Adult education

Adult education can be formal or non-formal.

Formal adult education

Formal adult education is intended for people who have not completed general or vocational education school programmes. It is realized in regular primary or secondary schools or in schools that specialize in adult education.

Formal education is part of the school system and is carried out through primary or secondary schools. It is very similar to regular primary and secondary education for pupils and students in the majority of aspects (curriculum, teaching methods, assessment, certification etc.) However, all necessary adjustments in terms of learners’ age and capacities are made, including possibilities for faster completion of school programmes than normally required for regular pupils or students. Formal education for adults is intended for people who have missed a chance to complete general and vocational education school programmes.

Non-formal adult education

Non-formal education, which includes all programmes beyond the school system, may involve structurally varying kinds of training (various lengths, target groups, topics etc.). This type of education does not provide transition to a higher education level; however, it provides learners with skills, knowledge and abilities essential for professional development, which is documented by a certificate as proof of acquired qualifications. Non-formal education is intended for people who have, partly or entirely, completed formal education and who need to improve their skills or requalify for another vocation.


According to the Law on Adult Education, adult education is part of the Serbian education system and its purpose is to provide adults with continuous acquisition of competences and qualifications that are crucial for their employment, professional development and socially responsible behaviour.

As stated in the Law on Adult Education, the goals of adult education in Serbia are the following:

  • Improvement of educational structure and employability of citizens;
  • Creation of a basis for socio-economic development of Serbia
  • Increase in professional mobility and flexibility of the working population;
  • Providing grounds for the reduction of poverty, social equality, social inclusion and intergenerational solidarity;
  • Improvement of personal and family life standards, along with the social and natural environment;
  • Development of democracy, multiculturalism and tolerance
  • Integration into the European social, economic and educational frameworks.


As an organized and systematic activity of learning intended for people above a certain age, adult education can be formal or non-formal. Formal Adult education is based on the approved national curricula within the primary and secondary education systems, as regulated by the Law on the Foundations of the Education System, Law on Primary Education, and Law on Secondary Education. Although based on the mainstream primary and secondary education concepts, achievement standards for these programmes are adjusted to the adult population. There are two types of programmes: general formal education, which aims to raise achievement in basic skills, and vocational formal education, aiming to acquire a recognised qualification during adulthood.

Activities within adult education as specified by the Law on Adult Education are the following:

  • General education, directed towards acquiring key competences;
  • Vocational education and specialization, directed towards acquiring or improving vocational competences required for participation in the labour market;
  • Professional development, directed towards the improvement of professional skills and knowledge;
  • Assessment and recognition of previously acquired competences;
  • Career guidance and counselling, with a view to improving career development skills important for successful employment and professional progress.

Key stakeholders

Adult education lies within the responsibility of a number of ministries that regulate educational, economic and social policies, regional development and other areas. Although – being part of the educational system - adult education is primarily under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, other ministries are responsible for providing relevant legislative framework and conditions for the successful functioning of adult education schemes. These ministries are: the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy, Ministry of Finance, and Ministry of Regional Development and Local Governments.

Beside the relevant ministries, the following state institutions are responsible for the provision, monitoring and improvement of adult education and training in Serbia:

  • The National Education Council and Institute for Educational Quality and Evaluation are responsible for determining standards of key competences in primary and general secondary education for adults;
  • The Council for Vocational and Adult Education and Institute for the Improvement of Education are responsible for determining standards of vocational competences in vocational secondary education for adults, competences of professional development and other forms of adult education;
  • The Centre for Vocational and Adult Education (within the Institute for the Improvement of Education) is also responsible for developing instruments for the assessment of previously acquired competences, determining standards of their recognition, and preparing annual plans for adult education.

In 2006, adult education in Serbia gained significance when the Strategy for the Development of Adult Education in the Republic of Serbia was adopted. The Strategy was followed by a corresponding action plan in 2009.

In terms of legislation, adult education is regulated through the Laws on Education System Foundations (2013) and Adult Education (adopted in 2013, active from 2014). The Law on Adult Education deals with adult education in a lifelong learning context. This law regulated the non-formal education for the first time and it introduced the possibility for acquiring qualifications throughout lifetime.

Main Providers

There are 3 types of institutions that may implement adult education and training programmes:

  • General and vocational education schools, which can be either regular schools licensed for work with adults or schools specialised for adult education:
    • Primary schools
    • General secondary schools
    • Vocational secondary schools
  • Public services are institutions founded by the Government and/or local authorities, which, alongside other goals and activities, offer some kind of training for adults. Some of the institutions of this type are set forth below:
    • The National Employment Service with its departments in 30 towns all over Serbia offers career guidance, organisation of professional internships, prequalification trainings, job search programmes and other kinds of training for the unemployed;
    • The Education Centre within the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia offers continuous adult education in the business and entrepreneurship areas;
    • The Centres for the Professional Development of Adults are located in 12 towns in various parts of Serbia. Their scope is the following: identification of labour market needs and educational priorities, collaboration with local authorities, schools and other relevant institutions, and proposals for adult education programmes and their implementation;
    • The National Agency for Regional Development provides different kinds of support for start-up companies and entrepreneurship on the local level, including professional development of adults.
  • Publicly recognised providers may include nongovernmental organisations, cultural institutions, associations, open universities, career centres, consulting and training centres, private schools or any other institutions registered for educational programmes implementation, which means they have to be approved by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, as well as fulfil adult education standards as prescribed by the Law on Adult Education. When such standards are met, the institution receives a license which has to be renewed every 5 years.


Non-formal adult education is defined as an organized adult learning process through specially developed programmes for the acquisition of knowledge and skills required for professional development as a prerequisite condition for successful employment and participation in society. It includes all education and training programmes outside the school system, although it may be realized in schools, as well as in other institutions.  


Non-formal education programmes are focused on the following areas:

  • Native Language and Mathematics Literacy
  • Entrepreneurship and Management
  • Media Literacy
  • Science and Technology
  • Computer Literacy
  • Foreign Languages
  • Ecology and Environment Protection
  • Occupational Safety
  • Arts
  • Civil Rights
  • Career guidance aimed at improving job search skills

Depending on estimated labour market needs, any other programmes may be organized with a view to improving learners’ skills and qualifications.



Source of information: description of Serbian education system has been retrieved from Eurydice Network website and granted by Eurydice Serbia.