Teachers are the heart of any education system. In BiH, teaching has become a relatively unappealing profession, in part due to the difficult working conditions in many schools. Teachers’ salaries are on par with the public sector, and nearly 25% higher than average private sector salaries.
However, this varies drastically across the country. It is important to note that teacher pay in BiH is also linked to educational qualifications and years of experience – factors that are not necessarily linked to improving student learning. There are limited opportunities for professional development and growth, while pedagogical institutions have limited capacity – leading to a high dependence on programs supported by donors and NGO’s. Principals, who should be spending time supporting teachers, focus not on instructional leadership, but on administrative duties.
It is no wonder then, that Bosnia and Herzegovina ranks just 58 out of 157 countries in the World Bank’s Human Capital Index. Human capital consists of all the knowledge, skills and well-being that people accumulate throughout their lives, enabling them to realize their potential as productive members of society. In BiH, this means that as children grow up, they will only be 62% as productive they could be if they enjoyed a complete education and full health – compared to 72% and 76% in neighboring Croatia and Serbia, respectively. This loss of potential harms the country in the long-term and threatens its EU accession goals.
So how does one build human capital?
The 2018 World Development Report emphasizes the fact that the quality of learning matters most for developing quality human capital. This means that improving the quality of teaching and learning in classrooms and schools around the country is the pathway to increasing human capital and unlocking the growth potential of all students in Bosnia and Herzegovina. To do this, it is important that the country prioritizes education through three key approaches:
Assess learning to make it a serious goal. The results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) for BiH will help “turn the light on” for learning, but much more could be done to support harmonized learning assessments.
Act on evidence to make schools work for all learners. More information on good practices in BiH and beyond could help guide innovation and interventions at the local level.
Align actors to make the whole system work for learning. Coordination of policies and actions that affect teachers, school management, school inputs, and learners are imperative to improve learning.
One education official in BiH recently observed that “education has been seen as something to be consumed or spent on as opposed to something to invest in. For students around the country, investments in education are exceptionally important – allowing them to access opportunities and grow to their full potential,” stated the World Bank Office in BiH.