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


2.Organisation and governance

2.3Organisation of the education system and of its structure

Last update: 27 November 2023

Educational system in Serbia includes:

  • preschool,
  • primary,
  • secondary and
  • higher education.

Its basic structure, characteristics and mechanisms of transition from level to level are regulated by the

Students and adults with disabilities and those from vulnerable groups have access to all levels of education.

Serbian language is the most common language of instruction. Teaching can also be held in a foreign language, sign language, and it can be bilingual. National minorities have the right to education in their mother tongue, bilingual or in Serbian.

Preschool education is a part of the education system and the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development and local self-government. This level of education encompasses children aged from six months to primary school age.

Starting from the school year 2006/07 Serbia introduced a compulsory preparatory preschool programme for all children aged from 5.5 to 6.5 years. In 2009, its duration was extended from 6 to 9 months. The preparatory preschool programme is free of charge, if realised by the state (public) kindergarten or school.

Children with disabilities as well as socially deprived children have the right to additional educational, health and social support. It can be organized in both regular and special (development) groups.

Primary education is compulsory, takes eight years and is carried out in two educational cycles.

The first cycle covers the first four grades. Teaching of all subjects in this stage is performed by class teachers, but the teaching of some subjects, for example arts and foreign languages, may be performed by subject teachers who teach these subjects in the second cycle. The second cycle covers 5th to 8th grades, and teaching of each subject is performed by subject teachers.

The educational system also includes private primary schools and a horizontal and vertical mobility between private/state school is ensured.

Primary education is free of charge in state (public) schools, while in private schools the parents bear the costs of education.

Besides the compulsory primary school, there are also primary music and primary ballet school, and schools for music and ballet talents. These schools are not compulsory, and their attendance is free of charge and funded from central and local levels. The founder of the Music and Ballet School may be, in addition to the Republic of Serbia, autonomous province and local self-governments or citizens, as well as other institutions.

Primary music education takes two to six years and ballet four years, and they are realised in two educational stages.

Education in schools for musical talents takes ten years, and in schools for ballet talents eight years.

Students with disabilities have the right to education in regular primary schools as well as in special schools for pupils with disabilities.

According to the Law on Education System Foundations and the Law on Primary Schools - compulsory education can be provided at home, at parents’ request. Parents are required to notify the school about that decision until the end of the school year prior to the school year in which they want to provide home education for their child. The school is required to organize final exams in all subjects according to the official curricula. Home education has to be provided in accordance with all official education goals, learning outcomes and achievement standards. For pupils with developmental difficulties or disabilities that need to follow individual learning plan 2, home education and upbringing is provided with adopted learning outcomes and objectives.  The school is obliged to keep evidence on home education of the pupils. The By-Law on Home Education is yet to be adopted and it is expected to provide more guidance regarding the provision of home education. Conditions of the realization, quality assurance and evaluation of home education are regulated by the Minister of Education, Science and Technological Education (Official Gazzete of the Republic of Serbia, 88/2017. (last accessed 27/09/2019) Law on Foundations of the Education System/Zakon o оsnovama  sistema obrazovanja i vaspitanja)


Primary adult education takes between three and five years and is organised by grades, from first to eighth grade (as a rule, 2 grades are being completed within 1 year).

Secondary education is not compulsory and lasts three or four years and covers a population of students aged 15 to 19 years.

There are following types of secondary education:

  • general secondary education lasting four years (gymnasium);
  • vocational secondary education lasting three or four years (vocational and art schools);
  • artistic secondary education lasting four years (art schools).

Secondary education includes educational programmes for talented students, students with disabilities and adult education.

Higher education in Serbia is not compulsory. It has three levels:

  • bachelor,
  • master and
  • PhD studies.

There are five types of higher education institutions in Serbia:

  • universities,
  • faculties,
  • Academies of Applied Studies,
  • Colleges of Academic Studies,
  • Colleges of Applied Studies.

Serbia joined the Bologna process in 2003. In 2005 the Law on Higher Education that was in line with Bologna principles was adopted. This law formally introduced:

  • the European Credit Transfer System,
  • three-cycle system of study and
  • diploma supplement.

From 2007/08 all study programmes at all higher education institutions had been reformed.

There are two types of studies as part of the higher education system in Serbia:

  • academic studies implemented at universities and faculties
  • applied studies implemented primarily at colleges, but also at universities and faculties

The diagram illustrating the structure of the Serbian education system is presented in the section Overview.