Admission requirements and choice of schools
Primary education is compulsory in Serbia and children start it at the age of 7. More specifically, to enrol in the first grade, a child must be at least 6,5 and at most 7,5 years old and this is the only admission requirement. There is no entrance examination, except for primary music and ballet schools. A psychological assessment is done by a school psychologist to evaluate a child’s readiness to attend school. If necessary, based on the school psychologist’s opinion, their enrolment can be postponed for a year. Furthermore, children at the age between 6 and 6,5 years can be enrolled in the first grade if they show adequate readiness and maturity. Another purpose of psychological assessment is to form balanced groups (classes) of pupils.
Regarding the choice of schools, child’s parents can choose a school in the area where they live. A school is required to admit all children who live in its pre-determined school area. Parents can also choose a school outside of their area, if school capacities allow so. Since 2006, all children are required to attend at least 9 months of Preschool Preparation Programme prior to the first grade enrolment, according to the Law on the Education System Foundations. This programme may be realised in either preschool or primary school institutions.
Age levels and grouping of pupils
Eight-year-long primary education is divided into two stages, each consisting of 4 grades:
- Cycle 1: Class Teaching (razredna nastava) – 1st to 4th grade
At this cycle, one teacher is in charge of each class and responsible for teaching all subjects, except foreign languages and some optional classes.
- Cycle 2: Subject Teaching (predmetna nastava) – 5th to 8th grade
At this cycle, each subject is taught by a different teacher, specialized in a particular field, while one teacher – class teacher (razredni starešina) – serves as a main teacher and is responsible for leading the class.
Pupils who belong to the same grade are most commonly of the same age. Grades are divided into smaller groups – classes. Each class consists of 30 pupils at most. Classes are formed with special attention to diversity; social status, psychological assessment, ethnical background, disability and any other relevant factors are taken into account when placing pupils into different classes. In some cases, classes can be divided into smaller groups, according to teaching needs, and sometimes groups of different classes can be combined. One class can accommodate two pupils with disabilities at most and such classes usually have a smaller number of pupils in total. Classes in special education schools cannot have more than 10 pupils.
Organisation of the School Year
School calendar is issued every year by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development for the following year.
Each of the 8 grades takes one school year to complete. The school year starts on 1st September and ends on 31st August. The teaching part of the school year consists of two semesters:
- The first semester starts on the first working day of September and ends one or two working days prior to 31st December;
- The second semester starts on the closest working day to 20th January and ends on the last working day of May for 8th grade pupils and on the last working day of the second week of June for other pupils.
This schedule is based on the 34/36 working weeks and 170/180 working days requirement. Final grade pupils finish the school year earlier in order to prepare for final and entrance exams. There are 3 breaks during the school year:
- Winter break (between the first and second semester);
- Spring break (usually 5 working days around the Orthodox Easter holiday in April or May);
- Summer break (between the second semester and first semester of the following school year).
In addition, there are several one- or two-day breaks for national or religious holidays, as regulated by the Law on National and Other Holidays.
Traditionally, on June 28th, pupils from 1st to 7th grade receive their school cards with grades for the completed year/grade, while 8th grade pupils receive their school cards and certificates on a date that is determined each year.
Exact start and end dates of teachers’ school year are determined at institutional (school) level. As required at central level, teachers have vacation days as any other employees (minimum is 20 days per year for teachers entering the profession), which they have to use during the school holidays. Teachers usually start the school year a few weeks before students (mid-August), and end the school year several weeks after students (mid-July).