Kosovo is not an independent country. When Kosovo until 1989 was an autonomous region of the Yugoslav state of Serbia, the vast majority of children were enrolled in a primary school and literacy was good among Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs. In the 1990s, when autonomy had ceased, conditions deteriorated radically for Kosovo Albanians. The teachers were persecuted, the Albanian teacher training was closed and schools were destroyed. The civil war of 1998-99 meant another death blow to education. Since then, Kosovo has given priority to the rehabilitation of the school system and a large part of the assistance from international organizations has been used for this.
Kosovo flag source: Countryaah.com
Among younger adults, literacy is just over 95 percent while it is lower among older people, especially among women. In 2008, only 86 percent of rural women could read. Literacy is also significantly lower among the small minorities, which make up 5 percent of the population (see Population) than among Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs. That difference lives on, as only about three-quarters of children in minority groups are enrolled in school, while almost all Albanian and Serbian-speaking children are.
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In the mid-00s came a series of new school laws aimed at modernizing basic education, and the 2008 Constitution guarantees everyone the right to education. Since 2010, children with special needs are also covered. Less than ten percent of them, almost exclusively boys, then had access to a school.
The education system has approached the structure of EU countries. At the age of six, children begin in the compulsory, free, state compulsory school which includes a primary school of five grades and a lower secondary school of four grades. Thereafter, there is a 3–4 year fee-charged higher continuing education that has either general (theoretical) or vocational orientation. Many children also attend the one-year preschool, which until now has not been compulsory, and some go before in kindergarten. An extension of the compulsory schooling to twelve years is in progress, but the resources are insufficient for such rapid expansion. It is still common for children to go to school in different shifts, as there is a great lack of both premises and educated teachers.
The education system is seen as the most important sector when it comes to making Kosovo a multi-ethnic state. The Constitution emphasizes the very important role of the school in promoting a spirit of respect, acceptance and tolerance between different ethnic or religious groups. Each group must see their own identity preserved and at the same time give recognition to the others. However, the new laws are insufficient in this respect. There are still two completely different educational systems. Of the school children, 90 percent are Kosovo Albanians and these attend schools with Kosovo Albanian curriculum and with teaching and learning materials in Albanian. Most of the Kosovar Serbian school children (7 percent) go to Serbian-speaking schools that follow the curriculum in neighboring Serbia and use educational material from there. The two groups therefore have no common language and their views on the country’s history and culture will be completely different. Children belonging to the small minorities make up 3 percent of school children. The vast majority of them attend Albanian schools and there are usually teaching materials in Turkish and Bosnian as well. For other minorities, both teaching material in the home language is lacking as well as educated teachers who speak that language. This should be an important reason why many of these children quit school after only a few years of schooling. In general, the quality of education is considered to be higher in the Serbian-speaking system than in the Kosovo Albanian. For other minorities, both teaching material in the home language is lacking as well as educated teachers who speak that language. This should be an important reason why many of these children quit school after only a few years of schooling. In general, the quality of education is considered to be higher in the Serbian-speaking system than in the Kosovo Albanian. For other minorities, both teaching material in the home language is lacking as well as educated teachers who speak that language. This should be an important reason why many of these children quit school after only a few years of schooling. In general, the quality of education is considered to be higher in the Serbian-speaking system than in the Kosovo Albanian.
There are also parallel systems in post-secondary education. During the war, the country’s university was moved from Pristina to Mitrovicë/Kosovska Mitrovica, where the majority of the residents are Kosovo Serbs. After the war, the University of Pristina was re-established. It is now the country’s state university, the University of Prishtina, and has more than 40,000 students. In 2010, the state University of Prizren also started with its first courses. In addition, there are a number of small, private institutions, several with cooperation with universities in other countries. Part of the first university remained in Mitrovicë and grew into a Kosovar Serbian university. Internationally, it is known as the University of Mitrovica, while in Kosovo it is called the University of Prishtina in Kosovska Mitrovica.
The Government’s education program for 2011-16 highlights that education must be further modernized to meet today’s needs in Kosovo. Everyone, even the children in the small minorities, must go through compulsory school in order to enter the labor market. Vocational education and training must be improved and modernized, especially with regard to competence in Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Adult education must be expanded to provide opportunities for lifelong learning and to strengthen the generation affected by the 1990s educational chaos. However, the uncertain economic development in this very poor country means that it will take a long time to realize that program.