The 2002 Law on Secondary Education refers to “information and communication technologies (ICTs).
The 2020 Concept for Development of a Distance Education System in Primary and Secondary Schools defines “distance education (or distance teaching and learning)” as “an area of education that focuses on the pedagogy, technology, and design of instructional systems that effectively provide education to students who are not physically "in the same place" in the process of acquiring their education. Instead, teachers and students communicate asynchronously (in a time of their own choosing) by exchanging printed or electronic learning materials/resources or through technology that allows them to communicate in real time (synchronously).”
Synchronous activities involve real-time electronic communication between teachers and students, such as video/audio calls or chats, while asynchronous activities occur sequentially without real-time communication. Asynchronous activities can include sending verbal or written messages, setting up platforms, sharing documents with work instructions, or requesting additional information about a completed task via phone.
The hybrid or mixed education system/programme is characterized as "distance education" that incorporates the occasional on-site physical presence of pupils/students, including for exam purposes. The 2020 Concept Note also defines the "blended learning approach," which combines student work and teaching, adjusts their sequence, and heavily relies on digital resources. Additionally, it encompasses game-based learning, which utilizes computer games to engage students and enhance learning.
E-content refers to multimedia content created or selected by teachers to aid in teaching and learning. It can be divided into different categories of elements from a technical aspect, including presentations, interactive presentations, animations, simulations, video recordings, audio recordings, diagrams, maps, and texts.
The 2020 Concept Note refers to “educational technology”, “assistive technology”, “e-education”, “e-learning”, and “open educational resources”.
The "Digital Innovation Profile” developed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in collaboration with the Ministry of Information Society and Administration and the Fund for Innovation and Technology Development provides several references to terminology related to education and technology. Key terms such as "digital transformation" is defined as " Digital transformation refers to the integration of digital technology into all areas of operations, fundamentally changing how services and value are delivered to citizens and customers. It involves the development of digital strategies to accelerate digital transformation and benefit populations based on digital innovation strategies to drive digital transformation in the public sector, enable access to efficient public services for the private sector, help achieve social goals that promote inclusion and diversity, and benefit key economic sectors vital to employment and inclusion in a country, among others”. Furthermore, "ICT" (Information and Communication Technologies) is defined as “Information and Communication Technology (ICT) refers to the tools and services that enable the processing, storage, and communication of information through electronic devices and networks. This includes software, hardware, and telecommunications equipment that facilitate the exchange of data and information in digital form. The term ICT encompasses a wide range of technologies such as computers, smartphones, the Internet, social media, cloud computing, e-government services, and many more”. Finally, education-related terms such as "entrepreneurial learning," "digital literacy," and "ICT use in education" are mentioned in document snippets.
The 2019-2029 National Operational Broadband Plan mentions different 5G scenarios, including mMTC (Massive Machine Type Communications) which aims to enable a response to an exponential increase in the density of connected devices and eMBB (Enhanced Mobile Broadband) which refers to mobile broadband connections with ultra-high speeds both indoors and outdoors.
Constitution and laws: The 2019 Constitution states that education is accessible to everyone under equal conditions (Article) 44) and that the Republic stimulates and assists scientific and technological development (Article 47).
Article 21 of the 2002 Law on Secondary Education (amended in 2020) states that the use of technology is mandatory in the school's educational curriculum “the curricula determines the mandatory use of information and communication technologies in the school for the implementation of educational work”. Article 4 of the 2006 Law on Vocational Education and Training (amended in 2019) notes that the goals of the vocational education and training include providing quality education in accordance with the modern level of science, technology and culture.
Policies, plans and strategies: The 2018-2025 Education Strategy refers to the 7th pillar of its 3rd priority “ICT technologies and digital literacy” and focuses on the promotion of digital literacy and the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in education. The goal is to intensify the application of ICT in education by establishing an e-learning portal and a learning management system and continuous training of staff to use new technologies and ICT tools in education; building a computer equipment recovery system and providing conditions for efficient maintenance of computer equipment and computer networks. The strategy also emphasizes the provision of appropriate learning environments by integrating supportive technologies, starting from the early years of students. Beginning from Grade III in primary schools, mandatory ICT subjects are taught. The country offers basic ICT training to primary and secondary school teachers, including the integration of software solutions for interactive teaching.
The 2021-2025 National ICT Strategy, overseen by the Ministry of Information Society and Administration, seeks to “provide solid digital knowledge in the education system” through the provision of adequate ICT infrastructure in schools and training institutions, the modernization of teaching content and methods, up-grading trainers and teachers’ skills, and strengthening collaboration between the education sector and industry. The 2023-2027 National ICT Strategy, developed by the Ministry of Information Society and Administration, outlines a vision for a digital future. It focuses on priority areas within the ICT sector to address society's increasing connectivity needs, enhance competitiveness, improve citizens' daily lives, and enable smarter business operations. The strategy builds upon previous initiatives such as the 2018-2020 Open Data Strategy, the 2018-2022 National Cyber Security Strategy, the 2018-2022 Public Administration Reform Strategy, the 2019-2029 National Operational Broadband Plan, and the 2018-2025 Education Strategy.
The 2020 Concept for Development of a Distance Education System in Primary and Secondary Schools states that “Technology is so fundamental that there is no more teaching without it”.
Digital competency frameworks: The 2021-2025 National ICT Strategy states the government aims to take the initiative to elaborate the Digital Skills framework, which will serve as a reference to build, courses in close cooperation with both public and private stakeholders. It mentions that the objective is “to get a framework that can ensure recognition of digital skills acquired throughout life”, based on the EU’s Digital Competence Framework, “the generic European framework appears to be of significant influence, no matter how specific the context”. It also included a goal to develop “an online digital self-assessment tool (…) based on the digital skills framework”.
The 2020 Concept for Development of a Distance Education System in Primary and Secondary Schools affirms that the government adheres to the EU’s Digital Competence Framework (DigComp) and the 2017 European framework of digital competencies of educators/teachers (DigiEduComp), which applies to educators at all levels of education,.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: Following school closures in March 2020, the preparation for the 2021-2025 National ICT Strategy began until May 2020 to speed up the digital adoption on a national level. This was followed by the adoption of the 2020 Concept for Development of a Distance Education System in Primary and Secondary Schools that states that prior to the COVID-19 crisis, there was a significant emphasis on incorporating digital technologies into various aspects of education while also improving digital infrastructure and enhancing teachers' capabilities to utilize virtual learning environments, digital platforms, and tools. However, the outbreak of the pandemic resulted in a sudden shift from in-person classroom instruction to remote/distance learning, leading to a greater focus on not only infrastructure and teacher competencies but also the suitability of pedagogical approaches for distance education and the social and emotional implications of learning from a distance.
North Macedonia implemented various methods to address the digital divide and enable remote learning during the pandemic. Alongside the online platform EDUINO, more than 8,000 video lessons were broadcasted on television, covering educational content for different grade levels and following a regular schedule. To ensure access to online resources, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy (MoLSP) provided USB sticks for mobile Internet access to approximately 30,000 students from households receiving social assistance. Additionally, schools distributed printed educational materials to students without internet connectivity at home. EDUINO also offered downloadable content, including digital interactive textbooks for Grade 4 students, which could be accessed offline by students with limited Internet access at home.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Electricity: The 2018 Energy Law aimed to harmonize the energy legislation with the EU Third Energy Package. The EU Third Energy Package is a set of directives and regulations introduced by the European Union to create a more competitive and integrated energy market across member states.
According to the Strategy for Energy Development of the Republic of North Macedonia until 2040, the distribution network of North Macedonia has a potential for improvement of power supply reliability. To improve the power supply reliability, investments in the distribution network are considered one of the most important activities along with pursuing regional and EU electricity market integration
Computers and devices: The 2020 Concept for Development of a Distance Education System in Primary and Secondary Schools states that in distance education “a personal device is necessary for every student, in order to be able to carry out all activities: following lessons, reading content, writing homework, taking tests, etc”. In 2007, the government announced an international tender for purchasing 100,000 computers within the framework of “The Computer for Every Student” project. For that purpose, more than 20 million EUR were projected for the 2007 and 2008 Budgets—one of the largest projects relating to ICTs in education in the country, though nearly 60 million EUR were spent.
The 2021-2025 National ICT Strategy stresses that to enable access to the digital world, it is essential to provide affordable digital devices and connectivity, particularly for vulnerable individuals. In addition to making digital resources available in public spaces, the government plans to establish a dedicated sector to collect, refurbish, and distribute digital devices to eligible individuals. This effort will help ensure that vulnerable individuals have access to the necessary technology and resources to participate fully in the digital age.
Internet connectivity: While there is no explicit information on a Universal Access Policy (UAP) on the internet, the 2021-2025 National ICT Strategy aims to “put a strong focus on universal access to ICT tools by developing ICT services in public spaces” and the to provide “affordable conditions to access to Internet connectivity and ICT equipment whether at an individual level, at work or in a third place” so that every citizen has the means to upskill.
The 2020 Concept for Development of a Distance Education System in Primary and Secondary Schools states that all facilities (all primary and secondary schools) have access to broadband provided by the Ministry of Education and Science (MES), except for primary schools in rural areas “Internet access is one of the basic prerequisites for the functioning of distance education. For this purpose, all users of National Platform for Distance Education (NPDO) must have access to the Internet. The location where the NPDO will be installed should have internet access with sufficient capacity to serve all users. on the platform”.
The 2019-2029 National Operational Broadband Plan includes provisions for connecting educational institutions such as schools. Public educational institutions, along with other public institutions such as healthcare facilities, must have access to symmetrical internet with a minimum speed of 1 Gbps by 2029. The plan also includes measures for encouraging ultra-fast internet access in rural areas with a higher concentration of educational institutions. Additionally, one of the annexes of the plan mentions that a list of public educational institutions will be created and connected to the network nodes of the National Telecommunications Operators Network.
The WiFi Kiosks Project project enabled free broadband for educational and administrative purposes through Wi-Fi kiosks, which supplied Internet access to 115 schools that faced fixed-line connectivity issues in the 2013-14 school year.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
The 2018-2025 Education Strategy aims to intensify the use of ICT in education through the establishment of an e-learning portal. Similarly, the 2021-2025 National ICT Strategy aims to set or enhance learning and teaching platforms in schools “The Government of MK will support innovative tools to disseminate ICT skills and knowledge such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)”.
Following COVID-19, the 2020 Concept for the Development of a Distance Education System in Primary and Secondary Schools was the first strategy that represents a framework for organizing a distance learning system in the three key areas: educational policies, technical support/educational technology and pedagogy. It also contains policies to establish high and low-tech systems “The establishment of the national platform for primary and secondary education, as the basis of the system of distance education does not mean using the platform only in crisis, natural disasters or emergency situations, but the national platform and all its functionalities will also be used in the daily work of schools, in combining regular teaching with e-content, in offering different sources and approaches to learning”.
The concept note also discusses three approaches to distance education: the insertion of technology, a combined/hybrid approach, and total conversion to digital education. It aims to establish a National Platform for Distance Education (NPDO) that combines all these approaches and supports school teaching and distance learning, monitors student achievements, and provides professional development for teachers and educational networking. The platform would also facilitate the exchange of documents, experiences, and ideas and inform parents about school activities and students.
The recent pandemic accelerated 9 digital learning with the development of the e-Classrooms, building on a UNICEF-supported online learning platform called Eduino, which is an educational portal under the Education Development Bureau. It provides digital content to support education, with its main sections being an "e-teaching" system and a "system for early learning and development." The former has three functionalities, namely e-classroom/e-study room, e-schedule, and e-tests. The government expanded the scope of this one-stop-shop for educational content to cover lower primary, primary and lower-secondary education for all children aged 6 to 14. Based on the success of this platform, the Ministry of Education and Science now plans to promote Eduino as a new and sustainable tool to support remote learning whenever required.
Another platform, EDMODO, is a free educational tool that allows teachers, students, and parents to collaborate by creating groups, sharing teaching content and documents, monitoring student work, and communicating with each other. Parents can also access the platform to monitor their children's progress and view archived work.
Epistum is a web-based Learning Management System used by the Ministry of Information Society and Administration for administration training and the Bureau for Development of Education for teacher training. It is based on Moodle and allows for multi-tenancy, meaning different schools/institutions can have their own virtual instance of the system with customization options. Epistum provides educators, administrators, and students with a robust and secure system for creating personalized learning environments, with features such as material sharing, online discussions, quizzes, and grading.
The Digital Library Portal offers free access to electronic textbooks for primary and secondary education students, teachers, and parents to enhance teaching content and facilitate the preparation and presentation of materials using information technology. Initially, the textbooks were published as e-books and downloaded in pdf format.
The 2020 Concept for Development of a Distance Education System in Primary and Secondary Schools states that the preparation of standards is in progress for secondary school students “in which the area of Digital Competencies is in line with the relevant documents from the European Commission”. It affirms that “digital competences are acquired through a special teaching subject (compulsory and optional) and as a cross-curricular goal in all levels of education”.
In August 2020, the Roma Education Fund (REF) provided hundreds of tablets with free Internet access to Roma students enrolled in primary, secondary and tertiary education levels in North Macedonia to support students with distance learning. The implementing partners were the Roma Democratic Development Association (SONCE), which distributed a total of 222 tablets with free Internet in municipalities across the country, and the citizens’ association Romaversitas Skopje, which awarded 210 tablets to Roma secondary school students along with 10 GB of free Internet.
The 2021-2025 National ICT Strategy aims to “Reinforce ICT specific curricula in the education system” and stresses that cyber security will become an essential skill to acquire so it will be included in the “digital curricula at schools in order to provide young people with the minimum skills”.
The 2021-2025 National ICT Strategy aims to up-grade trainers' and teachers’ digital skills.
The 2020 Concept for Development of a Distance Education System in Primary and Secondary Schools emphasizes the need to support teachers in acquiring both pedagogical and informational competencies to become "teachers of the 21st century" as “digital competencies are recognized as part of the core competencies of teachers”. This support includes providing basic conditions and technical means for quality distance teaching, such as computers and internet connections, as well as training for using equipment, the NPDO, and creating e-content. This technical support is to be provided by the school “by appointing a person for technical support of teachers”, the local community “by providing equipment, internet connection”, and the Bureau for Education Development and Center for Vocational Education and Training by providing accredited training programmes.
It also states that “all teachers have been trained in basic ICT skills and principals also have a training module in using ICT in their training”. It further affirms that teachers should know how to integrate digital technologies in teaching and learning, so authorities are responsible for ensuring in-service training and “continuous professional development regarding digital education through various initiatives that focus on different aspects of digitalization of society”.
2.4.1. Data privacy
North Macedonia has a general 2020 Personal Data Protection Law (PDPL) No.42 (based on the EU GDPR 2016/679). In addition to that, due to Article 9-h of the 2002 Law on Secondary Education (amended in 2020) that refers to the protection of data privacy, the 2020 Rulebook on Processing Personal Data no.229 was developed to outline guidelines for processing students’ personal data, authorizations for its use, access levels, and measures for confidentiality and protection in schools “The school (the controller) determines the authorized persons who should have access to the information system while ensuring a clear division of duties and responsibilities under the need to know rule” (Article 2).
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
The 2021-2025 National ICT Strategy aims to “enable safe digital content sharing to support e.g. e-education” and state that the government aims to establish a “Center for Safer Internet for Children”. The center's main focus will be to provide a secure digital environment for children, ensuring their safety while using the internet aligned and with the 2008 EU decision No. 1351. The EU decision that North Macedonia complies with includes a provision on protection from online abuse and cyberbullying.
The rapid drive towards digitalisation, but also its accompanying risks and vulnerabilities, are accounted for by the 2022 Cybersecurity Strategy, the country’s first comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. The document largely reflects the country’s European ambitions and is explicitly based on the “principles of the Cybersecurity Strategy of the European Union and the NATO Cyber Defence Pledge”. The 2018-2022 Cybersecurity Strategy identifies several priorities regarding the “prevention, research, and adequate response” to cybercrime. These include: harmonising the national with international policies; developing a single, comprehensive legal framework for cybercrime; modernising authorities in charge of cybercrime; establishing formal procedures of information exchange; participating actively in the creation of international cybercrime regulations and standards, as well as their implementation on a national level; and providing continuous education and training for law enforcement entities in the field of cybersecurity, cybercrime, and electronic evidence.
Education is referred to in the strategy but only in terms of fostering training and preparedness, for instance where it says “With the purpose of efficiently responding to the new risks and threats, the Republic of Macedonia will support research and development in the area of cyber security, as well as education and training at all levels in society, including training for end users”. Some articles of the criminal code may be used by victims but it seems that currently cyberbullying is not defined in the legislation.
State education policies are implemented through the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES), which is also responsible for the organization, financing, development, and promotion of upbringing, education, and science. The MoES is also involved in investing in information technology and e-education, as well as supporting technological development, innovation, and technical culture. Furthermore, the ministry facilitates international scientific and technical cooperation.
The Bureau for Education Development is a legal entity within the Ministry of Education and Science. Its main focus is to promote and develop the education sector, determine the purpose and content of educational work in all education levels and it has organizational units in various cities to carry out its work and provide advice and mentoring to education staff. Its internal organization is arranged based on competencies, school network development, and language of instruction.
The Department of Developing Digital Content and Online Courses of the Bureau engages in various activities such as selecting, adapting, translating and uploading suitable digital content to a suitable web portal. They also prepare and group digital content for use in primary and secondary education, evaluate its application to improve it, create online courses, and provide professional support to other advisors to help realize those courses. It also maintains the information system and develops the computer network.
The Ministry of Information Society and Administration is mandated to promote digital development at the country level. The Ministry engages with ICT innovation and entrepreneurship through the work of the FITD.
The 2020 Concept for Development of a Distance Education System in Primary and Secondary Schools recommends that summative assessment tasks should be designed in a way that does not give an advantage to students with better electronic devices students (for example, some have a computer and some only a mobile phone) “summative assessment tasks should be such that they do not they give preference to those who have better devices”.
In 2023, the Government of North Macedonia approved Recommendations to oblige primary and secondary schools to intensify communications between pupils, teachers and parents, and reduce the use of cell phones in schools. The Ministry of Education emphasizes that these recommendations are mostly aimed at schools, as well as other participants in the functioning of the educative system.
In May 2023, the Minister of Education, proposed to the government of North Macedonia and the authorities some protocols and instructions to limit the use of "TikTok" or not to allow its use at all. ‘to reduce all possible risks and threats to the safety of students and teachers in the school environment’.