Fundamental principles and national policies
Fundamental principles of the national education system of Croatia are given by the Croatian Constitution. Article 65 of the Constitution establishes that in Croatia education is accessible to all citizens under the same conditions in accordance with their capabilities, as well as that compulsory education (encompassing 8 years of single structure primary and lower secondary education) is free for all.
Legislation in education
Pre-primary education is regulated by the Preschool Education Act (OG 57/22).
The Primary and Secondary School Education Act (OG 64/20) regulates the activity of primary and secondary education in public institutions. The act defines the goals of education in school institutions and lays out the principles of education at the level of primary and secondary education.
Primary and lower secondary education in Croatia (ISCED 1 and 2) is a single structure system of compulsory education lasting eight years. It starts at the age of 6-7 and ends at 14-15. The exception are students with developmental disabilities for whom the education may last until the age of 21.
Primary education is carried out as public and private. Programmes implemented by primary schools can be regular and special. Special programs refer to programmes for children with disabilities; alternative curricula (Waldorf pedagogy, Montessori method etc.), programmes in the language and script of national minorities, as well as art education.
Primary education in the form of basic art education is performed parallel to regular programmes, and can be musical and dance. Children who have the right to enrol in the first grade of primary art education as a rule, reached the age of 7 and 9 and met the criteria prescribed by the art education curriculum.
Additional educational work in primary schools is organised through an extended stay for first and second graders, and in some schools for third graders too.
Primary education includes general education and prepares students for the continuation of education in upper secondary schools. The conditions for enrolment in secondary schools are based on the average of the final grades. Some schools, mainly science-oriented grammar schools, have introduced additional entrance exams.
Secondary education is provided by secondary schools or other public institutions. Secondary education enables the acquisition of knowledge and skills required for work or for further education. Depending on the type of education programme secondary schools can be: grammar schools, art schools and vocational schools.
Programmes at ISCED level 2, or lower secondary education, are typically designed to build on the earning outcomes from ISCED level 1.
Upper secondary education in Croatia (ISCED 3) is not compulsory but majority of students enrol in it. Upper secondary education starts at the age of 14-15. Students can enrol in the first grade of secondary school aged up to 17 and exceptionally up to 18 or over 18.
Vocational secondary education is regulated by the Act on Vocational Education and Training (OG 69/22). The objectives of vocational education are:
- enabling trainees to acquire basic and vocational competences to obtain qualifications required by the labour market, for continuation of education and in the function of personal development and economic and general development of society
- ensuring the international comparability of the acquired professional qualifications
- ensuring the development of open curricula.
Artistic secondary education is regulated by the Act on artistic education (OG 130/11).
Higher education is regulated by the Act on Higher Education and Scientific Activity (OG 119/22).
Adult education can be performed by an institution established exclusively for the purpose of adult education, a school institution, a university, as well as an institution that performs other activities in addition to adult education.
Staff in the national education system
The Preschool Education Act stipulates that the following educational staff work in care, upbringing and education, social and health protection and child-care in kindergartens: educatorand expert associates: pedagogue, psychologist, speech and language pathologist, educational rehabilitator and social pedagogue, and a nurse as a health manager.
It is also stipulates that to meet the needs of children with developmental disabilities kindergarten may employ, additional educator, assistant for children with developmental disabilities or a professional communication mediator.
The Ordinance on the Type of Qualification for Expert Employees and Type and Level of Qualification for Other Kindergarten Employees stipulates that special programmes (so-called short programmes - early learning of a foreign language, art, music, sports and other programmes) in kindergarten can be implemented by educators with the acquired additional education prescribed by the programme and educational staff of the relevant profession who meet the conditions for work in primary school.
Furthermore, the Ordinance and the National Pedagogical Standards stipulate that in kindergartens assistants for care and support can work, helping children carry out life-practical activities. Assistant for children with developmental disabilities, professional communication mediator and assistant worker for care and support do not carry out educational activities independently.
In primary education there are teaching and non-teaching staff. Teaching staff includes school principals, professional/expert associates (pedagogues, psychologists, experts in the educational and rehabilitation profile such as educational rehabilitator, speech therapist and social pedagogue), school librarians and teachers.
Non-teaching staff includes secretaries, accounting managers, accounting or administrative clerks, nurses/health technicians in a school for children with developmental disabilities, cooks, janitors and cleaning staff.
The conditions for establishing an employment relationship in a school for persons participating in educational work with students are the appropriate level and type of education, acquired pedagogical competences and knowledge of the Croatian language and the Latin script to the extent that enables the performance of educational work. A working relationship can also be established with a person who has the appropriate level and type of education, but does not have the necessary pedagogical competence, with the condition of acquiring these competences.
Education in the language and script of national minorities constitutes an integral part of the overall education, and the core education policy documents also pertain to this aspect of the educational system. National minorities exercise their right to education in own language and script in keeping with the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia, the Constitutional Act on the Rights of National Minorities, and Primary and Secondary School Education Act. Education in the language and script of national minorities is being delivered in elementary and secondary schools delivering courses in the language and script used, under the conditions and in the manner regulated by a special programme of the competent ministry and dealing with the education in the national minorities’ language and script. The members of national minorities exercise their constitutional right to education on the basis of three basic schooling models. This includes: Model A – courses in the language and script of national minorities (all courses delivered in the language and script of a national minority); Model B – bilingual courses (natural sciences are being delivered in Croatian, and social sciences are being delivered in the language of a national minority); and Model C – nourishing the language and culture (in addition to the regular courses delivered in the Croatian language, courses in language and culture of a national minority are being delivered in the given language).
A special condition for establishing an employment relationship in a school where classes are conducted in a foreign language for persons who participate in educational work with students is knowledge of the foreign language in which the classes are conducted to the extent that enables classes to be conducted. Additional special conditions for establishing an employment relationship in a school institution where classes are conducted according to an alternative curriculum may be prescribed by the school if they are related to the alternative curriculum according to which the classes are conducted.
The work of a classroom teacher can be performed by a person who has completed a graduate university study for teachers. The work of a subject teacher in a primary education can be performed by a person who has completed relevant graduate university study. It can also be performed by a teacher who has completed an undergraduate university study or professional study with at least 180 ECTS points, and has also completed pedagogical-psychological-didactic-methodical education (60 ECTS points) if there are no candidates with graduate degree for that specific post.
The job of a subject teacher in upper secondary education can be performed by a person who has completed a graduate university study of the appropriate type and has the necessary pedagogical competences.
The job of a vocational teacher in a secondary school can be performed by a person who has completed an undergraduate university study or a professional study of the appropriate type and has pedagogical competences.
The work of a teaching assistant can be performed by a person who has an appropriate secondary vocational education and has pedagogical competences.
The job of a teacher of professional subjects in primary and secondary music and dance education, as well as the job of a vocational teacher in a high school, can be performed by a person who has a lower level of education than the prescribed level if she/he has the highest level of education of the appropriate type that can be obtained in that area and has pedagogical competences.
Other school workers are divided into those who must have a university degree (secretary, accountant and professional associates of various profiles) and those who do not need a university degree (cook, housekeeper, janitor).
The Act on Higher Education and Scientific Activity establishes the work posts of heads of higher education institutions and work posts of teachers and associates. The work posts of heads of higher education institutions are as follows:
• rector and vice-rector for a university
• dean and vice-dean for a faculty, art academy and polytechnic.
The duration of the term of office of a rector of a public university is four years, with the possibility of one re-election. The rector is assisted in their function by vice-rectors. The duration of the term of office of a dean of a public faculty, public art academy or public polytechnic is three years, with the possibility of one re-election. The dean is assisted in their function by vice-deans. The work posts of teachers and associates are as follows:
• scientific-teaching and artistic work posts: assistant professor, associate professor, full professor and tenured full professor
• teaching work posts: lecturer, senior lecturer, professor of a professional study programme and tenured professor of a professional study programme
• teaching work posts for language teaching at university study programmes: language instructor, senior language instructor and language instructor-adviser
• teaching work posts for foreign language teaching: lecturer, senior lecturer and lecturer-adviser
• associate work posts: assistant and senior assistant
• professional work posts: associate, senior associate and adviser.
The classification of non-academic staff at public higher education institutions is stipulated by theRegulation on job titles and coefficients of work complexity in public services(OG 99/22) laying down the unique job titles and coefficients of work complexity in public services. The unique job titles and coefficients of work complexity apply to all public services as laid down in theAct on Salaries in Public Services (OG 39/09). Regulations on civil servants and employees are accordingly applied in terms of conditions that must be fulfilled by non-academic staff to be appointed to work posts (Act on Civil Servants and Employees (OG, 141/22) – under provisions on salaries, Regulation on job titles and coefficients of work complexity in public services, OG (139/22). Permanent employment contracts are concluded with non-academic staff.
Special objectives of the National Plan for the Development of Education and Training until 2027
National Plan for the Development of the Education System until 2027 and accompanying Action Plan for the Implementation of the National Plan for the Period until 2024 were adopted by the Government of the Republic of Croatia in March 2023.
The National plan defines ten special goals until 2027 at the level of priority areas, and each of them contains several measures. The special objectives of the National Plan are achieved through the implementation of measures that describe the planned areas intervention and key activities.
List of specific objectives:
- Provide accessibility to the preschool education for every child
- Improve the educational outcomes of students by improving quality, efficiency, effectiveness and fairness of the primary and general secondary education system
- Ensure a higher level of employability of persons with qualifications by increasing the quality and relevance of vocational education and training
- Increase the share of the adult population in lifelong learning processes by improving the quality and relevance of adult education programs
- Improve and ensure the quality, relevance and accessibility of higher education
- Ensure access to education for students with developmental disabilities and students with disabilities
- Increase the availability of identification, educational paths, monitoring and support for gifted children and students by establishing a coherent system
- Improve education of children and students of national minorities
- Improve education of children and students of Croatian nationality outside Republic of Croatia
- Continue of introducing ICT across the education at all levels.