Country information for Serbia - Legislation and policy
Political commitment in Serbia aims to protect human rights and educational opportunities for all. According to Article 71 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia:
Everyone shall have the right to education.
Primary education is mandatory and free, whereas secondary education is free.
All citizens shall have access under equal conditions to higher education. The Republic of Serbia shall provide for free tertiary education to successful and talented students of lower property status in accordance with the law.
Establishment of schools and universities shall be regulated by the law.
During the 1980s, Serbia and other former Yugoslav republics recognised the rights of children with special needs (United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons). They ratified the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 and took part in the Education For All initiative.
Serbia signed the Salamanca Statement (1994) and took part in the Decade of Roma Inclusion (2005). It ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol in 2009 (United Nations, 2017) and has been a member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) since 2000.
Recent reforms and legislation
Several national strategies aimed to ensure diversity in education from the early 2000s, such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (2003), the Strategy for Improving the Position of Persons with Disabilities in the Republic of Serbia (2006) and the Strategy of Education Development in Serbia 2020.
Multiple inter-sectorial policies have influenced the preparation and implementation of inclusive education in Serbia:
- the Common Action Plan for Improvement of Roma Education in Serbia, prepared as part of Serbia’s activities in the Decade of Roma Inclusion (2004);
- the Millennium Development Goals (2005);
- the National Action Plan for Children (2004);
- the National Report prepared for UNESCO (2008);
- the country’s own Educational Development Concept: Equity, Quality, Efficiency (2008).
In 2009, the Law on the Foundations of the Education System was adopted, confirming the Republic of Serbia’s commitment to the comprehensive implementation of inclusion in education. The Law has been amended several times since then and the Parliament adopted the new version of the Law on the Foundations of the Education System in 2017. Key principles of Serbia’s education system in this regard include:
- equal access without discrimination;
- adaptation to individual educational needs;
- human and child rights, dignity of each person (Official Gazette, 88/2017, Article 7).
Serbia has both direct and indirect legislative support for inclusive education. The direct legislative support concerns the inter-sectorial committees, the individual education plans and teams for additional learner support, the school inclusive education teams and the pedagogical assistants. The indirect legislative support concerns, for instance, career counselling, affirmative action for learners from vulnerable groups, early school leaving, prioritising inclusive education in in-service teacher training (Friedman, E., Pavlović Babić, D. and Simić, N., 2015. Inclusive Education in Serbia: policies, practice and recommendations. Unpublished report, p. 16), free pre-primary and primary school education, adapting exams, etc.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development is in the process of preparing the National Qualifications Framework. The Serbian government has also been working on creating non-formal education provision recognised by the labour market (European Commission, 2016).
The Group for Social Inclusion
In April 2015, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development established a Group for Social Inclusion (Grupa za socijalnu inkluziju, currently integrated into the Group for Education of Minorities, Social Inclusion and Protection Against Violence and Discrimination), on the following premises:
Inclusive education is not just a question of accessibility or process, but a change in basic values and beliefs. There are significant human, economic and social reasons for inclusive education as a means of building relationships among individuals, groups and within society as a whole (Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, 2018).
The Group aims to ensure continuous improvement in the quality of education through the development of an inclusive culture, policies and practices at all levels of education. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation provide technical and financial support.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development aims to improve co-operation with other ministries, independent bodies, professional associations and civil society organisations to achieve the following specific objectives in inclusive education:
- improving legislation in the field of inclusive education and social inclusion;
- developing a system of support for children and young people by establishing effective inter-institutional co-operation;
- improving the competences of educational institutions for quality (inclusive) education;
- creating an inclusive environment for learning and development;
- developing and implementing mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating inclusive education (Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, 2018).
Last updated 13/04/2018