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
Download the PDF46th_Session_UN-UPR_Country_Review_North_Macedonia_S
[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