Thursday, 5 September 2019

Teachers' Unions Agree to Pursue Dialogue with Government

ZAGREB, September 5, 2019 - The unions of primary and secondary school teachers will not call a strike for now, after agreeing to pursue dialogue with the government on their demands for higher wages, the leader of the Secondary School Teachers' Union, Branimir Mihalinec, said in Zagreb on Thursday after meeting with the prime minister and relevant ministers.

About 1,500 primary and secondary school teachers rallied outside the government headquarters on Thursday demanding a six percent rise in their wages. After the protest, Mihalinec and the leader of the Primary School Teachers' Union, Sanja Šprem, met with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and relevant ministers.

"The conclusion of the meeting is that dialogue will continue. All our proposals will be studied by working groups at the ministries and there will be concrete solutions," Mihalinec said.

Šprem said that the unions had thus given the government a chance to make the calculations and show that education in Croatia was important.

The union leaders said that the government would present its opinion on their demands at a meeting which is expected to take place in about ten days' time.

Mihalinec said that this meant that there would be no strike on September 9, the first day of the new school year. He, however, added that a strike would be called if the unions were dissatisfied with the outcome of the next meeting with the prime minister.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Minister Says Introducing IT as Compulsory Subject in Schools in Line with Law

ZAGREB, August 14, 2019 - Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak on Tuesday welcomed the Constitutional Court's decision not to grant a request for the procedure for testing whether the introduction of IT as a compulsory subject in schools as of September is in compliance with the Constitution.

She told the press in the town of Varaždin that the introduction of IT was in compliance with laws and the whole procedure had been conducted in a fair and legal manner.

The complaint was submitted to the Constitutional Court in June by Tomislav Gojmerac, a member of the Zagreb-based Natural Family Planning Centre and an associate of the conservative In the Name of the Family NGO. The activist requested that the legality and compliance with the Constitution of Divjak's decision to introduce IT as a compulsory subject in schools as of September be tested. He referred to a 2013 Constitutional Court ruling which quashed a decision on the introduction of the health education curriculum, and considers that that decision can be fully applied to the latest decision to introduce the IT curriculum.

The minister recalled today that IT would be taught as a compulsory subject at the fifth and sixth grade of elementary school and it would be also an optional subject for other grades in elementary schools.

She said that the opponents of the IT subject in primary education were under the delusion that in present-day schools children did not need this sort of training.

Divjak expressed optimism that curricular reform would be also successfully implemented in the coming school year.

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

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Minister Welcomes Possibility of Teachers Being Granted Status of Officials

ZAGREB, August 10, 2019 - Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak on Saturday welcomed the plans to award the status of official persons to teachers in a bid to step up their protection against attacks.

The commercial RTL broadcaster on Friday reported that primary and secondary school teachers and professors and other professional in the education system are likely to become official persons and that the justice ministry is thinking of amending the necessary legislation to this effect until the year's end. The justice ministry is already preparing necessary changes under which social workers would be awarded the status of officials following a recent shooting incident at the Đakovo social welfare centre which claimed the lives of two employees.

Minister Divjak says in a press release issued on Saturday that the status of official persons for teachers is part of a proposed action plan for the prevention of violence in schools.

According to the press release, the education minister says she will work also now on raising teachers' monthly wages by about 600 kuna (approximately 80 euros) n the next 12 months.

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

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Union Wants to Postpone Education Reform

ZAGREB, July 25, 2019 - The Preporod school union has collected 2,980 teachers' signatures calling for a one-year postponement of the application of the new "School for Life" programme, the union told a press conference on Thursday.

Signatures were collected from June 25 to July 5 in 154 elementary and secondary schools, union head Željko Stipić said, adding that the only thing that would be fair to children and their parents would be to postpone the "School for life" for year.

"It is without doubt that teachers are not prepared for the 'School for Life' and that there has been insufficient education, there are problems with equipping schools and different working conditions in our schools will have serious repercussions," Stipić said.

He announced that the union would present the petition to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and called for meeting with him.

He added that the number of signatures would have been higher had they not been collected at an awkward time and had teachers not feared repercussions.

"A lot of people employed in schools, at least 5,000, have not yet accessed the 'Loomen' platform intended to prepare them for the 'School for Life'," he said, adding that it had been said earlier in the year that the platform was not compulsory.

He recalled a recent initiative that the Agency for Education to be included in training teachers, which the unions have welcomed but believe it has come too late.

It is unbelievable that in the middle of July, literally at the 'eleventh hour', the agency is getting involved and that it has not had anything to do with the reform until now, he added.

He called for the frontal application of the "School for Life" to be seriously re-examined so that the idea of a quality transformation of the school system is not compromised.

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

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Nearly 10% of Grammar School Seniors Fail Matriculation Exams in Math, Croatian

ZAGREB, July 21, 2019 - As many as 30,561 secondary school students sat matriculation exams in June, and 9.4% of students who attended grammar school education failed those finals, which is the highest percentage of failure at final exams, according to findings presented by the National Centre for the External Evaluation of Education (NCVVO).

The average passing mark is 3 (good) on a scale ranging from 1 to 5 for best performance.

The NCVVO head, Ivana Katavić, has recently said that a half of those who sat final exams were students of vocational schools, while 38.6% were students of grammar schools (gymnasiums) and 13% were other exam entrants.

As many as 1,041 grammar school students failed compulsory matriculation exams (9.4%) as against 5.2% last year.

This June 8,758 grammar school seniors failed matriculation exams in math or in Croatian or in both subjects.

Students with the best performances at the exams are from all parts of Croatia.

Also, students from vocational schools with an emphasis on electrical and mechanical engineering also perform very well in final exams in math, IT and physics, and students from secondary medical schools perform very well at matriculation tests in biology and chemistry.

As many as 68 school leavers got 100% on some final exams.

However, only one student – Iva Barać of the Mathematical Grammar School in Split "known as 3. Gimnazija) – got 100% both on the final exam in math and physics, as against 11 students who solved those two higher-level tests perfectly last year.

As many as 26% of entrants solved the higher level of the matriculation exam in English completely.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Growing Interest in Vocational Occupations

ZAGREB, July 21, 2019 - Secondary school students in Croatia are showing a growing interest in vocational occupations, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) said, citing data from the Ministry of Science and Education.

"According to our calculation, which is based on the latest data from the Ministry of Science and Education, the total number of children enrolled in secondary schools this school year is 39,342, which is a marked increase from last year when 37,993 were enrolled," said the head of the HGK Education Division, Božo Pavičin.

Pavičin said that they were particularly glad that this year 650 more students were enrolled in scarce vocational occupations than last year. He said that this was encouraging and that this trend was expected to continue over the next three to four years.

However, despite these short-term positive indicators, the HGK expressed concern about the fall in the number of school children as a result of overall poor demographic developments.

In the last five years, 44,000 pupils have been lost (down from 509,000 in the school year 2013/2014 to 465,000 in 2018/2019), with three eastern counties - Vukovar-Srijem, Brod-Posavina and Požega-Slavonia - observing the highest rates of decline, of more than 20 percent.

A brief overview of shortage occupations shows that the number of secondary school students enrolled in vocational programs for cooks has increased by 6.4 percent to 1,268, the number of those enrolled in programs for waiters has risen by 11.5 percent to 608, the number of tilers has gone up by 19 percent to 112, the number of bricklayers has risen by 10 percent, while the number of joiners and butchers has increased by 21 and 70 percent respectively.

The number of students enrolled in grammar schools has remained stable at 6,400, while the number of those enrolled in secondary economics schools has risen by 7 percent to about 2,500, the HGK said.

More education news can be found in the lifestyle Section.

Monday, 8 July 2019

HND Worried About Cancellation of Investigative Journalism Course

ZAGREB, July 8, 2019 - Investigative journalists who are members of the Croatian Journalists Association (HND) said on Sunday that they were concerned about reports saying that the Journalism Department of Zagreb's Faculty of Political Science planned to cancel its investigative journalism course, calling on the faculty to deal with problems concerning the status of journalistic studies to the benefit and future of the journalistic profession.

"The news comes at a time when we witness, almost on a daily basis, top investigative stories that reveal corruption and abuse of authority, bearing witness to the importance of investigative journalism. The news is even more incredible considering the fact that the current faculty dean based his programme, among other things, on the strengthening of journalistic studies. How the cancellation of the investigative journalism course fits into that remains completely unclear," the HNS said in a statement.

It noted that by planning to cancel a course that should be the cornerstone of journalistic studies, the faculty was knowingly ignoring its social responsibility for the education of future journalists and the journalistic profession in general.

The HND further said that it had the impression that even though they were under the same roof, political science studies and journalistic studies did not have the same status.

The umbrella journalists' association also objected to the fact that investigative journalism was an elective course, noting that it should be a compulsory course in serious journalistic studies.

More news about journalism in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

School Union Calls for Postponement of School for Life Programme

ZAGREB, June 26, 2019 - The Preporod school union on Wednesday sent an appeal to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković for the frontal application of the new "School for Life" programme to be postponed for one year after it had received numerous comments by union members expressing their doubts that teachers are prepared for the new education programme.

Union leader Željko Stipić told a press conference that it was essential to allow enough time to create the infrastructure and other conditions and for comprehensive implementation and intensive expert training for teachers.

"Over the past few months we have constantly been receiving enquiries, comments, ideas and complaints from teachers stating their dissatisfaction with the lack of quality training for the changes that the "School for Life" programme will bring in September," Stipić said.

Even though the Ministry of Science and Education (MZO) claims that everything is prepared for the new programme that is supposed to start this autumn, the question is whether schools are prepared and teachers trained, we don't know the answer to that, the unionist warned.

In an effort to provide teachers with an opportunity to give their opinion on the methodology and organisation of the new programme we will send all schools an appeal to sign, calling for a postponement of the frontal application of the "School for Life" for one year.

Signatures will be collected from Wednesday June 26 to Friday July 12 and the petitions consists of two points - the demand for infrastructure and other conditions to be established in Croatian schools and the demand for the implementation of a comprehensive and intensive training course for teachers, expert associates, principles and all those involved in implementing the programme in practice.

After that the signatures will be presented to Prime Minister Plenković "because he is the most responsible and most powerful person in the country and education reform is a priority political and national issue," and that will be a clear message of what he needs to do if he truly recognises the importance of changes to education.

The Ministry of Science and Education on Wednesday considered that the union demand was rather 'unusual', underscoring that the ministry is currently negotiating with two major unions regarding a wage increase as a result of the curriculum reform being introduced in all schools.

"We consider this to be a very unusual demand by a minor union considering that currently the ministry and two major unions are trying to negotiate higher wages through an increased wage index because of the curriculum reform being introduced in all schools", the ministry told Hina.

The ministry also recalled a survey conducted by the ministry which "shows that the evaluation is obviously very positive and that the needs of teachers and expert associates are being tended to."

The ministry further recalled that the CARNET system had organised on-line training sessions on how to successfully teach in an on-line environment which attracted the participation of more than 32,000 teachers.

In addition, support for teachers will be secured throughout the year and visits by advisers will be organised at least four time a year in every school so the point is, support and working together and not control, the ministry said.

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

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Croatian Teachers Have Higher Level of Education than EU Average

ZAGREB, June 23, 2019 - The 2018 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) shows that Croatian teachers and principals do not differ from the average in other countries when it comes to working conditions and age, but are more educated than the EU average.

The survey was carried out by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) covering about 240,000 teachers and 13,000 principals in 30 OECD countries and 18 partner countries, including Croatia.

It revealed a gender imbalance in the teaching profession in Croatia, with women accounting for 78 percent of primary school teachers and 67 percent of secondary school teachers. The TALIS average is 69 percent.

The proportion of women among primary school teachers has increased by about four percent in the last five years. Croatia is among the top ten countries in terms of the number of female teachers, along with Slovenia, Hungary, Georgia, Russia and Latvia, where nearly 90 percent of primary school teachers are women. With about 58 percent, Japan tops the ranking in terms of the number of male teachers, and Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Colombia and Turkey have roughly the same number.

In Croatia, 53 percent of primary school principals and 49 percent of secondary school principals are women, which is the TALIS average. Latvia has the largest proportion of female principals - 80 percent, while Japan has the largest proportion of male principals - 90 percent.

The average age of Croatian primary school teachers is 42 years and of secondary school teachers it is 45 years, which corresponds to the average in countries participating in the survey (43 years) and the EU average (45 years).

Principals, on average, are older than teachers. The average age of Croatian primary school principals is 52 years and of secondary school principals it is 53, while the TALIS average is 51. The oldest principals, above 58, were reported in South Korea and Japan, while the youngest ones, aged between 42 and 44, were reported in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

The survey revealed that Croatian teachers and principals have a higher level of education than the average in the participating countries and the EU average. More than 90 percent of Croatian teachers and principals have a university degree, compared to 41 percent of teachers and 57 percent pf principals in the participating countries and 55 percent of teachers and 65 percent of principals in the EU countries.

Croatia is ranked fifth country with the most educated teachers and principals, behind Finland, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Slovakia. Vietnam, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Denmark were at the bottom of the teacher education ranking.

As for work experience, Croatian primary school teachers on average have 15 years of experience, of which 11 years in the school in which they currently work, while secondary school teachers on average have 16 years of experience, of which 14 years in the present school. This shows a relatively low level of mobility compared to teachers in Japan, South Korea and Turkey where the average length of work experience in the same school is five years or less. Turkey, Singapore and Chile have the least experienced teachers, with about 30 percent of teachers with less than five years of experience, while Portugal, Lithuania and Vietnam have the most experienced teachers.

Croatian principals have slightly less teaching experience before becoming principals (about 15 years) than the average in other participating countries (20 years).

The survey has also revealed that over 90 percent of Croatian teachers are satisfied with their job, which is the TALIS and EU average, but only nine percent think that the teaching profession is appreciated by society, compared to the TALIS average of 32 percent and the EU average of 18 percent. In addition to Croatia, the countries where teachers feel least appreciated are Slovakia, Slovenia, France, Argentina and Portugal, while the countries where they are held in high esteem are Vietnam (as many as 92 percent), Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and South Korea.

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

Monday, 10 June 2019

Curricular Reform Continuing, Minister Claims

ZAGREB, June 10, 2019 - Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said on Monday the results of her work were the curricular reform, the reforms in general and vocational education, relevant higher education and encouraging excellence in science, adding that she planned to see through all four reform processes together with her team.

The experimental curricular reform programme School for Life is being implemented in 74 elementary and high schools and, as of next autumn, in all schools, Divjak told reporters.

She said 2 billion kuna was secured for the curricular reform from EU funds, the national budget and the European Commission's support for strategic reforms in the 2017-20 period. She added that her ministry paid 43.3 million kuna to all elementary and high schools that will introduce the curricular reform this autumn.

The minister went on to say that 40 new curricula were adopted, that more than 32,000 teachers underwent curricular reform training, that the law on education in elementary and high schools was amended to facilitate the reform, that a new law on textbooks was passed, and that textbooks for all elementary school pupils were paid from the state budget.

She recalled that in this school year IT was introduced as a compulsory subject in grades four and five of elementary school, and said the new IT curriculum would be introduced in all grades of elementary and high school.

Divjak said that last year 36.5 million kuna was invested in the equipment of 891 schools, and that a network of 25 regional vocational education competency centres was established, for which more than 1.2 billion kuna in EU funds was set aside.

She also recalled Croatia's dual education model, that 233 million kuna was set aside for a project aimed at modernising vocational education to align it with market requirements, and that 180 million kuna was secured in structural funds for STEM studies.

The minister highlighted the agreement on Croatia's associate membership in CERN and its agreement with the European Space Agency concerning space cooperation for peaceful purposes. She also noted that the science budget was increased.

Asked to comment on the collection of signatures among MPs for her dismissal, Divjak said she fought against suspicious ideologies and private interests. Asked if Prime Minister Andrej Plenković supported her work, she said all reform projects were government projects.

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

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