7. Central Bosnia Canton

Central Bosnia Canton (CBC) has a GDP per capita that is similar to the average of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) (Table 7.1). The canton’s traditional economic sectors include agriculture and trade; there are some deposits of natural resources that support industry (BHAS, 2021[1]). In terms of surface, CBC is the fifth largest of the ten cantons in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) and with 80.2 inhabitants per km², the population density is slightly below that of FBiH average (89.1 inhabitants per km²). The canton’s Ministry of Education, Science, Youth, Culture and Sports has filled 30 out of 40 of its staff positions, creating capacity constraints for governing education policy from the pre-school to higher education level, as well as policies related to culture and sports. There is also a material and financial affairs section, which has nine employees in total. This profile examines the context and features of Central Bosnia Canton’s evaluation and assessment system for education and highlights policy recommendations that can help strengthen this system to improve teaching and learning.

Notably, CBC is one of only two cantons in FBiH without its own pedagogical institute. In other parts of the country, pedagogical institutes or their equivalent are typically responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of curricula, the use of textbooks and other school and classroom practices. In CBC, the ministry is responsible for establishing primary and secondary school curricula and has a specialised Department for Education, with six staff members who are responsible for supervising education institutions. These include an assistant minister, two expert advisors for pre-school and primary education, two expert advisors for secondary and higher education and one administrative worker. The Department for Education is also planning to hire two more staff employees. Due to limited capacity in the ministry and the lack of a pedagogical institute, CBC draws on experienced teachers and other cantons to provide its schools and teachers with pedagogical support.

Primary and secondary schools in CBC are financed directly from the cantonal budget, including the cost of salaries, social contributions, capital investments, maintenance and other expenses related to school operations (BiH, 2021[2]). The canton’s school funding formula is based exclusively on the number of teachers a given school employs, without regard, for instance, to the number of students or classes, or to the location or operating context of the school (ibid). This is the case in several other BiH jurisdictions and risks leading to resource inefficiencies since the actual needs of a school are not considered in determining their budgets. Moreover, the ministry reports challenges in terms of managing the surplus of teachers in the face of a declining student population. Despite these considerations, there have been no recent changes to the canton’s school funding model. However, in recent years, the cantonal government introduced a programme to provide free textbooks to all primary school students, as well as a programme to finance 150 hours of free pre-school education prior to entry into primary school (BiH, 2021[2]). While such initiatives have the potential to improve educational equity, enabling schools to innovate and implement their school development plan will likely require targeted resource allocations.

Central Bosnia Canton’s education strategy is covered in the Development Strategy of CBC for 2021-2027, which was adopted in October 2021 (CBC, 2021[3]). Key education goals include increasing coverage of pre-school education and reforming secondary vocational education to help guide students to pathways that align with labour market demand. The canton also reported to the OECD review team that it plans to update education legislation and adopt policies commonly found in other European education systems, such as supporting the instructional leadership of school principals and introducing new rulebooks on teacher career paths and professional development. However, human and financial capacity within the ministry make it difficult to implement reforms and develop a specific strategy for the education sector.

Similar to other administrative units in BiH, schools in CBC are managed by a school principal and governed by a school board. While schools have some flexibility in terms of hiring and dismissing teachers, the ministry oversees staffing decisions (BiH, 2021[2]). When it comes to the pedagogical autonomy of schools, public secondary school programmes are developed jointly by canton authorities, students, parents and guardians, and teachers of the school, with input from the ministry (Ministry of Education, Science, Youth, Culture and Sport of the Central Bosnia Canton, 2001[4]). Public primary schools have relatively less flexibility, as the ministry maintains exclusive control over the design of primary school programs (ibid.). The adoption of curricula is regulated by the Law on Primary and the Law on Secondary Education, which are harmonised with the provisions of the BiH Framework Law on Education.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities in CBC took a number of measures to facilitate learning throughout the duration of the health crisis. Teaching continued online, with activities organised for children in pre-school education. However, canton authorities also significantly rebalanced the administrative unit’s education budget due to Covid-19, with cuts for the 2020 budget estimated to be one of the highest among cantons of BiH, and second only to Sarajevo Canton (UNICEF, 2020[5]). Cuts mainly concerned utilities and the provision of small inventory, as well as transportation costs in the case of primary schools (ibid).

There are several policies in CBC that aim to enhance the quality of the education system. For example, the canton is the only competent education authority covered by this review that requires teachers to devote one hour of a 40-hour work week to professional development during school time (e.g. observing classes, providing support to colleagues, etc.) (MESCS of the Central Bosnia Canton, 2002[7]; MESCS of the Central Bosnia Canton, 2002[8]). Other jurisdictions in BiH do not facilitate this type of structured, professional learning within schools. Central Bosnia Canton is also one of the few jurisdictions with legislation requiring that every school be subject to general supervision within a certain period. However, the canton lacks clear standards for student learning and school quality, as well as a dedicated strategy for the education system. Considering CBC is one of only two cantons in FBiH without a pedagogical institute, and the limited human and financial capacity of the ministry, developing the tools and policies that can support teaching and learning often remains a challenge.

Appraisal procedures for the purpose of promoting teachers in Central Bosnia Canton have been prescribed and standardised since 2013. Similar to other jurisdictions in BiH, the canton has a four level career structure for teachers that ranges from “teacher” to “senior counsellor.” In 2021, CBC introduced a new rulebook on the Assessment, Advancement and Evaluation of Teachers in Primary and Secondary Schools, which sets out the criteria and methodology for conducting teacher appraisal (CBC, 2021[9]). This is important considering that a five-member commission including the principal and other school staff are responsible for appraising their own colleagues for promotion. While this arrangement risks jeopardising the objectivity needed to ensure credible judgements of teachers’ performance, the canton’s new rulebook requires that appraisal commissions use multiple sources of evidence, including years of experience, extra-curricular professional work, personnel files (e.g. professional development certificates), and evidence of direct educational work with students. While some stakeholders who spoke with the OECD review team reported that the new rulebook had not yet been implemented, its methodology has potential to motivate teachers to develop their competences and demonstrate high performance. It can also help reduce the bias of promotion decisions within schools until external appraisals for promotion becomes feasible.

Central Bosnia Canton does not have standards in place that define the knowledge and competences that students should have achieved by the time they complete key stages in their schooling. Moreover, stakeholders who spoke with the OECD review team expressed concerns about grade inflation, which is common in other parts of BiH, undermines the rigour of certifications and diminishes the fairness of selection into higher levels of education. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that CBC does not have any external standardised assessments or examinations to help benchmark classroom grades. Moreover, the lack of clear assessment criteria and learning standards leaves teachers without support to guide the educational process and make reliable judgements about the strengths and weaknesses of individual students. This is a particular challenge for teachers who work with students that have learning difficulties.

Continuing professional development is an established practice for teachers in the CBC. As the canton does not have a pedagogical institute, teacher and professional councils oversee the implementation of teacher trainings. CBC also stands out as the only canton in FBiH to provide compulsory training hours to teachers during school time (one hour in every 40-hour working week), through activities such as observing classes, organising workshops, and providing support to colleagues. Moreover, expert teacher groups is mandatory in all schools, further demonstrating the canton’s commitment to peer learning. However, there appear to be fewer training and peer-learning opportunities available for school principals in CBC.

Since the canton lacks external supports for schools and teachers (such as expert advisors, which other BiH jurisdictions typically access through their pedagogical institutes), it is positive that policies are in place to foster improvement within schools. For example, the canton has legislation promoting school self-evaluation to help schools identify and address their weaknesses, as well as inform their annual development plans. However, school self-evaluation is not mandatory and there are no documents that set out consistent standards of school quality or describe the self-evaluation process in more detail (BiH, 2021[2]). Internationally, quality standards are an integral feature of frameworks for school external and self-evaluations. Without guidance and resources, such as a school self-evaluation manual, it will be difficult for school principals and leadership staff to improve teaching practices and learning outcomes.

Central Bosnia Canton previously participated in a pilot for a country-wide education management information system (EMIS) and successfully implemented an electronic EMIS in all primary and secondary schools for six years. The canton suspended the system at the end of the 2018/19 school year, as the previous contract for the software expired (BiH, 2021[2]). However, at the time of drafting this profile, the canton had adopted a new rulebook on integrating information systems, and had launched a new EMIS at the end of 2021. Re-establishing the EMIS is positive since teachers reported that this tool was very useful for planning lessons, grading and other activities. However, the cantonal government will need to ensure that this tool generates timely information about the education system if it is to support the government’s ability to inform system planning and evaluation efforts. Notably, the canton does not have a dedicated education strategy to help focus stakeholders around achieving long-term education goals. These challenges reflect the human and financial resource constraints that impede reform efforts in the canton’s education sector.

This review provides recommendations that are relevant for Central Bosnia Canton as for other competent education authorities in BiH. However, the following points may be particularly salient for this canton:

Central Bosnia Canton should reinstate its electronic EMIS to collect timely information about the education system. This data can help inform system-planning efforts and support policymakers in making effective use of the canton’s limited education resources. For example, a functioning EMIS would allow the canton to report on the performance of its education system, helping to strengthen public trust and demonstrate a commitment to policymaking based on evidence. Eventually, the EMIS could inform the development of a dedicated CBC education strategy that sets out clear goals for stakeholders to work towards. The education strategy should guide the development of the canton’s EMIS, by identifying indicators that the ministry would like to track at the canton level and linking these to broader BiH and international education goals (e.g. such as having a reliably comparable measure of student learning). As schools in CBC receive limited external support (i.e. there is no external school evaluation process or a pedagogical institute), providing schools with modern information tools to help manage their work and measure progress is critical to facilitating school self-evaluation and improvement efforts.

As Central Bosnia Canton continues to build up its institutional architecture for education policy, it should advocate for access to external standardised examinations. Currently, no such instruments exist in the canton, meaning that students have no objective measure to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and competences that they have acquired, including by the time they complete compulsory schooling. As a starting point, CBC should consider participating in any processes to develop an optional BiH Matura and help to engage universities and important local employers in this process (see Chapter 2). This would ensure that a range of stakeholders view the new exam as a reliable and sufficient certification tool. At the same time, the canton should begin to build up its technical capacity to implement and use standardised assessments more generally – potentially paving the way for a canton-level or multi-canton external standardised assessment for system monitoring purposes in the future. In this respect, it could take guidance from other neighbouring countries, such as Slovenia, potentially in the context of an EU initiative, or from other BiH cantons, such as Sarajevo Canton, that have experimented with system monitoring assessments.

The CBC is one of two jurisdictions in BiH to not have its own pedagogical institute, and the only one with a population above 100 thousand to not have one. Most cantons of FBiH have their own pedagogical institute or share one with another canton (e.g. West Herzegovina and Canton 10). Given the relatively large population of CBC, it is unlikely that the four ministry officials who are currently responsible for tasks typically done by pedagogical institutes have the capacity to fully support all of the canton’s schools, teachers and students. The canton should consider establishing its own pedagogical institute or partnering with a nearby canton to share the costs associated with operating this body. The additional capacity a pedagogical institute would provide, and granting this body some independence vis-à-vis the CBC ministry would allow the canton to better perform its duty to provide education. For example, the pedagogical institute could take the lead on establishing standards for student learning and school quality and develop tools to support schools and teachers in integrating these in their work. One the other hand, the ministry could focus on develop a high-level strategy and education goals for the canton.

Although the CBC already implements compulsory training for teachers at various levels and has an established culture of peer-learning within schools, current practices could be enriched by providing school leaders with training, support and peer-learning opportunities to help build their instructional leadership capacity. This policy would align with a recommendation of the BiH Council of Ministers in its 2020 Roadmap for Inclusive Education, which called for all principals to receive collaborative learning and mentorship opportunities (Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2020[10]). Importantly, this training should go beyond administrative tasks, such as staffing decisions and cover other areas, such as monitoring activities based on school quality indicators and conducting school self-evaluation.

As a first step, CBC could create networks for school leaders that are oriented towards sharing school improvement challenges and strategies, or develop mentorship programmes that pair new principals with their experienced colleagues for coaching and feedback. This would be similar to initiatives in other European countries such as Slovenia and Estonia (Pont, Nusche and Moorman, 2008[11]). In the longer term, the canton should consider developing regular principal appraisal procedures through which expert advisors can assess school leaders’ performance against standards for their role. While these actions can help strengthen school leadership, the ministry should also develop guidance and reference materials for principals to use in their work, as well as provide the data and funding that will allow them to implement school improvement plans.


[1] BHAS (2021), Bosnia and Herzegovina in Figures, Agency for Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo, https://bhas.gov.ba/data/Publikacije/Bilteni/2021/NUM_00_2020_TB_1_EN.pdf (accessed on 28 January 2022).

[2] BiH (2021), Country Background Report for the OECD Review of Evaluation and Assessment in Education: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Unpublished.

[3] CBC (2021), Central Bosnia Canton 2021-2027 Development Strategy.

[9] CBC (2021), Official Gazette of Central Bosnia Canton, no. 7/21.

[10] Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2020), KVALITETNO OBRAZOVANJE U MULTIETNIČKIM DRUŠTVIMA Preporuke za politike sa Mapom puta [Quality education in multiethnic societies: policy recommendations with road map], https://rm.coe.int/final-preporuke-za-politike-sa-mapom-puta/16809fdf17 (accessed on  15 November 2021).

[7] MESCS of the Central Bosnia Canton (2002), PEDAGOŠKE STANDARDE ZA SREDNJE ŠKOLE [Pedagogical standards for secondary schools], http://www.mseus.ba/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Pedagoski-standardi-za-srednje-skole-SBK.pdf (accessed on  June 30 2021).

[8] MESCS of the Central Bosnia Canton (2002), PRAVILNIK O PEDAGOŠKIM MJERILIMA ZA OSNOVNE ŠKOLE [Rules on pedagogical criteria for primary schools], https://mozks-ksb.ba/hr/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Pravilnik-o-pedago%C5%A1kim-mjerilima-za-osnovne-%C5%A1kole.pdf (accessed on  July 1 2021).

[4] Ministry of Education, Science, Youth, Culture and Sport of the Central Bosnia Canton (2001), Law on Secondary Education.

[11] Pont, B., D. Nusche and H. Moorman (2008), Improving School Leadership, Volume 1: Policy and Practice, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264044715-en.

[5] UNICEF (2020), Rapid Situation and Needs Assessment - Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina, https://bosniaherzegovina.un.org/sites/default/files/2020-10/UNICEF_UNESCO%20RNA%202%20Phase%202_final.pdf.

[6] World Bank (2022), World Bank Open Data, https://data.worldbank.org/.

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