North Macedonia: Lifelong Learning Strategy 2017-2020, issued in 2017

  • 25 August 2020
North Macedonia


Although the education and training system of North Macedonia has undergone progressive reforms in order to widen access to quality education, the impact has not reached far enough. The Lifelong Learning Strategy 2017–2020, inspired by European standards and funded by the European Union (EU) Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA), aims to enhance lifelong learning by modernizing the vocational education and training (VET) and adult education systems.

Concept of lifelong learning

The strategy promotes a lifelong, life-wide and life-deep learning concept. It traverses the foundations of learning acquired in early childhood and schooling to the competences, knowledge, skills, attitudes and values gained throughout life while adapting to a constantly changing world, workplace and social environment. It carries with it principles of equality of access, social justice and an active civil society working in partnership with the state and the commercial sector. The strategy refers to several European strategic documents, such as the Memorandum on Lifelong Learning (2000). It also adopts the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) definition of lifelong learning, which sees the development of learning activities for people of all ages, in all life-wide contexts, through a variety of modalities (formal, non-formal and informal), which together meet a wide range of learning needs and demands, as fundamental to sustainable development.

Main challenges

  • The concept of lifelong learning is not prevalent in North Macedonian society; as a result, it is not embedded in educational planning. Yet the principle is enshrined in the EU’s guiding support for general education; consequently, as a pre-accession country, North Macedonia wants to align itself with EU rules, values and principles, and therefore advocates for lifelong learning initiatives for its citizens.
  • Policy-makers must manage the tensions and practical trade-offs between economic strength and growth expressed through VET, and the personal, civic and ecological needs addressed by general education.
  • Changing family patterns, with many mothers now in employment, increases the importance of pre-schools and early-childhood development centres; this, in turn, requires more investment and a more pedagogical approach to early learning.
  • The country has experienced a significant ‘brain drain’ of young, skilled people, and there are a lack of measures to tempt well-qualified people to return.

Main targets and measures

The actions set out in the Lifelong Learning Strategy focus on all subsectors of the education system and target people of all ages. It delineates certain prerequisites for the successful implementation of lifelong learning programmes; these include:

  • Improve the learning environments and quality of pre-school education provision; this includes fostering a culture of tolerance by not segregating children who speak different languages and practise different faiths.
  • Increase enrolment and begin promoting inclusiveness and interethnic integration as early as pre-school by offering multilingual teaching as much as possible and by providing funds for specialist teaching and equipment.
  • Increase pupil retention while continuing inclusiveness and interethnic integration in secondary schools; promote understanding of cultural differences and include minorities in the lifelong learning process.
  • Improve the status, learning environment and quality of VET by insuring transferability between VET, academic and other specialist streams, and making sure that VET restructuring stays alert to market demand and local needs.
  • Ensure quality and enhance effectiveness of higher education in accordance with European best practice: reform university governance and foster collaboration between North Macedonian and European cities to transform universities into open-learning systems.
  • Strengthen the public adult education system by providing funding for local lifelong learning programmes and support for regional community institutions and learning centres.
  • Validate and ensure transferability of skills by recognizing individual learning throughout life, and by encouraging recognition by employers.

Particular feature of the strategy

The action plan included in the Lifelong Learning Strategy outlines the creation of a federal council for lifelong learning, which would develop and operate lifelong learning initiatives and could also be charged with the collection of data to monitor aspects of lifelong learning in the country. It would be composed of stakeholders including universities, unions, civil society, community groups and the cultural sector, among others.

References to other relevant documents:

Stakeholders involved in the development of the strategy:

  • Lifelong Learning Working Group (stakeholders representing the government; the Ministry of Education and Science; other ministries including the Ministry of Local Self-Government, and the Bureau for the Development of Education; Vocational Education and Training Centers. Also includes adult education centres; providers serving youth and adults in general and vocational education and training, including universities; civil society and the respective councils and chambers; and institutions responsible for examinations, qualification frameworks and employment)
  • The Lifelong Learning Center Skopje, North Macedonia

Stakeholders responsible for implementation of the strategy:

  • Ministry of Education and Science
  • Lifelong Learning Working Group
  • Lifelong Learning Coordination Unit
  • Lifelong Learning Council
  • Center for Lifelong Learning
  • Vocational Education and Training Centre
  • Adult Education Center

Issuing body:

Government of North Macedonia