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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisation of the education system and of its structure

Republic of North Macedonia

2.Organisation and governance

2.3Organisation of the education system and of its structure

Last update: 27 November 2023

• Pre-school education

• Primary education

• Secondary education

• Higher education

• Adult education


The education system of North Macedonia is comprised of pre-school education, primary education, secondary education, higher education and adult education.

Pre-school education

The care for and the education of children at preschool age is a form of child protection, organised for the purpose of care, nutrition, educational, sports and recreational, cultural and entertainment activities. Pre-school education also includes measures and activities for improvement and preservation of the health. The nurturing and enhancing of the intellectual, emotional, physical, mental and social development of the child until the age of 6 is also another important aspect encompassed with the pre-school education.

Pre-school education is organised and offered by:

  • Kindergartens;
  • Early childhood development centres and
  • Agencies which can be established, in line with the Law on Child Protection (Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia, No. 164/17), as public or private institutions.

In 2018, there were 37,615 children up to 6 years old enrolled in 68 public and 24 private pre-school institutions, 3 kindergartens within private schools in the capacity of legal entities, 2 early childhood development centres in the capacity of a public entity, 4 early child development centres in the capacity of private legal entities, 1 public kindergarten within a legal entity established for the needs of its employees, 1 private kindergarten within a legal entity established for the needs of its employees. The number of enrolled children in 2018 has increased by 6.6% compared to 2017.  

Pre-school education has been developed on the basis of two documents:

The Programme for Early Learning and Development is based on the Standards for Early Learning and Development. The curricular foundations are developed by the Bureau for Development of Education. The Program was adopted through an act by the Minister of Labour and Social Policy in 2014 .

Pre-school education is not mandatory. It is carried out in Macedonian language, whilst for children of members of other communities, educational activities in public kindergartens are carried out in the language of the respective ethnic community.

North Macedonia has also adopted a National Strategy (2020-2022) and Action Plan (2020-2020) for Prevention and Protection of Children from Violence as well as the Program for Development of Children Protection Activity for 2019.

Primary education

Primary education in North Macedonia has 9-year duration and is compulsory and accessible to all children regardless of gender, social and cultural background, religion, national affiliation and physical and psychological abilities. Each child aged 6 to 14 is provided with opportunity to regularly attend teaching in a compulsory nine-year primary school. Primary education within the framework of established curricula is free for all students and is funded from the State Budget.

The structure of primary education, established through the Concept for nine-year primary education, consists of three educational periods: grades 1-3, grades 4-6 and grades 7-9. Each period is relatively unified as a whole in regards to the developmental characteristics of students and of learning. Each period is also characterized with different approaches in the evaluation and assessment of student achievements, individualised teaching, knowledge, skills and student progression. According to the State Statistical Office, there were 988 primary schools in the country (including satellite schools) in the academic year 2018/19.

Primary education is delivered in primary schools, and for students with special educational needs in special primary schools or classes in mainstream primary schools. In communities with small number of students, satellite facilities operate within central primary schools. Only the central primary schools are public legal entities. The regular primary schools are under jurisdiction of the municipalities, whereas the special primary schools are under jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education and Science. Private primary schools exist outside of the formal education system and are established mainly for provision of educational services for children with foreign citizenship.

The issues of the primary education have been regulated with the Law on Primary Education.

Secondary education

Upon completion of the primary education, students are provided with the opportunity to enrol under equal terms in a secondary school. The Law on Secondary Education defines secondary education as compulsory for each citizen and is free in public secondary schools.

Secondary education provides students with competences for work and further education, and is carried out in state, municipal (public) and private secondary schools. Teaching in public schools is carried out in Macedonian and using the Cyrillic alphabet; for the members of communities in the language and using the alphabet of the respective community (Albanian and Turkish). Depending on the type of secondary education, schooling is completed by passing the State Matura, the School Matura or Final Exam, in line with the Concept for Matura and Final Exam in Public Secondary Education.

The secondary education, which is also compulsory and free, is divided into four streams: general secondary education (gymnasium), secondary vocational education, art schools, and education for pupils with special educational needs. Secondary vocational education may be of 3-year or 4-year duration. At the end of a 3-year vocational education the students take a final exam, without а right for university entrance. Graduates of the 4-year secondary education are allowed to choose between the final exams and state or school Matura depending on whether they wish to continue education, while the gymnasium graduates have to take state or school Matura exams.

Among existing 124 secondary schools, 108 are public while the remaining 16 are private. As far as the profile of the schools is concerned, 23 are general education schools, 43 are vocational schools, 33 offer both general and vocational education, 4 schools are for pupils with special educational needs and 5 are art schools.

Higher education

The system of higher education comprises study programmes within three cycles: undergraduate, master and doctoral studies. There are 6 functional public universities (two of them in Albanian as a language of instruction), 1 private-public university and 9 private universities, and 2 high vocational schools.

In addition to teaching, higher education institutions engage in scientific research in diverse fields. The higher education in Macedonia offers a broad range of opportunities for acquiring academic degrees and professional qualifications.

Terms and criteria for selection and enrolment of new students are proposed by the higher education institutions and harmonised between the universities. Enrolment is open for graduates from general, vocational or art secondary schools. Due to the limited enrolment quotas, candidates are ranked according to their grades from secondary school, the results from the State Matura and, if necessary, results from a qualification exam. Students who meet the demands but are in excess of the number stipulated in the open call for enrolment enter the co-financing quota. Full-time and part-time students need to meet the same requirements.

Within the first cycle of studies, universities offer higher vocational studies, which have 3-year duration and are regarded as non-academic studies.

Curricula and syllabi for higher education are defined by the Teaching and Scientific Council at the respective faculty, upon which an opinion is provided by the university. Accreditation of universities and study programs is granted by the Higher Education Accreditation and Evaluation Board. As at December 31, 2019 the new Higher Education Quality Agency has not been established yet.

The issues of higher education have been regulated by the Law on Higher Education.

Adult education

Adult education is an integral part of the education system, enabling learners to acquire the competences necessary for easier integration in society, easier employment and more flexible adaptation to and entry into the labour market. It compensates for gaps in the schooling of those learners who failed to complete primary education or of those who need to obtain vocational qualifications at secondary school level or higher. It delivers programmes for adults (employed or unemployed) for continuing development, new qualification for new employment. In addition, it contributes to meeting other educational and cultural needs of citizens.

Adult education in North Macedonia is carried out in primary or secondary schools, open citizens’ universities, institutions for adult education, larger companies and their associations. Teaching is delivered in the form of regular or preparatory instruction, depending on the age, psycho-physical abilities and self-education capacities.

The Adult Education Centre (AEC) is the key institution for the development of adult education system at national level. AEC was established by the Government in November 2008 and became operational in June 2009. Its main tasks are to promote the Adult education and coordinate cooperation with international institutions and other adult education organisations, to ensure quality particularly through establishment of standards and criteria for formal and non-formal adult education.

The issues of adult education have been regulated by the Law on Adult Education and Law on Open Civic Universities for Life Long Learning