Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) represents a post-conflict society that faces innumerable challenges in promoting social cohesion in the aftermath of the long years of inter-ethnic conflict. This situation illustrates the critical importance of strengthening the governance of the education and training system. BiH is a potential candidate for European Union (EU) membership, with the Stabilisation and Association Agreement signed on 16 June 2008. Furthermore, on 15 February 2016 BiH formally submitted its application for the EU membership (European Commission, 2016).
Challenges and opportunities
Following the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995, the education system in general “is highly fragmented along ethno-national lines, making the development of social cohesion a considerable challenge. Currently, thirteen regional authorities are overseeing education in the country: two entities (Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina [FBiH], Republika Srpska [RS]) ministries, ten canton ministries, and the Brčko district department of education. Each regional authority has its own budget. These authorities have extensive jurisdiction over education in their corresponding localities, and their management is often influenced by ethno-nationalistic politics.” (Komatsu, 2014, p.11).
The education provision in RS is broadly similar to that of the FBiH cantons, except that public responsibility for education is centralized at the level of the Ministry of Education in RS. Under the FBiH Constitution, cantons may confer responsibilities to municipalities and the Federation government.
In practice, little evidence of recognition, validation and accreditation (RVA) of non-formal and informal learning outcomes of individuals can be found in BiH. There are several reasons for this. First, there are challenges at the level of the legal framework. BiH has a complicated vertical and horizontal structure of mandates and responsibilities. This means that a law adopted at one level may not be valid at another level, so that when qualifications are awarded after a process of validation of non-formal and informal learning at the national level, they may not be accepted at other levels. Also, even if one political entity succeeds in implementing a validation system of non-formal and informal learning, it may not necessarily lead to the recognition and award of credits and qualifications by another political entity (DVV International, 2013, p.15). Second, because of the complexity of the political and administrative structure of the education sector, there may be a lack of trust in or a lack of wide acceptance of non-formal and informal learning conducted through non-governmental organisations and international organisations. Third, adult education, which includes non-formal and informal learning, is not anchored in an overall national adult learning strategy or a lifelong learning strategy (ETF, 2009).
This complex situation reflects the main challenges in starting to create an RVA strategy for non-formal and informal learning in the legislation of BiH. However, recently, some steps have been undertaken to promote RVA.
National standards, policy and framework activity
There seems to be a strong political will in BiH to access the European Union. Since RVA is at the top of the policy agenda in the EU, some stakeholders are considering it as a possible option for the country as well. The first key document in this process was the result of a decision by the Council of Ministers of BiH to adopt a Baseline Qualifications Framework for Lifelong learning (May, 2011). The document acknowledges non-formal and informal learning, and is mostly adapted from the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), which covers all levels and types of education and qualifications.
There is also an Action Plan for the Development and Implementation of the Qualifications Framework in BiH (which has been recently adopted after a long delay by the Council of Ministers, April 2015). In addition, the Action Plan for the Strategic Adult Education Development Platform in the Context of Lifelong Learning for the Period 2014-2020 was adopted in 2014. But again, the implementation of these framework documents at the entity and cantonal levels has started, but remains a lengthy process.
In June 2014, BiH signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the EU for participating in the Erasmus+ programme. In this way, BiH has become the 38th country to join the EQF Advisory Group, opening the way to reference NQF to the EQF and providing an impetus to intensify the implementation of RVA. In this sense, a need for further development of RVA in BiH should be understood in the framework and the context of the EU integration process.
The decision by the Council of Ministers of BiH to adopt a Baseline Qualifications Framework has been an important initial step towards recognizing the outcomes of non-formal and informal learning. However, solutions will be needed for a harmonised, transparent and modern education system to overcome the current fragmented educational administration in BiH. There is a need for more communication and cooperation among government entities/district/cantons, the education sector and the labour market.
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Coradini, M., Masson, J.R., Baumann, A. 2010. Torino Process. Bosnia and Herzegovina 2010. Turin, European Training Foundation.
Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 2003. Okvirni zakon o i srednjem obrazovanju u Bosni i Hercegovini. Sarajevo. http://www.aposo.gov.ba/en/files/2013/06/Framework-Law.pdf (Accessed 20 April 2015).
Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 2007. Strategija razvoja strucnoj obrazovanja i obuke u Bosni i Hercegovini za period 2007. -2013. Sarajevo.
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Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 2011. Odluka o usvajanju osnovnog kvalifikacijskog okvira u Bosni i Hercegovini [Decision on approval of the Qualifications Framework in BiH]. Sarajevo. http://sllist.ba/glasnik/2011/broj31/Broj031.pdf. (Accessed 17 April 2015).
Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 2014. Odluka o usvajanju strateške platforme razvoja obrazovanja odraslih u kontekstu cjeloživotnog obrazovanja u Bosni i Hercegovini za period 2014-2020. Sarajevo. http://sllist.ba/glasnik/2014/broj96/Broj096.pdf. (Accessed 20 April 2015).
Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 2015. Akcioni plan za izradu i provedbu kvalifikacijskog okvira u Bosni i Hercegovini za period 2014–2020. Sarajevo. http://sllist.ba/glasnik/2015/broj28/Broj028.pdf. (Accessed 17 April 2015).
DVV International. 2013. Overview of the Methods and Tools Used for Validation and Recognition of Non-formal and Informal Learning Outcomes in the South East Europe Region. Sarajevo, DVV International Head Office. http://www.dvv-international.de/fileadmin/files/rnfil-soe-p_final.pdf. (Accessed 17 April 2015).
European Commission. 2016. Joint statement by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Johannes Hahn on the occasion of Bosnia and Herzegovina submitting membership application. Brussels, European Commission. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_STATEMENT-16-303_en.htm (Accessed 10 April 2016).
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 Adult education in BiH is defined in a number of ways.
- According to the Framework Law on Primary and Secondary Education, BiH (2003), adult education is “educating adults in specific subjects and for their professional and individual development”.
- According to the Development Strategy of Vocational Education and Training, BiH 2007-2013 (2007), adult education addresses VET for adults from a broad lifelong learning perspective.
- According to the Strategic Direction for BiH Education 2008-2015, which was adopted by the BiH Council of Ministers in June 2008, adult education and training is defined as integral to the education system. The Strategy prioritizes the education and training of those adults without primary and secondary education, adults whose education does not fit labour market needs, and those adults who wish to advance in their careers or improve their entrepreneurial skills. In April 2014 this strategy was elaborated through the Principles and Standards in the Field of Adult Education in BiH, and in June of the same year, there was the Decision to Adopt the Strategic Platform for the Development of Adult Education in the Context of Lifelong Education in BiH, 2014-2020.