Access to education


Country Report: Access to education Last updated: 02/05/22


Nikola Kovačević

Asylum seekers have the right to free primary and secondary education.[1] The right to education in Serbia is regulated by a number of legal instruments, primarily the Act on the Basis of the Education System,[2] with relevant issues also regulated by the Primary School Act,[3] the Secondary School Act[4] and the High Education Act.[5] These laws also govern the education of foreign nationals and stateless persons and the recognition of foreign school certificates and diplomas. Asylum seekers are not entitled to receive the pre-elementary school education.[6] Also, the Integration Decree does not foresee any kind of support for asylum seeking children in their preparation for enrolling into elementary school. These children are mainly supported by CSOs and international organizations, but it is also important to note the assistance provided by CRM to asylum seeking children enrolling to elementary school.

The Act on the Basis of the Education System foresees that foreign nationals and stateless persons shall enrol in primary and secondary schools and exercise the right to education under the same conditions and in the same manner as Serbian nationals. Schools are obliged to organise language, preparatory and additional classes for foreign pupils, including stateless persons and refugees, who do not speak the language used in the schools or are in need of specific instructions in order to continue their education.[7] Access to education for children shall be secured immediately and, at the latest, within three months from the date of their asylum application.[8]

With joint efforts of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, UNICEF, CRM and other international and non-governmental organisations, all asylum-seeking children were included in mainstream education in the academic year 2017/2018 in line with the regulations governing mandatory attendance of primary schools for all the children irrespective of their status or the status of their parents. A big practical challenge proved to be regular school attendance by underage asylum seekers. Namely, the language barrier and limited number of interpreters for the languages spoken among the refugees resulted in lack of interest among the children to attend the classes they do not understand. An additional challenge is lack of interest of many parents in educational activities, as they are certain their stay in Serbia is only temporary. This trend has continued during the 2021 and especially during the COVID-19 circumstances which disrupted regular school attendance for entire population, including the asylum-seeking children.

In 2021, with the help of the UNHCR office in Serbia, the ENRIC/NARIC Center of the Qualification Agency of the Republic of Serbia joined the Council of Europe project of the European Qualification Passport for Refugees.[9]

Primary and secondary education is available to all the children residing in Krnjača, Tutin, Sjenica and Banja Koviljača. In Banja Koviljača, a number of children at the AC attend preschool institutions and the primary school, in the immediate vicinity of the AC. One child attends high school in Loznica, and the cost of public transportation to Loznica is covered by UNHCR. Primary school is also available for children in Bogovađa and Sjenica, but USAC usually leave the AC before they adapt to school programme. Another problem for children residing in Sjenica are difficulties in communication. The conclusion that can be drawn is that majority of children do not attend schools regularly, due to problems in communication, but also frequent absence from asylum centres.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, children accommodated in Asylum and Reception Centres were deprived of possibility to attend school. The same can be said for children accommodated in social care institutions for UASC.

In 2019/2020, the number of children from AC in Krnjača enrolled into Belgrade elementary schools was 79, while 53 regularly attended. There were no children enrolled into secondary school. In Sjenica, only two UASC regularly attend primary school, even though several dozen was enrolled in September 2020, while in Tutin that number is 0. In 2021, all the children accommodated in AC Krnjača enrolled into elementary school without major problems. UASC in Bogovađa do not attend school regularly or at all due to a high fluctuation rate, while those children who expressed their wish to apply for asylum are transferred to Belgrade where they are enrolled into schools. All the children accommodated in social care institutions in Belgrade and Nis regularly attend school.[10]

According to the UNHCR office in Serbia, around 175 refugees and asylum seekers were enrolled into educational system of Serbia. This number encompasses both asylum seekers and children granted asylum. Around 140 of them attended the elementary school, 20 secondary school and 4 persons enrolled into universities for the first time – one asylum seeker from Afghanistan and 3 refugees from Afghanistan, Burundi and Libya.[11] All four of them were supported by the UNHCR DAFI program.[12]




[1] Article 55(1) Asylum Act.

[2] Act on the Basis of the Education System of the Republic of Serbia, Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, no. 72/2009 and 52/2011.

[3] Primary School Act of the Republic of Serbia, Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, no. 50/92, 53/93,67/93,48/94,66/94 – Constitutional Court decision, 22/2002, 62/2009 – other law, 101/2005 – other law and 72/2009 – other law.

[4] Secondary School Act of the Republic of Serbia, Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, no. 50/92, 53/93, 67/93, 48/94, 24/96, 23/2002, 25/2002 – cor. 62/2003 – other law, 64/2003 – corr. of other law, 101/2005 – other law, 72/2009 – other law and 55/2013 – other law.

[5] High Education Act of the Republic of Serbia, Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, no. 76/2005, 100/2007 – authentic interpretation, 97/2008 and 44/2010, 93/2012 and 89/2013.

[6] Article 48 Asylum Act.

[7] Article 100 Law on the Basis of the Education System of the Republic of Serbia.

[8] Article 55(2) Asylum Act.

[9] More on the European Qualification Passport see on the following link:

[10] Information obtained by CRM and IDEAS and IOM temporary legal guardians.

[11] Danas, UNHCR: Stopa upisa izbeglica u škole i univerzitete u Srbiji i dalje kritično niska, 7 September 2021, available at:

[12] More information on the DAFI program are available here:

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection