The Croatian education system is mainly a centralised system governed at all levels of education by the Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia and national agencies. However, there are many decentralised functions performed by the founders of ECEC institutions, primary and secondary schools.
Sectoral agencies are responsible for different areas of education.
- Education and Teacher Training Agency (ETTA) performs professional and advisory work in education, it participates in the monitoring, improvement and development of the fields of early childhood education and care, primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education and adult education among other tasks.
- Agency for Vocational Education and Training and Adult Education (AVETAE) is responsible for the planning, development, organisation, implementation, monitoring and improvement of the VET and adult education system. The main goals of the Agency are developing qualifications based on competences and learning outcomes, aligning education with the labour market needs, building a VET system which includes lifelong learning and mobility, participating in determining the roles of teachers and establishing a quality assurance system.
- Agency for Science and Higher Education (ASHE) is an agency responsible for quality assurance in higher education and science. It conducts a part of the procedures regarding HEIs initial accreditation, re-accreditation, thematic assessment and external independent periodic assessment of internal quality assurance and improvement of the systems, among other activities related to the development of science and higher education.
- Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes (AMEUP) performs professional and advisory tasks in the field of education and youth, the Agency implements EU programmes and other international programmes, networks and initiatives and it conducts tasks related to the national support structure in the field of education and training.
- National Centre for External Evaluation of Education (NCEEE) conducts external evaluation of the education system and conducts standardised exams. The external evaluation activities are conducted regarding student achievement and educational institutions. Other activities refer to research work regarding main activities of the Centre, cooperating with various stakeholders and organisations in the education system and conducting training in the field of external evaluation.
- Croatian Academic and Research Network (CARNET) was established to innovate the education system and foster the progress through ICT. Its main activities are the development, construction and maintenance of the ICT infrastructure, connecting the network with international networks and construction of information hubs and networks.
The Republic of Croatia is administratively divided into 21 counties, ie. 20 counties and the City of Zagreb having the status of a county. The counties are divided into cities and municipalities, as smaller administrative units. They are further referred to as local government units (LGUs). LGUs have specific competences in the field of ECEC and school education, as elaborated in the following paragraphs.
The Ministry of Education and Science’s (MSE) competences
According to the Act on Organisation and Scope of Ministries and other Central Authorities of State Administration, (OG 21/23), the Ministry of Science and Education performs administrative and other tasks related to preschool education, elementary and secondary education in the country and abroad; develops the National Curriculum; approves textbooks and introduces regulations and standards as well as other requirements regarding educational work; fosters the development of the school system; works on improving the student standard; conducts inspections; establishes educational institutions and supervises the legal aspects of their activities; provides funding and facilities for educational work; enables children, young adults and adults to acquire technical skills and competences; supports organisations active in the field of education. The Ministry also performs administrative and other tasks related to: development of higher education; implementation of national strategies and provision of funding and facilities for higher education institutions and monitoring their activities; the preparation of reports on the activities and evaluation of higher education institutions and study programmes, and their recommendation for approval; the subsidisation of study costs; the improvement of the student standard; monitoring success rates of study programmes and other higher education processes; administering the implementation of the Croatian Qualifications Framework; administering the Registry of Higher Education Institutions and the Registry of Study Programmes; managing databases on higher education; fostering lifelong learning and higher education for adults; the administrative supervision of higher education institutions. The Ministry coordinates development of programmes and projects of national relevance in all education fields, implements national and EU-funded projects as well as projects funded from other international sources.
Management of Education System in Croatia
The Ministry of Science and Education (MSE) is the competent ministry for the field of education and it performs administrative and other tasks related to the education system in Croatia.
In the area of early childhood education and care, primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education it performs tasks related to the development of the system, national curriculum, norms and standards, student standard, inspection control, establishing and supervising the work of institutions and ensuring financial and material conditions for work and training of students to acquire technical knowledge and skills.
In the area of higher education, it performs tasks related to the development of higher education, implementation of national strategies and programmes, while ensuring and monitoring financial and material conditions for the work of HEIs, preparing and proposing reports on the work and evaluation of HEIs and study programmes, student standard, monitoring the education process and success of studies, managing the implementation of the Croatian Qualifications Framework, managing the registers of HEIs and study programmes, managing the databases on higher education and administrative supervision of HEIs. Some of the tasks the Ministry is performing are delegated to other national authorities.
There are differences in some areas of decision making related to different levels of education. Early childhood education and care (ISCED 0) is financed and managed by local authorities. However, the Ministry of Science and Education is competent for the education programmes and accreditation of ECEC institutions.
Primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education (ISCED 1-3) is managed centrally. However, local and regional authorities are responsible for (co-) financing and they have the authority of establishing a school.
Higher education (ISCED 6-8) is mostly provided by public HEIs which are state financed. The organisational autonomy and academic freedom are guaranteed by the Constitution.
Early Childhood Education and Care
Since 1993 the ECEC system is completely decentralised. In 1993 the founding rights have been transferred to the bodies of local and regional self-government units (LGUs).
The Ministry of Education and Science develops sectoral strategies and policies in the field of ECEC, proposes laws and by-laws and regulates standards and requirements for establishment and of work of ECEC institutions and programmes. The MSE also establishes qualification requirements for its staff, stipulates requirements for professional advancement and funds continuous professional development of ECEC staff.
The financing of ECEC system is decentralised by law. In accordance with Article 42 of the National Pedagogical Standards for Preschool Education and Care it is almost exclusively within the competence of local and/or regional self-government units (LGUs) – from capital investments in infrastructure to financing of running costs. However, there are national projects that supplement LGU’s financing, for instance comprehensive state funded projects of infrastructure building for ECEC institutions, funded by MSE in order to provide access to ECEC.
The pre-primary education institution that was founded by an LGU charges its services from the parents, in accordance with the criteria stipulated by the representative body of the government unit, with the exception of the one-year school preparation programme, which is free of charge for the parents.
In accordance with the Preschool Education Act, the founder of the kindergarten is obliged to provide funds for the establishment and work of the kindergarten. The kindergarten can be founded by the Republic of Croatia, LGUs, religious communities, other legal and natural persons. The Ministry of Science and Education prescribes criteria for co-financing certain programmes from the state budget, such as programmes for children with developmental disabilities and gifted children, preschool programmes, programmes for children belonging to national minorities and programmes for children of Croatian citizens abroad (Ordinance on the Manner of the State Budget Funds Disposal and the Criteria for Co-financing the Preschool Education Programme).
LGUs adopt public needs programmes in the activities of preschool education for their area, and establish criteria for financing of programmes from their budget and criteria for the participation of parents of children in the price of programmes.
The kindergarten established by the LGUs charges its services from the parent-beneficiary of the services, in accordance with the criteria established by the representative body of that unit, except for the preschool programme which is free for parents. The full price of kindergarten is usually co-financed by LGUs, the amount of co-financing varying depending on financial capacities of LGUs.
LGUs adopt public needs programmes for the activities of preschool education for their area. They establish criteria for the financing of programmes from their budget and criteria for the participation of parents in its price. Decentralised financing is one of the reasons for regional differences in public expenditure for preschool programmes.
As regards monitoring in ECEC system there are several mechanisms in place. In accordance with Article 44 of the Preschool Education Act, the Education Inspectorate of the Ministry of Science and Education monitors the implementation of this Act and the regulations adopted on its basis.
Professional-pedagogical monitoring in kindergartens and professional-pedagogical monitoring of the implementation of preschool education programmes in other legal and natural persons implementing preschool education programmes is carried out by the Education and Teacher Training Agency (ETTA).
Monitoring the implementation of the health care and health improvement programme in kindergartens and schools where ECEC is implemented, especially in the part relating to hygiene, proper nutrition and vaccination, is carried out by the ministry responsible for health – the health inspectorate.
Sanitary inspection supervision of the implementation and enforcement of the Act is performed by the state administration body competent for sanitary inspection.
Monitoring professional work in the application of the Act, in the part relating to child welfare, is organised and implemented by the ministry competent for social welfare.
In 2022 major amendments to the Preschool Education Act entered into force.
The basic goals of those amendments to the Preschool Education Act are increasing the scope, access and quality of early childhood education and care. This legislative effort has been complemented by the cycle of biggest kindergarten infrastructural building in the last few decades. In 2016, the Government of the Republic of Croatia started investments for the construction and upgrading of institutions of early childhood education and care at the national level as well as using EU funds. Since then, more than 265 million euros have been invested in the early childhood education and care system for 500 kindergartens. In 2022, the National Recovery and Resilience Plan earmarked over 161 million euros for investments in preschool institutions, which will ensure an additional 22,500 places in preschool institutions and raise the coverage of children in early childhood education and care to 90 %
Legislative amendments stipulate the creation of a network of kindergartens at the national level which will enable better planning of the development of the network of kindergartens and improve the spatial availability of kindergartens in rural areas and in smaller and less developed areas. The prerequisite for improving the quality of ECEC and ensuring its access isthe provision of personnel prerequisites, especially considering the estimations that in order to include children from the age of 3 until the age of starting school in the ECEC system by 2030. The key novelty of the Act regarding personnel is the possibility of hiring class teachers in kindergartens with new competences and additional training.
The Croatian education system is centrally managed by the Ministry of Science and Education. Besides the Ministry, other national public institutions involved in the regulation, development and quality control of the educational sector in Croatia are Education and Teacher Training Agency (ETTA), Agency for Vocational Education and Training and Adult Education (AVETAE), Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes (AMPEU),National Centre for External Evaluation of Education (NCEEE) and Croatian academic and research network (CARNET).
Education in schools is carried out based on the national curricula, subject curricula and school curriculum.
National curricula are adopted in accordance with the National Curriculum Framework for Preschool Education and General Compulsory and Secondary Education – a document that determines the elements of the curriculum system at a general level.
National curriculum determines elements for all levels and kinds of primary and secondary education; its goals, values and principles, as well as guidelines for encouraging and adapting learning experiences and evaluating achievements.
The curriculum of the teaching subject determines the learning objectives, structure of the subject, learning outcomes and/or contents, associated elaboration and descriptions of the level of learning adoption, and, in some cases, a list of needed teacher qualifications.
National curricula, subject curricula and education programmes are adopted by decision of the education minister.
The school carries out its programmes and activities based onof the school curriculum and the annual plan and programme. The school curriculum determines the plan of extracurricular and optional subjects and activities if they are not determined by the national curriculum.
The school curriculum is adopted by the School Board at the proposal of the Teachers' Council.
The annual plan and programme of the school institution determines the annual organisation of work .
School education is jointly financed by the state and LGUs (counties, cities and municipalities). Budgetary sources of financing primary education are the state and local budgets (counties, cities/municipalities), while the sources of funding for secondary education are the state budget and the budgets of counties.
According to the Primary and Secondary School Education Act, the funds for public needs in the area of primary and secondary education are provided from:
- state budget
- local and regional government unit budget
- founder’s sources if the founder is any other natural or legal person
- income from the commercial activity and other designated income
- fees paid for special services and activities provided by the institution
- donations and other sources in accordance with the Act.
According to the Act, the supervision and control of the spending of funds provided to education institutions from the state budget is performed by the Ministry of Science and Education, while the supervision and control of the spending of funds provided to education institutions from the budget of LGUs is performed by the founder.
If the founder of the school is another legal or natural person, the founder is responsible for securing necessary funding for salaries and allowances with contributions; other expenditures for the staff; material and financial expenditures of the school; and other necessary funds for the operation of the school. The school is obliged to use the income from its own activity, the fees collected from the parents, as well as any donations and other funds for their designated purpose.
According to the Act on organisation and scope of ministries and other government authorities, in the area of higher education the Ministry of Science and Education is responsible for development of higher education, implementation of the national strategic documents and programmes in higher education, securing and monitoring financial conditions for operation of higher education institutions, subsidising tuition fees, student standard, coordination of the Croatian Qualifications Framework, managing the Register of HEIs and accredited study programmes, and encouraging lifelong learning programmes at HEIs.
According to the Act on Quality Assurance and Scientific Activity (OG, 151/2022), the Agency for Science and Higher Education (ASHE) conducts various external evaluations of QA procedures, while internal QA is the responsibility of HEIs. ASHE is a public, independent, internationally recognised agency. Quality assurance of higher education in Croatia is conducted in line with the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG).
ASHE is a full member of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and is listed in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR), the European Higher Education Area's official register of quality assurance agencies that substantially comply with the ESG.
Adult education and training
Adult education is focused on the acquisition and development of key competences as part of lifelong learning and on the acquisition of knowledge and skills necessary for the acquisition of sets of learning outcomes or qualifications. According to the Adult Education Act (OG, 144/2021), adult education is part of the education system of the Republic of Croatia.
Adult education is based on the principles of:
- lifelong learning
- the right to education
- free choice of type and method of education
- inclusiveness and accessibility.
The legislative-normative framework governing formal adult education in the Republic of Croatia includes:
Adult Education Act (OG, 144/2021)
Ordinance on standards and norms and the method and procedure for determining the fulfillment of conditions in institutions for adult education (OG 52/2010)
Ordinance on public documents in adult education (OG 61/2014)
Ordinance on the content, form and method of keeping and keeping andragogic documentation (OG 129/2008)
Ordinance on records in adult education (OG 129/2008).
Financing of adult education programmes funded by the state is under the supervision of the Ministry of Science and Education.
According to Article 2, Section 11 of the Adult Education Act, the National Information System of Adult Education (Nacionalni informacijski sustav obrazovanja odraslih) is
an information system that consolidates records on institutions, education programmes and
evaluation programmes, participants, applicants, andragogic leaders and teachers in adult education as well as records of other data important for monitoring adult education system.
Establishment of an institution for adult education
An institution for adult education is established by an Institutions Act. The founders can be natural or legal persons. The founder of an institution for adult education submits a request for an assessment of the conformity of the founding act with the law to the Ministry of Science and Education.
After the Ministry passes a decision on the assessment of the conformity of the founding act with the law, the founder submits an application for registration of the institution for adult education in the court register to the competent commercial court. An institution registered in the court register becomes an authorised legal entity and can start operating.
The decision on meeting the minimum technical, health and environmental spatial conditions is made by the administrative body of the competent county whose scope includes education, and the conditions to be met are prescribed in the Ordinance on standards and norms for the implementation of adult education programmes.
Before submitting an application for approval to run an adult education programme, the institution is obliged to obtain the Agency’s for Vocational Education and Training and Adult Education (AVETAE) expert opinion on the compliance of the education programme with the appropriate qualification standard or set of learning outcomes from the CROQF Register.
The institution submits a request to the Ministry of Science and Education for approval of the implementation of the adult education programme. When submitting the request, the institution is obliged to prove that it has the personnel and material conditions prescribed by the programme. In accordance with the above, it is necessary to submit copies of teachers' diplomas and signed declarations that they will participate in the implementation of the programme, information about the space and equipment, a decision on the fulfilment of the minimum technical, health and environmental conditions, and concluded contracts on business cooperation with the appropriate legal entities as proof of assured implementation practical part of the lesson.
 Central State Office for Demography and Youth (Središnji državni ured za demografiju i mlade) (last accessed 30/03/2023)