Education in Serbia

Education in Serbia
Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development
Minister for Education, Science and Technological Development Mladen Šarčević
National education budget
Budget 4.7% of GDP (2010)[1] – 84th ranking of government expenditure on education worldwide.[2]
General details
Primary languages Serbian
System type nationalized
Literacy (2010)
Total 98%[3]
Male 99.3%[3]
Female 96.9%[3]

Education in Serbia is divided into preschool (predškolsko), primary school (osnovna škola), secondary school (srednja škola) and higher education (visoko obrazovanje) levels. It is regulated by the Ministry of Education and Science of Republic of Serbia.[4]

History of education

The beginnings of education in Serbia date from 11th and 12th century with the establishment of schools at Roman Catholic monasteries in Titel and Bač in today's Vojvodina, which was then part of the Kingdom of Hungary. People were also educated in Serbian Orthodox monasteries like Sopoćani, Studenica and Patriarchate of Peć.

After the fall of medieval Serbian state, among newly established schools were Slavic and Latin schools. In 1778, Serbian primary school Norma was established in Sombor. In 1791, Gymnasium of Karlovci, the oldest Serbian gymnasium, was established.

During the First Serbian Uprising, Belgrade Higher School was established in 1808. In 1838, in Kragujevac, Liceum of Serbian Principality was established. It was moved to Belgrade in 1841. In 1863, it merged into the Belgrade Higher School. It had 3 faculties: philosophy, engineering and law. Later, it became the University of Belgrade.

University of Belgrade was established in 1905. After World War II, more universities were established, including University of Novi Sad (1960), University of Niš (1965), University of Pristina (1969), University of Montenegro (1974) and University of Kragujevac (1976).

Historical system (prior to 2005)

Educational system

Before 2005 (the implementation of the Bologna Process and comprehensive educational reform), Serbian implemented the system from the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. Preschool education was optional and primary and secondary education were the same. As of school year 2005-2006, previous Diploma visokog obrazovanja has been equalized with Master's degree, and Magister with the two years of doctoral studies (one year until doctorate) (because of the same length). Quaternary education has been abolished and its contents were moved to tertiary education.

Professional qualification

Historical system ranked students by professional qualification (stručna sprema). Those who graduated primary school were qualified as unqualified workers (nekvalifikovani radnik), while those who graduated gymnasium were semi-qualified workers (polukvalifikovani radnik).

Those who graduated professional high school had secondary professional qualification (srednja stručna sprema), those with higher school higher professional qualification (viša stručna sprema), while those with university had high professional degree (visoka stručna sprema).[5]

Degrees of professionality

Other than professional qualification ranking that indicated workers' ability to work, there also were degrees of professionality (stepen stručne spreme). Those who graduated gymnasiums had the IV degree (reserved for four-year professional schools). The degrees were:[5]

General principles

School organization

Students are organized into classes (odeljenje) of at least 5 for preschools and at least 15 for primary and high schools.

Most primary and high schools have their Student council (đački savet/parlament) and Peer Team (vršnjački tim).

Student councils propose events and improvements and give their opinion about particular subjects to school principals, while Peer Teams deal with students' problems (helping lower ability students learn or helping someone integrate into peer groups) with the help of professional psychologist. In schools without Peer teams, its actions are all on the psychologist.

Parents are organized into Parent councils (savet roditelja). Parent councils propose excursions, watch over actions involving students' money and debate about events happening in school. In schools without Student council, Parent council solely practices all aforementioned actions.

Free textbooks

Every subject (except PE) has its own textbook (students aren't obliged to have all textbooks). Textbooks are chosen by the teachers of the particular school, and they are bought in the local bookstore, or as second-hand (from those who passed the particular grade).

As of school year 2009-2010, all 1st grade primary school students are granted textbooks for free, provided they return them at the end of school year "usable". However, even "unusable" (damaged) books are accepted, and no-one is fined, as minister Žarko Obradović said.[8]

Free textbooks in higher grades were only available for poor students in the past, but now students in Belgrade get their textbooks free of charge but are bound to return them at the end of the school year.

Grading system

The grading system is numeric and is present in this form through elementary school and high school. Grades from 1 (the lowest and failing grade) to 5 (the best grade) are used for primary and high schools:

Higher schools and universities use grades from 5 to 10. All students have to acquire at least 6 (the lowest passing grade). Grades for the 1st grade of primary school are 'descriptive' (teacher writes down the impressions about the particular student and particular subjects).

Foreigners and stateless

Foreign citizens and stateless students are enrolled on the same principle as Serbian citizens are. The only difference is that they are provided free Serbian classes (in case they don't already know Serbian) prior to enrollment so they could understand lectures in school. If the student is from a European country, they can be provided the lectures of mother tongue and culture, free or with compensation.[9]

Students' health

All students have to submit their medical report when proceeding to the next educational level. A psychologist's report is also needed if enrolling in primary school. Compulsory vaccinations, physical examinations and dental checkups are carried out in schools for free. Also, during compulsory school running races and similar events, medical teams are always present.


Primary schools can have cafeterias which provide students with meals for the lowest price. They offer mostly croissants with the filling, but some have hamburgers, french fries and more. Some schools offer cooked meals, but their cost is much higher.[10] Excursions (ekskurzija) are one- or two-day trips to places around Serbia and Europe and are organized by the particular school and only in primary and high schools.[11] Supplementary education is carried out for students with aspirations of learning more about the particular subject, participate in competitions, earn scholarships and prepare for further education.[12] Complementary education is carried out for students with bad grades. Its goals are to help students catch up with lectures, not with learning lesson only for the test, but also with remembering core part of that lesson for longer. It can also be attended by students with higher grades, especially as a preparation for the upcoming test.[12]

Schoolyear organization

Preschool education

Preschool education is attended during the 1st grade enrollment year. It lasts for at least 4 hours a day for at least 6 months. After it, students pass an exam of ability to attend primary school.[13]

Primary and secondary education

The school year for primary and high schools lasts for 9½ months, except for 8th grade of primary and 3rd/4th grade of secondary school, for which it lasts 9 months. It begins on September 1, and ends in the half of June (June 15 ±5 days). For 8th grade of primary and 3rd/4th grade of secondary school, it ends in the beginning of June (about one week earlier than for others).[12]

The school year is split into 2 semesters (polugodište), and semesters are split into 2 quarters (tromesečje).[12]

Students have 5 holidays a school year: one in November (quarter holiday; lasts for 2 days), one in January (New Year/Orthodox Christmas/semester holiday; lasts for 15 days), one in February (Serbia National Day; last for 2 days), one in April (Orthodox Easter/quarter holiday; lasts for about 10 days) and one in May (International Workers' Day; last for 2 days).[12]

Between school years, in summer, there is summer holiday which last for 2½ months (3 months for those proceeding to high school or university. So, students have about 85 working days in the first semester and 95 in the second semester; 180 in total).[12]

Throughout a school year, there are 2 voluntary school running races (kros) - one in September and one in May.

Tertiary education

The school year is split into 2 semesters (semestar), beginning approximately a month later than primary and secondary semesters (polugodište) do. Exam period is conducted several times during times of primary and secondary education holidays.

Educational system

Preschool education

As of school year 2006-2007, preschool in duration of 6 months is compulsory and it is the first part of compulsory education. Attended at the age of 5 or 6 in the local kindergarten, it familiarizes students with the educational system.[13]

Primary education

Children enroll in primary schools at the age of seven (usually, all students in a class were born in the same year). However, it is possible for students to enroll at the primary school one year earlier if they were born before August.

The elementary school is divided into two stages:

In the lower grades, students are sorted into classes randomly and have only one teacher and classroom for all subjects, except for English, P.E. and, civics and religion. Students in the lower grades study the following subjects (as of school year 2005-2006, it is compulsory to learn English language from the 1st grade):

In the higher grades, students get a whole range of teachers and classrooms for the school subjects (old and new).

When students graduate from the primary school, they choose whether they want to continue their education or not. National Strategy for Education plans to make secondary education compulsory by 2020. The Minister of Education, Žarko Obradović, said that even though strategy would be implemented in the future, it required constitutional changes.[14]

Secondary education

Secondary schools are divided into three types - gymnasiums, professional and craft schools. After graduating from the primary school, students take a test called Matura. The test covers subjects that were taught in primary school. They are awarded the maximum of 40 points at the test. They also get points from their average marks from 5th to 8th grade, and the maximum is 60 points. Both the points from Matura and from average marks are totallized into the maximum of 100 points. Then, students make a list of their preferred schools and are sorted according to how much points they had gained - every secondary school has a limited number of students it takes. After students make lists for preferred schools, they get into the first school that suits them according to the points. If they fail to get into any of the schools they had listed (ex. if they don't have enough points, but they had chosen very competitive schools), they make another list for the Second Enrollment Deadline.

There are secondary schools that don't require the classical point system for entrance. Various music, science, philology and ballet schools sort students out based on their talent, rather than their academic performance.

Gymnasiums have its courses (smerovi), and the most common ones are the Socio-Linguistics Course, Science-Mathematics Course, Information Technology Course, Bilingual Course, and the General Course. Students can only choose one course (they do it when they write their wish list for preferred schools and courses) and they usually don't change it until they graduate. Every course has the same number and list of classes, but the difference is in their schedules (for example, the Socio-Linguistic Course might have English classes five times a week, while the Science-Mathematics Course offers two English classes a week).

Vocational schools also have courses. Usually, they teach 10-14 general subjects (English, math, biology, geography, history, etc.), a few professional subjects that are different for almost every course (hygiene in a nurse-technician course at medical schools, for example) and a compulsory block of practice classes.

There are two types of vocational school courses: four-year courses and three-year courses. Three-year courses are crafts and if a student that has a craft diploma wants to attend a university, they must enroll in the fourth year of a four-year course inordinately.

Also, after graduating from vocational schools, students are given particular ranks. If their school course was "Law", then their rank is the Law Technician. Only four-year courses give ranks.

Tertiary education

Tertiary level institutions accept students based on their grades in high school and entrance exams results.

Serbia has 17 universities, of which 8 are public and 9 are private, 63 colleges of applied sciences, of which 47 are public and 17 are private, and 8 colleges of academic studies, of which 3 are public and 5 are private. Serbian citizens can study at public universities for free, while tuition is low for foreign students. Tuition costs at private schools vary.[15]

Quaternary education

Postgraduate education (post-diplomske studije) was made of further specialization and doctorate during the times of Socialist Yugoslavia. However, the Bologna Process (which Serbia signed in 2003) abolished the quaternary education and incorporated it into the tertiary education. Specialization today is non-academic and considered as improvement in different parts of the profession (seminars, researches, etc.), and doctorate is considered as the third part of the bachelor-master-doctor continuum present in the tertiary educational system.

Special education

Special education includes: education of disabled, bilingual education, full-day classes and adult education. It is implemented only for primary and secondary education.

Education of disabled is handled both in ordinary schools and special schools.

As of schoolyear 2009-2010, higher grade primary school students and high school students can be organized into special classes, which are based on bilingual education (dvojezička/bilingvalna nastava). Children are taught on Serbian and either English, French or Italian.[16]

As of schoolyear 2009-2010, full-day classes (celodnevna nastava) are held. They are designed for children with busy parents. They are organized only for lower grades of primary schools. Children have morning classes, afternoon classes and breaks for play, homework, lunch etc. They have separate teachers for separate shifts. This gives students possibility to be in school for the longest part of the day with their classmates and do all the homework and other school obligations at school.[17]

Full-day classes are the extension of already present 'extended stay' (produženi boravak), which allows students to stay at school after the morning shift (typically ending at noon) until their parents come home from work (typically 3-5 pm). Schools offering full-day classes also offer 'extended stay'.[18]

As of schoolyear 2011-2012, adult education was launched under the name Druga šansa (Second chance). Its purpose is to educate people who didn't graduate primary or high school or both, so they could have better chances of getting a work. Most people attending adult education are minors who missed their chance to enroll in primary schools (most of them being of Roma descent).[19]

Academic degrees

Primary and high schools

Higher schools

Non-medical faculties

Medical schools

Education organization

Age Grade/degree Educational establishments
5-6 0 Preschool
Compulsory Education
6-7 1 Primary school
(Osnovna škola)
Compulsory Education
7-8 2
8-9 3
9-10 4
10-11 5
11-12 6
12-13 7
13-14 8
14-15 1 Gymnasium
Four-year professional
school course

(Četvorogodišnja stručna škola)
Three-year professional
school course

(Trogodišnja stručna škola)
15-16 2
16-17 3
17-18 4
18-19 Medical School (MD)
(Medicinski fakultet)
Higher school
(Viša škola)
20-21 Non-medical bachelor/
Higher school diploma
22-23 Non-medical master
23-24 Doctor of Medicine
24-25 Medical residency
(Specijalistički staž)
25-26 Non-medical PhD
27-28 Medical doctorate (MD-PhD)
(Medicinski doktorat)
Medical specialty (MD/Spec)
(Medicinska specijalnost)
28-29 Specialist diploma
29-30 MD-PhD

Multilateral agreements


  1. "Serbia". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 2013-10-11. Retrieved 2013-10-11.
  3. 1 2 3,%20Popis%20stanovnistva%203.pdf
  4. (Serbian)
  5. 1 2 (Serbian)
  6. It's compulsory to finish all 8 grades of primary school today.
  7. Fifth degree was awarded after passing a few more exams than for fourth degree, showing 'further' professional knowledge.
  8. (Serbian)
  9. (Serbian)
  10. (Serbian)
  11. (Serbian)
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 (Serbian)
  13. 1 2 (Serbian)
  14. (Serbian)
  16. (Serbian)
  17. (Serbian)
  18. (Serbian)
  19. (Serbian)
  20. To be abolished for the establishment of professional tertiary degrees (bachelor, master and doctoral) in accordance with the Bologna Process.
  21. 1 2 Medical and doctoral specializations in Serbia consist of 3 years of medical residency and 2 years of specialty studies or 3 years of doctoral studies.
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