Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Education Minister Calls on Prime Minister, Unions to Start Dialogue

ZAGREB, November 19, 2019 - Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak on Tuesday held a special news conference calling on striking teachers' unions and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to start a dialogue, find a compromise and give priority to children's interests.

"Since the start of the strike, I have been trying to reconcile two rights - the right of students to quality education and the right of teachers to fight for a better financial status. As of today, that can no longer be reconciled. The current situation, with the entire education system being in a state of blockade, is the result of a game of power between the unions and the prime minister. I don't want to participate in that," said Divjak.

Students' future is at stake, she said, calling on education-sector unions and the prime minister to rise above their current positions and find a good compromise and give children priority, as otherwise all would be losers.

Asked if she had considered tendering her resignation, she said that she had considered how to not contribute to the chaos but rather help find a solution.

"I will not take sides. There is a lack of good dialogue and that's not good. The dissatisfaction expressed by teachers is also due to that," she said.

Primary and secondary school teachers earlier in the day said their strike, which so far has been a rotating one, would continue as a general strike until their demands were met.

They also announced protests to be held during a congress of the European People's Party (EPP) on Wednesday and Thursday, in Zagreb's central Ban Josip Jelačić Square and outside the government and parliament offices, in St. Mark's Square.

Members of the striking teachers' unions have rejected the government's last offer by a vast majority of votes.

The government's last offer consisted of a 6.12% increase in the base pay next year, an analysis of wages in the public sector, including job complexity indices, and an agreement on a wage supplement of 2% if the government fails to amend the regulation on job complexity indices by June 30.

The unions demand a 6.11% increase in the job complexity index for teachers so that they do not lag behind other public services.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Teachers' Strike Causing Bad Atmosphere among Parents, Says Plenković

ZAGREB, October 24, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that he did not think that the ongoing strike of primary and secondary school teachers was a good thing and added that it was creating a bad atmosphere among parents.

"Talks were conducted and we are open for further talks," said Plenković at the start of a cabinet meeting in Zagreb.

Considering the fact that the industrial action is in the form of a rotating strike taking place in different counties every working day, Plenković said that this also created "an unnecessary atmosphere of pressure on counties."

He called on leaders of the striking unions to sit at the negotiating table and to acknowledge what the authorities have done concerning primary and secondary school teachers whose work is respected and who are important stakeholders for the reform of the education system.

Plenković recalled that the overall increase in the base wage in the public sector's services would be 18% plus tax breaks, which leads to an increase of more than 20%.

"These are marked increases in the monthly income that cannot be compared to any earlier periods," the premier said.

Primary and secondary school teachers' unions launched a nationwide strike on 10 October. Since then they have been staging rotating strikes across counties.

Just before the start of today's government meeting, Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said that "the current situation is untenable", pointing out the importance of dialogue between the school unions and the government.

A meeting to this effect is expected in the coming days.

She reiterated that school unions were against a solution of raising the wage base for all as they insist that this move would not compensate the gap in their wages and are therefore demanding that the job complexity index be amended.

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

Monday, 14 October 2019

After Schools, Strike Planned at Universities as Well

ZAGREB, October 14, 2019 - The leader of the Association of Croatian Trade Unions (MHS), Vilim Ribić, said on Sunday that a strike would soon take place at faculties, and he believes that this industrial action "will bring about a new impulse".

"The strike is going to happen the week after this next week. It remains to be seen on which day. These are the same demands for the same category of people. We will make sure that our people are not left behind. If we miss the chance now, an imbalance will occur in the salaries," the unionist told the commercial RTL broadcaster on Sunday evening.

Ribić's statement ensued after unions in the primary and secondary education system continued their industrial action. After a rotating strike in Split-Dalmatia, Varaždin, Dubrovnik-Neretva and Međimurje this past Friday, the strike will rotate on Monday to Krapina-Zagorje, Zagreb, Virovitica-Podravina, Koprivnica-Križevci and Bjelovar counties, the union leaders told a press conference last week. Teachers are calling for a 6.11% increase of their job complexity index.

Croatia's government said on Sunday evening that it was open to dialogue with representatives of all trade unions, and underscored its commitment to pursuing a responsible fiscal policy and a rise in salaries in accordance with possibilities.

The current government has increased the wage base by 587 kuna and monthly salaries have additionally risen through the three rounds of tax breaks, the government spokesman Marko Milić told Hina on Sunday afternoon. This government has reintroduced salary bonuses such as Christmas and holiday bonuses for the public sector's employees (which were abolished during the SDP-led government). For that purpose, the Andrej Plenković cabinet ensures 550 million kuna annually, and of that amount, 225 million kuna is set aside for salary bonuses in the science and education ministry's sector, he said.

Ribić, however, believes that the announced strike at universities "will bring about a new impulse". "Our demands are a tenth of what should be paid to us," the unionist said.

More news about strikes in Croatia can be found in the Business section.

Friday, 11 October 2019

Almost 90% of Teachers in 4 Counties on Strike

ZAGREB, October 11, 2019 - Almost 90% of teachers in Split-Dalmatia, Varazdin, Dubrovnik-Neretva and Međimurje counties, where a rotating strike continued on Friday, have responded to the strike, leaders of the two largest teachers' unions said.

As many as 88.17% of secondary school teachers and 89.65% of primary schools teachers in these four counties were striking on Friday, they said.

Teachers are calling for a 6.11% increase of their job complexity index, and the strike will rotate on Monday to Krapina-Zagorje, Zagreb, Virovitica-Podravina, Koprivnica-Križevci and Bjelovar counties, the union leaders told a press conference.

Commenting on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's remark that the strike had no legal grounds, union leader Branimir Mihalinec said that the government would show its weakness and fear if it tried to ban the strike.

He added that the prime minister's statements just showed that it was possible that the government might decide to resolve the conflict with violence because banning the strike would be legal violence.

"Everything is heading in that direction when the prime minister describes the constitutional right to strike as an obstruction. That right is written in the Labour Act. That might just be a good introduction for the prime minister to the presidency of the EU - to explain the violation of the right to strike and citizens' rights in this country," Mihalinec said.

"The response on the second day (of the strike) is good. This rotation has contributed to it being at the same level as the first day. These are good data, a high response particularly when it comes to a second day," Željko Stipić of the Preporod school union told a press conference earlier in the day. This union joined the strike launched by the Independent Union of Employees in Secondary Schools and the Union of Croatian Teachers after the process of conciliation with the government fell through.

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

Saturday, 5 October 2019

President Receives Leaders of School Teachers' Unions

ZAGREB, October 5, 2019 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović has received the leaders of the unions of primary and secondary school teachers, Sanja Šprem and Branimir Mihalinec respectively, who informed her about the unions' demands and the course of negotiations with the government.

The president said that ever since she took office, she had advocated that all pupils in Croatia have the same conditions for education, her office said in a press release on Saturday.

The president said that the teachers who are fully committed to their work should be acknowledged, rewarded and asked for their opinions. "We must move away from educational models of the past and give the best teachers more because they give our children the most," she said.

Congratulating all teachers on World Teachers' Day, which is observed on October 5, Grabar-Kitarović said that we should all strive to give this honourable and important profession back its well-deserved dignity.

Strong support is needed from the whole society, especially from parents who can make an active contribution to the constructive creation and adoption of a new educational methodology to make our children more active and more self-confident, which will teach them critical thinking and help them select and evaluate easily available information, the president said.

More education news can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Parents of Children with Special Needs Ask for More Classroom Assistants

ZAGREB, September 15, 2019 - The civil society initiative called "School for All" on Saturday held a protest rally in the centre of Zagreb, demanding the hiring of a higher number of school assistants who can help children with disabilities to be better included in education.

Participants in the protest warn about some of deficiencies in the school system, and said that hundreds of children were left without their classroom assistants at the beginning of this school year.

Some of school assistants who joined the protest rally complained about the disrespect of their labour rights. The hiring of a large number of school assistants is being funded by EU funds, however, they claimed that certain units of local authorities violated their rights and paid them less than agreed.

In attendance at the protest were three presidential hopefuls, Ante Simonic, Katarina Peović and Ivan Pernar.

Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said a few days ago that the number of licences issued for assistants for this school year was three times as high as five years ago.

Also, this year there are 1,000 more approvals for the hiring of school assistants than in the previous school year.

Therefore, she believes that it is necessary to make an expert analysis "of this explosion of the number of assistants".

The minister noted that a rule book was also prepared for the first time for regulation of the status of classroom assistants.

Applicants have to have at least secondary education and are supposed to pass the training that will enable them to help disabled children while they are at school.

More education news 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.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Curricular Reform Ready for Implementation, 150,000 Pupils Covered

ZAGREB, September 7, 2019 - Education Minister Blaženka Divjak has said in an interview with Hina that the ongoing curricular reform has been the most comprehensive change in the schooling system so far.

The main goals of this curriculum reform are to keep students interested in learning and to convey to them more useful contents, the minister said in the interview published on Saturday.

It is important to teach students how to solve problems and to enable them to acquire purposeful knowledge, she says, noting that the new curricula, which will implemented as of the start of this new school year, are replacing 25-year-old curricula which had been the result of adjustment to the new system at the time.

New curricula are being implemented in first and fifth grade of primary schools, in seventh grade for subjects Biology, Chemistry and Physics and in first grade in upper secondary schools as well as in four-year vocational schools in general education subjects. Thus, as many as 150,000 pupils in are covered by the new curricula.

Primary and secondary schools throughout Croatia will open their doors for slightly over 464,000 students on Monday, the first day of the new school year, according to statistics provided by the education ministry.

Of them, 318,000 are elementary school students, including 38,000 first graders, and 146,000 are attending secondary education.

In this school year, the number of primary school first graders was lower by 500 compared to the previous school year.

The highest number of first graders, 8,000, is in the City of Zagreb, and in Split-Dalmatia County, 4,400. On the other hand, only 363 first graders enrol in primary schools in Lika-Senj County.

When it comes to secondary education, there are about 40,000 freshmen this year, and 11,000 of them are in general education schools called "gimnazije". As many as 26,500 enrol in vocational schools, 1,200 more students than last year's stats on freshmen in vocational programmes, whereas there are about 2,500 pupils in programmes at music or art schools.

Considering three-year vocational education, training programmes for cooks and hairdressing career are still most sought-after, according to data provided by the ministry.

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

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.

Page 3 of 11