Access to education


Country Report: Access to education Last updated: 15/05/23


Nikola Kovačević

Pre-school education is not possible for asylum seeking children, but only for those children granted asylum, which will potentially be changed with the new amendments to the Asylum Act.[1]

Asylum seekers have the right to free primary and secondary education regardless of their age.[2]

The right to education in Serbia is regulated by a number of legal instruments, primarily the Act on the Basis of the Education System,[3] with relevant issues also regulated by the Primary School Act,[4] the Secondary School Act[5] and the High Education Act.[6] These laws also govern the education of foreign nationals and stateless persons and the recognition of foreign school certificates and diplomas.

As already outlined, asylum seekers are not entitled to receive pre-elementary school education.[7] 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 organisations, but it is also important to note the assistance provided by CRM to asylum seeking children enrolling into 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.[8] Access to education for children shall be secured immediately and, at the latest, within three months from the date of their asylum application.[9]

With joint efforts of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, Save the Children, UNICEF, CRM and other international and non-governmental organisations, all asylum-seeking children were provided with the opportunity to be included in mainstream education in the academic year 2017/2018 in line with the regulations governing mandatory attendance of primary schools for all 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 lessons they do not understand. An additional challenge is the lack of interest of many parents in educational activities, as they are certain their stay in Serbia is only temporary. This trend continued during 2022. According to the CRM, only 10 asylum seeking children were introduced in educational system of Serbia.[10] Still, this number probably reflects those children accommodated in ACs, and especially Krnjača camp, but other asylum seeking children staying on the private address have enrolled into schools in municipalities where they live. Still, it is clear that the number of asylum seeking children remains low in 2022.

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.[11] In 2022, several diplomas were recognized by the ENRIC/NARIC centre for one asylum seekers from Burundi represented by IDEAS.

Primary and secondary education is available to all the children residing in Krnjača, Tutin, Sjenica and Banja Koviljača. Primary school is also available for children in Bogovađa, but UASC would usually leave the AC before they adapt to the school programme. UASC accommodated in Šid do not attend school due to their short-term stay. 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 and final decision to leave Serbia.

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.

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.  All four of them were supported by the UNHCR DAFI program. Another girl from Iraq enrolled into Belgrade School of Applied Health Science in 2022.




[1] Article 27 of the draft Amendments to the Asylum Act, available at:

[2] Article 55(1) Asylum Act.

[3] 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.

[4] 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.

[5] 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.

[6] 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.

[7] Article 48 Asylum Act.

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

[9] Article 55(2) Asylum Act.

[10] CRM, Response to the request for the information of public importance np. 019-27/2-2023, 9 March 2023.

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

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