14.2 NATIONAL REFORMS IN SCHOOL EDUCATION
Primary Education Improvement Project (PEIP)
The Primary Education Improvement Project (PEIP) project is continually supporting the reform activities of the Ministry for Education and Science. https://mon.gov.mk/category/?id=2072
Concept of Primary Education
The Bureau for Development in Education performed detailed research on teachers opinion and experience on the realization of the Concept during teaching time and its benefits and challenges.
The establishment, organisation and management of the primary education is regulated with the Law on Primary Education (2019) and supported with the Concept Note on Primary Education (2021) and National Standards for Students Achievements (2021).
Activities are undertaken to develop new Concept on secondary education and new Law on secondary education.
Concept of Primary Education
The new Concept of primary education was adopted in march 2021 to be implemented in school year 2021/2022.
Primary Education Improvement Project (PEIP)
The Primary Education Improvement Project (PEIP) development objective is to improve conditions for learning in primary education in North Macedonia.
The Project would support the Government of North Macedonia’s initiatives geared to:
- Improve learning environment at the primary level;
- Increase number of primary education teachers with proven professional practice in two core teacher professional competencies i.e., teaching and learning and creating a stimulating learning environment;
- Improve quality of teaching practices; and
- Implement school improvement plans that use performance data and monitoring tools for improving student learning.
The project will be organized around three main elements that need to be aligned in order to be complementary to each other.
Component 1 focuses on school-level interventions, which are closest to students and most likely to impact learning while also mitigating and recovering learning losses generated by COVID-19. Two enabling elements are system-level reforms that would create the necessary enabling conditions so the school teachers are empowered with data on learning and up-to-date training.
Component 2 would develop a comprehensive national assessment program to inform both school improvement planning and professional development programs, serving to link the school and system levels.
Component 3 would put into practice professional competences for educators. Together, these elements will provide adequate information, tools, training and support to create effective and improved conditions for learning and ultimately increase student achievement.
Component 4 would strengthen sector management, project management and monitoring and evaluation. The legal framework for implementation of above-mentioned reform interventions was recently adopted and there is an adequate institutional set up to embed them and eventually further enhance. The project activities are targeted toward building the foundation of a modern and efficient primary education system that is orienting all parts of the system toward learning.
The Ministry of Education and Science (MOES) is the main implementing agency of the Project in close cooperation with the National Examination Center (NEC), Bureau for Development of Education (BDE) and State Educational Inspectorate (SEI). Projects direct beneficiaries will include primary education students, but focused support will be given those who are vulnerable (Roma, girls, students coming from economically vulnerable families with risk to abandon studies, students disproportionally affected by the closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic) which are expected to benefit from improved learning and physical environment in the schools as well as from better-trained teachers. Primary education teachers, school principals, and MPSTs will benefit from more efficient professional development and career advancement, digital teaching aids, teaching material that can be updated/corrected and improved fast based on the feedback received and grant program to implement their school improvement plans. The project activities are targeted toward building the foundation of a modern and efficient primary education system that is orienting all parts of the system toward learning.
Amendments to the Laws on Primary and Secondary Education
In September 2020, the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia approved the amendments to the Laws on Primary and Secondary Education, which ensure the smooth organization of teaching in the country and in times of emergency, such as the case of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The legal changes, for the first time in the country, provide exceptions to the regular educational process in several cases: in conditions when there is a crisis, an epidemic, i.e. a pandemic, fires, floods, or other major natural disasters. The legal amendments make exceptions regarding the beginning and end of the school year during extraordinary circumstances so that the school year can start and end at a time different from the time when the school year usually begins, which will be decided by the Government.
In extraordinary conditions, with these legal changes, the teaching in the primary and secondary school will be able to be organized with the physical presence of the students, or at a distance by using means of electronic communication. According to the amendments to the laws, the organization of classes with physical presence of students will be possible only if the criteria and conditions are met in accordance with the protocols and the plan for teaching for primary and secondary schools, adopted by the Government.
The amendments to the two laws envisage the class to last less than 40 minutes, for greater protection of students who will attend classes with physical presence. The legal changes also provide the possibility of reducing the teaching days in the school year from 180 to at least 100.
The legal changes were prepared based on studies by international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the International Committee of the Red Cross (IFCR) and research related to KOVID-19.
Concept for Development of a Distance Education System in Primary and Secondary Schools
The Concept for development of a distance education system in primary and secondary schools in the Republic of North Macedonia was adopted on July 21, 2020 by the Ministry of Education and Science.
The crisis caused by the spread of the Covid-19 highlighted the needs and challenges in such conditions to ensure the right to education. Hence the need to prepare a strategic document that will be a framework for organizing distance education. This document provides guidance on establishment of a distance learning system in primary and secondary schools in country, in terms of educational policies, organization and implementation of distance learning and is the basis for establishing a national platform for distance learning and its application at the national level. The concept contains guidelines in the three key areas in which the system will be developed: educational policies, technical support/educational technology and pedagogy. It should be noted that the establishment of a national platform for primary and secondary education, as the basis of the distance education system, does not imply the use of the platform only in times of crisis, natural disasters or emergencies, but the national platform and all its functionalities will be also used in the daily work of schools, in combining regular teaching with e-content, in offering different sources and approaches to learning, in checking the achievements of students, as well as in monitoring and evaluating the educational process by the competent educational institutions. The purpose of the platform is to establish a flexible system of distance education, easy to use, adaptable to individual needs, as well as usable for learning in school.
Concept of Primary Education
The new Concept of primary education (single stricture) recognizes the need for change based on, new knowledge for the development of quality education, world and European trends for education based on competencies, the digitalization of education, as well as all previous experiences and aspirations to improve the quality of teaching and learning in schools that should become a place for learning and development of motivated students ready to acquire the expected competencies. Also, the new concept fully respects the observations and opinions of teachers that have been collected with the research conducted during November 2020. Thus, the new concept of primary education offers changes in several areas related to the: integration of teaching and learning subjects, the selection of subjects of interest to the student, learning through research and projects, reducing the burden of teaching materials with factual data, adapting teaching to the needs of all students, using a variety of teaching materials, active participation of students in school life, cooperation and professional development of teachers and motivating them with career development, thus enabling the opportunity to build a school after measure of children.
As key areas of action in primary educational system, the following can be pointed out:
- mastering basic skills (mathematics, language literacy and science), including digital competencies;
- mastering transversal skills, such as: critical thinking, entrepreneurship, creativity and civic activism through approaches that are transdisciplinary, student-centered and challenge-based;
- fostering language learning and multilingualism to ensure mobility in education and the labor market and to more easily overcome the cultural barriers facing Europe today;
- accepting a European perspective in education as complementary to national and regional perspectives to provide insight into European values and European everyday life;
- ensuring education and training institutions are safe environments free from violence, hate speech, disinformation and discrimination.
For adoption of the new Concept of primary education the Ministry of Education and Science organized the broad debate will all relevant partners and stakeholders at the end of 2020. The adopted concept will be implemented in the next 6 years and will start from the school year 2021/2022.
Concept of State Testing in Primary Education
Improving the quality and increasing the efficiency of education, in accordance with modern world educational standards, are key goals of educational policy in the Republic of North Macedonia. In order to achieve these goals, especially in primary education, the Ministry of Education and Science should conduct a comprehensive state testing that will systematically monitor student achievement, and with that and educational achievements in general. The only form of assessment that is not yet a regular and permanent feature of North Macedonian education system is state testing (national assessment) on a large scale. In order to overcome that situation the Ministry of Education and Science with support of the external experts developed the Concept of State Testing in Primary Education. This document sets out the Concept that will support state testing. It describes the objectives of the state testing, the guiding principles according to which it will work and the general methods to be used in conducting the studies that are part of the state testing. Such state testing will provide an assessment of the effectiveness of the current education system and a basis for its further qualitative improvement. The large-scale state testing described in this Concept is fully compatible with the Government's strategy, as set out in the Law on Primary Education.
New Law on Teachers and Professional Associates in Primary and Secondary Schools
A new Law on Teachers and Professional Associates in Primary and Secondary Schools (‘Official Gazette of the Republic of North Macedonia’ No.161 / 2019 from 5.8.2019) was adopted, which significantly promotes the professional development of teachers and professional associates in primary and secondary schools and introduces a model for their career development and promotion (upgrade).