Executive summary

Since the last OECD review of the Republic of North Macedonia (hereafter referred to as “North Macedonia”) in 2003, more children now participate in education and remain in school for longer. Despite these improvements, low learning outcomes indicate that many young adults in North Macedonia leave education without mastering the basic competencies for life and work. Inequities remain large and children from minority communities are still less likely to access quality education and to successfully progress through the system.

This report looks at the design and practice of student assessment, teacher appraisal, and school and system evaluation in North Macedonia, focusing on how they can enhance student learning. North Macedonia has many positive evaluation and assessment practices and has made important efforts to create a more learner-centred education system. Since 2003, the country has created separate government agencies that now lead key evaluation and assessment functions. North Macedonia is currently in the midst of developing a national assessment and discussing the introduction of a merit-based career structure for teachers.

However, assessment practices continue to be predominantly summative and provide limited quality feedback to advance students’ learning. There is limited support to strengthen teachers’ classroom assessment techniques and develop a culture of learning and feedback in schools. The country’s data systems and evaluation processes that feed information into policy making are still weak.

Strengthening North Macedonia’s evaluation and assessment system to set high expectations for all students and to support students learn will be key to achieve the country’s potential and create a more equitable education system where all students can succeed in education and life.

Raising learning outcomes through student assessment

In North Macedonia, teachers’ assessment judgements are not based on established, national learning standards, and classroom assessment practices are predominantly summative and limited to a narrow range of lower-order tasks. Consequently, students receive little quality feedback to help them understand how to advance in their learning. They also have few opportunities to demonstrate the more applied skills and complex transversal competencies that are part of the country’s curriculum. This review proposes ways in which North Macedonia can develop meaningful reporting of student results, by developing coherent national learning standards and aligning student assessment to them. Focusing assessment practices on helping students learn will require the expanded use of diagnostic assessment tools, and providing greater flexibility and support to teachers to encourage the use of formative practices.

While the state matura is one of the strengths of North Macedonia’s assessment system –its administrative procedures are sound and the results are trusted – the examination needs to evolve to keep pace with changes in the education system. In particular, this review looks at how the state matura might be adapted to support the government’s goal of improving the quality and attractiveness of vocational education and training (VET); how the country assesses and recognises the knowledge and skills of VET students is a key issue that it would like to address. This review also suggests revisions to the matura’s design and structure to promote learning across a range of subjects, better discriminate across different levels of student achievement and enhance the reliability of results.

Using teacher appraisal to support and incentivise good teaching

In recent years, North Macedonia has made several attempts to create more robust teacher selection and promotion methods, with the aim of establishing a more learner-centred system. Initiatives include the proposal to develop a merit-based career structure for teachers, as well as efforts to support teachers’ professional development in core areas, such as training on classroom assessment techniques. However, these efforts have not been sustained – the merit-based career system is still not implemented – and do not amount to a comprehensive policy to support the teaching profession.

North Macedonia must ensure that entry into, and progression along the teaching career path are based on professional competence. This will require the introduction of the performance-based career structure and mechanisms to ensure that only the most qualified candidates are selected for teaching. Further, North Macedonia should formalise and encourage a culture of learning and feedback in schools, by developing the “Teacher Actives” and reviewing the role of the in-school support team to focus more on creating an effective, inclusive learning environment. North Macedonia’s teachers need access to high quality professional development opportunities and tools. Increasing funding for professional development will be key to increase their take-up and availability.

Aligning school evaluation with its core purposes of accountability and improvement

North Macedonia has a school evaluation framework that covers the key areas that are important for an effective school evaluation system. However, this framework has not been fully implemented or appropriated by stakeholders. Both external and self-evaluation focus largely on ensuring compliance with the framework, rather than encouraging a culture of reflection and improvement in schools. Fundamentally, this reflects a disconnect between the aims of the framework – to enhance school quality and school-led improvement – and the perception of evaluation among inspectors and schools as an administrative requirement. This is exacerbated by a useful, yet complicated evaluation framework, which inspectors and schools find difficult to apply, and the lack of support to schools on how to use evaluation results to inform improvement efforts.

Guaranteeing the integrity and independence of the State Education Inspectorate (SEI) and building its internal professional capacity will allow the inspectorate to lead a meaningful school evaluation system. However, increased professional independence of the SEI will need to be balanced by greater oversight of, and accountability for, its work. North Macedonia should revise its integral school evaluation to focus more strongly on improving school quality and develop schools’ capacity to carry out meaningful self-evaluation. For this purpose, it will be necessary to provide schools with the necessary tools and adequate financial resources to measure their performance and implement their improvement plans.

Creating a stronger framework to monitor and evaluate national progress in education

In North Macedonia, system evaluation is at a nascent stage of development. Recent years have seen important steps towards establishing the institutions and instruments that can support effective system evaluation. However, many basic components are still lacking, and data systems and the processes for feeding information into decision-making are weak. Among the significant gaps is the absence of clear objectives for improving learning outcomes.

The Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) should consider moving North Macedonia’s Education Management Information System (EMIS) unit closer to the ministry’s central leadership to give it greater authority over who collects school-level data and improve its capacity and functionality. Notably, North Macedonia is now planning to introduce a new national assessment. A well-designed assessment would provide valuable information to monitor student performance at key stages of their education against national goals. This review proposes how the assessment could be designed to best support a primarily formative purpose and how the dissemination and use of its results can enhance their formative value.

This report also strongly supports the current ministry initiative to develop its own research unit that will help to ensure information is used more systematically for policy making. In addition, the MoES should consider developing a wider network of research entities that contribute to system evaluation under clearly defined roles. Promoting the sharing and use of evaluation results, by annually publishing an analytical, public, education report can help hold the government accountable for educational improvement. The report might include prominent reporting against national goals and targets, accompanied by analysis of progress.

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