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Yugoslavia: History of Yugoslav Education
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Education > History of Yugoslav Education


Primary schooling in interwar Yugoslavia was a four-year course. Although enrollments more than doubled between 1919 and 1940, on the eve of World War II only about 27.3 percent of Yugoslav young people between five and 24 were enrolled in school or receiving some kind of instruction. Only about 4 percent of the pupils who completed primary school went on to secondary schools. Muslim parents remained suspicious of education for women, and many rural areas had no schools at all. In the late 1930s, about 40 percent of the population over ten years of age was illiterate. Striking regional disparities existed in levels of literacy. While over three-quarters of all Slovenes and Croats could read and write, only a tenth of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians were literate. Yugoslavia's interwar education system was highly centralized, and instruction was exclusively in Serbo-Croatian. Macedonians and Croats especially resented Belgrade's dominance of education; many Croatian teachers enlisted in the pro-Nazi Ustase forces during the war. World War II decimated Yugoslavia's teacher corps and damaged heavily its education facilities. In 1953, 14.5 percent of the active nonagricultural population had not finished four grades of elementary school, while 63.5 percent had not completed the eighth grade.

In the postwar period, the Yugoslav government invested heavily in rebuilding the national education system. Besides building new schools, libraries, and other facilities, the government took energetic steps to enhance the qualifications of Yugoslavia's teaching cadres. By 1989 the majority of teachers in primary and secondary schools held university degrees. In addition, schools began employing a variety of teacher aides and specialists, including librarians, media specialists, medical personnel, special-education instructors, vocational-training specialists, and computer programmers -- most of whom were university graduates. Within thirty years after adoption, such measures radically changed the educational base of the Yugoslav population. By 1981 only 2.7 percent of the active nonagricultural population had less than three years of primary school; the portion that had not completed the eighth grade had fallen to 18.9 percent; and 58.1 percent of that group had at least a high-school diploma. Of the overall population, 25.5 percent had completed a secondary program and 24.2 had completed eight years of a primary program.

Data as of December 1990

Last Updated: December 1990

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Yugoslavia was first published in 1990. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

Yugoslavia Main Page Country Studies Main Page

Section 73 of 208


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