Education in Croatia

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Education in Croatia
Ministry of Science and Education
Minister of Science and EducationIvan Dolčić
National education budget (2015)
BudgetHRK 13.091 billion
General details
Primary languagesCroatian
System typeNational

Education in Croatia is a right defended by Article 66 of the Constitution which states that everyone is entitled to free compulsory education under equal conditions and in accordance with their aptitudes.[2] Education is mandatory for children aged 6 to 14.

The educational system in Croatia begins with preschools-kindergartens. Children start their compulsory eight year long primary education from the age of 6 or 7. After finishing elementary school, students can continue their education, based on grades in elementary school, in four year non-compulsory secondary schools that are divided by the curriculum into gymnasiums, vocational (technical, industrial, trade) and art (music, dance, art) schools. Since 2010, enrollment in higher educational institutions is determined by a student's scores on the Matura high-school exit exam. Institutions of higher education offer both university and professional studies. Higher education institutions are divided into polytechnics, colleges, faculties and academies of art. Since 2005, all study programs are aligned with the requirements of the Bologna Process. Five-year university programs enable students to work in science, education, business, the public sector, etc., and can be at undergraduate (BA), graduate (MA) or postgraduate (PhD) level. Professional studies last two to three years, and are offered at polytechnics and colleges. Upon completion, graduates get the title of professional bachelor (bacc).

Public primary and secondary schools, as well as institutions of higher education, are tuition-free. Students only pay for textbooks, basic equipment, cafeteria food, student dorms and other necessities, although the state also gives thousands of scholarships each year. In addition, the state pays health insurance for students. There are very few private schools in the country.

Education in Croatia has a long history, with the first university being University of Zadar, founded in 1396. The largest and oldest continuously operating Croatian university is University of Zagreb, founded in 1669. Today, there are 940 primary and 390 secondary schools, as well as 90 public and 32 private higher education institutions in Croatia.

Educational system[edit]

Although Croatians have experienced several wars in the last century, while trying to create their country, they have still been able to also create their 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 scores on a set of exams at enrollment).

However, due to the low wages that teachers are paid, there are shortages of teachers throughout Croatia. This shortage of teachers has become an ongoing problem due to the number of educational programs in Croatia.

Population aged 15 and over by educational attainment[3][4]
Year Elementary education or less Secondary education Higher education
1961 85.6% 12.6% 1.8%
1971 75.9% 20.5% 3.6%
1981 65.1% 28.5% 6.4%
1991 54.0% 36.5% 9.5%
2001 40.6% 47.4% 12.0%
2011 30.8% 52.6% 16.4%

Criticism has been leveled at 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[edit]

The early childhood development education is organized in kindergartens, which are not compulsory. There are three stages of early childhood education:[5]

  • from when the child is 6 months old to when they're one
  • from the ages of one to three
  • from the age of three until the child starts attending primary school

Even though these three stages are not compulsory, every child must attend kindergarten for a year prior to primary school.

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.

Primary education[edit]

Local School Banovci, a part of Ilača-Banovci elementary school
Elementary school of Izidor Kršnjavi, Mimara Museum palace, Zagreb

Croatian elementary education consists of eight years, and it is compulsory. Children begin school at the age of 6 or 7.[6]

The students are divided into three or more classes and these classes are referred to as the A class, the B class, the C class, and so on. The students change their classes and get mixed up after 4th grade.

The grade schools are split in two stages:

  • 1st through 4th grade, being taught by one teacher per class that teaches every subject with the exception of foreign languages and Religion, with subjects such as Croatian, mathematics, visual art (likovna kultura), nature and society (priroda i društvo), physical education, music education, and at least one foreign language (usually English, usually in the 1st grade and compulsory in the 4th grade). Religious education is an elective subject, and students can choose among Catholic, Orthodox and Islamic religious classes. The students stay in one classroom for the 4 years.
  • 5th through 8th grades, where different teachers teach different subjects, with added subjects such as history, geography, biology, chemistry, physics, vocational education, informatics[contradictory] and in addition to English, often a second language (usually German, French or Italian).[7] The students no longer have one classroom, but rather move around the school to get to their classes.

Since the primary school became compulsory (during the Yugoslavia), the literacy rate in Croatia is at a substantial level of 98.1%. The majority of children manage to complete the grade school.[8]

The majority of the schools teach either English, German or Italian as soon as the first grade. The majority of 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.[6]

People who have completed only primary education are classified as "unqualified workers" (Croatian: nekvalificirani radnik or NKV) by the employment bureaus. 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.[9]

There are currently 940 primary schools in Croatia.[10] The public primary schools are under the jurisdiction of local government, the cities and municipalities.

Secondary education[edit]

Secondary school center in Bjelovar

Secondary education is currently optional, although most political parties 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 a focus on foreign languages and with less science), 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). As a general education school gymnasium is a transition to the professional training in colleges and universities and faculties, i.e. it does not qualify students for a particular profession but mainly focuses on further education. The subjects taught include: Croatian, Math, English, 2nd Foreign Language (of choice), 3rd Foreign Language (an option in foreign language centric schools only), Latin, Art History, Music Appreciation, History, Geography, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Sociology, Psychology, Information Technology, Politics and Economics, Philosophy, Logics, Physical Education and an elective. Students may choose either Religious Studies or Ethics as the elective. Education in gymnasia lasts for four years. Gymnasia are harder to get into than vocational or art schools and are generally harder to complete.
  • vocational schools that teach a student a certain craft, such as cooking or carpentry, and last either three or four years. Schools of economics and engineering go under this category too.
  • art schools that focus on visual art, music and similar. They take four years.

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).

Graduates of vocational schools lasting for 4 years are allowed to sit for the national graduation exam (državna matura) and attend university. Graduates of vocational schools lasting 3 years can attend technical vocational higher education institutions, however both groups of students are also eligible to work after completing secondary school just like art school graduates, while gymnasium graduates must go to university.

The process of getting into a high school in Croatia is rather difficult. A student chooses 5 schools which they want to go to (students that are interested in vocational schools may choose two programs within a school) and then list them. The first school on the list is the school that the student wants to go to the most. In Croatia, the maximum number of points while signing up is 80; the points are gathered from primary school grades and any extra criteria such as competitions, diseases and similar. The point threshold is a certain number of points below which a student can't sign up for the school. For an example, if a certain school has the point threshold of 65, nobody with 64 or less points can sign up. Schools usually have quotas of how many students can enroll in that particular year.

There are currently around 90 gymnasiums and 300 vocational schools in Croatia. The public secondary schools are under the jurisdiction of regional government, the counties.

Higher education[edit]

Students can enroll into two basic kinds of higher 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:

Faculty of Economics, University of Split

All larger universities in Croatia are composed of 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.

Minority schools[edit]

A special law on minority education exists.[11] 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.[12] There are six models of minority education.[13][14][15]

Homeschooling and alternative schools[edit]

Home education was legal in Croatia in 1874[16][17][18] when Croatian law stated that parents had 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 spans eight grades.[19]

In September 2010 a religious organisation, Hrvatska kršćanska koalicija[20] submitted a proposal[21] to change the law so home education would become legal in Croatia. The civil organisation Obrazovanje na drugi način[22] 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, they are 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.[23] 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,[24] 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.

As of July 2011 there are three alternative primary schools in Croatia - one Montessori[25] and two Steiner Waldorf schools.[26][27] Alternative schools in Croatia are required to follow national curriculum[19] (Article 26 paragraph 1, Article 30).

Other educational institutions[edit]

Public music schools exist for the primary and secondary level in addition to public special education classes or schools. Students who attend music schools are still obliged to follow the regular program in their primary and secondary schools. The classes are usually held in the opposite shift of their regular school hours.

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.

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.)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The World Factbook". Archived from the original on 2013-03-09. Retrieved 2016-05-06.
  2. ^ "Hrvatski sabor".
  3. ^ "Population aged 15 and over by educational attainment and sex, 1961 – 2011 censuses". Census of Population, Households and Dwellings 2011. Zagreb: Croatian Bureau of Statistics. December 2012.
  4. ^ Difference to 100.0% refers to unknown educational attainment.
  5. ^ "MZOS - Rani i predškolski odgoj i obrazovanje". Archived from the original on 2016-01-07. Retrieved 2015-12-07.
  6. ^ a b "The situation of modern language teaching and learning: Croatia - Yvonne Vrhovac, University of Zagreb" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-25.
  7. ^ "Europeans and their languages - European commission special barometer FEB2006" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-01-05.
  8. ^ "CIA - The World fact book".
  9. ^ "21,7 posto hrvatskih građana ima završenu samo osnovnu školu".
  10. ^ "Primary schools". Republic of Croatia, Ministry of science, education and sports. Archived from the original on 2007-07-11. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  11. ^ The Law on Upbringing and Education in the Language and Script of Ethnic Minorities Us English Foundation
  12. ^ Elementary Education Archived 2012-05-11 at the Wayback Machine Ministry of Education
  13. ^ Education in the language and script of national minorities Archived 2012-05-11 at the Wayback Machine Ministrty of Education
  14. ^ Minorities in Croatia Minority Rights Group 2003 ISBN 1-904584-10-1
  15. ^ Steve Degenève and Richard Gowan Minority Education In the Republic of Croatia: a Case Study in Vukovar-Sirmium County OSCE, 2003
  16. ^ "Antun Cuvaj: Građa za povijest školstva kraljevina Hrvatske i Slavonije od najstarijih vremena do danas: Od 20. travnja 1868. do 31. svibnja 1875 - svezak VI" (hr),
  17. ^ "Zakon ob ustroju pučkih škola i preparandija za pučko učiteljstvo u kraljevinah Hrvatskoj i Slavoniji" (hr), Antun Cuvaj "Građa za povijest...", Page 439, Article 50 and 51,
  18. ^ "Podrška inicijativi za legalizaciju obrazovanja kod kuće u Hrvatskoj" (hr), Archived March 26, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ a b Zakon o odgoju i obrazovanju u osnovnoj i srednjoj školi (hr), Article 11 paragraph 1, Article 12 paragraph 1, Article 26 paragraph 1, Article 30
  20. ^ Hrvatska kršćanska koalicija Croatian Christian Coalition
  21. ^ "Prijedlog za izmjene i dopune Zakona o odgoju i obrazovanju u osnovnoj i srednjoj školi" Archived 2011-03-02 at the Wayback Machine (hr), Hrvatska kršćanska koalicija
  22. ^ Obrazovanje na drugi način, Croatian home education association Archived July 4, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "Službeno očitovanje MZOŠ-a o legalizaciji obrazovanja kod kuće" Archived 2011-07-06 at the Wayback Machine (hr),
  24. ^ Ustav Republike Hrvatske (hr), Croatian Constitution, 25 April 2001, Article 63 paragraph 1 and Article 65 paragraph 1
  25. ^ Osnovna Montessori škola "Barunice Dédée Vranyczany" Archived 2011-09-01 at the Wayback Machine (hr), Zagreb
  26. ^ Waldorfska škola u Zagrebu (hr), Zagreb
  27. ^ Osnovna waldorfska škola u Rijeci (hr), Rijeka

External links[edit]

  • Bognar, Ladislav. "Country Reports on Education:Croatia:Problems and Perspectives in the Development of Schooling in Croatia" [1] 5 Sep 2007. Ladislav Bognar is Professor at the Pedagogical Faculty in Osijek.
  • CIA World Factbook [2]
  • 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) [3] 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.