Saturday, 15 December 2018

Croatian Teachers Rally for Safe Schools

ZAGREB, December 15, 2018 - Despite the cold weather, several thousand secondary and primary school teachers and students rallied in central Zagreb on Saturday to draw attention to a difficult safety and financial situation in the Croatian education system and to demand safe schools.

Teachers and students demanded better safety in the classroom, a change of ineffective pedagogical practices, and that assaults on teachers be legally treated as assaults on public officials.

The rally was organised under the motto "For a Safe School" by two teachers' groups and a teachers' union. Those gathered were addressed by several teachers and parents who claimed that Croatian schools today are unsafe both for teachers and for well-behaved children who are subjected to violence by unruly students.

"We don't want to hear any more about prevention programmes and workshops. We want those in charge to finally do what they are well paid for. We demand the status of public officials for all teachers and we want a physical assault on teachers to be treated as it is treated in all civilised countries," Ivan Plantić, a teacher from Vela Luka on the southern island of Korčula, said to applause from the crowd.

Teachers who took the rostrum spoke of humiliating and offensive situations they had experienced in the classroom.

Franjo Dragičević, a teacher at Technical Secondary School in the northwestern town of Čakovec, received particularly enthusiastic applause. He warned that schools in Croatia had become "warzones for deviants who are targeting teachers and pupils who want to learn." He pointed the finger at bad regulation and school heads who do not respond to violence in order to maintain good relations with the ministry and stay in their posts.

Dragičević was nearly dismissed from work recently after an incident in the classroom when he confronted and pushed away a student who allegedly threw pieces of chalk at him. His case triggered an avalanche of reactions from other teachers who had experienced similar situations, culminating in today's rally.

No representatives of the Education Ministry were present at the rally.

More news on the educational system in Croatia can be found in our Politics section.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

School Textbooks Bill Causing Rift in Ruling Coalition

ZAGREB, December 13, 2018 - Parliament on Thursday debated the Croatian People's Party (HNS)-sponsored bill on school textbooks which has caused friction in the ruling coalition. The opposition said that Education Minister Blaženka Divjak's approach was like 'putting a new facade on a house that is falling apart" while Divjak said that she had received "a lot of warnings not to touch the current law" because too many interest groups were involved.

"The ministry's interest is to care for students, teachers and the state and household budgets," Minister Divjak said and added that the bill was not imposing digitisation but would just give a variety of options regarding teaching material while those favouring classic printed material would be able to continue using it.

"With whom would digitisation be currying favour when the same publishers who make printed textbooks will make their digital versions. Some are just more prepared than others to adapt to the fourth industrial revolution while others have filled their warehouses with printed books," Divjak said.

The proposed bill gives teachers greater autonomy and possibilities to choose in line with their needs with regard to innovative teaching methods, the minister said.

With regard to demands for free textbooks, Divjak said it was necessary to determine the cost involved and who would cover it, as well as to ensure that quality was obtained for money rather than enabling someone to make an extra profit.

MOST MPs criticised the bill, claiming that the minister was trying to put a new facade on a decaying house and warning of the huge difference between rural and urban areas. MP Miro Bulj said that the minister should be focusing on the state of schools. "Two-thirds of Croatian schools look like they are from the Middle Ages. There are 2,700 fewer secondary school students, seven schools have been closed... two-thirds of children in Croatia lack adequate conditions and you are talking about something that might happen," Bulj said.

Social Democrat Sabina Glasovac called on the minister to lead schools into the 21st century by ensuring that roofs on schools were repaired and teachers' salaries were increased.

Divjak replied that the incumbent government was doing more to equip schools than was the case before and added that she was aware of the conditions in schools.

Under the proposed bill, school bags should be lighter, with more digital classes and lower costs for parents. The bill defines the maximum price for a set of textbooks for each grade, setting the weight of a complete set for grades one to four at a maximum 3 kilograms or its price at no more than 460 kuna. A set of textbooks for grades five and six would weigh 5 kilograms and for grades seven and eight, six kilograms.

MP Robert Podolnjak (MOST) said that "education is being reduced to kilogrammes" and wondered if this was the practice in the EU.

Speaking on behalf of Milan Bandić's Work and Solidarity Party (BM365), MP Kazimir Varda said Minister Divjak's presentation of the bill did not focus on textbooks but on denouncing fake news and comments.

He recalled that the BM365 parliamentary group, which is part of the ruling majority, wanted the bill to make sure that the state provided funding for textbooks in all elementary schools and that the government decide each year on funding textbooks for secondary schools, depending on the availability of budget funds.

If that is not accepted, the parliamentary group will not support the bill, Varda said.

More news on Croatia’s education system can be found in our Politics section.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Croatia Best in EU in Prevention of Early School Leaving

ZAGREB, December 9, 2018 - Croatia has the best results among all the EU member-states when it comes to reducing early school leaving in the age cohort 18-24, however, its results in the other five benchmarks are not so good, according to the findings of the European Commission's publication "Education and Training Monitor".

In 2017, Croatia's dropout rate was 3.1%, which was in line with the EU target to have dropout rates throughout the Union below 10%. Last year, that average rate in the EU stood at 10.6%.

In terms of the benchmark called "Early childhood education and care from age 4 to starting age of compulsory primary education, Croatia legs behind the EU target of 95%, given that 75.1% of Croatian children in that age cohort were covered by early education.

Education Minister Blaženka Divjak, who attended the presentation of the publication, said that her department in cooperation with other ministries was investing efforts to bring Croatia closer to that target.

Stefaan Hermans, Director of Policy Strategy and Evaluation in the Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture at the European Commission, said that investing into education means investing into the future.

The publication reads that "Croatia’s spending on education and training remains at the EU average, with a strong focus on primary and tertiary education. The percentage of GDP spent on education and training in 2016 increased slightly by 0.1 percentage points to 4.8 % (EU average 4.7 %) and stands just above the pre-crisis high in 2008."

In Croatia, the proportion of 15-year-olds underachieving in Reading, Maths and Science was still worse than in the EU on average.

When it comes to adult participation in learning (age 25-64), Croatia's rate was a mere 2.3%, as against the EU average rate of 10.9%, and the benchmark is 15%.

For more on education in Croatia, visit over dedicated section.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Coalition Partners Agree on Key Law for Curriculum Reform

ZAGREB, December 1, 2018 - The leader of the Croatian People's Party (HNS), a junior partner in the ruling coalition, said on Saturday that the deadlines for the implementation of the full curriculum reform in the next school year (2019-2020) were not jeopardised, and that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković reassured him that the relevant legislation would be adopted by the national parliament on 14 December.

After a few meetings of the HNS leadership with the party's lawmakers on Friday afternoon, we clearly presented out position to the coalition partner, and that there would be any more reason for us to be a part of the ruling majority if the educational reform might be anyhow undermined, the HNS president, Ivan Vrdoljak, said at a news conference in Zagreb on Saturday.

The legislation on school textbooks is a prerequisite for the comprehensive introduction of the reform in schools, Vrdoljak said.

He went on to say that after the final bill on school textbooks had not been added to the agenda of the government during its meeting on Friday morning, he asked the coalition partner – the governing Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) – that it should be made clear that the educational reform was not put at risk.

"The deadlines are not jeopardised. I wanted yesterday to get clear assurances from the partner that the educational reform will not be put at risk."

Vrdoljak said that later he received assurances twice: first, during his conversation with Prime Minister Plenkovicć and later Plenković reiterated assurances in his public statement.

Education Minister Blaženka Divjak talked about the road map for the reform, explaining that the law should be enacted soon for a tender for school textbooks to be advertised in timely fashion in January.

The president of the GLAS party, Anka Mrak Taritaš, said in the northern Adriatic city of Pula on Saturday, that there was no split in the ruling coalition, but that the present situation was "a cute muscle-showing performance." "If you enter a coalition that is based on trade-offs, there can be no split there, this is a cute performance in which someone wants to show their muscles," Mrak Taritaš told the pressed when asked if there was a split in the ruling coalition over the law on textbooks.

A little over a year ago, Anka Mrak Taritaš said she could not accept the HNS' "immoral trade" with the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and formed a new political party, the Civil-Liberal Alliance (GLAS).

For more on the curriculum reform in Croatia, click here.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Croatia Welcomes Increased Funding for Erasmus Student Exchange Programme

ZAGREB, November 26, 2018 - Croatia welcomes the European Commission's proposal to double the amount of funding for the Erasmus student exchange programme in the next Multiannual Financial Framework for the 2021-2027 period, Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said in Brussels on Monday.

"That is a very important programme for us, not only because of mobility, but also because of reforms in the area of education," Divjak told reporters before a meeting of the Education Council.

The Commission has recommended in the proposed Multiannual Financial Framework that funding for the Erasmus+ programme be increased from the present 14.7 billion euro to 30 billion euro in the next seven-year period.

The EU education ministers also discussed automatic mutual recognition of higher education and upper secondary education diplomas.

Before the Education Council meeting, Divjak met with the EU director-general for education, sport and culture, the education ministers of Germany and Finland, and Romania's state secretary for education to discuss the presidency of the Council of the EU. These countries will hold the EU rotating presidency over the next two years; Croatia is due to assume the EU presidency in the first half of 2020.

During a working lunch, the ministers also discussed prevention of anti-Semitism in education systems.

Divjak said that in the new history curriculum in Croatia only two topics were obligatory: the 1991-1995 Homeland War and the Holocaust.

"It is very important that these are obligatory topics, and it is even more important that we have cross-subject topics, for example in civic education which enables critical consideration of major topics, not just those relating to history but also those having a great impact on society today. In this regard, I have pointed out that we must find a way, not just as the state, but also as the EU, to fight against fake news being spread via social media, to which young people are very much exposed today. We must ensure an appropriate and secure environment for discussion on these topics, not just with students but with parents as well," the minister said.

For more on Croatia’s education system, click here.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Primary and Secondary School Students Rarely Decide on Relevant Topics

ZAGREB, November 26, 2018 - Primary and secondary school students in Croatia rarely participate in making decisions and giving opinions on relevant topics, a survey showed.

The results of the survey, entitled "Participation of Children in the Education System", were presented at a press conference on the occasion of Universal Children's Day.

The survey was carried out on the initiative of the Ombudsman for Children by the Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences and the Department of Pedagogy at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb, covering 2,720 students and 461 teachers from throughout the country.

Project leader Ivana Jeđud Borić said that the survey identified shortcomings in encouraging children's participation in educational institutions in Croatia. She said that it is necessary to develop participatory methods of teaching and treat children as equal participants in decision making because children's right to participate is their basic right.

The survey found that children are not interested in participating in formal bodies because they do not believe they can have any influence. Primary and secondary school students rarely participate in making decisions and giving opinions on relevant topics, she said.

Jeđud Borić said that schoolchildren are much more involved in informal forms of participation. She said that the survey also revealed that a good adult-student relationship, which is a key factor in encouraging participation, is often neglected at the expense of other education outcomes and that schools lack adults who could serve as an example of participation.

Children's Ombudsman Helenca Pirnat Dragičević said that the results of the survey will be used in drawing up new proposals for developing an education system in which children will be able to fully exercise their right to participation.

For more on children in Croatia and their position and status in the Croatian society, click here.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Croatian Teachers Strike Announced, 18.9% Pay Rise Sought

ZAGREB, November 24, 2018 - The Preporod teachers' union has called for an 18.9% pay increase. The teachers strike announced will take place on 28 November. The union said that the strike would last a long time and would grow in intensity.

During a union meeting on Saturday, the union's leader, Željko Stipić, said that the strike was the only remaining instrument for the union to protect teachers' rights. He did not specify how long the strike would last but said that the union was prepared for long-term pressure "from week to week and month to month."

It is important that all public sector unions – in health, social welfare, culture, education – have announced that they will strike, Stipić said.

He added that the teachers' union was demanding an 18.9% pay rise because their wages had been lagging behind for more than ten years.

According to estimates, wages should increase five or six percent next year, which means that if we were to accept an increase of 5.8% – which is what eight unions have demanded in talks with the government – our wages won't be behind by 18.9% but 22-23%, he said.

There is more money in the budget than ever, 140 billion kuna, and it's time to finally define a fair price of labour in the public sector, he added.

He recalled that the government had offered an increase of 3%, which the union considers to be an insult. The entire negotiation process was organised to present the unions with a fait accompli, he concluded, adding that the conciliation process was an "insulting farce."

For more on Croatia’s education system, click here.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Zagreb Mayor Wants Free School Textbooks for All Children in Croatia

 ZAGREB, November 21, 2018 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Wednesday that a proposal to ensure free school textbooks for primary school pupils would be further discussed to see its potential effect on the budget.

The proposal has been made by the parliamentary group of Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić's Work and Solidarity Party, the Reformists and Independents, and was discussed at a meeting on Tuesday.

Asked by the press if the proposal was in fact an ultimatum, Marić said he did not see it that way. "We had a constructive discussion on several points concerning tax laws and the budget," Marić said after a parliamentary debate on amendments to tax laws.

A source close to this parliamentary group said on Tuesday they had notified Marić that they would not support next year's budget, which will be put to a vote in parliament on December 3, unless sufficient funding was secured for free school textbooks for all primary school pupils in the country.

The group cited a constitutional provision saying that compulsory education is free, and said that this would ease the financial burden on parents. Estimating the cost of free textbooks at 200 million kuna, they said it was possible to find this amount in next year's budget, which is planned at 140 billion kuna.

Marić said that Croatia had experience with free school textbooks for primary school students both at local and central government levels, adding that central government funding for this purpose had been suspended at one point, after which local government units allocated funds for free textbooks within the limits of their resources. "This measure needs to be further discussed to see its total potential financial effect and how it fits with the bill on textbooks, which is now in procedure," Marić said.

Asked how much this measure would cost the budget, Marić said that the last figure for free textbooks for primary school and the first grade of secondary school was about 400 million kuna. "In any case, we need an update on this calculation," he added.

Asked to comment on the latest HUP Score, which shows that Croatia was economically lagging behind other EU member states, Marić said he had not had time to see details of this index, compiled by the Croatian Employers' Association (HUP), and would do so soon.

He said that in a third round of tax cuts the tax burden had been reduced by 7 billion kuna and that room should be created for further tax breaks. "We control the expenditure side of the budget and all surplus revenues go towards reducing the public debt and the tax burden."

For more on Croatia’s education system, click here.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Students Want to Enrol at General-Education Secondary Schools and Vocational Schools

ZAGREB, November 18, 2018 - Forty-nine percent of students in Croatia want to enrol at general-education secondary schools, as many prefer vocational schools, while only two percent will opt for art schools, a survey shows.

The survey was conducted by the EduCentar website in August and September on a sample of 385 students.

Over 70 percent of respondents said they made their choice of school based on information found online, nearly 60 percent followed recommendations from their friends or acquaintances, while 35 percent based their decision on word of mouth.

About 30 percent of those interviewed cited as their source of information their teachers and a quarter their parents. Printed materials, radio, television and newspapers were used as sources of information only to a lesser extent.

The chief advantage of general-education secondary schools is that they ensure better preparation for university, said 70 percent of respondents, while broader general knowledge they provide was seen as an advantage by 61 percent of them. Half of those surveyed said that the advantage of such schools is that they can delay their decision on an occupation.

About 80 percent of respondents said they see skill acquisition and good employment prospects as the chief advantages of vocational schools. Only 15 percent think that vocational schools provide better preparation for university.

Respondents who opted for general-education secondary schools cited personal interests and desires and a school's reputation as the main factors in their choice of school. As many as 62 percent of those who preferred vocational schools mentioned employment prospects, as opposed to only a quarter of students seeking to enrol at general-education schools. Half of those interviewed said that another advantage of vocational schools is specialisation in a certain field.

For more on education in the Republic of Croatia, with a particular emphasis on schools, click here,

Sunday, 4 November 2018

University of Zagreb Marks Its Day

ZAGREB, November 4, 2018 – The University of Zagreb Day and the beginning of the 350th academic year was celebrated at the Croatian National Theatre on Saturday at a ceremony which heard that this university is one of the oldest Croatian institutions which has been continuously contributing to the preservation of Croatian science, tradition and culture.

On 23 September 1669, under a decree by Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary and Croatia, the Jesuit Academy in the royal free city of Zagreb was given the status and privileges of a university, which the legislature of the Kingdom of Croatia adopted on 3 November 1671. Therefore, the University of Zagreb accepts 1669 as the year of its foundation and November 3 as its day.

Rector Damir Boras said the University was one of the oldest institutions in Croatia and that autonomy was one its most important features.

It has 34 components and about 70,000 students, it is one of Europe's 15 biggest universities, and since 1874, when the modern University of Zagreb was opened, more than five million students have graduated from it.

The University's task is to implement programmes of strategic importance for Croatia, Boras said, adding that this year there were 149 undergraduate, 33 integrated and 163 graduate study programmes.

The University of Zagreb is highly desirable for studies and 100,000 students who participated in a poll gave its teachers a grade of four on a scale of one to five, Boras said. The University has the leading role in research and innovation the region, having won 98 awards at innovation fairs, which makes it the most awarded institution in the field of innovation, and the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing leads in the number of patents, he added.

It has six centres of excellence and is successfully absorbing European funds for regional development.

Boras underlined the importance of financing science and education in line with GDP growth so as to meet the target of 1.4 to 2% in line with strategic documents adopted by parliament. He noted that the current outlays for that were below the European Union average.

Curricula and study programmes should be aligned with social and labour market needs and the University, having a prominent role in the schooling of socially responsible persons, should be a partner and not a service to employers, said Boras.

Read more about Croatia's education system here.

Page 9 of 18