The Western Balkans region has come a long way over the last two decades in achieving economic and social progress. Its people are the region’s greatest asset. Yet faced with a lack of opportunities many, particularly the young, decide to emigrate. To make the most of its future the region must invest in its attractiveness as a place to live, work and invest in. This report comes as a follow-up to the earlier publication Multi-dimensional Review of the Western Balkans: Assessing Opportunities and Constraints. It builds on an extensive peer-learning process that brought together experts from across the region and beyond. The report provides suggestions and recommendations for three strategic priorities that can help create opportunities and boost the quality of life. First, better education and more competencies are the basis for raising productivity, creating jobs, encouraging civic participation and making the region an attractive destination. Second, social cohesion is the bedrock of resilient societies and requires stronger labour market policies and effective social protection that can cushion people’s hardship and provide them with new opportunities. Third, cleaner air and more sustainable energy are indispensable for boosting the region’s quality of life and economic opportunities.
The Western Balkans region has come a long way over the last two decades in achieving economic and social progress. With a population of 17.6 million, the region today boasts a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of close to EUR 100 billion, an average GDP per capita of about EUR 5 400 and a comprehensive process of integration with the European Union. This report provides multi-dimensional assessments across the economic, social, finance, governance and environmental pillars of sustainable development for five economies of the region. The region’s location, its deep relationships with Europe and its academic tradition present many opportunities for future development, especially at a time when distances are shrinking further with digitalisation. Making the most of this potential will require collaboration in tackling challenges, which have been further exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Boosting competences and education, strengthening social cohesion and ensuring a green transformation towards clean energy and the valuation of the region’s natural wealth, emerge as strategic priorities. Beyond practical and financial constraints, future solutions must address considerable institutional and governance challenges that remain across the region.
The Western Balkans region has clear aspirations to improve its economic competitiveness and integrate further into Europe. A highly skilled population is critical to achieving these goals, which makes creating and maintaining high quality and equitable education systems a vital part of regional development efforts. Results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) show that learning outcomes in the region have improved over time, but that the improvement has not been equitable. Some students are performing similarly to students from countries in the European Union, while others are lagging further behind. This report, developed in co-operation with the European Commission and UNICEF, analyses PISA data in detail to identify the strengths, challenges and unique features of education systems in the Western Balkans. Drawing upon a rich knowledge base of education policy and practice in the region, it makes recommendations about how systems in the region can improve learning for all students. This report will be of interest to regional policy-makers as well as individuals who wish to learn more about education in the Western Balkans.
How can assessment and evaluation policies work together more effectively to improve student outcomes in primary and secondary schools? The country reports in this series analyse major issues facing evaluation and assessment policy to identify improvements that can be made to enhance the quality, equity and efficiency of school education. The Republic of North Macedonia has made remarkable progress in expanding access to education and strengthening institutional capacity. Yet, the majority of young Macedonians leave school without mastering the basic competencies for life and work and students’ background continues to influence performance. This review, developed in cooperation with UNICEF, provides North Macedonia with recommendations to help strengthen its evaluation and assessment system, by moving towards a system where assessment provides students with helpful feedback to improve learning. It will be of interest to North Macedonia, as well as other countries looking to make more effective use of their evaluation and assessment system to improve quality and equity, and result in better outcomes for all students.
The SME Policy Index is a benchmarking tool designed for emerging economies to assess SME policy frameworks and monitor progress in policy implementation over time. The Index has been developed by the OECD in partnership with the European Commission (EC), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and the European Training Foundation (ETF) in 2006 for the Western Balkans. The South East European Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (SEECEL) joined as an additional partner in 2014. The SME Policy Index has since 2006 been applied in four regions and nine assessment rounds overall. The SME Policy Index: Western Balkans and Turkey 2016 presents the results of the fourth assessment of the Small Business Act for Europe in the Western Balkans and, since 2012, Turkey. The assessment framework is structured around the ten principles of the Small Business Act for Europe (SBA). It provides a wide-range of pro-enterprise measures to guide the design and implementation of SME policies based on good practices promoted by the EU and the OECD. The Index identifies strengths and weaknesses in policy design, implementation and monitoring. It allows for comparison across countries and measures convergence towards good practices and relevant policy standards. It aims to support governments in setting targets for SME policy development and to identify strategic priorities to further improve the business environment. It also helps to engage governments in policy dialogue and exchange good practices within the region and with OECD and EU members.
The synthesis report compares the country reports of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, FYR of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia using the following guidelines: existing legal frameworks, scope of policy development, statistics and indicators, teacher training, involvement of parents, pedagogical concepts, curriculum development and school organisation. It underlines the fact that the analysed