Tuesday, 1 November 2022

Croatia to Test First Graders for Familial Hypercholesterolemia

November 1, 2022 - Starting next school year, screening first graders for familial hypercholesterolemia will be introduced, and Croatia will be among the first countries with such screening, which exposes the increased cardiovascular risk for children, as well as their closest relatives.

As reported by Index, the president of the Croatian Cardiology Society, explained: "One more test will be added to the systematic examination for enrollment in the first grade of primary school, and that is the total value of cholesterol in the blood." Hereditary, so-called familial hypercholesterolemia implies exposure to pathologically high concentrations of atherogenic cholesterol from early childhood. Therefore patients with this metabolic disease have a tenfold more significant risk of premature cardiovascular incidents.

20,000 people affected

It is estimated that around twenty thousand people in Croatia suffer from such a disorder of fat metabolism, and only one percent of them are recognised. Screening of children was supposed to start this school year, but due to technical reasons, it was postponed until the next school year.

If elevated cholesterol is found, the child will be referred to a pediatrician, and therapy will begin if the diagnosis is confirmed. Treatment is most effective if it starts as early as possible so that patients can have the same number of healthy years and life expectancy as those without the disease.

People suffering from untreated hereditary hypercholesterolemia often suffer from a heart attack or stroke between the ages of 35 and 45 and therefore live significantly shorter lives than the average population.

This concerns patients with the so-called heterozygous form of the disease, which occurs in about 1:300 people. A much rarer and much more malignant is the so-called homozygous hypercholesterolemia, in which, without treatment, patients fall ill and die as a result of atherosclerosis as early as adolescence. When a diagnosis is made during the systematic examination of a preschool child, the school medicine doctor will inform the family doctor about it. They will then perform the so-called reverse cascade screening, i.e., investigate the existence of familial hypercholesterolemia in the affected child's parents, brothers, sisters, or closest relatives.

A parent is a transmitter

Such screening can save the child's parents, one of whom is undoubtedly a carrier of this disease and at the same time suffers from, most often unrecognised, familial hypercholesterolemia. Detecting and treating sick parents and other close relatives, treatment will begin and thus prevent or delay the most dangerous complications of advanced atherosclerosis.

Miličić points out that this is a very important national project that will improve the cardiovascular health of many families and save many lives in the foreseeable future. Given that an average of 30,000 children are enrolled in the first grade of primary school, it is expected that a hundred children in one generation could be diagnosed with this disorder.

Miličić announced the introduction of the new screening at last week's symposium in Zagreb, organised by the World Federation of Cardiology and the Croatian Society of Cardiology. The seminar gathered leading domestic cardiologists who, just after the world premiere, got acquainted with the new procedure for controlling elevated cholesterol.

Other important topics were also touched upon, such as reducing the intake of table salt, the obesity pandemic, and diabetes. It was pointed out that Croats are currently the fattest European nation, and obesity represents a significant independent risk for cardiovascular diseases and many others.

Miličić asserted that Croatia, with a share of cardiovascular mortality of 37 percent in total mortality, with more than 22,000 deaths from these diseases per year, still belongs to countries with a high cardiovascular risk in Europe.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 25 September 2021

Croatian School Pupil Weight Measuring: From Public to Private

September 25, 2021 - Croatian school pupil weight measuring will now be done in private instead of in front of the class. This is the result of the Centre for Eating Disorders (BEA) initiative, which the Education Ministry accepted by sending out a memo to Croatian schools.

When you were a pupil in school, did you feel shame or discomfort during PE when that dreadful day on which you were due to be measured appeared on the schedule? Whether over or underweight (believe it or not, some people are too slim, which is particularly awkward for boys who aren't as built as their jock colleagues), it's a matter many would prefer to do in private.

And that is exactly what this initiative launched by the Centre for Eating Disorders (BEA) tried to express to the Croatian education system.

As Srednja.hr wrote, the initiative started earlier this week and quickly became viral, as it was shared by almost every Croatian media outlet, social network influencers, and fitness enthusiasts. From the public to the institutions, as the Education Ministry heard the voice of the public and took it into account.

With great pride and joy, we'd like to notify you that the Ministry sent out this memo and instructions to Croatian schools to secure the individual measurement of children's height and weight for all elementary and high schools,'' Srednja.hr said, quoting BEA's Instagram post.

Still, how fast things will actually change for the better in practice is yet to be seen.

''We at the BEA Centre allow people to become visible, to have their voices heard and to identify their problems. Although we've been working continuously since 2012, we still lack the adequate space to carry out all of our activities on a day-to-day basis and provide support to people suffering from eating disorders and their families,'' explained the BEA website.

The website also adds that 40,000 people in Croatia are affected by eating disorders. One of the Croatian media outlets that wrote about the initiative is Telegram.

In their first article about BEA's initiative, Telegram presented to the Croatian public arguments that individual weight measurement would be beneficial as pupils are in an age where they are just building up their self-awareness and confidence. Having ''public'' weigh-ins results in an enormous amont of stress as it encourages stigmatisation and peer pressure isn't a good way of supporting that delicate development.

However, as Telegram wrote in a follow-up article, social media also saw the other side of the coin, where some of the commentators opposed the initiative with pretty derogative terms.

''It's a a lot of stress??? And being a fat pig is some sweet secret? Nobody knows until the number on scale shows,'' reads one of the many comments written ignorantly and in poor taste, as Telegram pointed out.

Nonetheless, with the memo sent out and accepted, things will look less stressful when it comes to weight for the newest Croatian generations.

With this initiative making a change, the hope arises for other challenges and issues in Croatian schools to be resolved. For example, as TCN reported earlier in September, the start of this year saw the problem of too many pupils having straight A scores due to various pressures placed on teachers to evaluate their performance unrealistically.

Read about Croatian politics and history since 1990 on our TC guide.

For more about education in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 21 October 2019

Circular Strike in Schools to Continue until November 1

ZAGREB, October 21, 2019 - School unions said on Monday that 93% of elementary and 89% of high school employees were on strike across the country and that schools in Vukovar-Srijem, Karlovac and Zagreb counties would strike on Tuesday.

The circular strike, in its 12th day, will last until November 1, unionist Branimir Mihalinec said, without revealing what the unions would do after that.

The unions are sticking to their demand of an increase of the job complexity index to 1.406, claiming that even with the 6.12% base pay rise for all public servants announced by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, education workers would continue to lag behind other public servants.

On Sunday, Labour Minister Josip Aladrović said that, in response to the union demands, he would commission an analysts of job complexity indices in public service so that all workers were equitably evaluated.

Unionist Sanja Šprem said today the strike turnout was excellent.

Earlier today a conciliation attempt between the government and the Science and Higher Education Union failed, as a result of which faculties will hold a one-day strike on Thursday. The Union announced that it would strike at least one day every week.

Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said at a conference of the principals of secondary schools and dormitories in the southern coastal resort town of Tučepi on Monday that dialogue with teachers' unions should resume and that it was important to show respect to all teachers and school staff.

Asked to comment on the possibility that teachers would not be paid for the days spent on strike, Divjak said that such announcements should be avoided because teachers were exercising their constitutional right to fight for a better status, adding that it was better to make up for the classes lost during the strike than to resort to some drastic measures such as introducing compulsory work duties.

"It is imperative to show respect to those who are raising our children," the minister said.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Plenković Hints at Solution for School Strike

ZAGREB, October 16, 2019 - Prime Minister and HDZ president Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday that there would be talks with school unions about their ongoing strike, that "there's no blackmail but there is a solution", and that the government had some ideas for school employees that it thought could be good.

Asked by reporters ahead of a meeting of the ruling HDZ party's parliamentary group if Croatia was facing a snap election, he said "we're still not at that stage."

Asked if the ruling coalition could break up because of school unions' demands and if the junior coalition partner, the Croatian People's Party (HNS), was blackmailing him, he said "nothing is that dramatic."

Asked if he was willing to offer school employees more, Plenković said they "have some ideas" they thought were good and that they would talk about them.

Reporters remarked that the school strike was under way, that negotiations were interrupted and that school unions announced a press conference outside the government for Wednesday morning, he reiterated that he saw no reason for the strike and that his government had raised salaries "between 15 and 17%."

Plenković said he did not wish to talk about previous governments which slashed salaries and abolished entitlements. "I think this government's good will towards all employees in Croatia, including those in the public sector, is more than clear. We respect them all equally."

He reiterated that the government was taking into account the entire economic policy, fiscal consolidation and everything that made it possible to have lower interest rates for citizens and businesses as well as to balance the budget.

We act as a government which has a clear and consistent course and policy, Plenković said, adding that the government would continue with this approach. "I'm inviting the unions to a dialogue and all political parties to take a realistic and good approach towards problem solving."

Asked if he would ask the courts about the legality of the school strike given that he said earlier there was no legal basis for it, Plenković said that would see.

He said that politically there was no justified reason for the strike, notably in a month when "teachers, whose job we appreciate and respect, received higher salaries than the month before."

That's a little unusual as there is no "burning" issue over which the strike should last. I understand it as a union initiative to create pressure but objectively, according to all possible criteria, it shouldn't have happened because a dialogue was under way, Plenković said.

"The offers on the table are serious. We'll find solutions that are good. The strike is under way based on decisions of those which organised it, not because of the government. I'm calling on teachers to dedicate themselves to what is important to them, the education of our children."

Asked if he expected 82 votes in parliament on Friday for a report on the government's performance and confidence in Health Minister Milan Kujundžić, and if the majority was steady, Plenković said that, as far as he could see, it was.

He said he did not talk with the HNS but that he would.

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

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

School Unions Announce Strike for October 10

ZAGREB, October 1, 2019 - School union leaders on Tuesday announced strike action in elementary and secondary schools on October 10, stating that the government, two weeks from their last meeting, still has not responded to union demands for their job complexity index to be increased by 6%.

Unionists Sanja Šprem and Branimir Mihalinec handed over a notice to the government informing of the strike action in schools. "The strike will be held on October 10 and will continue until our demands are met, and unions will advise of the format of the strike the day before," Mihalinec said.

He underscored that the unions met with the government on September 5 and discussed a 6% increase of the job complexity index and that since then the government has avoided meeting with the unions.

Asked who in the government was stalling or refusing to meet with the unions, Mihalinec said that Finance Minister Zdravko Marić had to make calculations regarding the 6% increase and that Labour Minister Josip Aladrović was just a mediator, adding that it was unbelievable that the government had not responded yet.

Šprem said that the unions had discussed in detail the justification of their demands with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and that they believe the government was bluffing to see if the unions would back down. She added that the unions made it clear that they will not give up.

A conciliation procedure between the government and unions which is compulsory before conducting a strike will be held in the next five days.

"If we do not get any result during the conciliation stage, it will certainly come after pressure and the strike which will really last," Šprem said.

Minister of Science and Education Blaženka Divjak earlier in the day expressed disgruntlement with the way the situation was developing in talks with school unions, adding that she would continue the fight for a better status for teachers, which includes higher wages.

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

Sunday, 8 September 2019

One in Three Schools Opt for Modified School Year Calendar

ZAGREB, September 8, 2019 - The new 2019-2020 school year starts in Croatia on 9 September and it includes 178 working days plus movable 16 holiday days in the four calendars offered to schools.

A majority of schools (67.04% of all primary and secondary schools) have opted for the school year calendar No.1 whereby the winter holidays start on 23 December 2019 and run through 10 January 2020. The spring holidays are from 10 to 17 April, the Education Ministry said recently.

Calendar No. 4 is the second most frequent choice selected by 33.38% of schools, and most of them are in north-western Croatia and in Zadar and Istria counties.

This calendar offers a two-day autumn holiday on 30 and 31 October, and the winter holidays are split in two parts: from 23 December to 3rd January and from 24 to 28 February 2020. The spring holidays include two days on 9 and 10 April with the resumption of school on 14 April.

The teaching activities in the new school year end on 17 June, while senior students in the final year of secondary school leave school on 22 May and sit for final exams in June.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Huge Interest for High School Video Game Developer Studies

The Technical High School in Sisak has been under siege from parents of students finishing elementary schools in recent days. Calls are coming from all over Croatia, and the school estimates it could enrol at least five times as many students as it has positions available. The reason for all this interest in the newly-introduced studies programme – the video game developer, reports novac.hr on May 16, 2019.

“One mother even had an idea of bringing her third-grade high school student and enrolling him in the first grade of our school. The interest is huge, but in the next school year, we can have just one class with 24 students. I believe that we will be able to attract the best students from our county, but also other parts of Croatia,” said the Sisak Technical High School principal Davor Malović.

Croatian vocational schools will not offer many new studies for the next year, which is why the technician for the video games development programme in Sisak has attracted a lot of attention. On the other hand, it raises the question of why such programmes are not found more often in Croatian schools.

“We would not have it if the county had not launched a wider project. As is well-known, we have become the regional centre of competence and have received substantial European funds. The money will be used to equip several classrooms for students who will later work in the gaming industry,” said the principal.

The classrooms for the implementation of the new programme will include a professional audio and video studio, a motion capture camera, top gaming computers, VR glasses and gaming chairs. While it is difficult to estimate how much it will ultimately cost to invest in equipment and teacher education, the amount will undoubtedly reach a few million kuna.

The curriculum for the new programme has been developed by experts from Simora, the Sisak-Moslavina County development agency, which also educates teachers. In the first grade, students will have courses in basic programming, computer basics, graphics in video games, and video game development, while in the second grade they will switch to subjects such as operating systems, basic electrical engineering, intro to computer networks, designing graphics elements and team collaboration.

In the last two years of education, they will learn advanced video game development techniques, 3D modelling, texturing and animation, videogames project development, digital logic objects, production of competitive video games, visual effects in video games and, finally, marketing and monetization of video games.

In total, in four years of schooling, the program will offer 20 subjects related to the gaming industry, divided into five modules.

After this programme, the school plans to introduce six more related courses, one of which is space technology.

Translated from novac.hr (reported by Mirela Lilek).

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

Sunday, 5 May 2019

20 Million Kuna School Uniforms Project Fails as Expected

School uniforms are my original idea – said Zagreb mayor Milan Bandić two years ago, explaining that students in Zagreb's primary schools would all get the same clothing and footwear in order to "reduce social differences," reports Večernji List on May 5, 2019.

Thirty-one out of 108 schools decided to adopt the uniforms, with an additional 22 schools saying that some classes would use them. The uniforms were eventually bought for about 12 million kuna paid from the city budget.

A total of 18,631 students joined the project, but the results have been disappointing for the mayor, as evidenced by the fact that this year, according to the city authorities, the number of students will fall by about 10,000. The new clothing is being purchased for 8,688 students in 36 schools, with an additional 5.5 million kuna being spent.

“The parents decided so, and we simply gave up. There were no special benefits, students sometimes wore the prescribed T-shirts, and sometimes they didn’t,” said the principals of those schools which have decided to abandon the project. The first wave of rejections occurred last year when the first eight schools and about five thousand students dropped out, and the trend continues ahead of the 2019/2020 school year.

“The purpose of introducing the uniforms was not to force anyone to wear them. That is why schools are being asked whether they want them at all. In some schools, there have been no changes, while certain schools have decided they do not want them anymore, while some new school have applied,” said the city authorities.

This year, the city will purchase 18,000 polo shirts with short sleeves, 9,000 with long sleeves, the same number of hoodies, and 5,500 plain shirts. The shirts will again include the logos of individual schools, and colours can be chosen from among the nine offered.

“These are good quality shirts, but students rarely wore them. The most common excuse was that they are washing the shirt, others say they do not want to always be in the same clothing, while others said they did not like the colour. We cannot force them to wear the uniforms, nor do we want to force them,” said the principal of one school which has dropped out of the project. She added that the money spent on the clothing, some 20 million kuna in total, could have better been used to buy computers for schools.

“The principals knew from the beginning that this was not going to work. It was perhaps initially a good idea for some of the students, but they like to express themselves with their clothing, and they do not like for everybody to look the same,” the principal said.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Mateja Šobak).

More Zagreb news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

School Calendar Changes for Next Year

ZAGREB, April 28, 2019 - Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said on Saturday that as of the next academic year counties and schools would be able to choose one of four school holidays models, including the current one, and that the number of working days and holidays would be the same in each model, the only difference being their distribution.

Speaking for the RTL commercial TV station, Divjak said that the planned change of the school calendar was based on the positive experience of schools participating in the experimental stage of the planned education reform.

She added that some successful countries such as Finland or Germany had more school breaks of shorter duration, for example a week, with Finland having four short school breaks, "which makes it possible for pupils to get some rest but not relax too much and to return to school refreshed."

"That is why we have given counties the freedom and autonomy to choose, in cooperation with schools, one of the four models. The number of working days will remain the same - 175 - as will the number of holidays, the only difference is that they are distributed differently," she said.

Asked if autonomy could result in chaos because until now all students had school breaks at the same time, Divjak said that autonomy meant a certain level of responsibility. "I don't think it will pose a problem, anyone thinking that it could can opt to keep the current model," she said.

Asked if there would be a survey on the matter, she said that a survey was a good way to enable parents to participate in decision-making on school life.

The next school year starts on the same day for all schools - September 9, and it ends on 17 June 2020; it has two semesters - the first lasts until December 20 and the second starts on the first working day after the winter break, which depends on which of the four models schools and their founders choose.

The proposed models bring a shorter spring break, a new, autumn break which includes All Saints' Day, and the possibility of taking the winter break in two turns, with one of those breaks falling in the second half of February. Also, the spring break would not necessarily include Good Friday and Maundy Thursday, days leading up to Easter.

July 1 is the deadline for schools to make their academic calendar public.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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