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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Main types of provision


8.Adult education and training

8.4Main types of provision

Last update: 27 November 2023

There are 2 main categories of educational programmes for adults in Serbia – formal and non-formal.

Formal education is part of the school system and is carried out through primary or secondary schools. It is very similar to regular primary and secondary education for pupils and students in the majority of aspects (curriculum, teaching methods, assessment, certification etc.) However, all necessary adjustments in terms of learners’ age and capacities are made, including possibilities for faster completion of school programmes than normally required for regular pupils or students. Formal education for adults is intended for people who have missed a chance to complete general and vocational education school programmes.

Non-formal education, which includes all programmes beyond the school system, may involve structurally varying kinds of training (various lengths, target groups, topics etc.). This type of education does not provide transition to a higher education level; however, it provides learners with skills, knowledge and abilities essential for professional development, which is documented by a certificate as proof of acquired qualifications. Non-formal education is intended for people who have, partly or entirely, completed formal education and who need to improve their skills or requalify for another vocation.

Adult education and training is intended for people who:

  • do not have the right to participate in regular primary and secondary education programmes, as specified in the Law on the Education System Foundations (age requirement is not met);
  • lack qualifications necessary for the labour market;
  • are unemployed and need requalification or professional training in order to meet labour market needs;
  • need professional development in order to boost their career prospects;
  • belong to vulnerable social groups (people with disabilities, the Roma population, women etc.) and need professional training in order to increase their employability;
  • In the formal adult education system, participants in primary education programmes are people aged above 15, and in secondary education those above 17. In non-formal adult education programmes, participants have to be older than 18 years of age. Other requirements are determined by concrete programmes, and may vary from case to case (e.g. unemployment, financial status, age limit, previous experience etc.).

Provision to Raise Achievement in Basic Skills

General formal education of adults is intended for people who, for any reasons, have failed to complete their regular primary and/or general secondary education. It is directed towards the acquisition of basic skills and key competences during general education, with special attention to the development of learners’ functional literacy. Primary education for adults lasts from 3 to 5 years and covers 8 grades of primary education. It is based on the curriculum for primary education (see Teaching and Learning in Primary Education) and it is divided into three cycles: functional literacy, basics of general primary education and general education with basic vocational training. General secondary education normally lasts 4 years, but it can be completed within a shorter time, as anticipated by the Law on Secondary Education. Likewise, the curriculum for general secondary education applies to adult learner programmes (see Teaching and Learning in General Secondary Education).

People who have, for some reason, dropped out from secondary education may continue their education. All previously competed grades/subjects are recognised in that case, while some additional exams may be necessary in order to be admitted to the appropriate grade.

A good example of this type of adult education provision is the "Second Chance" project, that lasted from 2011 to 2013. As part of this project, 4000 adult learners above 15 years of age who have not completed primary education went through the "Functional Primary Education of Adults" programme. The programme was divided in 3 cycles, each 1 year long, covering complete primary education programme and training for a chosen vocation. After completing the programme, the learners received primary school certificate and professional competencies certificate. The programme was realised in 80 primary and 75 vocational secondary schools, involving more than 1000 teachers trained for delivering the programme.

Provision to Achieve a Recognised Qualification during Adulthood

Vocational formal education of adults is focused on vocational/professional competences during vocational education, according to learners’ needs and labour market requirements. It lasts from 1 to 4 years, depending on the programme type (regular vocational education, requalification, obtaining additional qualifications, specialized programmes and apprenticeship). These programmes are based on the vocational secondary schools curricula and cover the following fields of study:

  • Agriculture, Food Production and Processing;
  • Geodesy and Construction;
  • Economics, Law and Administration;
  • Natural Sciences and Mathematics;
  • Electrical Engineering;
  • Textile and Leather Industry;
  • Personal Services;
  • Traffic;
  • Mechanical Engineering and Metalworking;
  • Health and Social Care;
  • Chemistry;
  • Geology, Mining and Metallurgy;
  • Forestry and Wood Processing;
  • Trade, Hospitality and Tourism;
  • Culture, Arts and Public Informing.

Apart from regular education (general and vocational), vocational secondary schools offer specialised programmes and apprenticeship that last one or two years. Adult learners who want to attend specialisation programmes are required to have at least two years of work experience and to have completed an appropriate school.

After the specialised programmes or apprenticeship have been completed, learners are required to take a special exam that assesses skills and knowledge necessary for the appropriate vocation. A certificate is awarded to those who successfully pass the exam. 

Special programmes for adult education lasting from two to three years, training programmes and specialised programmes are delivered in adult education schools.

Provision Targeting the Transition to the Labour Market

The main provider of adult education programmes for unemployed people is the National Employment Service of the Republic of Serbia. For those who qualify for services available at this institution, the following types of additional educational programmes may be organized free of charge:

  • Professional internships;
  • Programmes for acquiring practical knowledge;
  • Clubs for active job search;
  • Requalification and obtaining additional qualifications;
  • Start-up training;
  • Active job search training;
  • Training on employers’ request;
  • Career guidance and counselling.

All unemployed adults between 15 and 65 years old have access to these programmes and other benefits provided through the National Employment Service, such as job search service, social and health insurance, financial unemployment compensation and other.

Provision of Liberal (Popular) Adult Education

Non-formal adult education is defined as an organised adult learning process through specially developed programmes for the acquisition of knowledge and skills required for professional development as a prerequisite condition for successful employment and participation in society. It includes all education and training programmes outside the school system, although it may be realised in schools, as well as in other institutions.  

Non-formal education programmes are focused on the following areas:

  • Native Language and Mathematics Literacy;
  • Entrepreneurship and Management;
  • Media Literacy;
  • Science and Technology;
  • Computer Literacy;
  • Foreign Languages;
  • Ecology and Environment Protection;
  • Occupational Safety;
  • Arts;
  • Civil Rights;
  • Career guidance aimed at improving job search skills.

Depending on estimated labour market needs, any other programmes may be organised with a view to improving learners’ skills and qualifications.

Other Types of Publicly Subsidised Provision for Adult Learners

Another form of publicly subsidised non-formal adult education are teacher training and professional development programmes, which are addressed as a separate topic in the Teachers and Education Staff section.