Joint Statement of the EUD/EUSR to BiH, OSCE Mission to BiH, UNICEF BiH and United States Embassy in BiH: In Education, Change is the Only Constant- BiH Needs to Invest in Evidence-Based Education Reforms

SARAJEVO, 8 December 2020 – One year after publication of the results of the first Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the country marks today another important date for the education sector- the results for the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), conducted in 2019.

The TIMSS results demonstrate that schools in BiH are not prepared for the knowledge society of the 21st century and that BiH’s children do not have the same opportunities to develop their potentials as their peers do in high and middle-income countries. With their future at stake, at least 600,000 children of BiH cannot wait anymore.

As demonstrated by the 2018 PISA results and confirmed by the results from TIMSS we saw today, BiH faces a learning crisis. That combined with the pandemic could undermine decades of progress and exacerbate entrenched inequalities.

Therefore, it is urgent that the education authorities in BiH design and implement comprehensive education reforms, based on the findings of international large-scale assessments, as the same provide detailed data for informed policy decisions.

In addition, continuous participation in international large-scale assessments is crucial for monitoring and following the developments and trends in education, so necessary adjustments to education reforms can be made. In that context, we also recall the European Commission’s 2020 Report on BiH which notes that participation in such assessments should be taken to track the country’s progress and enhance visibility and comparability in a larger context.

A knowledgeable and skilled population is an indispensable component of any dynamic economy and inclusive, cohesive society which BiH aspires to, therefore education reform should be a central pillar of the country’s development efforts.

To ensure evidence-based education reform, BiH should take all the necessary steps for participation in the upcoming international large-scale assessments (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study – PIRLS 2021 and PISA 2022). We call upon the authorities to reach consensus for BiH’s continuous participation in these valuable assessments whilst ensuring inclusivity and transparency of the assessment processes including through consistent co-operation with and between all education authorities.

Competent education authorities at all levels of government must take bold steps now, to create inclusive, resilient and quality education systems fit for the future.