MDG 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education

Children in a classroom at a Child-Friendly School in Tuzla. UNICEF’s Child-Friendly Schools project directly supports the implementation of education reform by promoting a learning environment that supports participatory teaching and learning. Additionally, the project works to improve access to school for excluded groups, such as children with disabilities, returnee children and minorities.Children in a classroom at a Child-Friendly School in Tuzla.

At the state level, the Sector of Education within the Ministry of Civil Affairs is in charge of coordination of activities at the level of BiH. The institutions in charge of education within the FBiH are the 10 cantonal ministries of education, while the Federal Ministry of Education has a coordinating role at the FBiH level. In RS the institution in charge of education is the Ministry of Education and Culture. In Brcko District the body responsible for education is the Sector of Education of the Government of Brcko District. Coordination of the operations of the 14 ministries is facilitated by the Conference of Ministers of Education. Fragmented administrative structure is also reflected in its funding mechanisms: BiH has 13 education budgets (2 entities, 10 cantons and one in BD) financed by public funds. 

The percentage of GDP spent on education in BiH in 2011 was 4.88% and this is one of identified indicators for monitoring realisation of education MDG in BiH. Reaching the unrealistically high set target percentage of 7.5% by 2015 implies a significant increase in expenditure on education by 2015; however, this percentage is not in accordance with the set entity targets of 5.6% in the FBiH and 4.5% in RS. While public spending on education is in line with comparable countries and there are no large differences in different parts of the country (4% of GDP for RS and Brcko District and 5% for the FBiH) the complex administration and finance system for education leads to some cost duplication and inefficiencies: 77.7% of the education budget is spent on wages in BiH.

Pre-school Education

A State level Strategy for Preschool Education was adopted in 2004. Another important step forward in legislative reform on early childhood education was made in October 2007 when the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH adopted the Framework Law on Preschool Upbringing and Education. The most significant change brought by this Law is defined in Article 16 related to obligatory preschool education in the year prior to primary education for 5-year old children.

Attendance of early childhood education increased from 6.4% in 2006 to 13.1% in 2011/2012 in BiH, which is still low and constitutes the lowest enrolment rate in the region. Only 2% of children from the poorest quintile attended pre-school education programmes and just 1.5% of Roma children.   In the 2012/2013 school year within the territory of BiH there were 243 preschool institutions with 18,817 children. Compared to the previous school year the number of preschool institutions was 8.9% higher and the number of children in preschool institutions had increased by 8.8%; the number of employees was also 4.3% higher.

Primary Education

While the primary school enrolment rate has remained continually high in BiH since 2000, at over 97%, it appears that 2-3% of the population of primary school age remains extremely hard to reach. A startling 46.2% of Roma children dropped out at some point from primary school.  Some progress has been made since the baseline year (from 97% in 2000 to 97.6 in 2012) but 100% enrolment by the end of 2015 is perhaps unlikely. Yet the rate is on a par with the EU27 enrolment rate of 97.6%. The final grade survival rate compared to the number who enrolled in the 1st grade has also been continually high (99% in 2000 and 99.5% in 2012) and 100% might be reached by the end of 2015.

Secondary Education

At the beginning of the 2012/2013 school year in the territory of BiH, 166,122 pupils were enrolled in 313 schools, which constitute 2,838 pupils or a 1.7% increase in comparison with the previous year. At the beginning of the 2012/2013 school year there were 13,045 teachers included in the education process, out of which 7,643 or 58.6% were women. The secondary school attendance rate was slightly lower compared to primary school rate (92%); in comparison, only 22.6% from the Roma population attended secondary education, which represents an extreme inequality between the Roma and the mainstream population. Just 1% of children of secondary school age were attending primary school, while 7% were not attending school at all. Generally, the lower the household wealth the lower the percentage of children in secondary school: the lowest proportion of children was found amongst those from the poorest wealth quintile (84%). The Gender Parity Index for secondary school was 1.02 (1.00 in FBiH and 1.06 in RS).

Higher Education

The higher education enrolment rate in 2001 was 19.8%. During the period from 2001 to 2012 the number of students in higher education institutions almost doubled. The target enrolment rate of 35% by 2015 has been achieved (38% in 2011).  In the period from 2000 to 2012 the number of students who graduated increased approximately five times, with females outperforming males in higher education attainment.  

Vulnerable Groups and Inclusive Education

Two young beneficiaries of the Street Children Project, implemented by United Nations Volunteers, the local NGO “Zemlja djece” and “TELEX Teenage Centre” from Tuzla. This project highlights the problem of social exclusion in Bosnia and Herzegovina and offers a spectrum of educational, counseling and recreational activities for street children in Tuzla, also encouraging volunteer actions of Tuzla youth.Two young beneficiaries of the Street Children Project, implemented by UNV, NGO “Zemlja djece” and “TELEX Teenage Centre” from Tuzla.

The most vulnerable groups from the education and poverty perspectives are minority groups (Roma girls in particular), children with special needs and displaced persons. 

Adequate efforts need to be made to implement the principle of inclusiveness mandated by the education laws. Existing practices and prejudices still affect a large number of children with disability. These children are marginalised starting from early childhood. It begins when children with disability are not given access to basic education in mainstream education institutions, teaching staff who were not prepared to work with them and school curricula that were not flexible or adapted to these children’s special educational needs.

The existing school networks do not facilitate the return of refugees and displaced persons. The fact that there are often no schools in their pre-war villages/towns or that the closest school is often far are also reasons for the slow return. 

The education reform strategies, laws and various policy documents promote the principles of equal access, availability, acceptance, effectiveness and official recognition, non-discrimination and the absence of segregation in education. However, in practice, pupils and teachers continue to experience ethnic and religious segregation, intolerance and division. 

Education From a Gender Perspective

In BiH the indicator that monitors the participation of men and women in education from primary to university shows that the level of participation of boys and girls in primary and secondary education is almost equal, while female students outnumber their male counterparts when it comes to enrolment and graduation from institutions of higher education. However, the education of women in BiH is especially low compared to EU standards. From the gender perspective this is alarming evidence.  

Education - Employment gaps

The high youth unemployment rate in BiH is partially due to the country’s generally poor education outcomes and the emerging skills gap. Even when young men and women choose an appropriate career field they often do not have the required ‘soft skills’ to succeed, such as entrepreneurship and communication skills. To enhance youth employability the country should further promote entrepreneurial learning amongst primary and secondary school pupils and support initiatives that empower young people. This could include increased cooperation between the education sector and the world of work for the purpose of aligning graduate profiles with labour market needs, supporting and increasing youth entrepreneurship and creating the conditions to provide professional orientation services from primary school onward.