School network is designed with special attention to equal accessibility to education for all pupils, regardless of their place of residence.
Special school units or so-called separate departments (издвојена одељења) are established and located at a reasonable distance from a child’s home for pupils living in rural and less-populated areas. Special school units or so-called separate departments (издвојена одељења) . They have a small number of grades, depending on the number of pupils, and they may include mixed-age classes if there are too few pupils.
All pupils residing at a distance greater than 4km from a school unit are entitled to free transportation. Some local governments provide even better benefits regarding transportation (e.g. all primary school pupils living in the capital city have access to public transportation free of charge). Free transportation is provided for pupils with disabilities regardless of the home-to-school distance.
Admission Requirements and Choice of Schools
Basic education is compulsory in Serbia and children start it at the age of 7. More specifically, to enrol in the first grade, a child must be at least 6,5 and at most 7,5 years old and this is the only admission requirement. There is no entrance examination, except for primary music and ballet schools. A psychological assessment is done by a school psychologist to evaluate a child’s readiness to attend school. If necessary, based on the school psychologist’s opinion, their enrolment can be postponed for a year. Furthermore, children at the age between 6 and 6,5 years can be enrolled in the first grade if they show adequate readiness and maturity. Another purpose of psychological assessment is to form balanced groups (classes) of pupils.
Admittance of children with disabilities (physical, developmental or any other) to regular primary schools has increased since 2009, when the Inclusion Movement was legally adopted through the Law on the Education System Foundations. Based on psychological assessment, teaching for children with disabilities may be individualised. If required, a team of school professionals (an inclusion team) may prepare an Individual Education Plan (Индивидуални образовни план – ИОП) for these pupils. Enrolment in a special education school may be recommended, which is then decided by the special committee and child’s parents.
Regarding the choice of schools, child’s parents can choose a school in the area where they live. A school is required to admit all children who live in its pre-determined school area. Parents can also choose a school outside of their area, if school capacities allow so.
Since 2006, all children are required to attend at least 9 months of Preschool Preparation Programme prior to the first grade enrolment, according to the Law on the Education System Foundations. This programme may be realised in either preschool or primary school institutions.
Age Levels and Grouping of Pupils
Basic education is eight year long and is divided into two stages. Each stage consist of 4 grades:
- Cycle 1: Class Teaching (разредна настава) – 1st to 4th grade
At this cycle, one teacher is in charge of each class and responsible for teaching all subjects, except language and some optional classes.
- Cycle 2: Subject Teaching (предметна настава) – 5th to 8th grade
At this cycle, each subject is taught by a different teacher, specialised in a particular field, while one teacher –class teacher (разредни старешина) – serves as a main teacher and is responsible for leading the class.
Pupils who belong to the same grade are most commonly of the same age. Grades are divided into smaller groups – classes. Each class consists of 30 pupils at most. Classes are formed with special attention to:
- social status;
- psychological assessment;
- ethnical background;
- disability and
- any other relevant factors..
Classes can be divided into smaller groups, according to teaching needs, and sometimes groups of different classes can be combined.
One class can accommodate two pupils with disabilities at most and such classes usually have a smaller number of pupils in total. Classes in special education schools cannot have more than 10 pupils.
Organisation of the School Year
School calendar is issued every year by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development for the following year.
Each of the 8 grades takes one school year to complete. The school year starts on 1st September and ends on 31st August. The teaching part of the school year consists of two semesters:
- The first semester starts on the first working day of September and ends one or two working days prior to 31st of December;
- The second semester starts on the closest working day to 20th of January and ends on the last working day of May for 8th grade pupils and on the last working day of the second week of June for other pupils.
This schedule is based on the 34/36 working weeks and 170/180 working days requirement. Final grade pupils finish the school year earlier to prepare for final and entrance exams.
There are 3 breaks during the school year:
- Winter break (between the first and second semester);
- Spring break (usually 5 working days around the Orthodox Easter holiday in April or May);
- Summer break (between the second semester and first semester of the following school year).
In addition, there are several one- or two-day breaks for national or religious holidays, as regulated by the Law on National and Other Holidays.
On 28th of June, pupils from 1st to 7th grade receive their school cards with grades for the completed year/grade, while 8th grade pupils receive their school cards and certificates on a date that is determined each year.
Exact start and end dates of teachers’ school year are determined at institutional (school) level. As required at central level, teachers have vacation days which they have to use during the school holidays. For teachers entering the profession 20 days per year is the minimum.) Teachers usually start a school year a few weeks before students (mid-August), and end the school year several weeks after students (mid-July).
Organisation of the School Day and Week
One school week lasts 5 days, from Monday to Friday. One school hour is 45 minutes long.
The number of school hours:
- at cycle 1, may not exceed 20 hours per week, or 4 hours per day;
- at cycle 2, the number of school hours may not exceed 25 hours per week, or 5 hours per day.
Within this number of school hours, one hour per week is dedicated to a class meeting (odeljenska zajednica),. At this class pupils and their teacher or class teacher discuss all current issues or topics regarding school life. At both stages, at most 3 school hours per week may be added in case of electives or other school activities.
As prescribed by the Law on Primary Education, the timetable is determined by the school each year.
For stage 1 grades, a school can choose to organise either half-day long classes with the possibility of extended day (explained below), or full-day classes together with free time activities and lunch time between classes.
At stage 2, teaching lasts half a day and is organised in shifts (one week in the morning, and one in the afternoon). This may vary from school to school and depends on their individual school programmes and available space. The first morning class starts at 8:00 am and the first afternoon class at 2:00 pm. There is a break between each two consecutive classes, either short (5 minutes) or long (20 minutes, once a day).
There are several other forms of activities that schools can organise as part of the weekly schedule for some pupils:
- Additional classes (додатна настава) for pupils from 4th to 8th grade who have special skills, talents or interest in particular subjects;
- Supplementary classes (допунска настава) for pupils who need learning support;
- Preparatory classes (припремна настава) for pupils who are going to take the final exam, grade exam or make-up exam;
- Additional support for pupils with disabilities, according to their Individual Education Plan;
- Full-day classes is an option available for 1st and 2nd grade pupils. Pupils have classes in the mornings and in the afternoon, followed by free time activities, breaks and meals in between;
- Extended day (продужени боравак) for pupils who stay at school after classes, in relation to their parents’ working hours. Extended day does not include teaching activities, although pupils may work on their homework during that time.