclusive and non-discriminatory education are not yet in place. In particular, the common core curriculum is not completed or applied throughout the country, and the availability of teaching in the national groups of subjects remains limited. Furthermore, no progress was made in eliminating the practice of ‘two schools under one roof’ and the name of the Bosnian language is not recognised in schools in the Republika Srpska entity, leading to recurrent school boycotts. Finally, persons with disabilities remain among the most vulnerable groups and continue to face hurdles to access education, healthcare and social assistance. The report underlines how the issue of accessibility to public buildings needs to be addressed in a systematic manner.

Education as a service for refugees and migrants

Some progress has been made in providing essential services to refugees and migrants, in cooperation with humanitarian partners. However, the actions in practice are still limited. A 2021 national report underlines for instance how only the Una-Sana and Sarajevo cantonal authorities provide access to legal guardianship and facilitate access to education for unaccompanied children.

Education in relation to the labour market

The European Commission states that one of the reasons of the persistence of high unemployment in the country is a mismatch of education curricula with the labour market needs. In order to support long-term growth, Bosnia and Herzegovina should in particular improve the quality of education and training, in particular by accelerating the modernisation of curricula with a view to better alignment with labour market needs.

Education and innovation section

Investment in education remains inadequate, highly fragmented and poorly coordinated, leading to varied standards within the country.

According to the European Commission, public spending on education accounted for some 4% of GDP in 2020. When adding private spending and support by foreign donors, the overall amount stands at nearly 5% of GDP. Despite this significant spending, in particular when taking into account the number of students, it is underlined that the system fails to provide the country’s labour force with the skills and knowledge necessary for a smooth integration in the labour market. Furthermore, the insufficient coordination leads to a lack of common standards for various levels of education, as well as in differences in the quality of teachers’ training and performance evaluation.

In addition, teaching curricula continue to be outdated and are still not sufficiently aligned with the country’s needs. The results of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s participation to the 2018 PISA study indicate that the students’ performance ranks well below the OECD average, which is a clear impediment for the country’s competitiveness and growth potential. Unfortunately, Bosnia and Herzegovina refrained from participating in the follow-up study.

Furthermore, spending on research and innovation is limited and impeded by the low degree of cooperation and coordination among the various levels of government, leading to a low efficiency of the overall system.

Finally, the absence of an efficient funding system is another factor preventing the country’s innovation policy from achieving better results for the funds spent. The country’s research capacities remain limited, while brain drain continues, most notably in the health, medical, and IT sectors with no systematic measures having been introduced so far to address the issue.

Equal treatment men and women

The principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and social policy is regulated by the laws on gender equality and antidiscrimination, and by the entity-level labour laws. These laws contain provisions on gender equality covering different areas (employment, education, training and professional qualification) but in practice the enforcement of non-discrimination legislation remains low.

Education and Culture

The European Commission states that Bosnia and Herzegovina is at an early stage of preparation in the area of education and culture. It is stated that there was no specific progress in the area, with Bosnia and Herzegovina failing to participate in 2021 PIRLS or 2022 PISA. In particular, a fully functional system of accreditation of higher education institutions and in particular study programmes is still lacking.

According to the European Union, Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to align legislation at all levels of government with the framework laws on education, and ensure application of the common core curriculum based on learning outcomes. Social inclusion at all stages of education needs to be ensured. Youth strategies across the country should be developed and implemented. Finally, the European Commission provides specific recommendations to Bosnia and Herzegovina:

→ to extend and update the action plan for the national qualification framework (NQF) and establish an inter-sectoral commission for NQF;

→to ensure a fully functional system of (re-)accreditation of higher education institutions and study programmes across the country;

→ to ensure continued participation in international assessment studies and implementation of findings to improve PISA results.

Furthermore, in the specific area of education and training some other issues have to be underlined. First of all, education should be provided to children with special needs, particularly in terms of ensuring the necessary infrastructure, provisions, transportation and school assistants to support both children and teachers. Secondly, the absence of a mechanism to systematically measure or monitor the quality of education inputs, outputs, or outcomes needs to be taken into consideration. Finally, the European Commission underlines the lack of common standards for the different levels of education, as well as in teacher training and performance evaluation.


Written by Serena Bassi

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