Early Childhood Education and Care
The ECEC system is completely decentralised, and since 1993 the founding rights have been transferred to the institutions of local and regional self-government units (LGUs). The state provides for the ECEC system in such a way that each year funds are provided from the state budget for children in the public needs programme (children with disabilities, gifted children, children belonging to national minorities and the preschool programme).
The state budget provides funds for the fiscal sustainability of kindergartens founded by LGUs based on the criteria prescribed by the Government and the funds necessary for the completion of investments financed from EU projects for the construction of kindergartens if units are located in the areas where development index are ranked below national average.
The Preschool Education Act stipulates that LGUs have the right and obligation to decide on the needs and interests of citizens in their area concerning organisation and realisation of preschool education programmes, and in order to meet these needs, establish kindergartens.
LGUs adopt public needs programmes in the activities of preschool education for their area, and establish criteria for the 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 founders must provide adequate space, equipment, employees, funds for employees' salaries, material costs, funds for children's meals, ongoing maintenance of the facility and equipment, transportation of children for the preschool programme, furniture and equipment (didactics, toys) and small/consumable materials. The costs of placing children in kindergartens are borne by the founders of the institution and the parents of children who attend kindergarten in accordance with the law.
Apart from the institutions at the central level, the monitoring of the work of the headmaster, educational staff and other staff in the kindergarten is also carried out by LGUs in their territory, which is regulated by their acts.
The Preschool Education Act stipulates that the regulations governing the salaries, benefits and other income of public servants and staff employed in primary education shall be applied when determining and calculating salaries, benefits and other income of employees in kindergartens, which are owned by LGUs or the Republic of Croatia, if these regulations are more favourable for the staff. Therefore, the amounts of salaries of ECEC staff are determined by the founders, by collective agreements in the case of kindergartens founded by municipalities and cities. Salaries in the ECEC system are determined by the level of education and service length of the employee.
To improve educational outcomes and ensure prerequisites for inclusion into the ECEC as part of compulsory education, through EU funding (Programme Efficient Human Resources 2021-2027), participation in ECEC will be funded - especially for vulnerable groups - by securing additional educational experts, development of programmes as well as investment to material and technical conditions required for programme implementation. One of the envisaged measures is a scheme of subsidies for parents belonging to socio-economically disadvantaged families.
Considering the problem of less developed LGUs in co-financing construction/upgrading building with their own resources as well as financing the regular activity of kindergarten once they are built, the Government has envisaged two measures within Amendment to the Preschool Education Act.
Important novelties in the distribution of competences, organisation and funding of ECEC system have been introduced by the 2022 amendments to the Preschool Education Act.
The basic goals of amendments to the Preschool Education Act are increasing the scope, access and quality of early childhood education and care.
Legislative amendments stipulate the adoption of a network of kindergartens at the national level by the minister of education, which should 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.
As regards the provision of increased staffing needs, the amendments introduce the possibility of employing primary school teachers to work as preschool teachers with the obligation to obtain an adequate qualification.
To secure the need for additional staff in ECEC, an intervention aimed at increasing the capacity of university programmes is planned as well as designing and implementing a strategy to attract educational professionals to work in less developed areas and areas of special state concern. — Incentives in the form of accommodation subsidies and scholarships will be introduced.
In terms of ECEC infrastructure, the largest cycle of the state-funded kindergarten infrastructural building in the last few decades is ongoing.
In 2016, the Government of the Republic of Croatia started investments for the construction and upgrading of ECEC institutions, mainly through EU funding. 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 %.
School education is jointly financed by state, counties, cities and municipalities. Financial decentralisation of budgetary sources for primary education are in the state and all local budgets (counties, cities/municipalities), while the sources of funding for secondary education are the state budget and the budgets of counties and the City of Zagreb.
Responsibilities under the jurisdiction of cities and municipalities in the area of primary education are opening or closing schools and maintenance of schools in their territory.
State is providing financial resources for: salaries; transport and benefits of employees; professional training of teachers; education in the languages of national minorities; settlement of expenses for children with difficulties in development; financing the programme for work with gifted students; and covering the costs of digitalisation and equipping libraries. The state partially takes part in co-financing of private education programmes, and capital construction up to the minimum financial amount.
Counties are responsible for establishing schools and determining the school network in their area, providing financial resources for material costs, investment maintenance, procurement of school equipment, teaching funds and aids, transportation of students, and capital construction of school space and equipment, co-financing of extended and full-day stays of students, food for students and the like.
In accordance with the Financing of Local and Regional Self-Government Units Act (OG 151/22), the representative body of an LGU monitors the execution of the budget, financial transactions and the use of funds in accordance with their designated purpose.
In accordance with the statute the municipal mayor, the town mayor or the county prefect monitors the financial, material and accounting affairs of the budgetary and non-budgetary beneficiaries of LGUs with respect to the purpose, amount and the frequency of use of budget funds.
The Ministry of Finance oversees the compliance with the law in the use of budget funds by LGUs and their budgetary and non-budgetary beneficiaries. With respect to the funds allocated from the state budget, the Ministry of Finance monitors the compliance with the law and designated purpose in the use of budget funds by local and regional self-government units and their budgetary and non-budgetary beneficiaries.
The supervision and control of the dedicated spending of funds provided to school institutions from the budget of LGUs and other sources is performed by the founder of the school institution (the county or the municipality/town).
Higher education system
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.
Ministry of Science and Education (MSE) performs tasks related to the development of higher education, implementation of national strategies and programs, 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 programs, student standard, monitoring the education process and success of studies, managing the implementation of the Croatian Qualification Framework, managing the registers of HEIs and study programs, managing the databases on higher education and administrative supervision of HEIs.
Higher education is regulated by the Act on Higher Education and Scientific Activity (OG 119/22). Pursuant to this Act academic self-governance includes the management of financial and other resources, according to the principle of public responsibility, the Act on Higher Education and Scientific Activity and other regulations. The Act also stipulates the financial autonomy of universities within the framework of funding agreements.
Agency for Science and Higher Education (ASHE) conducts procedure of initial accreditation of a higher education institution in accordance with the Law on quality assurance and the Ministry of Science and Education. Each HEI, in line with the autonomy given by Law, organises its own structure and defines it within its Statute.
According to the Act on Quality Assurance and Scientific Activity, the Agency for Science and Higher Education (ASHE) conducts various external evaluations of quality assurance procedures, while internal quality assurance is the responsibility of HEIs.
In accordance with the Act on Higher Education and Scientific Activity, a higher education institution is a legal entity that can be a university, faculty, art academy or polytechnic.
A university can have constituents with or without legal personality. Unlike the university constituents without legal personality, the faculty/academy constituents with legal personality has its own bank account, its own administration and internal quality assurance system and is registered as a higher education institution in the official Register of Higher Education Institutions. It also has partial decision-making autonomy, and teaching staff are employees of the constituent unit (faculty/academy), not the university. University or its constituents can conduct university and professional study programmes while polytechnics can only conduct professional study programmes.
Adult education and training
Education programmes in adult education are brought by the minister and the adult education institutions. Primary school education programme for adults is brought by the minister, as well as education programmes for secondary education. These programmes are identical to programmes in regular education, with the adaptation of teaching hours. Formal programmes which are brought by the adult education institutions have to be verified by the Agency’s for Vocational Education and Training and Adult Education (AVETAE) and the Ministry of Science and Education.
With the entry into force of the Adult Education Act in December 2021, the system of adult education is fully harmonised with the Act on the Croatian Qualifications Framework and the methodology of creating the adult education programmes is based on the regulations governing the Croatian qualification framework.
New legislative framework of adult education has introduced novelties that have not been implemented in the Croatian education system so far: formal programmes for acquiring above mentioned micro-credentials (micro-qualifications in Croatia) and recognition of prior non-formal and informal learning.
The Act regulates the formal education of adults, which is carried out in institutions that have a registered activity of adult education in accordance with the provisions of the law regulating the establishment and organisation of institutions (Act on Institutions, OG, 151/22).
Adult education can be performed by an institution established exclusively for the purpose of providing adult education, a school institution, a university, as well as an institution that performs other activities in addition to adult education.
Adult education institution has a principal, andragogical manager, an administrative council, and the composition, method of appointing members, the duration of the mandate of the members of the administrative council, as well as the method of decision-making, are determined by the founding act and the institution's statute.
The institution can start the implementation of the education programme after the execution of the decision approving the start of work or the implementation of the programme by the Ministry.
Adult education institution carries out the activity of adult education on the basis of the framework annual plan and programme of the institution's work, which is adopted by the body determined by the institution's statute on the proposal of the principal. Adult education institutions are financed by their own budgets or local governments, and only certain programmes (programmes for acquiring micro-credentials for digital and green skills) are financed from the state budget.
Financing of adult education institutions is generally monitored by founders (LGUs) or, in case of founders who are legal or natural persons financing is monitored by the founders as prescribed by memorandum and articles of institutions.