Education in Croatia
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Education in Croatia is defined as a constitutional right: the Constitution of Croatia section 65 defines primary education as mandatory and free, while secondary and higher education as equally available to all. Education in Croatia is mainly provided by the public sector.
Although the Croatians have experienced several wars in the century, they have still been able to surpass these impediments and continue on with their established educational system.
Primary and secondary education is essentially free because it is mostly sponsored by the Ministry of Education of the Croatian Government. Higher education is also mostly free because the government funds all public universities and allows them to set quotas for free enrollment, based on students' prior results (usually high school grades and their result at the set of exams at enrollment).
However, due to the low wages that teachers are being paid there are shortages of teachers throughout Croatia. This shortage of teachers has become an ongoing problem due to the numerous amounts of educational programs in Croatia.
Much criticism has been emphasized towards the students' participation rate in the classroom and their implementation of policies. According to Joseph Lowther, the Croatian “shares of education expenditure are 4% of the GDP which is well under the European average”.
Croatia signed the Bologna declaration at the Prague meeting of ministers in charge of lower education in 2009, thereby promising to adjust its system of higher education to the so-called Bologna process by 2010. The first students enrolled under the new setup in the academic year 2005/2006.
In 2005, the Croatian Government decided to start a redesign of the programme of primary and secondary education under the title Hrvatski nacionalni obrazovni standard (Croatian national educational standard). In the school year 2005/2006, a new system was tested in 5% of the primary schools.
Early childhood education
The early childhood development education is organized in kindergartens, which are not compulsory. Children can be enrolled in the kindergartens at the age of 1.
There are over 450 kindergartens in the country; most of them are state-run, although there are also private ones. There are many kindergartens integrated with primary schools.
Croatian elementary education consists of eight years, and it is compulsory. Children begin schools at the age of 6 or 7.
The grade schools are split in two stages:
- 1st through 4th grade, being taught by one teacher per class, with subjects such as Croatian, mathematics, visual art (likovna kultura), nature and society (priroda i društvo), physical education, music education, religion and at least one foreign language (usually English, usually in the 1st grade and compulsory in the 4th grade)
- 5th through 8th grades, where different teachers teach different subjects, with added subjects such as history, geography, biology, chemistry, physics, informatics and in addition to English, often a second language (usually German, French or Italian) etc.
Since the primary school became compulsory (during the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia), the literacy rate in Croatia is at a substantial level of 98,1%. A large majority of children do manage to complete the grade school.
A majority of the schools teach either English, German or Italian as soon as the first grade. Majority the schools offer a second language starting from the 4th grade. The most popular foreign languages are English, German and Italian, followed by Spanish, French and Russian.
People who have completed only primary education are classified as "unqualified workers" (Croatian: nekvalificirani radnik or NKV) by the employment bureaus. The statistical results of the number of Croatians with only primary education or lack thereof could be described as dire. 2,8% of Croatians never went to primary school, 15,7% never completed it and 21,7% have completed only primary education. 47% of Croatians have completed secondary education and 7,9% have a university degree.
There are currently 940 primary schools in Croatia. The public primary schools are under the jurisdiction of local government, the cities and municipalities.
Secondary education is currently optional, although most political parties now advocate the stance that it should also become compulsory.
Secondary schools in Croatia are subdivided into:
- gymnasiums with four available educational tracks; prirodoslovno-matematička gimnazija (specializing in math,informatics and science), jezična gimnazija (with at least three foreign languages required), klasična gimnazija (with a curriculum centered around classics, namely Latin and Ancient Greek) and opća gimnazija (which covers a general education and is not as specific)
- vocational schools
Gymnasiums, schools of economics and schools of engineering take four years. There are also some vocational schools that last only three years.
Secondary schools supply students with primary subjects needed for the necessary work environment in Croatia. People who completed secondary school are classified as "medium expertise" (srednja stručna sprema or SSS).
There are currently around 90 gymnasiums and some 300 vocational schools in Croatia. The public secondary schools are under the jurisdiction of regional government, the counties.
Students can enroll into two basic kinds of higher education:
- polytechnic schools (veleučilište), higher level education
- universities (sveučilište), highest level education
The distinction between the programs taught at universities and polytechnics used to be the length of studies and the final classification of the students - but this line is being blurred by the implementation of the Bologna process. Previously, the veleučilište approximately matched the German concept of Fachhochschule.
People who previously completed a veleučilište were classified as having "higher expertise" (viša stručna sprema or VŠS). People who previously completed a sveučilište were classified as having "high expertise" (visoka stručna sprema or VSS). It was also possible to enroll in post-graduate studies and earn the distinctions of magistar and also doktor znanosti (PhD). The 2003 changes to higher education legislation, which introduced the Bologna process in Croatia, abolished the terms "higher" and "high" expertise.
Since the Bologna process, the levels of expertise are:
- Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts (prvostupnik)
- Master of Science and Master of Arts (magistar)
- Doctor of Science and Doctor of Arts (doktor)
All larger universities in Croatia are composed of many independent "faculties" (Croatian fakultet, meaning college or department). Each independent college or department maintains its own administration, professional staff (also known as a "faculty") and campus. The colleges focus on specific areas of learning: Natural Sciences, Philosophy, Law, Engineering, Economy, Architecture, Medicine, and so on. Although a university's colleges or departments are usually located in the same city as the administration of the university, sometimes they are not. For example, Zagreb University's Faculty of Metallurgy is located in the city of Sisak. The universities of Dubrovnik, Pula and Zadar do not have independent colleges.
The description of the Croatian higher education system as of July 2008 is available from the official Croatian Guidelines for the Publication of Diploma Supplement, which was published by the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia in July 2008. Although the document itself is in Croatian, the English description of the higher education system is available from page 25.
A special law on minority education exists. Education of the representatives of national minorities is carried out in 24 elementary schools, where the program is conducted in the language and writing of a relevant national minority, while 61 elementary schools have classes with such program. There are six models of minority education.
Education otherwise than by schooling
Home education was legal in Croatia in 1874 when Croatian law stated that parents have a duty to educate their children either at home or by sending them to school. The child had to pass an exam in a public school at the end of every school year.
The primary education in Croatia is compulsory from the age of six to fifteen and it spans eight grades.
On September 2010 a religious organisation Hrvatska kršćanska koalicija submitted a proposal to change the law so home education would become legal in Croatia. The civil organisation Obrazovanje na drugi način joined in and is now working on its own proposal.
The proposed model is based on Slovenian and Montenegrin model of home education. The child is required to enroll into a local school (public or private) and pass annual exam in certain subjects (mother language and math only in lower grades; with addition of foreign language in middle grades and more subjects in higher grades). If the child does not pass all the exams in two attempts, it is ordered to continue the education with regular school attendance. Every year the parents have to notify the school by the end of May that they will be educating their child at home.
Like in the case of Slovenia and Montenegro, the proposed model does not impose any limitation on who can home educate. The parents educating their children at home are not eligible to receive any kind of state help. The schools are free to choose whether they will allow special arrangements with children educated at home (flexi-schooling, the use of school resources, participation in field trips and other school activities, etc.). The Ministry of Education and schools are not required to provide any form of help to parents of children educated at home (teacher guides, worksheets, consultation, etc.).
The proposed model was chosen as it requires minimal change to the existing law and would be possible to implement within the current educational framework. The Croatian Constitution, in the Article 63 paragraph 1, states that parents have a duty to school their children. Similarly, in the Article 65 paragraph 1, it states that primary schooling is compulsory and free. It is deeply ingrained in Croatian culture that education cannot happen without schooling.
As of July 2011 there are three alternative primary schools in Croatia - one Montessori and two Steiner Waldorf schools. Alternative schools in Croatia are required to follow national curriculum (Article 26 paragraph 1, Article 30).
Other educational institutions
There are over thirty scientific institutes, including the Energy Institute "Hrvoje Požar" in Zagreb, the Civil Engineering Institute of Croatia, the Cultural and Scientific Center "Milutin Milanković", and the Institute "Ruđer Bošković" in Zagreb which is the largest in the country and excels in physics[why?].
The Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zagreb is a learned society promoting language, culture, and science from its first conception in 1866. (The juxtaposition of the words typically seen in English as "Arts and Sciences" is deliberate.)
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Education in Croatia.|
- Bognar, Ladislav. "Country Reports on Education:Croatia:Problems and Perspectives in the Development of Schooling in Croatia"  5 Sep 2007. Ladislav Bognar is Professor at the Pedagogical Faculty in Osijek.
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- Ministry of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia. "Dopunska isprava o studiju: upute, pravila i ogledni primjeri" (Diploma Supplement: Instructions, Regulations and Examples)  Jul 2008.
- Lowther, Joseph. "THE COMPETITIVENESS OF CROATIA'S HUMAN RESOURCES" OECD Economics Department Working Papers. Paris: OECD. 2002. The Quality of Croatian Formal Education: Washington. Obtained via the Croatian Institute of Public Finance 5 Sep 2007.