School systems   Bosnia and Herzegovina

Country   |   Overview   |   Disabled students   |   Developments
  |   Kindergartens   |   Primary schools   |   Secondary schools   |   Higher education


map: Europe - Bosnia and Herzegovinamap: Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina (Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina) is situated in the Balkan Peninsula, in the South East of Europe. The country covers an area of 51,197 km² and its population compromises of 3.98 million people. The official languages are Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian. The country is home to three main ethnic groups: the Bosniacs (43.47 %), Serbs (31.21%) and Croats (17.38%). The country is decentralized and comprises two entities; the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republic of Srpska.


scheme of school system in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Education becomes compulsory when a pupil turns seven until he or she has reached the age of fifteen. When that period of eight years of education is finished, students can choose whether they will attend secondary school or not. Home schooling is illegal.

Compulsory education is free of charge, but parents need to pay for the books, transportation to the school (bus transportation) and food for their children, because there are no cafeterias in schools.

The only nationwide test is ‘’Matura’’, which is taking place at the end of the secondary school (age 18 and 19) and it prepares for higher education.


There are roughly 200 kindergartens and attendance is not compulsory. The minimum entrance age is three. After kindergarten, children should be able to recognize the alphabet and basic numbers and are generally more prepared for primary school. Kindergartens are financed partly by the state, but parents pay a larger share of the costs.

During an average day children receive some education, have a sleeping break and a game part. Kindergartens do not operate during the summer period.

Primary schools

There are roughly 2000 primary schools. The grading system used in Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of a five point scale. 1 is the worst possible grade, 5 the best. There may not be more than 30 students in one class. No minimum is defined as many small villages and towns maintain there own – single class – schools.

An average day in primary school typically starts at 8:00 and ends somewhere around noon. Roughly five hours of education is given on a daily basis. If a school can not cope with the amount of children in a certain region, children visit the school in shifts. In this case some children will receive education in the afternoon. Writing is taught using a written font which children should have mastered after the first year of education. The country does not oblige children to take any leaving exams during the last year of primary school; however their grades in the last two years of schooling do determine what quality of secondary school they can get in. Furthermore, the majority of primary schools have no computer labs available to students. No school uniforms are compulsory and no school meals are supplied. Electives in primary school are not common practice. Parents do get to decide if they want their children to learn about religion (Catholic, Orthodox or Islam) or ethics in general.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina the Ministry of Education has a lot of influence. It decides on the school schedule and all school books have to be certified by the ministry. Also, the country has different curricula, in Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian.

Secondary schools

There are roughly 300 schools. There are gymnasia, art, military, internal affairs, religious and vocational schools. The grading system used in Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of a five point scale. 1 is the worst possible grade, 5 is the best. Students continue education by choice and they can choose their own school. The legislated maximum of students per class is 35.

An average day in secondary school typically lasts five to seven hours and teaching is organised in 45 minute blocks. A student can not pick his or her own subjects. The curriculum depends on the type of school.In Republika Srpska there is no entry exam; grades in last 4 years of your primary school will determine school where you will continue your education. In Federacija BiH there are entry exams. Students who are applying for high school must pass exams in language, Maths, English. Entry exams in vocational schools depend on the school. There is a leaving exam in place called “Matura”. The very best students do not have to take this exam. Furthermore, the majority of secondary schools have no computer labs available to students, apart from during ICT. No school uniforms are compulsory and no school meals are supplied. Extracurricular activities are not certified by the school.

Note that the country has different curricula, in Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian.

Higher education

There are 113 public and private institutes of higher education and 4 religious institutes. Entrance exams are required for all students. University study is free of charge for roughly half of all the students. Students on a state scholarship must have satisfactory grades.

The Bologna process has not been finished within Bosnia and Herzegovina.
There are currently four stages of higher education. The first stage lasts two to three years and leads up to a Diploma of Higher Education. The second stage lasts four to six years and leads up to an Advanced Diploma of Higher Education. The third stage grants students a Master of Sciences after two years of further study. The fourth level is the doctorate (PhD).

Disabled students

Disabled students are completely excluded from the regular school system. They go to special schools, tailored to their needs. Parents may ask a principal of a regular school to grant admittance to their disabled child. This however, does not happen often.


The OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina has played an active role in education reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina since July 2002, when, at the request of the High Representative and as agreed by the decision of the OSCE Permanent Council, the Mission assumed responsibility for the co-ordination and facilitation of the work of the International Community in the education sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina; this role has now evolved to information sharing, consensus building and monitoring.

Because division in politics has dominated the education scene in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the coherent quality and standards of education have suffered. Curricula and textbooks differ from region to region and are ethnically biased. Teachers have not been trained in up-to-date pedagogical methods. Fresh graduates are not equipped with the necessary skills to tackle real-world challenges.

Key Areas of Education Reform

The primary objective of the Education Programme is to encourage and assist the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to comply with the obligations and commitments they undertook when they pledged to reform their system of education, as well as on ensuring that these pledges result in an accessible, acceptable, and effective education for all. It is also focused on ensuring a strong legal foundation for a functioning education system across Bosnia and Herzegovina; on ensuring access to education without discrimination; on encouraging permanent, multi-perspective solutions to the ‘’national group of subjects’’; on countering the continuing politicization of education; and on seeking more cost-effective and equitable management of education.

The Education Programme is currently based on four priorities:
- Coordination/Political support to reform as required
- Legislation
- Access and Non-discrimination
- Civic involvement in the education reform process (i.e. PTAs, Student councils, Student unions)

School Systems