8. Republika Srpska

Republika Srpska (RS) is a centralised self-government entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina that contains 64 local self-government units (i.e. municipalities). With a surface area that makes up nearly half of BiH (Table 8.1), the entity’s socio-economic development is primarily driven by industry, agriculture and services, which respectively employ 28%, 24% and 48.5% of the entity’s population (Republika Srpska Institute of Statistics, 2021[1]). In RS, one out of two employed individuals has completed secondary education, and one out of four has completed higher education (ibid). According to the Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Foreign Investment Promotion Agency, Republika Srpska’s main strengths for attracting investments rely on its natural resources, favourable tax regulations and an increasingly qualified workforce (Emerging Europe, 2020[2]). The entity’s Ministry of Education and Culture is responsible for pre-university education policy and has a staff of around 80 people (BiH, 2021[3]). This profile examines the context and features of the evaluation and assessment system for education in RS and highlights policy recommendations that can help strengthen this system to improve teaching and learning.

As in most administrative units of BiH, RS has a Pedagogical Institute, formally known as the Republican Pedagogical Institute of Republika Srpska, which operates as an independent body associated with the Ministry of Education and Culture. The RS Pedagogical Institute has responsibilities for a wide range of tasks that involve, among other things, providing pedagogical support to teachers and monitoring education institutions from the pre-school to secondary level ( (Republika Srpska, 2018[4])). Among other things, the RS Pedagogical Institute develops the entity’s curriculum, assesses student achievement with external tests, and provides professional development for teachers. There are slightly more than 30 staff who work in the RS Pedagogical Institute. The Ministry of Education and Culture and RS Pedagogical Institute are responsible for supporting the largest share of students, teachers and schools compared to other competent education authorities in BiH. For this reason, having adequate resources is important for the RS government to provide education and support for teaching and learning across the entity.

Primary education (ISCED 1 and 2 in BiH) is mainly funded by the entity’s budget through the Ministry of Education and Culture, with around 90% used to cover gross staff salaries (BiH, 2021[3]). At this education level, local authorities often complement entity-level funding with municipal funds to pay for school infrastructure and maintenance. At the secondary education level, schools receive funding for salaries and other employee-related fees from the budget of Republika Srpska. Both the entity budget and municipal authorities provide funds for other purposes (BiH, 2021[3]). In primary education, funding is allocated based on the number of classes within a school, while at other levels it is based on the number of students and classes, meaning that schools with higher enrolment rates receive more resources. This approach risks leading to inequalities between urban and rural schools. As the level of school resources can vary considerably across municipalities within RS, depending on location and local revenue streams, investments in school facilities are increasingly coming from donors (e.g. international organisations), businesses and private individuals (BiH, 2021[3]).

The RS education sector has an 8-year Strategy of Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education Development (2022-2030). This document sets the main goals for different education levels and highlights the need to harmonise the school network in response to the demographic changes. Moreover, the ministry adopted an action plan in 2019 that was associated with its previous education strategy and defined measures, activities, stakeholders and deadlines for the implementation of reform processes within pre-school, primary and secondary education. While implementation has been slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, the action plan focuses on i) increasing early childhood education coverage; ii) updating the early childhood education programme and adopting new curricula for primary and secondary school students; iii) updating textbooks in accordance with new curricula; iv) changing the approach to education for more operational and functional knowledge for students; v) providing professional development programmes for teachers; and vi) strengthening links between education and the labour market (BiH, 2021[3]).

Similar to other administrative units in BiH, schools in RS are governed by a school board, with a principal managing the work of schools. Key management decisions such as hiring a new teacher is under the school principals’ responsibility: together with the school panel, they appoint teachers according to guidance set out by RS education law and a rulebook on the teacher recruitment process. When it comes to staff professional development, schools can plan the professional development of teachers within their annual work programmes but these plans need to be approved by the RS Pedagogical Institute. In terms of pedagogical autonomy, schools in RS have very little independence. For example, schools are only allowed to shorten instruction time in exceptional cases (BiH, 2021[3]).

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted school attendance all around the world. In RS, face-to-face classes were suspended in March 2020 and were quickly replaced by virtual instruction. The ministry established that distance learning was to be carried out using a combination of tools and platforms, including the Radio Television of Republika Srpska; phones; Office 365 accounts; private email addresses; as well as social networks and messaging services (BiH, 2021[3]). The transition to virtual teaching and learning was not easy as many students in RS did not have access to either the internet or electronic devices and some teachers were unfamiliar with digital platforms and had a hard time adapting their practices to a virtual learning environment. To address these challenges, the ministry introduced a platform – eNastava (eTeaching) – in 2020, which helps students and teachers to benefit from e-learning (BiH, 2021[3]). The ministry also issued instructions and laws on how schools should adapt their activities, including when it comes to student assessment (ibid). Remote education lasted until the end of classes in the second semester of the 2019/20 school year. The impact of the pandemic’s disruptions on student learning outcomes in RS, as well as other parts of BiH, remains unknown.

Republika Srpska has been taking important steps to enhance the quality of its education system in recent years. This includes, for example, developing a competence-based curriculum based on learning outcomes under the entity’s 2019 education action plan for reform. RS has also put in place its own education management information system, EDUIS, which allows education stakeholders to have updated information on students, teachers and schools, all centralised in one platform to support system monitoring efforts. RS collects information on student performance through its Grade 5 external assessment and since 2018, RS has started to pilot a “little matura” examination for Grade 9 students, which will become mandatory in 2022/23. In an effort to improve the quality of education, the RS Pedagogical Institute recently established a system for school evaluation and has just finalised their own set of professional teacher standards. These processes will allow schools and teachers to assess their performance and identify areas for improvement. However, RS still lacks regulation on the career path of teachers and could better harmonise the tools it has available for system monitoring purposes. RS has a lot of experience and processes in place that could be shared with other parts of BiH. The entity’s limited collaboration in country-wide initiatives however, prevents its good practices from being known and potentially adopted more broadly.

RS is working to establish a new set of expected learning outcomes by subject and grade level. These standards align with the changes being made to Republika Srpska’s curricula, which focuses on a competence-based approach to education (a trend that reflects curricula changes internationally and in the BiH state-level Common Core Curriculum Based on Learning Outcomes). Namely, the new curricula aims to reinforce the higher-level and critical thinking skills that students need for success in a modern and interconnected world. While teachers in RS still define their own criteria for student assessment at the school level according to relevant laws and rulebooks, the new learning standards can help them determine student’s strengths and areas for improvement. This will be an important step towards helping reduce grade inflation and ensure more consistency in grading across the entity. Teachers and schools, however, will need training and guidance to interpret these new learning standards and apply them in their own classroom assessment practices. RS has many elements of an effective student assessment system, but fully implementing the entity’s goals for an education system based on learning outcomes will require new or revised tools, processes and approaches to measuring what students know and can do.

RS recently finalised its own teacher standards, which can support teacher appraisal. Having a standards-based appraisal system for teachers can help them to identify their strengths and areas for improvement, and when aligned with professional development, strengthen their professional competences. The standards can also help teachers orient their practice towards more student-centred teaching approaches, in line with the entity’s recent changes to the curriculum and its focus on defining knowledge, skills and individual competences of students. Despite the potential of Republika Srpska’s new teacher standards, the entity does not have a systematic, regular appraisal system where teachers receive feedback on their practice. Moreover, the teacher career structure in RS, which includes different levels based on mentor, advisor and senior advisor, is not accompanied by legislation that regulates career progression. This means that procedures for promoting and rewarding teachers are not linked to performance but to other criteria, such as years of teaching experience. This can result in a lack of motivation for teachers to improve their performance, acquire new competences, and take on new tasks, factors that can have a direct impact in the quality of teaching and learning. These concerns are exacerbated by the fact that the entity lacks clear procedures for undertaking mandatory continuous professional development, that is, there is currently no rulebook defining what the requirements for teachers’ professional development are. Teacher trainings are available through the RS Pedagogical Institute but these opportunities are limited (e.g. due to resource constraints) and are not always designed to respond to the specific needs of practicing teachers.

RS is one of the few administrative units to have a standalone education strategy, an external assessment system and regular reports on school quality. On the latter, RS introduced a system for evaluating school quality in 2017/18. This system is based on school quality standards for primary and secondary education and includes external evaluations carried out by the Pedagogical Institute, as well as school self-evaluations. These are positive features of school evaluation systems commonly found in OECD and European Union members (OECD, 2013[7]). RS also has an education management system, EDUIS, which is allowing the government to have real time, disaggregated data on school financing, human resources and learning outcomes. Despite these positive developments, the entity still has some capacity gaps in its system evaluation framework. The tools available to monitor performance in the entity could also be better harmonised to work together. For example, while results from standardised assessments are available on the RS Pedagogical Institute’s website, data could be more easily accessible in the EDUIS platform to allow actors to conduct their own analysis for system monitoring purposes.

This review provides recommendations that are relevant for Republika Srpska as for other competent education authorities in BiH. However, the following points may be particularly salient for this entity:

The Republika Srpska’s new curriculum based on learning outcomes represents a shift away from a system of instruction focused on memorisation and reproducing knowledge to one focused on supporting students to apply higher-order and critical thinking skills. Achieving this change will require more student-centred pedagogical approaches, providing an opportune moment to strengthen the link between assessment, teaching and learning. Teachers in RS, as well as in other parts of BiH, report that student assessment receives little attention during initial teacher education (ITE) and professional development programmes. While it is positive that Republika Srpska’s recently defined school quality standards require schools to conduct formative assessments of students, teachers do not receive any tools or support in using formative assessment in their classroom assessment practice. The RS Ministry of Education and Culture, together with the Pedagogical Institute, could provide teachers with training and support to develop their assessment literacy. Initiatives in this area can range from improving the coverage of student assessment topics in ITE programmes to creating space for school-based discussions on assessment practices.

RS is one of the few administrative units in BiH that has its own external assessments in place. Currently, the entity administers the following standardised tests to students:

  • End of Grade 5: to determine achievement of learning outcomes and support teachers in delivering the curricula. This assessment has no stakes for individual students, teachers or schools;

  • End of Grade 9: a pilot exam that will serve as a tool to determine students’ entrance into different upper secondary education pathways. This examination will therefore have high-stakes for students, as it will play a role in determining their future study options.

The extent to which the Grade 9 pilot ‘little matura’ fulfil their respective purposes depends upon the strength of test characteristics, which are themselves affected by several decisions related to the test’s design and procedures (see Table 8.2). With the introduction of a curriculum based on learning outcomes, RS should take the opportunity to review both the Grade 9 pilot ‘little matura’ as well as the Grade 5 external assessment, to ensure their design and results help encourage a positive “backwash effect” on classroom assessment practices.

While the review team did not have documentation on the content of either external test in RS, teachers in the entity are expected to use a range of tasks to determine student performance on school-based final exams, including oral responses, portfolios and essays (RS, 2019[8]; BiH, 2021[3]). These types of assessment tasks can help improve the validity of assessments by better capturing higher-order competences, compared to simple multiple-choice or single answer questions (Ku, 2009[9]). However, there are trade-offs associated with marking more complex, open-ended test items, as these may require subjective judgements, which in turn can present risks to the testing instrument’s reliability. RS will need to balance the validity and reliability of its external assessment instruments. Moving towards computer-based test administration and marking, as well as introducing moderation processes (e.g. ensuring that all students take the exam under the same conditions or that marking is consistent) could help in this effort.

Once the RS teacher standards are effectively in place, the Pedagogical Institute could work on establishing a regular, standards-based appraisal process for its teachers. This practice should take place within schools and be conducted by the school leadership team or experienced teachers. The policy would support the entity into moving from a historically summative nature of teacher appraisal to a more formative process that helps teachers identify their strengths and work on improving their practices. Many OECD countries require that regular teacher appraisals take place annually to help ensure that teachers receive regular feedback, as well as opportunities and support to improve their practice (OECD, 2013[7]). The results from these regular teacher appraisals can also be used by the ministry and the Pedagogical Institute to identify teachers’ main learning needs and knowledge gaps in order to develop relevant professional development opportunities.

Similar to OECD and EU members, RS has already developed and integrated unique identification numbers into its EDUIS system. Such a process increases the analytical functions of the education data gathered by the government and provides evidence to support progress against the education goals set in Republika Srpska’s education strategy and action plan. One way RS could continue to strengthen the monitoring of its education system is to continue developing systematic reporting on the state of education in the entity. For example, while the RS Ministry of Education reports quarterly to the government about progress towards education reform goals, publishing an annual or bi-annual report can inform a wider range of stakeholders about the state of the education system, promoting greater transparency and trust. This report could be similar to what is recommended at the state level (see Chapter 5) but with more detail on the specific goals and context of RS. This report should not only contain administrative data on students and schools – which is already available under other publications produced by Republika Srpska’s Statistical Institute – but include performance data and qualitative analysis that serve as evidence about the quality of the education system. The RS should also ensure its data definitions align with those of BiH and international data standards, which would also allow the entity to benchmark itself against other education systems within BiH and abroad. This type of regular reporting can help RS build momentum and increase public confidence and engagement with ongoing and planned reforms. This is especially important to follow progress towards implementing the entity’s 2019 action plan, as analysis on the sector’s main challenges and needs will be available.


[5] 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 17 January 2022).

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

[2] Emerging Europe (2020), FDI in Bosnia’s Republika Srpska is increasing, but there’s plenty of room for more, https://emerging-europe.com/news/fdi-in-bosnias-republika-srpska-is-increasing-but-theres-plenty-of-room-for-more/ (accessed on 19 February 2021).

[9] Ku, K. (2009), “Assessing Students’ Critical Thinking Performance: Urging for Measurements Using Multi-Response Format”, Thinking Skills and Creativity, (accessed on 17 October 2019), pp. pp 70-76, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1871187109000054.

[10] OECD (2020), “Strengthening national examinations in Kazakhstan to achieve national goals”, OECD Education Policy Perspectives, No. 24, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/0bf8662b-en.

[7] OECD (2013), Synergies for Better Learning: An International Perspective on Evaluation and Assessment, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264190658-en.

[4] Republika Srpska (2018), Official Gazette of Republika Srpska, no. 115/27.

[1] Republika Srpska Institute of Statistics (2021), This is Republika Srpska 2021, Republika Srpska Institute of Statistics, Banja Luka, https://www.rzs.rs.ba/static/uploads/bilteni/ovo_je_rs/2021/This_Is_Republika_Srpska_2021_WEB.pdf (accessed on 18 January 2021).

[8] RS (2019), Rulebook on secondary assessments.

[6] World Bank (2022), World Bank Open Data, https://data.worldbank.org/ (accessed on 17 January 2022).

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