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In 1997, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) launched the PISA programme, which assesses the skills of 15-year-olds in the fields of reading, math and science, and the skills of students in applying what they learned in school to real-life situations.

The aim of the programme is to provide an ongoing insight into educational policies and practices that directly affect students’ knowledge and skills in different countries and in different demographic subgroups in each country. Through the PISA results, policy makers can assess students’ knowledge and skills in their countries compared to those in other countries, set policy goals compared to measurable goals achieved in other education systems, and learn from the policies and practices of countries that have shown improvement.

Since the first testing cycle, in 2000, to the present day, the students representing more than 80 countries and economies have participated in the research. PISA assesses the extent to which the 15-year-olds who, at the end of obligatory education or had already completed it, have acquired the key knowledge and skills necessary for full participation in modern societies. The assessment not only confirms whether they can reproduce knowledge, but also examines how well they can extrapolate it from what they have learned, and apply it in unfamiliar situations – both in and out of school. This approach shows that modern economies value individuals by what they know and what they can do with what they know.


Bosnia and Herzegovina participated for the first time in the 2018 PISA research. It covered 6,480 students aged 15, from 213 schools across the country – selected by random sampling. The students did a two-hour test that was not directly related to the curricula in BiH, but rather competency-based and comparable internationally. In addition to the tests, the questionnaires were also filled in, which were also used to interpret the results.

The PISA programme for BiH is of particular importance because it will allow BiH to gain am insight at the international level of its education systems and decide in which direction they can be improved. The PISA results are a reference report on the quality of education in a country, so this is a great opportunity for BiH to define the actual quality of education. The assumption is that the generations now educated in BiH will be EU citizens – so it is important to determine the extent to which education prepares them for the future. Furthermore, the PISA results show how much the education systems support economic and social development in BiH. Insights will be given at what level the educational accomplishments of the students reflect the conditions in which the educational systems operate and the level of equity of education.

Dijana Pejić: It is necessary to change the education system as soon as possible

“After the PISA research results were released, I think it became perfectly clear to everyone in Bosnia and Herzegovina how alarming the situation in all of our education systems is. The mere fact that our 15-year-olds, in terms of reading and mathematical literacy, are three years behind most of their peers, is already distressing enough for all of us to be alarmed. Every second student is functionally illiterate, which means that their ability to solve problems is significantly lower than of their peers in the OECD countries. And given the fact that BiH was ranked 62nd out of 79 positions (for 79 countries whose results were processed as part of the PISA 2018 research) that speaks volumes about the fact that our students are not able to apply the knowledge gained at school in their everyday life. One of the conclusions of the research is that, due to the low level of literacy, students will have difficulties in continuing their education, employment, professional advancement and social management. While in the OECD countries the percentage of such students is between 21 and 25, in BiH it is around 50 percent.

The Genesis Project, as an organisation that puts a lot of effort into non-formal education of children and adults, has been working for a long time to raise awareness, among the population in local communities across BiH, on the importance of international educational research and education, as part of the “Dialogue for the Future” project and about all the lessons learned that can be attained by interpreting the results of these researches, like the ones from today. Accordingly, from the beginning of next year and with the support of the “Dialogue for the Future” project and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway in BiH, we continue to work intensively through educational dialogue platforms in 10 municipalities across BiH (Travnik, Bugojno, Bijeljina, Istočno Novo Sarajevo, Doboj, Sarajevo, Trebinje, Tuzla, Banja Luka and Novi Travnik).

It is planned that this activity includes at least 300 different local actors who are coming from schools, student councils, parents’ councils, the business sector, the media, non-governmental organisations, all with the aim of making education a priority throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. Our goal is to animate the citizens to actively advocate the need for reform of education systems in BiH, and that steps need to be taken which would directly lead to improving learning outcomes in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

We believe that the results of the PISA 2018 research will be a guiding principle for all of us, helping us to provide our children with better education and a better future, which I believe is the goal of all of us. Despite the fact that we expected the results like this, we should all have to take responsibility for them. We must also acknowledge the need to change the system, at least the education system, as soon as possible.” G.P.

Equitable education

An equitable education system is one that minimises the impact of personal and social circumstances beyond the control of the individual ones (such as gender, ethnic origin, or family background) on the opportunities for quality education and, ultimately, on the learning outcomes that the students can potentially achieve. In this context, equity in education is discussed in relation to providing five key foundations for success: an inclusive environment, quality teaching, time for learning, material resources, and family and community support.

An inclusive education system ensures that all young people reach at least the minimum level of achievement, success, well-being and engagement required to participate in society. Although the achievement barriers, results and health do not necessarily come from educational institutions, the focus on inclusion requires that educational policies remove these barriers where they exist so that children can follow what is important to them in life.

Given that a culture of decision-making in education based on empirical data has not been developed in BiH and due to the lack of regular mechanisms for monitoring the quality of education, the PISA data are of particular importance for determining the real situation, with opportunities for improvement and intervention where necessary.

For BiH, the PISA findings are of particular importance for:

  • developing a curriculum focused on the acquisition of key competences;
  • improving teaching practices that imply quality teaching and interaction with students, as the most important influences on cognitive, emotional, social and behavioural outcomes of education;
  • better insight into the current capacity of education systems to ensure equal opportunities for all children and guidance on improving the impartiality and equity of the education system in the country;
  • the relation between the educational attainment and the labour market, to determine the knowledge and skills necessary for career development.

What does PISA test?

Each cycle of the PISA programme measures students’ reading, math, and science skills. A particular emphasis is placed on their ability to apply knowledge and skills in real life contexts: they must demonstrate that they can analyse, understand and communicate effectively in the process of identifying, interpreting and solving problems in different situations.

Definition of reading literacy in the PISA 2018 cycle: Reading literacy is the understanding, use, evaluation, reflection and engagement in the texts to achieve their goals, develop knowledge and potential, and participate actively in society.

Mathematical literacy is defined as the ability of an individual to formulate, use and interpret mathematics in a variety of contexts. That includes mathematical thinking and the use of mathematical concepts, procedures, facts and means to describe, explain and predict the occurrences. It helps individuals recognise the role that mathematics plays in the world, and make informed conclusions and decisions necessary for the lives of constructive, engaged, and thoughtful citizens.

Literacy in the natural sciences (scientific literacy) is defined as the ability of an individual to deal analytically with issues related to the natural sciences and ideas of science. A scientifically literate person is willing to engage in reasoned discourse on the natural sciences and technology, which requires the ability to scientifically explain the occurrences, assess and design research in the natural sciences, and interpret data and evidence in the natural sciences.

The easiest way to summarise students’ results and to compare the relative success of a country with other countries is to use the average achievement (average) of the students in the country and in the area tested by PISA. However PISA also measures students’ results by skill level, with the highest being six and the lowest one. It is especially important to identify in each area a basic level of success (level 2), which is also considered to be a minimum level of proficiency in reading, math and science. In all three areas of PISA, the basic level is the one where the students can approach the tasks that require minimal ability and aptitude for thinking independently.

In reading, a basic skill level is defined as a level at which the students are able to read simple and familiar texts and understand them factually, but also to demonstrate, even in the absence of clear instructions, the ability to link several information, to draw conclusions that go beyond what was explicitly mentioned and to link the text with personal experience and knowledge.

In math, a basic skill level is defined as a level at which the students are not only able to perform routine procedures, such as arithmetic operations, when given all the instructions, but are able to interpret and recognise how a straightforward situation (e.g., comparing the total distance to two alternative routes or converting prices to another currency) can be represented mathematically.

In the natural sciences, the basic level of knowledge corresponds to the level at which the students can rely on their knowledge of basic scientific content and procedures for interpreting data, identify the issue being considered in a simple experiment, or determine the validity of a conclusion based on available data.

By comparing the number of students below and above the basic level of knowledge, and the number of students who achieve the highest levels of knowledge, one can estimate the average level of achievement (shown by the average scores in BiH) and the capacity of BiH education systems to support excellence and to ensure minimum standards of the achievements.

Achievements and performance of students in BiH

Bosnia and Herzegovina ranked well below the OECD average in all three areas and is in the last quarter of a total of 80 countries, along with Northern Macedonia and Kosovo, out of the countries in the region.

The difference in points between BiH and the OECD average in reading is 84 points, in mathematics 83, and in the natural sciences 91 points, which represents almost three years of education.

The best-ranked country in the region is Slovenia, whose score is better than the OECD average, followed by Croatia with 15 points behind the OECD average in reading, 25 in mathematics and 18 in the natural sciences.

Serbia is behind with 41 points in mathematics, 48 ​​in reading and 49 in science.

Followed by Montenegro, Albania…

The worst ranked countries in the region are Albania, BiH, Kosovo and Northern Macedonia.

The question is – if, at the age of 15, the students in BiH are already behind their peers from the European countries by as much as three years of education, how can our country overcome this gap and provide long-term economic development that would be competitive with the other surrounding countries and Europe?

The table shows the average results for all countries participating in the PISA 2018 programme.

Text source:

Forest school

Puppets & empowerment

Whose are the angels

Games of forest dwarfs

Unicef and Genesis

Who are we

Genesis Project was founded by a group of local enthusiasts in February 1997. The end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and devastation after the war led to the establishment of Genesis Project. Since then we have implemented numerous projects and activities.We are located in Banja Luka, and thanks to the municipality of Banja Luka, after eight years of operating in rented premises, we now have an office, owned by the city of Banja Luka, at our disposal. That helped us a lot and provided us with new options for the development of our work. Thanks to our mobile service the "Project Genesis" humanitarian organization operates at the national level, which means that different activities have been implemented in the territory of the entire Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Main objective of our work are


Genesis Project is a non-governmental organization which, through its professional and dedicated team, helps children and adolescents throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina in fulfilling their rights to have a free and correct psychophysical development, regardless of their religious, ethnic or racial belonging whilst respecting their individual differences and potential.


Bosnia and Herzegovina is a free and open society that will enable every individual to develop and assert to their full capacity and to become a happy, conscious and free person, capable of thinking critically and acting creatively.

Dijana Pejić was born in 1974 in Banja Luka where she attended primary school and secondary school of electrical engineering.
Upon completion of Business School in Belgrade, she gained her undergraduate degree in economics in the Faculty of Economics in Kragujevac.
She has been active in the NGO sector since 1995, when she got a position of a project coordinator at the U.S. Committee for Refugees.

She founded the Genesis Project NGO in 1996 in Banja Luka. Since then she has implemented dozens of successful projects throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Being responsible for program management, financial management, designing projects and human resources, Dijana has been successfully manage a small team, which has been part of Genesis, for the most part, from the very beginning. The success story has been going on for 18 years, and its best evidence are the results achieved and the children's smiles elicited by Dijana’s team members wherever the road takes them.

Azra Talić was born in 1952, in Banja Luka, where she completed her elementary and high school education as well as the teachers' college. She continued her education at the Faculty of Philosophy in Sarajevo, where she acquired a title of the professor in psychology and pedagogy.

In her extensive experience Azra worked as an educator and counsellor in a kindergarten and as a psychologist and counsellor in an elementary school. Her following position was in the CARE Canada organisation, as a psychologist.

She became part of the Genesis Project team in 1998, and she has been actively participating in numerous projects, being equally successful as a teacher and psychologist however as a poet too. Thanks to her imagination, a large number of songs and plays were created that a travelling interactive theatre of the Genesis team entertains and educates the little ones with all over BiH. And, in Azra’a imagination there is always room for new and creative ideas that are just waiting to come alive in some future project.

Draško Stojčević was born in 1975 in Banja Luka, where he completed his primary education and secondary school of electrical engineering and then the Faculty of political sciences, Department of Journalism and Communication.
Since the foundation of the Genesis Project, Draško has been a member of the team. While working in this organization, he attended a number of advanced seminars and completed the training for the SALW and Mine Risk Education Instructor. After training for the design and production of the one-minute films for young people, he produced a great number of one-minute films across Bosnia and Herzegovina. Within the projects he worked on and also successfully implemented, Draško was bringing joy to the little ones through various roles he has enlivened in a number of plays and TV serials. Pečurko (Mushroom man) in the "Game of forest dwarfs," associate teacher in "Whose are the angels", deminer in the "The strange trial" are just some of his roles. Always smiling and popular among children, is a recognizable member of the merry Genesis team and a traveling interactive theater.

Ljubiša Vasić was born in 1975 in Banja Luka, where he completed his primary education and secondary school of electrical engineering and then the Faculty of Philosophy.
He acquired the title of a class teacher in 2009, and for the work in the NGO sector he got further education both through seminars and trainings. Among other things, he completed the training for the SALW and Mine Risk Education Instructor. Ljubiša has been a member of the Genesis Project team since 1996. He has worked on the implementation of a large number of projects, and children and young people easily recognize him by a wide smile and a number of roles that embodied through entertaining and educational shows and TV serials of Genesis.
Professor Mudrić (Brainy) from the "Whose are the angels" TV series, a teacher from the "Forest School" TV series, Borko (Pine man) in the "Game of forest dwarfs ", a strict judge in the "The strange trial", are some of the roles that youngest ones remember him gladly by.

Saša Šarić was born in 1974 in Banja Luka, where he completed his primary education and secondary school of electrical engineering, after which he enrolled at the Higher Business School in Belgrade.
He has been part of the Genesis team from the founding of the organization, and through a number of seminars he was additionally trained to work on humanitarian educational projects.
He also completed the training for the SALW and Mine Risk Education Instructor and he attended the training on the design and production of one-minute films.
During his work in Genesis, Saša took part in the implementation of a large number of successful projects throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina - from educational workshops for children, through production of TV shows, to the prevention of peer violence. He is also active in fundraising.

Goran Radić was born in 1967 in Banja Luka. After completing primary education and secondary school of electrical engineering in this city, he completed several advanced seminars, as well as advanced training for project managers for MRE and firearms.
He gained his BSc degree in economy in the Faculty of eeconomy in Apeiron University, Banjaluka. After eight years of work in the "Rudi Čajavec" company, Goran has joined the Genesis Project team in 1998, initially as a volunteer and since 2003 as a full member. Among other trainings and seminars, he also attended the training on the design and production of one-minute films. He took part in a number of successful projects and his greatest contribution is emphasized through management of projects for mine risk education and firearms. Goran is actively working in the highly vulnerable mine-affected communities throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina and its primary mission is to educate children how to save their lives and have a carefree childhood while growing up near the mines and constant danger.

Dijana Miljatović was born in 1972 in Prijedor, where she completed primary and high school education, upon which she studied English language and literature at the Faculty of Philosophy in Banja Luka.
A large portion of her working life Dijana spent in the field as an interpreter, and in this capacity, she worked for the ICTY too. She is one of the cofounders of the Association of single parents, "Ponos" and a current chairwoman. She is also a coordinator of numerous humanitarian actions and within the association executes the function of a project manager as well as, when required, of the spokesperson.
She joined the Genesis Project in 2012, first as a volunteer, and since July 2013 as a permanent member. Employed at the administrative assistant, she is a necessary logistic support of this successful team.

Sandra Josović was born in 1977 in Slavonski Brod. She completed elementary and secondary school education in Banja Luka. She gained her BSc degree in political scientists in journalism and communications in the Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade. As a journalist, she worked in several Belgrade media during her studies, and after returning to Banja Luka, she spent eight years in the Nezavisne newspaper, a year as a reporter and then as the editor of several columns and the Sunday edition. She continued her journalistic career on the website for health as a chief editor where she worked for two years. After this experience, she undertook the position of the Executive Director of the International Film Festival Kratkofil Plus.
She was joining the Genesis Project team occasionally as an associate and then as a new member in September 2013. Along the assistance in the implementation of projects, she is responsible for the design of portal’s content, as well as to communicate with the media.