Universal Periodic Review of North Macedonia

This report drafted by Broken Chalk contributes to the fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for the Republic of North Macedonia. This report focuses exclusively on human rights issues in North Macedonia’s education field.

  • The Balkan country of North Macedonia has made remarkable educational progress since gaining independence in 1991. Despite a decade of complicated development in the years following independence, due firstly to the conflicts in former Yugoslavia and Kosovo and then to tensions with Bulgaria and Greece over its own identity, North Macedonia has developed a more proactive policy over the past decade. The country is one of the founders of the Open Balkan Initiative, which aims to bring the countries of the southern Balkans closer together economically and culturally. The improvement in bilateral relations with Greece in 2018, with the Prespa agreements, has raised hopes of reducing regional tensions. This new climate is favourable for creating new initiatives to strengthen cooperation in culture and education. A few Erasmus programs are offered between North Macedonian and other European universities. University exchanges with neighbouring countries, including members of the Open Balkans initiative and the European Union, are the best way to reduce tensions in the Western Balkans by bringing young people together in dialogue.
  • The country’s literacy rate, although below the European Union average (98.7%), is ahead of other developed countries such as Greece (97.7%) and Singapore (96.8%). 2002, the literacy rate was 96%, compared with 98.1% in 2015. The female literacy rate rose from 90.93% in 1994 to 96.70% twenty years later in 2014. In addition to these results, public spending on education fell from 3. 30% in 2002 to 3.7% in 2016. Moreover, in general, the education budget in North Macedonia has systematically lost since it gained independence in 1991 (4.7% of GDP in 1992). Education is compulsory from the age of 6 up to 15, which is lower than in Western European countries, where schooling lasts, on average, until the age of 16 [i]. School dropout rates vary from one category of the population to another. North Macedonia is ethnically diverse: 26% Albanian, 3.41% Turkish-speaking and 2.53% Roma. The Roma are the primary school dropout victims despite forming only a small ethnic minority.
  • The North Macedonian curriculum is similar to that of OECD countries. Higher education and research and development have received little attention from the North Macedonian public authorities: the budget for higher education has fallen from 1.1% in 2010 to 0.8% in 2021. Higher education is neither free nor fully covered by the state. Students are eligible for grants based not on income but on academic performance. Students are categorised into “state-funded” or “self-funded” groups based on their prior academic performance. State-funded students, representing high-achieving individuals, contribute partially to their education costs and pay administrative fees. Special exemptions exist for disadvantaged groups like disabled individuals, unemployed youths, and security force families, and their number is capped. Self-funded students follow a fixed tuition fee model. Similar fees are applied to students in short-cycle higher education programs. So, even if this system is meritocratic in principle, it excludes students whose families do not have the means to pay for private tuition or don’t attach much importance to reading or culture. [ii]

By Camille Boblet-Ledoyen

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[i] European Commission, “Republic of North Macedonia: Organisation of the education system and structure”, Eurydice Network, 9 June 2022.

[ii] OECD, “The education system in the Republic of North Macedonia”, OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education: North Macedonia, June 2019.

[iii] UPR Database, “Recommendations received by North Macedonia”, Cycle 2 (2012 – 2016). 

[iv] Minority Rights, “Minorities and indigenous peoples in Macedonia: Roma”, October 2020.

[v] World Bank, “North Macedonia Needs to Continue Investing in Education and Health to Improve Its Human Capital”, Press release, September 16th, 2020.

[vi] Staletović, Branimir; Pollozhani, Lura, “To resist or not to resist: “Skopje 2014” and the politics of contention in North Macedonia”, East European Politics, November 2022.

[vii] Eurostat, “Enlargement countries – statistics on research and development”, May 2023.

[viii] European Parliament, “Artificial Intelligence: threats and opportunities”, June 2023.

[ix] Elena Kjosevska and Sanja Proseva, “Mental health in schools in Republic of North Macedonia”, SHE Assembly, June 3rd, 2021.

[x] UNICEF, “Exploring the interplay between wellbeing and academic attainment of children”, conference in Skopje, 9 March 2022.

[xi] Aldrup, Karen; Carstensen, Bastian; Klusmann, Uta, “Is Empathy the Key to Effective Teaching? A Systematic Review of Its Association with Teacher-Student Interactions and Student Outcomes”, Educational Psychology Review, March 2022.

Cover image by Nato North Atlantic Treaty Organization via flickr

Summary of North Macedonia 2022 Report

Accompanying document Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions

Writer: Paul Schamp

Editor: Olga Ruiz Pilato


  • Despite improvements in the legal framework, action to provide equal access to education for children with disabilities is at an early stage.
  • More work and legislation are required for the protection of educational rights of boys and girls in educational-correctional facilities
    • Boys in juvenile educational-correctional facility near Tetovo did have access to education between September 2021 and June 2022, but conditions have improved.
    • Girls in the educational-correctional facility in the female ward of Idrizovo prison have not had appropriate education for a year. Legislation should be amended to find long-term solutions for educational-correctional measures for girls.
  • Progress in Roma inclusion through Roma inclusion strategy 2020-2030
    • Strategy does not address participation, empowerment and capacity-building
    • No systematic response to address street children
    • No measures taken to prevent irregular attendance of Roma children in primary education, and no measures to reintegrate students who are not enrolled or who have left without completing it.
    • Segregation in schools remains high
  • The education of asylum-seeking children in primary schools needs improvement
    • Additionally, no systematic Macedonian language and extracurricular classes are offered to foster an easy transition between education levels, older children continue to miss education opportunities due to these gaps.
  • Improvements in reforming education curricula and reducing skills mismatches is hampered by lack of funding and capacity
    • Progressed well in terms of number of people with higher educational attainment, however curricula are not well suited to equip graduates with necessary skills to match labor demand
    • State financial support is insufficient
    • Coordination between education sector and businesses is weak
    • Public spending on education and training amounted to 3.3% of GDP in 2020 compared to an average of 3.75 of GDP in the past five years. However, it has increased to 3.76% of GDP in 2021.
      • This is below the EU level of 5% and below peer-country averages
    • Education spending is inefficiently distributed between municipalities on account of outdated formulas for redistribution of public education funds
  • In 2022, care and education are delivered in 77 public and 30 private kindergartens
  • North Macedonia is moderately prepared in the area of education, but limited progress was made in the reporting period
    • Still impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic
    • Implementation of the 2018-2025 education strategy is slow
    • Slow development of a proper monitoring system
  • Recommendations from last year’s report were only partially addressed. In particular, North Macedonia should
    • Adopt the vocational education and training (VET) law and establish and operate the regional VET centers.
    • Finalize and adopt the law for adult education
    • Improve access to quality education for all, in particular children with disabilities and Roma children
  • Enrollment remains low
    • Only 45% of children from 3-6 years of age in North Macedonia were enrolled in licensed childhood education institutions (2020-2021)
      • Slight improvement to the previous year.
    • Enrollment in higher education remains low. The number of students enrolled in the first year of studies has been declining in the last 3 years
    • However, the number of ROMA students enrolled in higher education rose from 46% to 52% in the last three years.

Cover image : https://www.balcanicaucaso.org/eng/Areas/North-Macedonia/North-Macedonia-new-premier-new-European-perspectives-215366