Wednesday, 7 December 2022

How to Croatia: An Overview of the Croatian Education System

December 7, 2022 – In today’s edition of How to Croatia, we are bringing an overview of the Croatian education system from early childhood to higher education.

The Croatian education system starts with childcare or formally with the preschool year. While the earliest that children can be enrolled is at six months in jaslice (Croatian term for nursery), the mandatory aspect of education typically starts at the beginning of the year before the start of primary school at the age of 6 and lasts until the age of 14. Secondary and higher education in Croatia are accessible to all but not mandatory. There are both public and private education institutions at every level. The academic year in Croatia usually starts in early September for primary and secondary education or October for higher education. It ends in early June for primary and secondary levels, while at the higher education level, it sometimes extends to the second half of July.

Childcare and preschool

As mentioned above, the earliest a child can be enrolled in childcare is at six months old, though that depends on the specific institution. In most places, local authorities will have a system of benefits or subsidies for parents, especially those with more than one child. English is taught in most Croatian kindergartens, while international kindergartens with programmes in foreign languages (German, French, Italian, Spanish) can, for now, only be found in Zagreb and Split. Preschool education is mandatory and free of charge for all children in the year just before they start primary school.

Primary school

Children start primary school at 7 or 6 if they turn seven before the 31st of March of the following year (that same academic year). Primary school is split into two levels and lasts eight years. Grades 1-4 are oriented towards class teaching, where there is one main teacher who covers the base subjects (Croatian, mathematics, art, social), while subject teachers for foreign languages, computer science, and religion come in to teach their specialised subjects usually for one or two classes per week.

The second level of primary education, grades 5-8, is oriented toward subject teaching. The pupils are still organised into classes and allocated a teacher responsible for class admin, but specialised subject teachers teach all the subjects. Subjects like geography, history, and biology are introduced in grade 5, while chemistry and physics are introduced in grade 7.

Specific inclusive programmes are set up for children with learning disabilities, which are either adjusted or individualised to fit their needs.

Secondary education

The secondary level of education typically starts at the age of 14, while the duration depends on the type of programme. There are two main types in Croatia, grammar schools and vocational schools.

Grammar schools are further specialised into those with a general or classical programme, those which focus more on natural subjects, or those with a focus on languages. Programmes in all grammar schools typically last four years and enable the students to pursue higher education.

Vocational schools, on the other hand, equip students for a specific profession. The duration depends on the programme, where programmes for trades typically last between one and three years, hospitality and tourism programmes last three years, economy and computer science last four years, and nursing school lasts five years. After graduating from a vocational school, students can either pursue higher education or enter the job market with the qualification they acquire.

When it comes to primary and secondary programmes in foreign languages, just as is the case with childcare, international schools exist in Zagreb and Split.

Higher education

One of the best aspects of life in Croatia is that higher education is free for all. The public education system of universities, colleges, and polytechnics is very well developed and follows the European Higher Education framework based on the Bologna Process. The requirements for enrollment depend on the specific programmes, but the base is a points system that accounts for the student’s final grades during all years of secondary education and a state exam at the end. All students who wish to study at public higher education institutions must pass the mandatory subjects – Croatian, English, and mathematics, and they can choose to sit for the supplementary subjects which might be required or bear extra credit for specific fields (e.g., biology and chemistry for medicine). When it comes to programmes in foreign languages, alongside language studies, several universities have started offering public programmes in English, like those in Zagreb, Split, and Rijeka. A vast network of private higher education institutions also exists in Croatia, offering various programmes.

Inclusive special education

Croatia has a developed inclusive education system for children with developmental and learning difficulties, starting with childcare. Depending on the extent of their needs, they might be enrolled in mainstream classes where they are approached with programmes tailored specifically for them or have a learning assistant assigned. On the other hand, they might be directed toward a specialised school which, in some cases, they can attend until the age of twenty-one.

Art and music

Another aspect of education regulated by law is official art (dance) and music education. Primary music school lasts six years, and children from the age of 7 can be enrolled. Secondary music school lasts four years and can be taken as the only programme of secondary education. More often than not, though, students attend music school parallel to another secondary school. Primary dance school lasts four years, and so does secondary dance school, which can also serve as the only secondary programme.

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

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

First Croatian Teacher Fired for Refusing to Test or Get Vaccinated

December the 7th, 2021 - The first Croatian teacher has lost their job at a school following their refusal to regularly test for the presence of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, or be vaccinated against it. The recently introduced rules on the presentation of valid covid certificates to enter such a place of work has seen to it that their employment contract has been terminated.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, as the Bjelovar school principal Dario Malogorski confirmed to Jutarnji list, an agreement to terminate the employment contract of one Croatian teacher was signed with the employee in question on Monday. This was preceded by two warnings before their dismissal.

The individual in question is a younger Croatian teacher who became officially employed at the school on September the 1st this year. He told the school principal that he did not agree with the epidemiological measures against the spread of the novel coronavirus and that he did not agree to present any sort of covid certificates out of his own principles. Principal Malogorski points out that the Croatian teacher, not wanting to give the school any further problems, agreed to sign an amicable dismissal.

"The reason for the termination of this teacher's contract is their disagreement with the measures. I have to say that my colleague didn't make a scene, they didn't threaten anyone or anything, he simply didn't agree with the recently introduced measure about covid certificates and since its introduction he has never come to work,'' says Malogorski. During this time, classes for what would have been his students were organised through substite teachers, a job taken on by his colleagues.

Prior to the termination of the contract, the principal sent a warning to this Croatian teacher from Bjelovar on two occasions by mail before organising for their dismissal, but no return receipt arrived at the school, which means that the person didn't even bother to pick up their mail. Logically, given that a covid certificate is required to even enter the post office. The school principal therefore sent a few warnings via e-mail. He didn't receive a statement from this member of staff on those previously issued warnings either.

"We spoke on Thursday and Friday, and the teacher agreed to the agreed upon dismissal, which means that we have no claims against each other. In this situation, this is the best solution. I can't go into his principles, but I emphasise, my colleague behaved totally fairly, except that they didn't come to class to teach their students, so we had to organise replacements,'' concluded the school's principal.

For more, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Sunday, 22 August 2021

Croatian Parents Who Don't Enroll Kids in Preschool to Receive Sanctions

August the 22nd, 2021 - The Croatian education system can sometimes be quite confusing, and new sanctions are set to be placed on Croatian parents who fail to enroll their child(ren) in preschool following recent amendments to the law governing that, which was previously much more relaxed.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, with the recently made amendments to the Law on Preschool Education, Croatian parents who choose not to enroll their child or children in preschool will have to explain the reasons for their decision to the competent social welfare institution.

One of the more important pieces of news related to this new amendment is the introduction of actual sanctions for those who fall into the above category. Although the 250-hour preschool programme has been mandatory for children so far, there were no actual consequences for Croatian parents who didn't enroll their child for whatever reason, so this so-called ''obligation'' was taken quite lightly and was more about theory than practice, Novi list writes.

The Rijeka Kindergarten says that they have no information about cases of the non-inclusion of children in preschool, but the director Davorka Gustin isn't ruling out the possibility that there were cases of Croatian parents simply choosing not to put their children into preschool.

''We also had parent inquiries in that regard. Of course, we have always pointed out the legal obligation and benefits that are provided for the child by including him in the preschool programme,'' said Gustin.

For more on children, the school system and education in the Republic of Croatia, make sure to check out our lifestyle section.

Friday, 25 June 2021

Ending Segregated Education in Vukovar? Mayor Ivan Penava Announced an Idea

June 25, 2021 - Is there any possibility of ending segregated education in Vukovar? Mayor Ivan Penava announced Serbian and Croatian education could merge in school and kindergarten levels, but more details are yet to be revealed.

The start of the week saw interesting news that surprised many. As reported by N1, Ivan Penava, the mayor of Vukovar, announced Croatian and Serbian classes and kindergartens could merge together.

Vukovar, often referred to in Croatia as the „Hero City“ for the heavy blow it suffered in the 90s war Croatians refer to as Homeland War, still has a lot of ruins as memories of that ugly past. In the light of national tensions among Serbs and Croats, the segregation of kindergartens and different shifts in schools for Serbian and Croatian classes seem to be a solution to keep the peace.


screenshot/ N1

Good idea but more talks needed?

„In Vukovar, parents do not choose the model of education that is imposed by politics, it is nowhere written in public“, said mayor Penava, as reported by N1.

Penava, a former member of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), despite earning a new term in the recent local elections as an independent candidate, enjoyed support from Miroslav Škoro, runner-up candidate for Zagreb mayor elections, and the leader of the Homeland Movement (DP) supports Penava's idea.

„I lived in America for a number of years, in Hungary, I traveled the world... what is the difference between Serbian and Croatian mathematics? Is Argentina in Serbian in the northern hemisphere, and southern in Croatian? I don't get it“, said Škoro adding that segregation was done in malice with a tendency to divide children from the start.

„In Vukovar, the symbol of defense had priorities. Reconstruction of the water tower, and certain moves Penava did well in his last term (he wouldn't win elections if he hasn't), thinks that city needs to move on. I support him 100%“, concluded Škoro.

On the other hand, criticism is erected on national-level politics.

„I don't think that local officials are the ones who need to determine a way in which minority education will be conducted. Political trade is clear here, and I'm glad there is no longer just Serbian-Croatian trading coalition, but also another one“, said Dragana Jecov, a Croatian parliament member from the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) referring to the accusations of the right-wing that current coalition of HDZ and SDSS and is vile political trade.

Interior Minister Davo Božinović also said that while we need to work on erasing national, social, and political tensions, but this is a question that needs to be discussed more seriously.

Additionally, as N1 reported, the Ministry of Education pointed out that different models of education for Vukovar schools exist, and parents can choose which they find most suitable.

Accepting national differences or nationalistic uniformity?

Some improvements have indeed been seen in the city infrastructure, but Vukovar still remains a challenging place to live. Partly due to the tough economic situation, but also because of discrepancies among Serbian and Croatian residents. Earlier in June, there was even a violent incident when a 30-year-old Serbian member of the Grobari football fan group physically attacked a Croatian 13-year-old boy in front of a bakery for having a medicine mask with Croatian symbols.

„Sadly, this kind of thing happened too long in Vukovar, where people attack each other because of national disputes. Media aren't even introduced to some of these events. It is spread a lot, as evident by the constant police patrols around Vukovar high-schools where there are always police cars around“, said Vukovar police to Večernji List daily newspaper.

Such incidents, a misfortunate loose ends of the war, also come from the Croatian side. Earlier in May, a group of young men chanted anti-Serb slogans in Borovo Selo (close to Vukovar), a scene of heinous war crimes in the '90s), sparking condemnation from both president Milanović and the Croatian Government.

In that light, integrated schools might finally bring positive changes in regards to tolerance and peaceful life for Vukovar citizens. But again, not everyone sees the glass as half full. columnist Gordan Duhaček agreed in his column that Serbs and Croats don't need to go to separate shifts but warns how Penava isn't the guy that should unite them.

„Penava doesn't want to integrate Vukovar schools and end the troubling segregation in a way to ensure a better future for the whole city, but instead to impose his nationalistic, often anti-Serbian narrative as the official one. Penava wants that Vukovar Serbs bow down to his view of the Croatian state“, wrote Duhaček.

Duhaček also reminded the readership of the attempt and fail of the Danube International school that supposed to integrate pupils of both nations, an idea that spawned 16 years ago. But, the project failed, and Duhaček sees both Penava and SDSS leader Milorad Pupovac not feeling too sad about it.


Iconic Vukovar water tower, pixabay

Questions on details

At the end of the week, the situation seems more confusing than clear. Is class integration a good idea? Could it save money for the city financially? What are some actual details of merging Croats and Serbians into one class? Obviously, Škoro is right that 2+2=4 in any math class around the world. But, troubling questions appear in subjects such as language and history. Croats and Serbs sadly have their own, different interpretations of historical facts, particularly when it comes to the last war, and while the speakers of two languages perfectly understand each other, some words do differ, and there is a different accent and spelling in the two formal languages. So, how can these issues be resolved? Would those two subjects remain in different shifts while universal subjects such as biology, math, or physics will listen in one merged classroom? Or will there be a different curriculum that would present both Serbian and Croatian history, Serbian and Croatian literature in that way, making Vukovar pupils more knowledgable in those areas than other pupils in the country?

Or some curriculum consensus on history could be reached, one that would satisfy both the Croatian and Serbian sides and thus truly open a doorway to the better understandings of the two nations in the future in perhaps the most nationally torn city in Croatia?

Obviously, Vukovar city authorities have some tensions with SDSS, but the city also has an expert associate for the development of civil society and national minorities, Siniša Mitrović in one of the City's departments. Did Mitrović manage to gain input from the Serbian minority in Vukovar about this merge? And how fast could the whole thing be realized? This autumn or maybe a bit later?
These are important and interesting questions that can only be answered either by mayor Penava himself or perhaps Josip Paloš, the director of the Vukovar City Education Department.

„Mayor Penava is in a lot of meetings and on fields, and his schedule is full. We will sadly not be able to answer you by your Friday deadline, but we will contact you at the earliest convenience“, said the lady at the Vukovar City PR service when I called them (and E-mailed) with a wish to arrange and conduct a brief phone interview.

While this article may present the current issues surrounding segregated education in Vukovar, this TCN reporter hopes mayor Penava will share more details about his plan on ending segregation in Vukovar schools and kindergarten with joint classes. If done right, this move can indeed be the way to a better, more peaceful future for Vukovar citizens.

Learn more about Vukovar on our TC page.

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

Friday, 16 April 2021

Human Rights in Croatia 2020 Overview: Serbs, Roma People, and LGBTQ Hate Speech Targets

April 16, 2021-  The Human Rights in Croatia 2020 Overview report by Human rights house Zagreb shows hate speech and poor living conditions of Serb returnees and Roma people still being problematic. The judicial system and the lack of a legal frame for civil society development remain problematic too.

In a battle against the Coronavirus, many agree and fear that human rights were put in second place, triggering the debate of security vs. liberty and justification of limiting movement, work, etc.

But human rights and their respect in Croatia was an issue, long before Covid-19. As Jutarnji List warns, the situation is not good. 

Croatia doesn't have a defined politics of making a supportive environment for the civic society development. Citizen participation in decision making is still relatively weak and the judicial system is a special problem," says Jutarnji List referring to the new report by Human Rights House in Zagreb titled „Human Rights in Croatia: 2020 Overview“.

Regarding the judicial issue, a specific example can be found in the ever-controversial  "Za Dom Spremni!"(For the Homeland Ready) salute which is recognised as a fascist salute and punishable by law but it's tolerated as part of the song „Čavoglave“ by Marko Perković Thompson and can frequently be heard during his concerts both by the singer and the audience.

„Circumstance that the salute is part of the song doesn't change the fact that it's an ustasha (Croatian fascist) salute that symbolizes criminal Naci-fascist ideology and is the violation of article 39 of Croatian constitution that prohibits any call or encouragement on national, racial or religious hatred or any form of intolerance“, continues Jutarnji List.

Still present in public space, hate speech in Croatia is also very alive on the Internet, with the Serb LGBTQ community and Roma people being the prime targets. As Jutarnji reports, last year's research show this as well as the lack of appropriate response. 

„Children and adolescences do not learn enough about human rights, equality, and solidarity, given that civil education is conducted as one of six intercourse themes in elementary and high-schools. Such approach to civil education does not secure enough time in the curriculum for quality development of civil competence of pupils“, concluded for Jutarnji List Human Rights House in Zagreb.

Educational segregation for Roma people, isolated Serb returnees migrant treatment controversies, C+ grade for LGBTQ travelers

The article also adds that Roma people in Croatia are still facing many obstacles in achieving their rights, which include employment, access to services, and adequate living standards, and there is still segregation in the education system too.

Furthermore, many Serb returnees live in undeveloped rural areas, which are isolated and offer poor living conditions. Additionally, they still struggle to achieve their asset rights, and their possession is still tangible to devastation.



When it comes to LGBTQ rights, as TCN previously reported, Croatia „has an index of 188 points and a grade C+ from most safe to highest dangerous places (A to F), placing it among the first third of the best countries in the world in terms of LGBTQ+ safety“. There are controversies regarding the migrants' treatment on which we recently reported on too.

Learn more about Croatia's global rankings and many more fun facts about the country on our TC page.

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

Monday, 12 April 2021

Minister: Pupils Have Spent Over 2/3 of This School Year in Classrooms

ZAGREB, 12 April, 2021 - So far during this academic year, Croatian students have spent 78% of education in schools, and 22% has been organised as online learning, Education Minister Radovan Fuchs said on Sunday evening.

"At the beginning of this school year, the ministry issued guidelines for the organisation of this academic year, and education has been provided in compliance with those guidelines," he told the commercial RTL broadcaster.

Our interactive approach has proved to be very efficient and I am proud that all pupils have spent 78% of this school year's classes in schools, the minister added.

As of Monday, 12 April, 16 out of the 21 counties in Croatia are switching to digital learning or to a combined model of digital and face to face education.

The end of this school year is close and I think that we can be satisfied with the share of classroom education this year, Fuchs said.

To read more news about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 9 September 2019

How Much Chance Do Kids in Croatia Have of Reaching Their Potential?

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Bernard Ivezic writes on the 9th of September, 2019, a child born in the Republic of Croatia today has a 72 percent chance of reaching their full potential in terms of education, stated Harry Anthony Patrinos, the main man of the World Bank's education practice on Monday, otherwise the first day of the new school year.

Speaking at a panel on "Innovations and technology transfer - an impetus for Croatia's economic development", held at the Faculty of Economics and Business in Zagreb, he discussed just where Croatia stands in terms of the education it offers its children.

"Croatia isn't Singapore, which takes first place with an index of 0.88, but according to the HC (Human Capital) index, Croatia is pretty good in relation to its region and quite good relative to other countries with a median average in terms of the efficiency of its education system," , emphasised Patrinos.

He added, however, that the big problem in this country is that children from lower income families are much less likely to get their hands on a good education, both in terms of the length of their education and in the quality or knowledge they will eventually acquire through that education. Patrinos states that this is a key issue that needs to be addressed in primary and secondary education in the whole of the country in the coming period.

All countries in Croatia's immediate region have a weaker HC index than Croatia, except for Slovenia, which isn't that surprising, and Serbia, which might come as more of a shock to some. Thus, Croatia is ahead of Hungary (0.70), followed by China (0.67), Turkey (0.63), Albania (0.62), Bosnia and Herzegovina (0.62), Montenegro (0.62), Romania ( 0.60), Kosovo (0.56) and Macedonia (0.53).

However, at the same time, Croatia lags behind Serbia, whose index is 0.76, meaning that 76 percent of Serbian children have the opportunity to reach their full potential through their country's education system, and it also lags behind its neighbour to the north, Slovenia, whose index is 0.79.

In first place comes Singapore (0.88), followed by South Korea (0.84) and Japan (0.84). Then come Hong Kong (0.82), Finland (0.81) and Ireland (0.81), Australia (0.80), Sweden (0.80), Netherlands (0.80) and Canada (0.80).

The US is in 24th place with an index (0.76), which is only just slightly better than Croatia.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle page for much more.