How education system struggles in North Macedonia affect children

Posted on Posted in Children's Rights, Education

The education system in North Macedonia is facing a unique set of challenges. The current landscape is marked by unprecedented obstacles, notably the scarcity of textbooks stemming from political complexities and the frequent occurrence of false bomb threats. Consequently, these challenges have compounded, prompting the youth of the country to face significant setbacks in their educational journey

Reasons behind diminished quality of education

The North Macedonian education system faces a significant challenge as primary school students have been without textbooks for several years. This issue arose with the implementation of a new law on textbooks in the 2021/2022 academic year, which aimed to promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills by digitalizing books (Samardjiev A, 2024).

Although the Ministry of Education and Science pledged to enact a new law for digital educational materials in 2022, the transition from traditional to digital textbooks has yet to materialize. Consequently, digital textbooks remain more of an alternative than a widely adopted practice in the education system (Georgievski, n.d.).

Despite parents’ backlash, the lack of new textbooks has persisted, leaving students in the third and sixth grades without essential materials. The situation has forced teachers to resort to photocopying textbooks, a practice that, while illegal, has become common due to the ongoing shortage (Samardjiev A, 2024).

To exacerbate matters further, daily school evacuations have become the unsettling “norm” across North Macedonia due to frequent bomb threats. These alarming incidents force students and teachers to hastily evacuate until police conduct bomb sweeps, often resulting in lost school days. The consistent upheaval deprives young Macedonians of their right to education and adds frustration to an already stressed community (Heil, 2023).

The education system is failing to prepare students for success

The North Macedonian education system is failing to adequately prepare students for success, contributing to the country’s constant emigration. Despite being the supposed future leaders of the nation, many young people feel compelled to leave in search of better opportunities elsewhere. The system’s shortcomings are evident in the declining birth rate and the significant loss of population, as revealed in the 2021 census (Samardjiev, 2022).

The desire to emigrate is particularly strong among those under 28, highlighting a lack of confidence in the country’s ability to provide a promising future. This trend indicates that the education system is not equipping students with the skills and opportunities needed to thrive within the country, further exacerbating the challenge of emigration and hindering the nation’s potential for growth and development (Samardjiev, 2022).

The emigration of young people from North Macedonia presents a significant societal challenge, impacting investment in crucial programs like national digitization. Factors such as economic instability, lack of job opportunities, and dissatisfaction with socio-economic structures drive this trend. The departure of highly educated individuals undermines efforts to implement initiatives aimed at improving the country’s prospects, hindering its progress and development (Parker et. al., 2021).

The dire need to improve access to quality school education for children 

Statistics indicate that 4% of children in the country are not proficient in reading, with 38% failing to achieve minimum proficiency levels at the end of primary school. Additionally, 8% of primary school-aged children are not enrolled in school, further exacerbating the issue of learning deprivation. These figures underscore the urgent need to address learning poverty and ensure access to quality education for all children (The World Bank, 2021).

The 2022 PISA results painted a sobering picture of North Macedonia‘s educational landscape, with rankings of 61st in mathematics, 71st in reading, and 68th in science among 81 nations. These rankings underscore the pressing need to address educational shortcomings to ensure that children can realize their right to quality education (Republika, 2023).

The Ministry’s emphasis on the significance of the PISA assessment highlights the test’s role in measuring practical knowledge essential for students’ educational and professional advancement. By focusing on problem-solving and comprehension skills rather than rote memorization, the assessment sheds light on the critical areas where improvement is urgently needed to uplift North Macedonia‘s educational standards (Republika, 2023).

Empowering children through school

To ensure that students in North Macedonia can fully access their right to education, schools must prioritize providing fundamental necessities such as textbooks, access to a safe learning environment, as well as the necessary support to enable them to become productive members of society. This approach can help alleviate the necessity for youth to seek opportunities abroad due to challenges encountered within their own country.

Additionally, political leaders and decision-makers must recognize the importance of increasing public funding for education. Adequate funding is crucial for schools to meet national education standards and ensure access and inclusion for the most vulnerable children, particularly those from poorer households (UNICEF, 2024).

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Written by Lidija Misic


Georgievski Nenad (n.d.), North Macedonia: Still no new law on the digital textbooks, pupils forced to use print copies only. Retrieved from Meta News Agency at Accessed on March 10, 2024.

Heil Andy (2023), As Bomb Threats Send Kids Home From School, Macedonians Fear A Return To Online Learning. Retrieved from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) at Accessed on March 10, 2024.

Parker Kimberly et al. (2021), Reflections on the Emigration Aspirations of Young, Educated People in Small Balkan Countries: A Qualitative Analysis of Reasons to Leave or Stay in North Macedonia. Retrieved from The Central and Eastern European Migration Review (CEEMR) at Accessed on March 10, 2024.

Republika (2023), Results of PISA 2022: North Macedonia is ranked 61 in maths, 71 in reading, and 68 in science out of 81 participating countries. Retrieved from Republika at Accessed on March 10, 2024.

Samardjiev Aleksandar (2024), North Macedonia, education system in disarray. Retrieved from Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT) at Accessed on March 10, 2024.

Samardjiev Aleksandar (2022), North Macedonia and emigration, an eternal issue. Retrieved from Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT) at Accessed on March 10, 2024.

The World Bank (2021), North Macedonia: Learning Poverty Brief. Retrieved from The World Bank at Accessed on March 10, 2024.

UNICEF (2024), Are we prepared to pay the cost of not making education a national priority? Retrieved from UNICEF at Accessed on March 10, 2024.