Saturday, 10 August 2019

Minister Welcomes Possibility of Teachers Being Granted Status of Officials

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Union Wants to Postpone Education Reform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 21 July 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

School Union Calls for Postponement of School for Life Programme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 10 June 2019

Curricular Reform Continuing, Minister Claims

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Bandić Calls for Dismissal of Education Minister Divjak

ZAGREB, June 4, 2019 - Labour and Solidarity Party leader and Zagreb mayor, Milan Bandić, on Tuesday called on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to replace Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak, and to "make a statesmanlike move" due to her unlawful conduct" noting just one example of 7.5 million kuna of taxpayers' money thrown down the drain for methodical handbooks.

Addressing a press conference, Bandić said that Divjak "has to bear the consequences of conscious breach of the law."

He called on the relevant state institutions to inspect the details of the minister's actions regarding methodical handbooks which cost more than 7.3 million kuna last year. Despite the money spent, those handbooks will only be used this school year and will not apply to the "School for life" due to numerous objections presented during public debates.

Can someone who makes such irresponsible and damaging decisions be a minister in government, Bandić questioned. He added that the "School for Life" programme supplied 8,000 tablets in the 208/2019 school year at price of 1,000 kuna each yet parents can buy new tablets for 500 kuna.

Bandić added that he isn't interested in "feathering his own nest," and that his party would continue to support the government in those decisions that are beneficial for the citizens of Zagreb and Croatia.

Bandić's party colleague, MP Kažimir Varda addressed reporters ahead of a meeting of the ruling coalition partners and said that if Plenković did not replace Minister Divjak, he would table the impeachment motion in parliament on Wednesday. "If Plenković doesn't agree, we will launch proceedings according to the law," Varda said.

He added that the minister had breached the law with regard to school textbooks. Textbooks are free in elementary school except for specialised subjects which the government can finance if it has the necessary funds for that purpose.

Minister Divjak on Saturday said that she had been given a guarantee by Prime Minister Plenković that elementary school students would next year be given free textbooks for all compulsory and elective subjects, including Religious Education, a second foreign language and IT studies.

The government has said that it will "ensure that all elementary school students throughout Croatia are given free textbooks," recalling that the law specifies that the education standard comprises compulsory and elective subjects, which then means that compulsory and elective subjects are a constitutive part of the national standard for students, which is something the state supports and guarantees.

Education and Science Minister Blazenka Divjak's special advisor Maro Alavanja said on Tuesday that he was sorry that Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić's focus on education "is not manifested in equipment or maintenance of schools in the city".

"We are glad to see that Mayor Bandić is focused on education, however, we are sorry that this is not at all reflected in equipment or maintenance of the schools founded by the city," said Alavanja.

Alavanja went on to say that the mayor should be more concerned about his court proceedings "while we are continuing to bring about results and concrete changes in education such as the introduction of IT studies as a compulsory subject and implementation of the curriculum reform".

Alavanja called on Mayor Bandić to invest the city's money in the renovation of sanitation in schools and removal of asbestos roofs.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 24 May 2019

University Professors Should Be Initiators of Social, Economic Development

ZAGREB, May 24, 2019 - Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak on Thursday spoke about strategic planning in higher education at the MIPRO international conference in Opatija, noting that the time was coming when university professors would be counted on as initiators of social and economic development.

Now is the crucial period for the system of higher education because talks are underway on programmes of institutions of higher education to define how the system would develop in the period to come, said the minister.

"... focus is being shifted from data such as the number of students or professors to the outcome - the percentage of students who complete their studies and the response to demand for professions that are in short supply," she said.

The minister said that there were 127,000 full-time and 46,500 part-time students in the system of higher education, and that most of them, or 140,000, attended universities.

Divjak noted that the system of higher education was too fragmented, with too many individual institutions.

The way university programmes are defined to meet the needs of the labour market is not satisfactory either, she said, noting that as many as 44% of students attend programmes in the humanities and social sciences while the number of students studying STEM subjects is insufficient compared to the demand. The minister added that also problematic was a high rate of university dropouts.

"To improve the situation, we should learn from countries that have made positive changes. What is encouraging is last year's European Commission monitoring report on the Croatian education system, which was positive for the first time."

Higher education institutions in Croatia are universities (and their constituents - faculties and academies of arts), polytechnics and colleges, according to the information provided by the Croatian Agency for Science and Higher Education.

"A university is an institution organizing and delivering university study programmes, and, exceptionally, professional study programmes. Polytechnics and colleges organize and deliver professional study programmes.

"Currently there are 119 higher education institutions in Croatia, namely: 8 public universities, 2 private universities, 68 faculties and art academies and 1 university centre at public universities, 4 private polytechnics, 11 public polytechnics, 22 private colleges, and 3 public colleges," the agency says on its website.

Asked to comment on the shouts "For the homeland ready" at a high school leaving party in Rijeka on Wednesday, Divjak said that it was "entirely inappropriate, regardless of the occasion and the students' young age."

Such incidents should be condemned and both schools and parents should work so they do not happen, she said.

The new history curriculum, to be launched in the autumn, truly condemns the Ustasha regime, notably the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), as well as other totalitarian regimes, she said.

More education 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.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Around 2 Billion Kuna Invested in Curricular Reform

ZAGREB, April 25, 2019 - Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said on Wednesday that around two billion kuna had been invested in the curricular reform over the last three years or an average 1.5 million kuna per school for education, textbooks and equipment.

Divjak said this at a national conference on the School for Life experimental programme, which was organised by her ministry and which drew principals, teachers and assistants from 74 schools participating in the School for Life programme.

"We have invested more than 1.5 million kuna per school in the last three years. Schools covered by this experimental programme have also received advance payments and there will be more investments in equipment, education and textbooks," the minister said, adding that it needs to be known that the primary and secondary school systems had been neglected and had not been invested in for a long time.

Asked if schools had been provided with the necessary equipment for the curricular reform, Divjak said that computer equipment had arrived in schools, and that tablets and other equipment bought through public procurement would arrive in two weeks' time.

Speaking of the reform of the system of higher education, the minister said that that reform was slightly different due to university autonomy.

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

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Improved Rights of Gifted Students

ZAGREB, March 21, 2019 - European Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Commissioner Tibor Navracsics and Croatian Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said on Thursday that gifted students should have equal rights and an individualised approach during school.

They were speaking at an international conference held on the occasion of Gifted Students Days in Croatia, organised by Dar, an association caring for gifted children and students in Croatia. The second such conference focused on the best world, European and Croatian practices in working with gifted children and young people.

Asked about the most important kind of help to gifted students, Navracsics highlighted motivated teachers.

Divjak said gifted students should be provided with equal rights and an individualised approach during school, underlining the need to educate teachers to work with gifted children.

The conference was being held under the auspices of Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who was scheduled to receive the organisers later today.

The parliament speaker's envoy, Sanja Putica, said gifted children were ignored and the law should ensure better working conditions for teachers because of the complexity of their job.

Hungarian Ambassador Jozsef Zoltan Magyar said his country had launched a programme of support for gifted children and students in 2008 when the tax system enabled citizens to set aside 1% of their incomes for what they thought they should support.

Most have donated their money to a gifted children fund, which amounted to 1.5 million kuna in 2009 and is four times higher today. In a country with about ten million people and nearly five million employed, "one in ten Hungarians is the 'father' or 'mother' of a gifted child."

Navracsics said the most important thing was for every child to be included in classes, for education be inclusive, as education and talent were two sides of the same coin.

He said education was the cornerstone of the society of the future and that it must be run in such a way that it took into account that a gifted child could, paradoxically, have more difficulties than other children.

That's why the European Commission's message is that gifted children should be supported and their work and progress monitored, he added.

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

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