Current adult education policy priorities
Today's adult education system is based on the 2014 Strategy for the Development of Education, Science and Technology. In the strategy, the whole education system is based on the concept of lifelong learning, in which adult education has an important place. The Strategy clearly defines instruments aimed at improving adult education, increasing citizens' participation and ensuring quality implementation of education. Therefore, it envisages measures for the development of a system of lifelong professional development and licensing of andragogical staff. This includes the development of qualifications standards for andragogical staff. The implementation of the programme for andragogical and professional lifelong learning and training of adult education providers is planned.
The entire strategy is firmly linked to the implementation of the Croatian Qualifications Framework, which affects its understanding. It is crucial that learning outcomes meet the needs of the labour market, and this will be decided by experts in councils formed according to business sectors. The social dimension and inclusiveness of education are an addition to this basic task.
The education system faces low participation of adults in education. Despite all efforts, around 3% of adults participate in adult education (according to Eurostat). In order to increase the participation of adults, a Strategic Framework for the Promotion of Lifelong Learning in the Republic of Croatia 2017–2021 was prepared. The European Social Fund calls for the education of unemployed or marginalised persons and Youth Guarantee programmes are also used with the same aim.
There is also the problem of strengthening the basic skills of adults. Until 2021, Croatia did not participate in the PIAAC survey and does not have accurate data on adult competencies. Within the European Agenda for Adult Education, the Ministry of Science and Education created in 2019 a Curriculum for the Development of Basic Digital, Mathematical and Reading Skills of Adults. It has not yet been systematically implemented.
After 2020, the priorities are strengthening the professionalisation process in adult education and developing a quality system in adult education. Croatia is preparing to participate in PIAAC. This would be the basis for evidence-based policies. Adult education is largely perceived as extended vocational education. According to the Government Programme for the Mandate 2020–2024 it is important to encourage vocational education and adult education. The reform of vocational education and adult education will continue, the development of curricula for the acquisition of qualifications required by the labour market will be accelerated and improved.
In the Strategic Plan of the Ministry of Science and Education 2020–2022, adult education is also firmly linked to vocational education. The Implementation Programme of the Ministry of Science and Education 2021–2024 identifies the common main challenges for vocational education and training and adult education. The main challenge is the harmonisation of the programme with the needs of the labour market. Continuous professional training of teachers and occupational teachers is important. This is also considered an important part of the professionalisation in adult education. A special objective is to increase the participation of adults in different forms of education. Finally, it is necessary to improve the quality assurance system in educational institutions.
The emancipatory goals and programmes of adult education that have been present since the very beginning are not completely lost. They are maintained in non-formal programmes, the work of associations and some public institutions. However, the dominant trends are focused on employability, and in addition to the Ministry of Education and Science, the main actor has become the ministry in charge of work and employment.
Today's approach and system of adult education were preceded by a rich activity over the past one hundred years.
The beginnings and development of adult education in Croatia
The beginnings of systematic work in adult education date back to 1907. That year, Albert Bazala founded public university lectures at the University of Zagreb. The goal was to increase general adult education and transfer knowledge from the university to adults who were not students. The ultimate goal was personal development, better functioning in the community, social and political development. Another important initiative was health education initiated by Andrija Štampar, the founder of the School of Public Health in 1926 and one of the founders of the World Health Organisation. Teaching about hygiene, nutrition and illness prevention was prepared in a popular way and was aimed at improving the health of the population.
Both initiatives are deeply rooted in today's activities of adult education institutions and other educational institutions in Croatia. The National Libraries and the association “Seljačka sloga” had an important role in this as well. Theoretical foundations of adult education have been developed by the founders of the idea of adult education.
After the end of World War II, a socialist ideological basis was embedded in adult education. This was related to education in the spirit of socialism and the training of citizens to participate in self-governance (a form of socialist order characteristic of Yugoslavia). The institutions were state-owned with strong political influences from trade unions and the ruling party. However, the key tasks of adult education were to provide an educated and trained workforce. Postwar modernisation and industrialisation could not have been carried out without a literate and qualified workforce. Therefore, the focus has been transferred from basic to vocational education for the needs of the workplace.
At the end of the 1950s and in the 1960s, numerous people’s universities were established as key institutions for adult education. They were founded by municipalities and cities, and they were the most suited to the needs of industrial enterprises. In addition to education, they often included cultural activities. Andragogical theory thrived during this period in Croatia. The departments for adult education in labour universities (for example, the Moša Pijade Labour University) were established, and andragogy was taught in Zagreb and Rijeka. Renowned international conferences have been organised in Poreč since the 1960s.
During this period, funding from local and state budgets was rapidly decreasing. Adult education institutions increasingly depended on their own income, course fees paid by learners.
After the education reform in 1974, adult education was transferred from adult education institutions to regular high schools as their additional activity. The formal education of adults was decreasing, vocational education almost disappeared, and the total offer of adult education institutions was stagnating.
Transition changes in adult education
Transition changes after 1990 included the establishment of an independent state of Croatia (leaving Yugoslavia), the introduction of multipartyism and a market economy with the strengthening of private initiatives. All this happened during the war in Croatia (1990–1995). During that period, some institutions ceased to operate or have had major difficulties. The basic ideas that determine activities in the 1990s were the return to national roots and the original idea of public university lectures. In the 1990s, there was a tendency to distance oneself from everything that resembled the socialist era in adult education. Institutions' names, programmes (e.g. leaving self-government departments or national defence) were changed, publications with prominent national characteristics were printed. National and labour universities were renamed into open or public universities.
The Open Universities Act was adopted in 1997. This act covers all those activities the people’s universities had until 1990. These are: “Activities of primary and secondary adult education, activities of music and related schools outside the regular school system, activities of public film screening, journalistic and publishing activities, radio and television activities and activities related to training, professional development and retraining of youth and adults outside the regular education system”. Changes in names, programmes and their contents did not lead to the abolition of the activities themselves.
Vocational education has returned to adult education institutions. Income for adult education was generated on the market. Most organisations continued to work as public institutions, and in addition to them private organisations for foreign language learning, driving schools etc. were established.
Europeanisation of the adult education system after 2000
Adult education in Croatia has been defined as part of lifelong learning since the 2000s. The key is to strengthen competencies for the labour market, increase adult involvement in education and strengthen quality in adult education.
After 2000, the process of Europeanisation of adult education began. There was a new arena for strategic changes in education and new opportunities for adult education. In these changes, Europe and the international community were used as arguments for change. In 2003, the Government of the Republic of Croatia accepted the ten-year project on adult literacy education “For a Literate Croatia – a Path to a Desirable Future”, in accordance with the UN Resolution Literacy Decade 2003–2012. It is a programme that gave a new incentive to primary adult education and made it free for the learners. Until that programme was established, the learners themselves paid for primary adult education.
The Education Sector Development Plan 2005–2010 justifies its goals by alignment with European and world trends. The implementation is based on the financing from the World Bank loan and EU Accession Funds. The Plan focuses particularly on the inclusion of adults and the unemployed in flexible educational training programmes for inclusion in the labour market.
In 2004, a separate strategy for adult education was adopted – The Strategy and Action Plan for Adult Education. This strategy places adult education in the context of lifelong learning. The lifelong learning designation is based on European documents (Memorandum on Lifelong Learning and the Delors Report Learning: The treasure within). According to this document, adult education should ensure economic competitiveness, overall competitiveness and employability. In Croatia, with this document lifelong learning is accepted as a vision of a knowledge society, and is based on the idea of human rights.
In 2007, the first Adult Education Act was adopted in the Republic of Croatia, which is also valid in 2021. It regulates the establishment of institutions, activities and ways of formalising adult education and forms of financing. Since 2016, a new legislative proposal has been drafted, the adoption of which has been announced in 2021.
- Strategy for the Development of Education, Science and Technology (2014) https://narodne-novine.nn.hr/clanci/sluzbeni/full/2014_10_124_2364.html
- Strategic Framework for the Promotion of Lifelong Learning in the Republic of Croatia 2017 –2021 (2017) https://epale.ec.europa.eu/sites/default/files/strateski_okvir_hr_priprema_za_tisak.pdf
- Ministry of Science and Education (2019) Curriculum for the Development of Basic Digital, Mathematical and Reading Skills of Adults https://mzo.gov.hr/UserDocsImages/dokumenti/Obrazovanje/ObrazovanjeOdraslih/Publikacije/kurikulum_temeljne_vjestine_funkcionalne_pismenosti.pdf
- Government of the Republic of Croatia (2020). The Republic of Croatia Government Programme for the Mandate 2020–2024 https://vlada.gov.hr/UserDocsImages/ZPPI/Dokumenti%20Vlada/Program%20Vlade%20Republike%20Hrvatske%20za%20mandat%202020.%20-%202024..pdf
- Ministry of Science and Education (2020) In the Strategic Plan of the Ministry of Science and Education for the period 2020 –2022
- Ministry of Science and Education (2020) The Implementation Programme of the Ministry of Science and Education 2021 –2024
- Open Universities Act (1997) https://www.zakon.hr/z/431/Zakon-o-pu%C4%8Dkim-otvorenim-u%C4%8Dili%C5%A1tima
- Ministry of Science, Education and Sports (2005) Education Sector Development Plan 2005–2010 https://vlada.gov.hr/UserDocsImages//2016/Sjednice/Arhiva//5%20to%C4%8Dka.pdf
- Strategy and Action Plan for Adult Education (2004).
- Adult Education Act (OG 17/07, 107/07, 24/10)