6. Boosting education and competencies in North Macedonia

The Initial Assessment of this Multi-dimensional Review of the Western Balkans identified education and competencies for economic transformation as the top priority for North Macedonia and for all economies across the region (OECD, 2021[1]). While economic structures vary significantly from one economy to another, finding new sources of productivity growth and engines for future transformation is an urgent task for all the regional economies. Good jobs are scarce and young people continue to leave. Boosting youth and workforce competencies can unlock new opportunities to overcome these trends. The more unfavourable an economy’s current wage-to-productivity ratio, the more urgent it becomes to find new and more productive activities to build a strong economy.

High-quality education also tops the list of aspirations for the future in North Macedonia and in the region. Quality education is an essential element of quality of life for all; young people in school; families; those who want opportunities for their own children; those who want to have children in the future; and those who depend on the younger generations to shape the future of their societies. Beyond innovation and economic opportunity, education matters for civic engagement and respect for diversity and for the rule of law. With impressive unanimity, quality education ranked topmost in all four aspirational foresight workshops held in Skopje and other capitals of the region as part of the Initial Assessment of this review (OECD, 2021[1]).1 The foresight workshops gathered a range of participants from various ministries and agencies, the private sector, academia and civil society, who developed vision statements based on narratives of the lives of future citizens.

This report builds on an extensive peer-learning process with practitioners and experts to provide suggestions for strengthening education and competencies in North Macedonia and in the region. Building on the Governmental Learning Spiral methodology (Blindenbacher and Nashat, 2010[2]), two peer-learning workshops brought together experts and practitioners from across the region and beyond to prioritise among challenges and solutions, develop ideas for action and learn from each other (Box 2.1 of Chapter 2). The peer-learning workshops on education and competencies served three complementary aims: to identify of outcome-level challenges hampering the build-up of competencies; to identify key policy challenges; and to put forward key policy priorities for North Macedonia and for the region (Figure 6.1).

Over the past decade, North Macedonia has taken important steps to boost the quality and relevance of education across all levels. Significant progress has been made in ensuring full participation in basic compulsory schooling and in making learning more competency-oriented through the introduction of competency-based curricula. North Macedonia’s regular participation in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) provides valuable data and benchmarking that can help authorities identify and close existing learning gaps. Adoption of the Education Strategy 2018-25, along with related action plans, laws and by-laws, clearly signals that education is a top priority for authorities.

To sustain progress in building key competencies of student and adults, North Macedonia must now tackle a set of important problems that remain (Figure 6.1). While primary education enrolment rates are high, compared with international benchmarks, North Macedonia has one the lowest secondary and tertiary education enrolment rates. Limited availability of early childhood education and care (ECEC), especially in rural areas, hampers acquisition of foundational skills needed to acquire key competencies. North Macedonia’s education system also does not perform well in terms of outcomes and equity. Performance in PISA is very low in terms of test scores, and ethnic Albanian students have lower results than ethnic Macedonian students. The existing education system tends to focus on top performers and neglect others, further affecting equity in the education system. It also fails to equip people with job-ready skills. In general, education is not sufficiently aligned with labour market needs, leaving many without adequate employment opportunities. In turn, this boosts the desire to migrate, especially among the young. While many students enrol in technical vocational education and training (VET) programmes, many schools lack the infrastructure and resources necessary to provide students with competencies needed to thrive in the labour market.

Eleven priority actions have a great potential to strengthen education and competencies in North Macedonia, with VET excellence being the key priority (Figure 6.1).

  • Attain VET excellence by connecting with smart specialisation strategies while focusing on innovation, digitalisation and the green transition (peer-learning priority)

  • Increase access to early childhood education and care (ECEC)

  • Foster equitable education at all levels

  • Strengthen the governance of education policy

  • Make efficient use of education financing

  • Update and modernise curricula

  • Improve teaching quality

  • Employ digital technologies in the classroom

  • Increase access to and quality of adult education

  • Leverage foreign direct investment (FDI) to boost skills

  • Foster closer linkages with the diaspora.

This chapter is divided into three sections. Sections 6.1 and 6.2 provide policy implications across the eleven policy actions through a prism of challenges specific to North Macedonia. Section 6.3 provides indicators against which progress can be measured in implementing all the policy priorities for North Macedonia. This chapter is complemented by the regional chapter (Chapter 2), which provides more specific policy options for the eleven policy actions based on international practices that may also be applied, albeit to different degrees, to North Macedonia.

Through the MDR peer-learning process, experts from North Macedonia selected striving for excellence in VET as the key priority for improving educational outcomes. An inadequately educated workforce is the third greatest obstacle to doing business identified by firms in North Macedonia, (World Bank, 2020[3]). High-quality VET can help overcome this situation. Strong VET systems bring together VET providers, employers, research centres, development agencies, employment services and other stakeholders to develop competencies needed for economic and social development (European Commission, 2021[4]). A well designed VET system can also play an integral role in the implementation of smart specialisation strategies2 through knowledge diffusion, especially in less developed areas, and foster innovation and expansion of digital and green technologies (European Commission, 2019[5]).

A push for excellence in VET must ensure relevant content and appropriate organisation. The current VET system in North Macedonia is characterised by poor educational outcomes, including insufficient general competencies (such as reading and writing), low technical skills and limited exposure to practical work. Less than 45% of recent VET graduates report using knowledge and skills they acquired during their education in their current job; 37% do not do an internship while in training (ETF, 2016[6]). The governance of the VET system has been driving some of these poor results. Currently, municipalities are responsible for VET; the result was a proliferation of classes across the economy. Analysis shows, however, that they have often introduced new classes that did not reflect a local need for such professions. Also, teachers often lacked skills to provide adequate training in those areas (World Bank, 2018[7]).

Establishing three regional VET centres is seen as a key tool to achieve VET excellence in North Macedonia, yet will require broad support and collaboration, especially from municipalities. The vision to establish three regional VET centres is part of North Macedonia’s Education Strategy (2018-25). In addition to improving overall governance and efficiency of the VET system, the regional centres aim to focus increasingly on lifelong learning, catering to the needs of enterprises and creating partnerships with other relevant partners. In collaboration with educational institutions and other ministries, the Ministry of Education published (in 2021) a concept document on the functioning of the regional VET centres. Peer-learning participants from North Macedonia put forward dissemination of the concept document as one action to inform the broader public and obtain feedback. As a next step, a law on the regional VET would need to be adopted (Box 6.1). Given the vast network of VET institutions currently under the responsibility of municipalities,3 the government will need to obtain full support and secure municipal collaboration to phase out existing VET institutions and make the three regional centres fully functional and accessible (ETF, 2020[8]).

Ensuring better alignment with labour market needs and creating linkages with the labour market should be at the core of efforts to attain VET excellence. In recent years, North Macedonia initiated important VET reforms with a strong focus on work-based learning (i.e. making work-based learning mandatory for all students at the beginning of their third year, although finding placements in companies remains a challenge) (ETF, 2020[9]). To further strengthen linkages with the labour market and ensure alignment with labour market needs (for both emerging regional VET centres and existing VET institutions), the peer-learning participants proposed several actions: carry out continuous analysis of the regional labour market and its evolution; create conditions for stronger collaboration among all relevant actors, including VET, the private sector, universities, civil society and others; create conditions for stronger involvement of the private sector; and implement and monitor a demand-driven model of work-based learning (Box 6.1).

Boosting teaching quality and improving the attractiveness of VET professions should also be integral to the strategy to strengthen VET excellence. The quality of VET teachers and trainers has been outlined in the Education Strategy 2018-25. Improved teacher knowledge about use of modern technologies in technical subjects and the managerial capacity of vocational school principals are key (ETF, 2020[9]). Peer-learning participants stressed the need to improve practice-oriented teaching at VET institutions (Box 6.1), including case study methods, and simulation techniques (ETF, 2016[6]). At present, recruitment of teachers is very rigid and does not allow practitioners outside education to enter the profession, unlike several EU countries with successful VET systems. Finally, teacher renumeration is low, and no reward system is in place for VET teachers (ETF, 2019[10]).

Complementary to the above, VET needs to be better equipped to improve the quality of teaching. The combination of a high number of VET schools with low funding has led to a situation in which VET schools are poorly equipped. Given the technical nature of the VET curriculum, significant need exists for modern equipment. As part of the recent tracer study, students mentioned poor quality and low availability of technical equipment as two important issue affecting their studies (ETF, 2016[6]).

Finally, improving selection into VET programmes and strengthening the attractiveness of all VET tracks is important for improving education outcomes. Due to lack of available places in general schools (gymnasiums), students in some areas of North Macedonia are obliged to enrol in VET schools upon finishing their elementary education (primary and lower secondary). This can affect their motivation and potentially also the VET outcomes. Lack of external student evaluation at the end of lower secondary education4 means the decision of who goes to gymnasium or VET is left to teacher judgement, which can lead to a skills mismatch at later stages. Providing better options to attend general schools (including through better transport options) and putting in place an objective evaluation system at the end of lower secondary education would improve selection at the upper secondary level. In addition, attendance is very low in two- and three-year tracks (2% and 4%, respectively) that aim to prepare students directly for the labour market. Strengthening the attractiveness of these tracks could also be beneficial for building relevant labour market competencies (OECD, 2019[11]).

North Macedonia needs to focus on implementing its strategic priorities to boost ECEC access to prepare children for later stages of education. Only 41.8% of children aged 3-5 years attended a preschool facility in 2018 (UNESCO, 2020[12]), which is very low in comparison to the OECD average of 81.7% in 2020 (OECD, 2021[13]). Children from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds are even less likely to participate in ECEC (OECD, 2021[14]): only 4% of Roma children and 0.4% of the poorest quintile attended pre-school (World Bank, 2015[15]). The Education Strategy 2018-2025 aims to improve enrolment and inclusiveness in preschool education by: increasing the network of preschool institutions; improving the physical conditions of schools; improving teaching material; and training staff to work with children who have childhood developmental difficulties (Ministry of Education and Science, 2018[16]).

One important policy consideration is to ensure adequate funding for ECEC, especially for the most vulnerable groups and for areas with limited ECEC facilities. Funding for ECEC comes almost entirely from the central government, with municipalities receiving block grants according to a funding formula based on the capacity of each ECEC facility and the number of staff. The formula does not consider the socio-economic background of children or their special needs. Many parents therefore have to pay additional fees for both public (e.g. for meals) and private ECEC services, which can be a significant barrier for enrolment, especially for the Roma population (OECD, 2019[11]). The funding formula assumes that the costs of care per child are the same across North Macedonia and treats all facilities equally, regardless of location. This accentuates disparities in ECEC access across North Macedonia (Eurydice, 2021[17]).

Given current disparities, North Macedonia should scale up initiatives that target disadvantaged students, minorities and students from rural areas at all levels of education. Based on the latest available data (from 2011), enrolment rates in upper secondary education were substantially lower for students from the poorest quintile (50%) compared to those from the richest income quintile (83%) (OECD, 2019[11]). Also, education participation and attainment among the Roma population is systematically lower than the rest of the population. Among Roma, the secondary school attendance rate is 60% and the completion rate is 52% (UNICEF, 2021[18]). The Albanian ethnic minority also has lower participation rates than the general population in secondary and tertiary education. Worse educational performance for students taught in Albanian highlights disparities in teaching quality and learning conditions between schools taught in Albanian and in Macedonian. Finally, children from rural backgrounds are less likely to attend upper secondary school (61% against 75% in urban areas). Finally, the rural-urban performance gap is among the largest of all economies participating in the PISA, equivalent to 1.5 school years. The provision of infrastructure and services in rural schools is rather poor (OECD, 2019[11]).

The "Be IN, be INClusive, be INcluded" project is an important initiative that the Government of North Macedonia could build upon. The project awarded scholarships to 287 first- and second-grade children with special education needs in the school year 2020/2021. It was implemented by the Foundation for Educational and Cultural Initiatives ("Step by Step" programme) in co-operation with the Association for Promotion and Development of Inclusive Society ("Inclusive") and the Association for Services to People with disability ("Handimak"). The project also provides tutoring support for these children (Eurydice, 2021[17]).

Improving policy co-ordination at the central level and increasing the capacities of relevant specialised agencies could ensure better implementation of North Macedonia’s strategic priorities. Ambitious reforms in the education sector, including the Education Strategy 2018-25 and the associated Action Plan for 2020, will require strong capacities and effective co-ordination among different stakeholders. The Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) is responsible for developing strategic and legal documents and for implementing policy across all education levels (except preschool); however, it often lacks technical capacities for policy implementation. At the same time, co-ordination with and among specialised agencies5 responsible for providing technical expertise to the MoES is very limited. As a result, the agencies are often not involved in policy implementation, which can have important impacts on educational outcomes. The specialised agencies also lack specific skills (e.g. psychometric, statistical or information and communication technologies (ICT)), preventing them from fulfilling their functions effectively. A recent OECD evaluation shows, for example, that the Bureau for Development of Education lacks the necessary resources to provide teacher training (OECD, 2019[11]).

To further strengthen the governance of the education system it would be important to ensure better data collection and its harmonisation across various areas. North Macedonia has an operational education management information system (EMIS) in place, which however is not used sufficiently by policy makers. The systematic collection and sharing of education-related data at the central level is undermined by the lack of staff at EMIS and fragmented data collection done by various ministries and agencies. Management of data and its use for evidence-based policy making will therefore require an increased number of staff, systematisation of rules for data collection and data analysis to inform policies (OECD, 2019[11]).

North Macedonia should define education goals that are measurable and introduce a national student assessment system to monitor policy progress. The Education Strategy 2018-25 outlines many activities but does not prioritise them or set clear targets. Also, the current lack of a national student assessment system hampers collection of nationally reliable data on student learning performance that would complement PISA results. Monitoring student achievement would support efforts to boost individual performance and could act as an accountability framework for school performance (OECD, 2019[11]).

North Macedonia could improve the effectiveness and efficiency of spending on education, especially by rationalising school networks and classrooms. At 3.9% of GDP in 2017, North Macedonia’s spending on education is in line with regional peers, albeit lower than many other benchmark economies (Figure 2.13 – Panel A of Chapter 2). At similar rates of spending, neighbouring economies have achieved better outcomes in terms of participation rates and student performance, indicating scope to improve efficiency of spending (Figure 2.1 of Chapter 2). North Macedonia has a large number of schools with relatively few students (in 2016, more than 85% of primary and secondary schools had fewer than 50 students) and with very high variations in the number of students per teacher. Some rural areas have just 3 students per teacher, against 18 in urban areas (OECD, 2019[11]). To ensure rationalisation of school networks and classrooms, consolidation would be an important step forward. This would entail closing some schools and transferring their students and teachers to other sites, which can increase school size but make education provision more efficient and effective. Establishing the three regional VET centres is an important step in this direction.

Consider improving mechanisms for municipal spending of education funds. Municipalities in North Macedonia have autonomy to allocate money received from the central level to local schools. At present, however, this is often done in an ad hoc manner. Funding formulas that could provide transparency on how funds are distributed among schools are not mandatory and are used only in some municipalities. For example, in Skopje the formula is based on the number of students and the size of the school building. Lack of uniform standards and methods to distribute funding has resulted in large variations in school quality and large disparities within North Macedonia. Replacing the current non-uniform and non-transparent funding criteria used by municipalities with clear guidelines on funding distribution could include, among others, student’s socio-economic backgrounds. Such criteria could support schools in improving their outcomes and equity (OECD, 2019[11]).

North Macedonia needs to ensure coherence in national learning standards for primary education and school curricula; this should be accompanied by building teacher skills. In recent years, important efforts have been undertaken to modernise curricula, particularly for the early grades. However, learning standards, which should provide goals to assess what students should know and be able to do at each grade level, are fragmented, making implementation of curricula very challenging, especially for teachers. The Bureau for Development of Education (BDE) created learning standards for nearly all subjects and grades. At the same time (in 2014), the Cambridge curriculum was introduced for sciences and mathematics to provide learning standards for the two subjects focused on knowledge application and critical thinking. The key concern is that the two standards are not aligned, which can have negative impacts on the quality of teaching and student assessment. While introducing the Cambridge curricula was a positive step forward, inadequate guidance meant the reform created challenges for teachers regarding expectations for student learning. To date, learning standards for reading and writing in grades 1-3 are entirely absent, which is particularly concerning given that these subjects provide important foundations for later learning (OECD, 2019[11]).

Upper secondary curricula need to be reformed to focus on emerging competencies and have flexibility to adapt to changing labour market needs, while making sure clear learning standards are put in place. For the upper secondary education, curricula in North Macedonia is outdated, focusing on factual knowledge instead of competencies such as critical thinking. The old curricula are also rather rigid, focusing on a broad spectrum of areas (15 mandatory subjects for grade 8 students), which can undermine in-depth learning (OECD, 2013[19]). Also, learning standards are sometimes conflictual (e.g. in mathematics, standards change between grade 9 and 10), which make expectations on learning outcomes inconsistent and impede evaluation by teachers (OECD, 2019[11]).

The education system of North Macedonia needs to ensure that motivated and skilled persons are selected for teaching profession. Currently, lack of selection into initial teacher education (ITE) has resulted in over-supply of teachers: for every opening in public schools, about 30 candidates apply. Additionally, teacher recruitment is often not based on merit, but on acquaintances or political connections, which leads to situations in which the best candidates are not selected. The proposed introduction of a teacher academy that would be responsible for training and licensing incoming teachers after their studies aims to address this problem. It would be more effective and efficient to make ITE more selective and rigorous (OECD, 2019[11]).

North Macedonia also needs to put stronger emphasis on continuous professional development (CPD) and in-service training for teachers, and on better use of the internet to access relevant material and practices on good teaching. Currently, about 60 hours of CPD are prescribed for teachers over the course of three years.6 In 2015, only about 15% of teachers had participated in such activities, compared with an OECD average of 50% (OECD, 2016[20]). Formally recognising the BDE as the key government body supporting the teaching profession – and providing the institution more funding – would improve quality of its services (OECD, 2019[11]). In-service teacher training is quite limited since schools often do not receive adequate funding for such training (OECD, 2019[11]; UNICEF, 2019[21]). To boost teacher training, North Macedonia should tap more possibilities offered by the internet. This includes setting up an online platform for teachers to access tools and information, and to learn from each other. Currently, there is a lack of an online platform that supports exchange of material and practices that meet minimum quality standards (OECD, 2019[11]).

Teacher compensation and career progression ought to be linked to performance. Despite efforts to introduce a merit-based career structure for teachers, such a system has not been implemented. Teachers are well-respected in North Macedonia and the majority is paid above-average salaries; but compensation is mainly flat rather than linked to performance (OECD, 2019[11]). This limits incentives for teachers to improve their performance or to invest in their CPD. Limited and inconsistent appraisal of teachers further compounds this challenge (OECD, 2019[11]; UNICEF, 2019[21]).

North Macedonia made great progress by setting the digital skills agenda as one of its key priorities. As part of its agenda to develop critical thinking and become active citizens, the Education Strategy 2018-25 emphasises the need to: develop the digital skills of students; incorporate digital technologies in schools; and provide training to teachers to use new technologies in education. Next to Greece and Iceland, North Macedonia has the highest number of recommended hours for ICT as a compulsory subject in primary education (Eurydice, 2018[22]). The previous VET Strategy 2013-20 also highlighted the importance of ICT in teaching and learning. The Law on the Upper Secondary Education introduced ICT as a separate subject in upper secondary VET curricula (ETF, 2018[23]).

More implementation is now required to increase student access to digital technologies in the classroom, including increasing availability of computers and supporting their use. According to data from PISA, North Macedonia has just over 0.5 computers per pupil in schools – the highest rate in the Western Balkan region. However, it remains lower than the OECD average of 0.8 (OECD, 2020[24]). Moreover, no relationship could be found between the number of computers and student outcomes in North Macedonia, indicating that providing computers needs to be accompanied by efforts to improve student skills (OECD, 2020[24]). Based on surveys, only about 24% of school principals in North Macedonia report that their schools have adequate access to an online learning support platform (OECD, 2020[24]). In North Macedonia, about 72.2% of teachers report having a need for professional development in ICT-related fields (ETF, 2018[25]; ETF, 2018[26]; ETF, 2017[27]).

Flexible training provisions and recognition of previous learning (including informal) are key levers to improve participation in adult learning. About 20% of university graduates in North Macedonia are unemployed; yet employers complain they cannot find people with the necessary skills. One-third of tertiary graduates who do find employment have an official qualification that does not match their current job, while a further one-third are over-educated for their job (World Bank, 2018[7]). Only about 31% of adult persons have basic or above basic digital skills, significantly lower than the EU average (Eurostat, 2021[28]). In 2016, only 14.4% of adults aged 25-64 years participated in some type of formal and/or non-formal education, substantially lower than the EU-27 average of 47.8% (Figure 2.16 of Chapter 2). Lower educated and socially disadvantaged adults remain almost excluded from up-skilling opportunities (ETF, 2019[10]). A new Law on Adult Education, which aims to align adult formation with the national qualifications framework, is in the process of adoption (European Commission, 2021[29]). The Centre for Adult Education is currently implementing a validation system of non-formal learning, which can support recognition of acquired skills and improve their transferability (Ministry of Finance, MKD, 2020[30]; ETF, 2019[10]).

Over the years, North Macedonia has made considerable efforts to attract FDI, showing a great scope for spillovers of knowledge and competencies to local businesses and communities. Since the 2008 global financial crisis, North Macedonia has been able to attract significant export-processing FDI in its special economic zones (SEZs). In fact, investment in SEZs has contributed significantly to the recovery of manufacturing in North Macedonia, making up 45% of total manufacturing (OECD, 2017[31]). This has revived the automotive manufacturing sector in particular and strongly contributed to the growth, diversification and upgrading of the export sector.

Limited spillovers of FDI on domestic enterprises call for a strategic approach in working with foreign enterprises, including understanding their needs and taking steps to address them. While FDI has led to job creation in North Macedonia,7 especially in the areas located in the vicinity of SEZs, linkages that could have increased the capacities of local enterprises remain limited. Most SEZ-based companies import their supplies, largely because local suppliers are unable to meet the technical and safety standards of foreign enterprises (International Monetary Fund, 2015[32]). This highlights the need to support local business, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through entrepreneurship and innovation programmes that can boost their competencies and capacities (Brussevich and Tan, 2018[33]). In parallel, foreign investors report struggling to find the skills they need. The automotive industry, for example, has difficulties filling not only management and technical positions but also low-skill posts (OECD, 2021[1]).

Co-operation on training between some foreign investors exists but could be expanded. A notable example of such collaboration is the initiative of the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce and the 12 partner companies8, through which two new qualifications (industrial mechatronics technician and production machines technician) were introduced in 2018 and 2019 in VET schools, together with opportunities for work-based learning (Box 2.3 of Chapter 2). Another example is Kemet (a US-based manufacturer of capacitor technologies), which provides workers six months of training in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom (Bartlett, Krasniqi and Ahmetbašić, 2019[34]). Moreover, Van Hool has established a training centre for welding professionals, collaborating with the employment service to provide official certification for the acquired skills. Van Hool is also among the companies collaborating with local secondary VET schools to provide work-based learning. Some companies in the municipality of Ilinden were involved in designing curricula for VET education, for example on ICT, electronics and automotive technologies (ETF, 2021[35]; Bartlett, Krasniqi and Ahmetbašić, 2019[34]).

The diaspora and its members can be an important source of knowledge transfer for North Macedonia. Outward migration from North Macedonia has been intensive. Some estimates suggest as many as 650 000 citizens are living abroad, about one-third of the total population (ETF, 2021[35]). Based on the OECD DIOC database (OECD, 2021[36]), of about 151 000 persons born in North Macedonia and living and working in the OECD countries, a large majority (64.3%) are employed in medium and highly qualified professions such as: plant and machine operators and assemblers; technicians and associate professionals; professionals; services and sales workers; and craft and related trades workers (Figure 2.18 of Chapter 2). This indicates great potential for knowledge transfer. North Macedonia’s diaspora also maintains strong familial connections, evident through the large volumes of remittances. In 2020, remittances equalled a 3.4% share of GDP (World Bank, 2021[37]). Unofficially, remittances are likely to be even higher – up to 10% of GDP (Petreski and Jovanovic, 2013[38]).

Given the large North Macedonian diaspora, scope exists to improve links and better leverage knowledge and competencies accumulated abroad. To date, only a limited number of diaspora members have returned to North Macedonia. The National Diaspora Cooperation Strategy (adopted in 2019) lacks concrete solutions on how to better resolve emigration issues. Certain deficiencies that need to be addressed include limited knowledge on how and why certain recipients of post-graduate scholarships have circumvented the obligation to return to North Macedonia after the end of their studies. The strategy is also undermined by outdated census data (ETF, 2021[35]).

To monitor the policy progress in developing competencies within the VET system and other policy priorities in North Macedonia, the OECD suggests a set of key indicators, including values for North Macedonia and benchmark countries (either the OECD or the EU average, based on data availability). Table 6.2 provides difference between the benchmark value and the value for North Macedonia.


[34] Bartlett, W., B. Krasniqi and J. Ahmetbašić (2019), “Attracting FDI to the Western Balkans: Special Economic Zones and Smart Specialisation Strategies”, Croatian Economic Survey, Vol. 21/2, pp. 5-35, https://doi.org/doi:10.15179/ces.21.2.1.

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[35] ETF (2021), How migration, human capital and the labour market interact in North Macedonia, European Training Foundation, Turin, Italy, http://www.etf.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/publications/how-migration-human-capital-and-labour-market-interact-0.

[8] ETF (2020), North Macedonia - Education, Training and Employment Developments, European Training Foundation, Turin, Italy, https://www.etf.europa.eu/sites/default/files/document/Country%20Fiche%202020%20North%20Macedonia%20Education%20Training%20and%20Employment%20Developments.pdf (accessed on 1 December 2021).

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[23] ETF (2018), Digital Skills and Online Learning in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, European Training Foundation, Turin, Italy, https://www.etf.europa.eu/sites/default/files/m/EF136F0AEFD261B2C1258236004F0918_Digital%20factsheet_MK.pdf (accessed on 30 November 2021).

[27] ETF (2017), Digital Skills and Online Learning in Serbia, European Training Foundation, Turin, Italy, https://www.etf.europa.eu/sites/default/files/m/0A2814EFC7BF6440C125822E00573883_Digital%20factsheet_Serbia.pdf (accessed on 30 March 2022).

[6] ETF (2016), Tracing Secondary Vocational and Tertiary Education Graduates in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, European Training Foundation, Turin, Italy, https://www.etf.europa.eu/sites/default/files/m/370594378AEE2242C12581C90068FE63_2016%20Tracer%20study%20results%20MK.pdf (accessed on 25 November 2021).

[4] European Commission (2021), Centres of Vocational Excellence, European Commission, Brussels, https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1501 (accessed on 25 November 2021).

[29] European Commission (2021), Comission Asssessment. Economic Reform Programme of North Macedonia (2021-2023), European Commission, Brussels, https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-8099-2021-INIT/en/pdf.

[5] European Commission (2019), Skills and Smart Specialisation. The role of Vocational Education and Training in Smart Specialisation Strategies, European Commission, Brussels, https://s3platform.jrc.ec.europa.eu/documents/20125/247601/Skills+for+Smart+Specilisation+The+role+of+VET+in+S3.pdf/e514e042-96e6-2740-2463-ddb2dec79d3c?t=1621268542950.

[28] Eurostat (2021), Eurostat (database), European Statistical Office, Luxembourg City, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/fr/web/main/data/database (accessed on 24 June 2021).

[42] Eurostat (2020), Eurostat – Skills-related statistics (dataset), European Statistical Office, Luxembourg City, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/skills/data/database (accessed on 20 May 2020).

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← 1. Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the foresight workshop was not held in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

← 2. Smart specialisation strategies combine industrial, educational and innovation policies to identify and select a limited number of priority areas for knowledge-based investments, focusing on their strengths and comparative advantages of countries or regions (OECD, 2021[43]).

← 3. Currently, North Macedonia has 87 vocational schools, comprising both vocational schools and schools that provide VET programmes (ETF, 2020[9]).

← 4. North Macedonia is the only Western Balkan economy that has no external evaluation in place to assess tracking decisions in upper secondary education, relying instead solely on teacher judgements. This threatens fairness and suitability of students in the VET track (OECD, 2020[24]).

← 5. Including the Bureau for Development of Education (BDE), the State Education Inspectorate (SEI), the National Examination Centre (NEC), the Vocational Education and Training Centre (VETC) and the National Board for the Macedonian Qualification Framework (MQF).

← 6. 10 mandatory hours in priority areas are provided by the BDE, 40 hours are programmes subsidised by the BDE, and the remainder can be done at teachers’ own costs (OECD, 2019[11]).

← 7. Companies active in SEZs have created about 6 800 jobs (OECD, 2017[31]).

← 8. Vitaminka, Marquardt, Kromberg&Schubert, Dräxlmaier, LTH Learnica, WIK, ODW Elektrik, Gentherm, Kostal, Magna International, Kiel, and Brako.

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