Brankica Todorovic is a Macroeconomist who has written numerous scientific and professional works in the broader field of economic science. She participated in the Erasmus projects abroad that dealt with sustainable development and gender economy and she has won several international awards. As a student mentor at competitions, she implemented project activities related to company students, social enterprises, presentations, and public speaking. Below is an excerpt of her research paper "Application of Project Management in Modern Education," which discusses the role and characteristics of project management in relation to education. The paper specifically focuses on recent projects in Serbia's education system as a case study.
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Education is an important prerequisite for economic and overall social development. A technologically outdated economy, high unemployment and unskilled labour affect lower development, especially at the regional level in the RS. That is why it is necessary to modernise production by innovating processes and products and by raising the creative and productive qualities of the working population, which is the task of the education system. The educational needs of Serbia arise from the determination that the production system of Serbia must be rapidly based on knowledge, entrepreneurship, own and transferred technological innovations, market economy and international business cooperation. In the process of joining the EU, the international position and overall strategic position are improved by increasing the international competitiveness of the economy and the investment attractiveness of its economy and other areas.
The educational system of Serbia has the task of educating the population of Serbia in accordance with the expressed or recognised development goals of Serbia and responding to the educational needs of every resident of Serbia throughout his life. The education system is the most important element of the life and development infrastructure of every individual, society and country. The education system should be developed so that it fulfils its role in a timely, high-quality and efficient manner, which is why a strategy for its development is created, adopted and implemented. The strategy of development of the education system should be oriented and focused on its exterior instead of traditional aspirations to be autonomous in relation to other systems.
Bearing in mind the requirements of the education system and the efficiency of the project and project management, the Еducation Strategy 2020+ includes a project assignment in its basis. The elements of the education strategy that are key to defining the project task are the mission of the education system, the vision of the development of the education system, key development challenges, strategic policies, actions and measures, strategic relations and changes that should occur in the environment of the education system (Education Development Strategy in Serbia until 2020+, 2012). The project assignment includes all phases of project management that enable the realisation of the planned mission and vision of education. In addition to the Education Strategy, projects are being implemented in the RS to improve the education system and meet the educational needs of the population. These projects contain key features and management aspects that should enable their purposeful implementation.
The Growth of an Educational Initiative Into a Project Assignment
In the realisation of economic and non-economic activities, there are numerous initiatives that can be shaped into projects in order to manage them effectively. When the initiative indicates a business need, goals and methods are defined that should enable the realisation of the project using resources, deadlines and costs. The shaping of the initiative and its development into a project is accompanied by numerous difficulties related to defining the content, activities, resources, time and finances. There are four basic characteristics on the basis of which it can be determined whether an initiative can grow into a project: scope, uniqueness, complexity and support for the venture (Gareis, 2005). In order for the initiative to grow into a project, it should include a larger scope of activities and tasks, be significant, imply change, and contain activities that are not repeated.
Circumstances arising in the environment of the Republic of Serbia, especially in the European Union, indicate that the country needs an organised and high-quality development of the education system because it is one of the key conditions for the development of the Republic of Serbia towards a knowledge-based society capable of providing good employment for the population. Those circumstances call for the harmonisation of the education system in the Republic of Serbia with the European area of education and influenced the transformation of the initiative into a project task (Grарh 2).
Basic settings for the development of the project task of the Education Strategy of the RS
The application of project management can be analysed from the aspect of contribution to the development of the education system in the Republic of Serbia. This is one of the indicators that project management has its purposeful use in all spheres of the economy. The education system in Serbia should respond in the best possible way to the life and development needs of the citizens of Serbia and society as a whole until and after 2020 (Education Development Strategy in Serbia until 2020+, 2012). Тhe project task should enable obtaining answers to the following questions:
1. What should and can be the education system in Serbia in 2020+? - a vision of a desirable and possible future state,
2. What strategic policies, actions and measures can be used to realise the vision of education development, starting from its current state?
3. What relations and interactions should the education system develop with other national systems in order to fulfil its role with the greatest contributions to the development of society?
4. In what ways can the education system in Serbia become a competent part of the European area of education, especially higher education, and attractive for international cooperation and provision of educational services, especially in higher education?
Education Development Strategy in Serbia formulated according to the Project task should fulfil two basic roles:
(a) the strategy is an integral framework for shaping key legal, sub-legal and other regulatory institutions and instruments for the functioning and development of education in Serbia and
(b) the basic strategic instrument by which the education system in Serbia is efficiently and acceptably translated from the existing one to the desired and achievable state in 2020+.
Table 1: Elements of the Education Strategy that are key to defining the project task
Elements of education strategy
The meaning of the elements of the education strategy
The mission of the education system
Expresses the purpose of the existence of education from the point of view of the outside world, i.e. express the key long-term roles of education for the needs of the economic, social, scientific-technological, cultural and other development of society
Vision of the development of the education system
Expresses the desired and possible state that the system should reach by 2020+ in the consistent sequence of its mission, starting from the existing state of the system
Key development challenges
Challenges facing the education system on the way to achieving its vision and determinations that the education system will follow in response to these challenges
Strategic policies, actions and measures
With their implementation, necessary changes are made in the education system, and this system leads to the realisation of the vision
The education system should develop relations with other systems in Serbia in order to achieve its mission consistently and efficiently
Changes that should occur in the environment of the education system
The changes should ensure the conditions for the stability of its development on the way to the realisation of the vision
Source: Education Development Strategy in Serbia until 2020+, 2012.
The strategy formulated according to this project assignment, after being defined, is subject to consideration and adoption by the authorities of the Republic of Serbia (Government and/or Parliament). After the adoption of the strategy, it becomes a binding document for the implementation of which an Action Plan with all the necessary elements will be drawn up.
When developing the content of the education strategy, the following approach should be used: holistic (systemic), openness of the system, inter-departmental, realism supported by greater ambitions, long-term, avoiding compromises and development "driven by the future" (Education Development Strategy in Serbia until 2020+, 2012). A holistic (systemic) approach ensures that when analysing and formulating an education strategy, it takes into account its connections with other parts of the education system. Education is treated as a whole system, from nursery to doctoral studies and lifelong learning. The openness of the system is an approach according to which the education system is viewed as open and in totality with all its interactions with the environment. The development of the education system is formulated from the point of view of its role in the environment. An inter-ministerial approach according to which the development of the education system is understood as a problem and subject of several departments in the government of Serbia, in addition to education. Realism supported by higher ambitions is an approach according to which the strategy is made in such a way that it is realistic as well as ambitious. Long-termism is an approach according to which the creation of the strategy is based on long-term predictions and sets the direction of development so that it can be continued. Avoiding compromise is an approach to construction that does not accept compromise solutions, but seeks the best. Compromise solutions are not accepted in the development of the strategy, but those that are the best possible for the further development of education are sought. Development "pulled by the future" is an approach that seeks to make the development of the education system "pulled by the future" and not "pushed by the past".
Elements of project management in the project task of the Education Strategy
The application of the concept of project management can be analysed through four basic phases based on the theoretical and practical experience of applying project management: planning, organising, management and control (A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, 2008). The phases can be seen in the context of the management of the educational system (Grарh 3).
Within the planning phase of educational needs and initiatives, Education Strategies are developed based on the regulatory framework in the education system. The education strategy is planned and developed on the basis of the following strategies: strategy for scientific and technological development of the Republic of Serbia, strategy for smart specialisation in the Republic of Serbia, strategy for the development of intellectual property, strategy for the development of artificial intelligence in the Republic of Serbia, strategy for the prevention and protection of children from violence, strategy for improving the position of persons with disabilities in the Republic of Serbia, strategy for the development of digital skills in the Republic of Serbia, strategy for the development of the public information system in the Republic of Serbia, National strategy for youth, strategy for the inclusion of Roma men and women in the Republic of Serbia, Employment strategy in the Republic of Serbia, strategy for preventing and combating gender-based social violence against women and domestic violence.
Within the planning phase of educational needs and initiatives, Education Strategies are developed based on the regulatory framework in the education system. The education strategy is planned and developed on the basis of the following strategies: strategy for scientific and technological development of the Republic of Serbia, strategy for smart specialisation in the Republic of Serbia, strategy for the development of intellectual property, strategy for the development of artificial intelligence in the Republic of Serbia, strategy for the prevention and protection of children from violence, strategy for improving the position of persons with disabilities in the Republic of Serbia, strategy for the development of digital skills in the Republic of Serbia, strategy for the development of the public information system in the Republic of Serbia, National strategy for youth, strategy for the inclusion of Roma men and women in the Republic of Serbia, Employment strategy in the Republic of Serbia, strategy for preventing and combating gender-based social violence against women and domestic violence. In addition to the above strategies, national legislation and international legislation are used as a regulatory framework (Graph 4).
The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, as the highest legal act, prescribes the right to education under equal conditions, as well as compulsory and free primary education and upbringing, free secondary education and upbringing, equal access to higher education, and the Republic of Serbia provides free higher education to successful, talented students from a weaker financial situation. The Law on the Basics of the Education and Training System is a general law that regulates pre-university education and training. The Law on Secondary Education regulates secondary education, which, among other things, prescribes goals and outcomes of this level of education as well as general cross-curricular competencies, types of secondary schools, various programs, including the career guidance and counselling program, the environmental protection program, and other programs. The Law on Adult Education is a special law that regulates adult education through formal and informal education and informal learning.
International documents important for the field of education: The Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda is a document related to the global development agenda for the period after 2015. The Republic of Serbia, as one of the signatories, expects to mobilise all resources to eradicate poverty, fight inequality and find answers to climate change. The Sustainable Development Goals target a number of social needs, including health, education, social protection and a healthy environment (Agenda 2030, 2015). The Republic of Serbia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and The UNECE Education Strategy for Sustainable Development.
Within the phase of organising the education system, sub-systems are developed with the education strategy. The entire education system is divided into parts that have specific educational missions. In this project, those parts are called sub-systems of education or educational sub-systems, for which all analyses are performed and strategies for their development are formulated. After that, the mutual coordination of those strategies is approached into an ordered, interconnected whole, which is the strategy for the development of the education system as a whole. From the point of view of the structure of the strategy, the education system is divided into ten parts for which individual, specific strategies are formulated, which have to be connected into a coherent whole.
The action plan for the implementation of the Education Development Strategy in Serbia until 2020 specifies individual activities (actions) defined by the goals and priorities of the strategy, elaborated methods of implementation, deadlines, key holders and executors, monitoring instruments and indicators (indicators) of progress, as well as, procedures for reporting and evaluating the effects of the planned strategic measures(Akcioni plan za sprovođenje Strategije obrazovanja u Srbiji do 2020. godine, 2017). This document consists of activity plans for 1) development of pre-university education and upbringing, 2) development of higher education, and 3) pervasive educational development activities at different levels. The action plan is structurally divided in relation to two general objectives (General objective 1): Increased quality of teaching and learning, equity and availability of pre-university education and strengthened the educational function of educational institutions and General objective 2: Increased quality, relevance and fairness of higher education) and within each of the general goals, there are specific goals, as well as measures and activities that contribute to the achievement of the achieved goals.
Table 2: Excerpt from the Action Plan for the Implementation of the Education Development Strategy
General goal 1: Increased quality of teaching and learning, fairness and accessibility of pre-university education and upbringing and strengthened educational function of educational institutions
Indicator at the level of the general objective
Initial value %
Target value %
Coverage of children in preschool education and education
Coverage of children in the preparatory preschool program
Coverage of basic education and upbringing
Coverage of secondary education and upbringing
Dropout rate from primary education and upbringing
Dropout rate from secondary education and upbringing
Primary school completion rate
High school enrollment rate
Source: Akcioni plan za sprovođenje Strategije obrazovanja u Srbiji do 2020. godine, 2017.
The ex-post analysis of the Education Development Strategy in Serbia until 2020 will be based on the assessment of the achievement of the goals set by the strategy based on the indicators given in the strategy, which were set and selected in order to monitor the realisation of the strategic goals in education (Ex-post analiza strategije obrazovanja 2020, 2021).
The main focus of the vision of the development of education by Education Strategy 2030 is on children and young people and activities that contribute to the development of the potential of adults. The vision of development implies further work on building a knowledge-based society and economy, a society that fosters values such as solidarity, respect, and appreciation, and strengthens an inclusive approach to education that enables quality education for all and an economy that will be competitive on the European and global economic market(Strategija razvoja obrazovanja i vaspitanja u Srbiji do 2030. godine, 2021).