This chapter provides a thematic and chronological overview of national reforms and policy developments since 2021. The introduction of the chapter describes the overall education strategy and the key objectives across the whole education system. It also looks at how the education reform process is organised and who are the main actors in the decision-making process. The section on ongoing reforms and policy developments groups reforms in the following broad thematic areas that largely correspond to education levels:
Early childhood education and care
VET and Adult learning
Transversal skills and Employability
Inside each thematic area, reforms are organised chronologically. The most recent reforms are described first.
Overall national education strategy and key objectives
In January 2018 the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia has adopted the new Strategy for Education for the period 2018-2025 and corresponding Action Plan. The process of adoption has been preceded by public debates and analysis of the content of the document by experts, national and international, stakeholders and working groups.
The new Strategy for Education and its Action Plan encompass all fields and levels of education. The vision of the Strategy itself is that the education is key for the strengthening of the national economy and the wellbeing of the Macedonian citizens and therefore it is essential to put efforts for development of inclusive and integrated education system which is “student-centered”, which implements modern programmes that will enable the future generations to acquire knowledge, skills and competencies compliant to the needs of the democratic multicultural society, labor market and for the new challenges of the global scientific and technological setting. The document covers six main pillars of education system – Pre-school Education; Primary Education; Secondary Education; Vocational Education and Training; Higher Education and Research; and Adult Learning and Education. These are followed by a seventh pillar, covering general issues in the education system.
Following the EU initiatives for revitalization of European Education Area and the new Action Plan for Digital Education (2021 - 2027), and the national Strategy for Education 2018-2025, the Ministry of Education and Science made national reforms in same directions.
Overview of the education reform process and drivers
The decision-making process is organized based on the different areas: Ministry of Education and Science along its relevant bodies and Ministry for Labor and Social Policy as found in the text below in the separate educational policy areas.
Also relevant to this topic can be found on the following chapter of the national descriptions Organisation of education system and its structure
Early childhood education and care
The Government of the Republic of North Macedonia has committed to increasing the coverage of preschool children (aged 3 to 6) by 50% in care and education institutions. In that regard, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy is working in cooperation with the municipalities to expand the capacities for care and education of children.
In parallel with the investments in infrastructure, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy also invests in improving the quality of preschool education. It’s committed to strengthening the capacities of the staff that cares for the children by improving their knowledge.
In regards to the IPA project “ Raising the quality of pre-school education and care”
the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy has been working on improving and raising the quality of preschool education in modernization of professional and career development of the employees in the preschool institutions, revision of the model of (re) licensing of employees in preschool institutions and increasing the involvement of parents in preschool education and care, especially for children at risk.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy initiated a reform in the area of improving the quality of preschool education transparently, with the support of UNICEF and all stakeholders, to strengthen the professional competencies of educators and improve the quality of the programs in kindergartens. In addition, a draft document regarding educators’ professional competencies has been prepared for better children’s developmental achievements.
In cooperation with the World Bank was initiated a process of adapting an instrument for measuring early childhood development through analysis of the quality and results of early learning called MELQO (Measuring Early Learning Quality and Outcomes).
A program for inclusion is being piloted in 10 kindergartens and a simplified training module for parents is being finalized.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy amended the Law of Child Protection and according to the amendments, children with disabilities will be included in regular educational groups.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science, the Bureau for Development of Education, UNICEF and other partners has developed a national platform for e-learning and a game called EDUINO.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy is continuously working to increase the coverage of children in preschool forms of upbringing and education, because early learning plays a key role in the development of children and at the same time enables the activation of parents in the labor market.
The Bureau for Development of Education accredited a program for teachers on the subject of Professional Development and Career Counseling for students (mentoring, monitoring, approaches for detection of affinities and interests, motivation and development, etc.) and a program for professional associates on the topic: Professional orientation of students: strengthening students through self-knowledge and career development counseling.
The Bureau for development of Education started implementing accredited training programs on bullying.
The Law on Primary Education is under procedure to be amended in order to adjust the procedure for the career development of professional associates. Also public procurement procedure is finished to provide company for maintenance and upgrading of the e-system for career advancement. A Memorandum of Cooperation was concluded with the British Council for the professional development and training of 500 English language teachers from primary and secondary schools in the country.
Regarding the improvement of the self-evaluation system and preparation of Development Program and annual program by schools, there will be pilot evaluations. 11 elementary schools are selected in which the self-evaluation and the integral evaluation will be piloted, and discussions were held with representatives of the schools. A Guide proposal for the preparation, implementation and monitoring of the school's development program and an Operational Manual for the implementation of a grant program for improving the quality of the work of primary schools have been prepared.
The Government is reviewing a new proposed methodology for the distribution of block grants by municipalities for the financing of primary education to start from September 2023.
The Ministry of Education and Science conducted consultations on creating measures and supplementing the existing mechanisms for detecting and preventing peer violence, changing the approach to working with children with antisocial behavior, working with their families, etc. The recommendations were adopted by the Government in may 2023. Development of a rulebook intended for schools for prevention and action in the event of violence started, as well as thinking about limiting the use of social networks in the school environment. Program for counseling students in primary schools and their parents/guardians was adopted.
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
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).
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.
The adopted concept will be implemented in the next 6 years and will start from the school year 2021/2022.
Activities are undertaken to develop new Concept on secondary education and new Law on secondary education.
In September 2020, the Assembly of the Republic of North 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 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.
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.
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).
VET and Adult learning
The Ministry of Education and Culture, the chambers and local governments started the social dialogue "Learn smart, work professionally" to determine the real needs for professional profiles in secondary vocational schools for the academic year 2023/2024.
According to the Call for enrollment in the school year 2023/24 in cooperation with the municipalities and companies in the country, 6475 vacancies in 259 classes in the dual professional education have been secured. For comparison, 223 dual classes were opened in the school year 2022-2023, 97 were opened in the school year 2021/2022, and 11 in the school year 2020/2021.
In may 2023 grants have been awarded to consortia made up of companies and educational institutions for vocational education and training, from the "Regional Challenge Fund" for the purchase of equipment that will serve to prepare students in the practical part of teaching.
Activities are undertaken to develop new Law on VET. Both Law on VET and Law on secondary education are under harmonization and will be adopted as one package.
A concept for secondary education for adults has been adopted in 2022.
In 2019 the amendments of the Law on VET set up a legal basis for the establishment of Regional centers for vocational education and training.
Three Regional VET centers are to be established to provide high-quality VET education, streamline innovations in the education process and enable young people enter the labour market with relevant for the market qualification. They are expected to have the capacity to multiply their positive experience in the VET country system and serve as a driver in VET sector. An ongoing IPA 2017 intervention provides technical assistance to the country in the field of VET, namely capacity building of education institutions and relevant municipalities, development of a rationalisation plan for VET schools, and alignment of VET and Adult Education systems with European Quality Assurance in Vocational, Education and Training standards. Further on, the selected VET centres need to be refurnished and equipped. The Government started a procedure to open two new regional VET centres in Strumica and Veles.
On 20.04.2022 the Ministry for Education and Science and UNDP have adopted the strategic document/concept with concrete guidelines for further development of the regional VET centres.
The Government pursued the implementation of the dual education in secondary vocational education. The project helped companies working in the industry to obtain professional staff, having in mind that students will be preparing for work in a particular company during their secondary education. Companies are able to provide scholarships for high school students who will be obliged to work in those companies for a certain period of time after their graduation
The EU Twinning Project “Further support to the implementation of the National Qualifications Framework” (MK IPA 17 SO 01 21) started in October 2021. The project ended in December 2023 and has been a collaborative effort over the past 27 months, culminating in the implementation of 36 project activities spanning across 4 components.
The Beneficiary of the Project is the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of North Macedonia. A Consortium of three Member States – Lithuania, France and Slovenia with the expertise of other relevant authorities is responsible for the implementation of the Project.
The overall objective of the Project is further strengthening and operationalization of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) aiming to increase the employability, mobility and social integration of workers and learners in the Republic of North Macedonia.The project consists of the following 4 components:
Component 1 – Quality assurance of education and training in a LLL perspective strengthened.
Component 2 – Support to the further implementation and enhanced capacities of the National Qualifications Framework in accordance with the QA framework.
Component 3 – Operational and administrative capacities of NQF Administration for management NQF communication and awareness raising practices improved.
Component 4 – NQF Digital register interconnection and compatibility on National and EU level improved.
The activities for the preparation of a Decree for the determination of the scientific research fields of the third level (areas) are in progress, as a supplement to the two levels of the International Frascati Classification
Rulebook on determining professional and scientific titles, in accordance with the Law on Higher Education has been adopted in june 2023.
Public call for the selection of foreign experts for the implementation of external evaluation of higher education institutions and study programs was published on the Agency's website (with a deadline of 30 days) and Public call for the selection of students for the implementation of external evaluation of higher education institutions and study programs was implemented by the Agency for Quality of Higher Education (AQHE).
In 2022 Rulebook on methodology, standards and procedure for accreditation has been adopted.
The EU Twinning Project “Further support to the implementation of the National Qualifications Framework” (MK IPA 17 SO 01 21) started in October 2021.
The overall objective of the Project is further strengthening and operationalization of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) aiming to increase the employability, mobility and social integration of workers and learners in the Republic of North Macedonia.
This twinning project is expected to support the effectiveness of the NQF with special focus on:
Development and implementation of quality assurance (QA) process/procedures;
Transparency and governance of skills and qualifications in a lifelong learning perspective of general, Vocational Education and Training (VET) and Higher education;
Improving quality and better adaptability of education and training in line with the requirements from labor market needs;
Linking formal, non-formal and informal learning; and
Support the validation of learning outcomes acquired in different settings.
The implementation of the HE Law continued with the constitution and staffing of the two quality assurance bodies (Accreditation Board and Evaluation Board) within the Agency for Quality of Higher Education (AQHE). AQHE works on developing the set of new bylaws and Book of rules on accreditation and external evaluation of HEIs. Establishing of the National Council for Higher Education and Research Activity and a fully functional Quality Assurance system are in early stage of implementation.
Following the closure of the universities and HIEs and shift to online teaching and learning, the Government in 2020 has adopted a Decree and three amendments for the application of the Law on Higher Education during the state of emergency.
It regulated different aspects related to the provision of higher education in the country -the execution of study programs, the organization of examination sessions and in-person student’s assessment at all three cycles, accreditations and re-accreditations, the extension of the mandate and bodies at the HEIs. In order to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on students standard and wellbeing, a Decree was adopted for covering part of the costs for studying and part of the accommodation costs for student dorm and for private accommodation intended to state funded students coming from low-income family households.
Transversal skills and Employability
The Government of the Republic of North Macedonia, at its 207th session held on December 12 2023, adopted the "Smart Specialization Strategy of the Republic of North Macedonia 2024-2027" and "Action Plan 2024-2025". https://mon.gov.mk/content/?id=8443
A concept for secondary education for adults has been adopted in 2022.
Successful promotional activities are performed over 2022 in regards to the Dual Education Concept in Vocational Education and Training
Starting from 2019, for the first time, the Republic of Macedonia is entering the EPALE family. The EPALE National Support Service will be operational in the frames of the National Agency for European Educational Programmes and Mobility. EPALE is a DG EAC’s multilingual open membership community for teachers, trainers, researchers, academics, policy makers and others with a professional role in adult learning across Europe. It focuses on diverse issues related to adult education, promotes events, exchange of good practices, knowledge and experience. The institutions can present their work and become visible at European market of potential project partners. In the first years, the main focus of the NA’s EPALE team is to increase the visibility of Macedonian institutions in adult education at European level by offering technical support and trainings of end-users when using the Portal as well as well as exchange of good practices among involved teachers, trainers and learners for our country with their colleagues from Europe. The portal is now available in Macedonian language.
The EU Twinning Project “Further support to the implementation of the National Qualifications Framework” (MK IPA 17 SO 01 21) started in October 2021. The Beneficiary of the Project is the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of North Macedonia. A Consortium of three Member States – Lithuania, France and Slovenia with the expertise of other relevant authorities is responsible for the implementation of the Project. The overall objective of the Project is further strengthening and operationalization of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) aiming to increase the employability, mobility and social integration of workers and learners in the Republic of North Macedonia.
National reforms related to transversal skills and employability are implemented through the Revised Operational Plan for Active Labor Market Employment and Services Programs and Measures as a framework of the employment policies of the Republic of North Macedonia, created by the Government, embedded in a series of other national strategic policy documents, and in line with international strategic agendas. It aims at supporting the creation of new workplaces, increasing employability and labor market competitiveness of the unemployed individuals, with a special emphasis on the young and socially disadvantaged, long-term unemployed. The main carrier of the Operational Plan is the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, while its implementation is under the competence of the Employment Service Agency of the Republic of North Macedonia, in partnership with other responsible institutions.
In 2020, the setting up of a national system for Validation of non-formal and informal learning continued and should be wrapped up by its’ piloting in 2021 as a final step before the introduction of the system.
European perspective of the country is visible through adoption of the Concept for inclusive education, implementation of the project “Be IN, be INclusive, be INcluded”, awarding the grants for realization of activities contributing to the development and promotion of multiculturalism, multi-ethnical integration and tolerance and implementation of the 21st century schools programme.