Sunday, 19 January 2020

Education Minister to Present Curricular Reform at Education World Forum

ZAGREB, January 19, 2020 - Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak will present Croatia's curricular reform at the Education World Forum in London on Monday, and on Tuesday and Wednesday, she will be in Brussels to present the sector priorities of Croatia's EU presidency in the European Parliament (EP) and attend the 12th European Space Conference.

At the Education World Forum, Minister Divjak will be speaking about the goals of the curricular reform in Croatia, the results of its experimental stage and the course of the education reform, her ministry said on Sunday.

During her stay in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday, Divjak will inform members of the EP's committees on culture and education and industry, research and energy about the priorities of Croatia's EU presidency in the sector of education, research and space.

On Tuesday, Divjak will attend the 12th European Space Conference, where she will speak about Croatia's position and goals of its EU presidency in the development of the space sector of the EU and Europe in general.

Special emphasis will be put on the need for a complementary specialisation of all member-states in the development of space technologies and the importance of the space sector in dealing with the burning problems of today, such as climate change. Emphasis will also be put on the sector's role in encouraging research and innovation and motivating young people with regard to the choice of their future profession, the ministry said.

More news about curricular reform can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Parliament Debates Motion for No-Confidence Vote in Education Minister

ZAGREB, January 16, 2020 - Parliament on Wednesday night held a debate on an opposition motion for a no-confidence vote in Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak, with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković saying he would persevere in the education reform which, he added, represented a unique strategic step forward.

The government previously dismissed the motion signed by 31 opposition MPs led by the Social Democratic Party. The opposition demanded a no-confidence vote in Divjak because of the situation in the education system, the non-implementation of the education reform and her responsibility for the longest teachers' strike in Croatia.

Plenković said that during his government, the Science and Education Ministry's budget was raised from 13.8 billion kuna to 18.6 billion kuna and that 40 new curricula were introduced.

As for the teachers' strike, he said an agreement was reached with the education unions that salaries would go by 23.5% by October.

Divjak said the opposition motion was politicking, that she had improved the system and that the curricular reform was being implemented in all schools.

"We have received three positive reports from the European Commission which assessed the reform as ambitious and done according to plan," she said, adding that 90% of parents said they were pleased that their children were included in the experimental education programme.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

500 Scholarships to Be Awarded to Croatians Abroad

ZAGREB, December 29, 2019 - The Central State Office for Croats Abroad has announced it will award 500 scholarships to Croatian students living abroad for the current academic year, of which 100 for study programs in Croatia and 400 for programs in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Scholarships are given for a period of 10 months, in monthly amounts of 700 kuna. The total budget is 3.5 million kuna.

Applications are invited until 22 January 2020, and eligible are Croatian students residing and studying in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia, as well as members of the Croatian diaspora enrolled in universities in Croatia.

More information is available on the website of the Central State Office for Croats Abroad at

More diaspora news can be found in the dedicated section.

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Curricular Reform, Admission to CERN Major Events in Croatia's Education in 2019

ZAGREB, December 28, 2019 - The frontal introduction of the curriculum reform in primary and secondary schools, a record-long strike of teachers in the first semester of 2019-2020 school year, and admission of Croatia as an associate member of CERN have been some of the major events marking Croatia's education and science in the outgoing year.

Also, in 2019, the University of Zagreb marked its 350th anniversary, and six Croatian scientists at the Ruđer Bošković Institute (RBI) completed the first Croatian project within the European Research Council (ERC), while Zagreb's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences professors and researchers were given funding from the ERC, for their project about architectural culture of the eastern Adriatic between the 15th and 18th centuries, which was thus the first Croatian humanities projects to be funded by the ERC through the Horizon 2020 programme.

The Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (HAZU) entered 2019 with a new leadership: academician Velimir Neiderhart succeeded academician Zvonko Kusić at the helm of this institution after Kusić's two terms as the HAZU president. Neiderhart's associates are: Dario Vretenar as the HAZU secretary-general and two vice-presidents Davor Miličević and Frano Paro.

In January 2019, new curricula were adopted to replace programmes introduced in Croatian schools 25 years ago.

As of September 2019, new curricula are being implemented in first and fifth grade of primary schools, in seventh grade for subjects Biology, Chemistry and Physics and in first grade in upper secondary schools as well as in four-year vocational schools in general education subjects: Croatian, Math, Foreign Languages (German and English). Thus, as many as 150,000 pupils in are covered by the new curricula.

The strike of primary and secondary school teachers, launched over a demand for an increase in job complexity indices, lasted from October 10 to December 2, and students lost a total of 16 days of classes during the action. At the beginning of the industrial action, rotating strikes were conducted across counties, and later, a general strike was launched. The industrial action escalated in a protest rally on 25 November.

On 2 December, the government and striking teachers reached agreement on an increase of the job complexity indices of 3% as of December 1, an additional 1% as of June 1 next year and a further 2% as of January 1, 2021. The unions had demanded a pay rise through an increase of the job complexity indices of 6.11% to close the pay gap with other public-sector employees.

On 28 February, Croatia became an associate member of the world's biggest research centre, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), at a ceremony in Zagreb at which an agreement was signed awarding Croatia the status of an associate member. The agreement was signed by CERN Director-General Fabiola Gianotti and Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak.

Gianotti recalled that CERN was not only the leading world research centre for particle physics but was also dedicated to development of new technologies, education and global peace-loving scientific cooperation. She noted that numerous Croatian researchers had worked and still worked at CERN and that they deserved credit for successful cooperation.

Minister Divjak spoke of some of the possibilities that would open up for Croatia with its associate membership of CERN, including access for Croatian researchers to huge databases and the exchange of knowledge, researchers and ideas.

CERN also provides an opportunity for Croatian high-tech companies to participate in tenders worth more than two billion euros annually - from construction of parts for accelerators and similar laboratory equipment to development of robotics and solutions for the analysis of huge quantities of data and artificial intelligence, Divjak said.

Attending the ceremony, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said he believed that Croatia would become a full member of CERN in a few years' time. He noted that the national economy would benefit from the country's accession to CERN. Plenković recalled that in the past two years government investment in science had increased by 29%, including money from EU funds.

The first "Science Oscar"’ was brought to the RBI by scientist Ana Smith who had been awarded a 1.5 million euro worth ERC Starting Grant for her project "MembranesAct – Biological membranes in action: A unified approach to complexation, scaffolding and active transport", and that was one of just 287 proposals selected for funding out of a record 3,329 submissions six years ago.

The five-year research project, conducted by the researcher Smith and a few young scientists, concerned membranes in living cells – structures which act at the interface of biology, material science and physics. Due to the complexity of membranes and the number of processes occurring simultaneously in their vicinity, the mechanisms driving and controlling protein transport and complexation are not well understood, though are believed to have a biophysical foundation, according to the explanation of the project which was completed in 2019.

In mid-December, Zagreb's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences stated that the project about architectural culture of the eastern Adriatic between the 15th and 18th centuries was the first Croatian humanities projects to receive funding from the ERC. The project, led by Jasenka Gudelj of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, is one of the 78 projects selected among 674 that were submitted in the field of social sciences and humanities. The projects are financed by the ERC from a €600 million budget through the Horizon 2020 programme.

"We expect that the results of five years of work will help in safeguarding and evaluating the early medieval architectural heritage of the Adriatic. We are excited about this success and the possibilities that are opening up for us," Gudelj said. The research team includes Ana Marinković and Neven Jovanovic from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities in Zagreb, Laris Borić from the University of Zadar and five young researchers. They will be working with the Archaeological Museum of Istria in Pula, the Croatian Museum of Architecture, the National and University Library, and other Croatian and foreign institutions.

More news about education in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Number of Students Drops by Nearly 50,000 in 6 Years

ZAGREB, December 21, 2019 - The number of students in Croatian primary and secondary schools has dropped by nearly 50,000 in six years, according to Science and Education Ministry data, Jutarnji List daily reported on Saturday.

The paper says that emigration in recent years, notably of whole families with children, exacerbates the depopulation trends.

The latest ministry data shows that a record-low number of students (461,372) enrolled in primary and secondary schools in the 2019/20 school year – 3,198 fewer than the previous year.

Since the 2013/14 school year, the number of primary and secondary school students has dropped by 47,835, Jutarnji says, adding that there is almost 10% fewer students than six years ago. Every county reports a fall in the number of students except Istria, which is at zero growth, and the City of Zagreb, which has 298 more.

The eastern region of Slavonia recorded the highest decreases over the past six years - by 23.44% in Vukovar-Srijem County, by 22.66% in Pozega-Slavonia County and by 22.46% in Brod-Posavina County.

Still, Jutarnji says, the current school year saw an increase in the number of first grade students, from 38,371 to 38,658, as well as the smallest difference in the number of students year on year – 3,198 fewer than in 2018/19.

More demographic news can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Minister Says Incorrect Information on PISA Results Spreading

ZAGREB, December 5, 2019 - Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said on Thursday that incorrect information on the results of the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey for 2018 and its relation to the curricular reform, was being spread in the public sphere and that this got even President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović confused.

"Unverified and incorrect information is again circulating in the public sphere, this time in connection with the results of the PISA survey and their relation to the curricular reform. It even got the President of the Republic confused," Divjak wrote on Facebook.

The PISA survey was conducted in the early spring of 2018 and the curricular reform was introduced in schools in the autumn of 2019, so the reform could not have yielded results 18 months before its introduction. Students who were covered by the survey started attending school in 2009 and studied according to the old curriculum, said Divjak.

As for investment in STEM, Divjak said that it was her ministry that had introduced computer science as a compulsory subject in the fifth and sixth grades of primary school in 2018, provided schools with equipment for computer science and science, and introduced micro computers for sixth graders.

"Apart from that, investment in school libraries has never been higher and we will continue with it very soon. I am available for information on any question or doubt, including by the President of the Republic, so that we can provide a better education for our children," the minister said.

During a visit to Varaždin's University North on Wednesday, Grabar-Kitarović expressed regret at the results of the PISA survey, saying that it proved that the curricular reform was not yielding results and that its implementation must be stepped up and more attention paid to STEM.

Croatian 15-year-old students' ability to use their reading, mathematical and science competencies to meet real-life challenges, as measured by the last PISA survey, have turned out to be below average.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

SDP to Launch Procedure for No-Confidence Vote Against Education Minister

ZAGREB, December 4, 2019 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) parliamentary whip Arsen Bauk said on Wednesday that his party would start collecting signatures for a motion for a vote of no confidence in Education Minister Blaženka Divjak, whom the SDP considers the most responsible, together with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, for the situation in the education system.

"We plan to start collecting the signatures today so that we can collect the (required number of) signatures for the no-confidence motion to be tabled during the ongoing regular session, which ends on 15 December," Bauk told the press.

The SDP will collect signatures primarily from the Opposition parties that support the SDP's presidential candidate, Zoran Milanović, and according to Bauk, this is not so because of Milanović but because of political orientation.

Under the parliament's rule book, a motion for a no-confidence vote can be tabled to the parliament if it is supported by signatures of at least a fifth of lawmakers, that is, 31 MPs. After the motion is added to the parliament's agenda, the government is supposed to give its opinion about it within eight days, and a parliamentary debate is to be conducted within 30 days after the submission of the government's opinion.

Milorad Batinić, the parliamentary whip of the Croatian People's Party (HNS), which nominated Minister Divjak, said today that the SDP's proposal signalled "a lack of ideas and content in the SDP's activities in the last two years".

The HNS parliamentarian said he was not afraid of the reaction of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), the senior partner in the ruling coalition, to the SDP proposal.

Batinić does not think that Prime Minister Plenković will fire Divjak whom he described as "one of the most successful ministers."

"There are no objective reasons for that to happen," Batinić said.

"I am confident that PM Plenković will support her. She is a member of his cabinet, after all," the HNS MP said.

Asked by the press whether the education minister should be considered guilty for the recent 36-day strike of teachers, Batinić dismissed any responsibility on Divjak's part.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Croatian Students Under-Perform in All Fields of PISA Survey

ZAGREB, December 3, 2019 - Croatian 15-year-old students' ability to use their reading, mathematics and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges, as measured by the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), is below the average, according to the latest PISA survey.

PISA surveys are conducted every three years. So far there have been seven surveys and Croatia participated in the last five.

The latest PISA survey, conducted in 2018, covered 600,000 students in 79 countries which had about 32 million 15-year-old students.

In Croatia, the assessment was conducted in 179 secondary and four primary schools in the spring of 2018, involving a total of 6,609 15-year-olds.

Considering trends over a 12-year-long span, Croatian students' performance in reading and mathematics showed neither improvement nor decline, whereas a considerably negative trend has been observed in science knowledge.

The latest survey shows that the best performers are Chinese students, who are followed by students from Singapore and Macao (China), whereas the Philippines and the Dominican Republic are at the bottom of the ranking.

In this category, the most successful country in Europe in Estonia, with a mean score of 523 points, followed by Finland (520 points) and Ireland (518 scores).

Croatia's performance is below the average, with a mean reading score of 479 points, which ranks it 29th of 77 countries, the National Centre for External Assessment (NCVV) stated on Tuesday.

Croatia's performance is similar to the results in the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Latvia, Italy, Hungary, Lithuania, Iceland, Israel, Russia and Belarus, the centre says.

Broken down by gender, Croatian girls are much better than boys (by a margin of 33 points). Also, students in grammar schools called "gimnazija" are better performers than students from other types of secondary schools.

Estonia is again the top European performer in this category, with a mean score of 523 points, and it is followed by the Netherlands (519 points) and Poland (516).

Croatia's mean score is 464 points, and it ranks 40th out of 78 countries.

In Croatia one in three students fails to reach the basic level of knowledge in this category.

Broken down by gender, male students in Croatia are better than female students, by a 9-point difference. Also, students in grammar schools called "gimnazija" are better performers than students from other types of secondary schools.

The Estonians are again the champions in this category in Europe, with a mean score of 530 points. Finland and Poland follow, with respective mean scores of 522 and 511 points.

Croatia's mean score stands at 472 points and the country is ranked 36th out of 78 countries.

There has been a negative change in the performance of Croatian students in this category over the last three years, with the mean score being reduced by 5 points.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Plenković Pleased with Compromise with Teachers Unions

ZAGREB, December 3, 2019 - The agreement reached with the teachers unions is a good compromise that will ensure a cessation of the strike as of Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said after a meeting with union representatives on Monday.

"Schools will resume classes as of Tuesday. A compromise has been reached in the interests of children, pupils, parents, teachers and normal functioning of the education system," the prime minister told a press conference.

The government and the unions have agreed an increase of the job complexity index of 3% as of December 1 this year, an additional 1% as of June 1, 2020 and a further 2% as of January 1, 2021.

In this way the unions have agreed to what was agreed through the basic collective agreement, namely the 2+2+2 percent increase, the increase of the Christmas bonus from 1,250 to 1,500 kuna, the increase of the holiday allowance from 1,250 to 1,500 kuna, the increase of a gift for children from 500 to 600 kuna, and the increase of severance pay by about 2,100 kuna, the PM said.

"A decree on job complexity indices is expected to be adopted at a cabinet meeting on Thursday," Plenković announced, adding that the decree would regulate the status of secretaries, accountants, principals, lecturers and artistic assistants in higher education.

He said that the issue of non-teaching staff would be settled by an annex to the branch collective agreement which would be valid until December 2022.

Apart from entitlements, the agreement also provides for the adoption of an action plan against violence in schools, and the repeal of the possibility of filing anonymous reports against teachers by amending the Education Inspections Act.

Reiterating that the agreement could have been reached without a strike, Plenković announced an analysis of the entire wage system to ensure a sustainable system in the long term. "We are trying to be accommodating as much as we can. This government is a friend, first of all to taxpayers, because it is not running up debts for future generations like some previous governments."

He said that the days spent on strike would be paid for. "If the strike is paid for, it is only fair that the compensation classes are not," he added.

Plenković recalled what the government had offered the unions in the past weeks, noting that in the current year the government did not have additional funds to increase the indices as of September 1, as initially demanded by the unions.

"During the term of this government the total pay rise for the public and state administration sector will have been 18.3%, which is a consistent policy of this government to increase wages," the prime minister said.

Asked if he regarded this as his personal defeat, Plenković said that this government was raising wages for everyone and should not be criticised for it.

More education news can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Striking Teachers' Unions and Government Reach Agreement

ZAGREB, December 2, 2019 - After 36 days of strike in primary and secondary schools, the unions and the government on Monday agreed on an increase of the job complexity indices for teachers, ending the longest strike in the Croatian education sector.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković told the press after negotiations with the unions that an agreement had been reached that would ensure the cessation of the strike and resumption of classes throughout the country as of Tuesday.

The government has offered the unions an increase of the job complexity indices of 3% as of December 1, an additional 1% as of June 1 next year and a further 2% as of January 1, 2021, Plenković said.

The unions had demanded a pay rise through an increase of the job complexity indices of 6.11% to close the pay gap with other public-sector employees.

The head of the independent union of employees in research and higher education institutions, Vilim Ribić, said that his union would not put the latest government offer to a referendum among the membership because they already said that they would not accept any other offer but an increase of the job complexity indices.

The leader of the independent union of secondary school teachers, Branimir Mihalinec, said that his union did not have to put the government offer to a referendum, while the Preporod union said that its members would vote on the latest proposal.

The Science and Education Ministry has recommended that the schools that did not hold classes during the strike or did not hold classes on Saturdays to make up for the lost lessons, should shorten the holidays and prolong the school year.

More news about the school strike can be found in the Politics section.

Page 2 of 18