ECEC teachers are educated through undergraduate and graduate university study programmes, according to the concurrent model. The admission requirement for undergraduate ECEC studies is a graduation certificate from a four-year higher secondary school. For graduate studies, access requirements are a completed university-level undergraduate study programme in early and preschool education.
The minimum condition for employment in public preschool institutions is a completed undergraduate study (Bachelor's degree). Novice pre-primary teachers spend one year (12 months) of induction period in the kindergarten supervised by their mentors. The manner of organisation of induction period and obligations of novice ECEC teachers are regulated by a special ordinance. After the completion of the induction period, novice pre-primary teachers take the professional licence exam and get full responsibility as professional pre-primary teachers.
ECEC teachers are obliged to participate in CPD activities in accordance with an act issued by the ministry responsible for education. CPD is organised and coordinated by the national Education and Teacher Training Agency and can also be offered by higher education institutions and civil sector institutions.
Institutions, level and models of training of ECEC teachers
ECEC teachers are educated through undergraduate (ISCED level 6) and graduate university study programmes (ISCED level 7). Prospective ECEC teachers are educated through study programmes at the university level. An undergraduate study programme (Bachelor's level) for ECEC teachers and a graduate study programme (Master's level) are offered by seven Croatian Universities. ECEC teachers are educated according to the concurrent model, which includes content knowledge from different subject areas, pedagogical content knowledge, and general pedagogical knowledge as well as practice in Kindergarten. After completing a three-year undergraduate university study programme (180 ECTS) and earning the title of a bachelor’s degree in ECEC, students can start working as novice teachers in various ECEC settings or they can continue their education at the graduate level (120 ECTS). A three-year undergraduate university study programme prepares prospective ECEC teachers for duties and tasks related to educating and nurturing young children up to compulsory school age (from 6 months to 7 years of age).
After completion of a three-year undergraduate university study programme, Bachelors in ECEC can then continue to follow a graduate two-year university study programme for a master’s degree in ECEC. The goal of the graduate study of Early and Preschool Education is to improve the competencies acquired at the undergraduate level, develop additional, more complex competencies, such as research competencies, and open the possibility of continuing education in postgraduate studies.
The admission requirement for undergraduate ECEC studies is a graduation certificate from a four-year higher secondary school – general academic school (gymnasium) or vocational higher secondary school (ISCED level 3). In addition, prospective students are required to pass the state matriculation exam (state matura). The number of enrolled students is determined jointly by the Ministry of Science and Education and higher education institutions (numerus clausus policy). Universities autonomously determine the level of success in higher secondary education and at the state matura exam that future students must achieve in order to qualify for enrolment in a particular study programme. In addition to these requirements, faculties are allowed to organise additional, specific entrance exams. The entrance exams are conducted by university staff following strictly prescribed procedures. The ratio of the total number of applicants and admissions varies between teacher education institutions and academic years. The selection of candidates is based on school grades, matura exam and results of entrance exams if they exist at individual faculties /universities.
For graduate studies, access requirements are a completed university-level undergraduate study programme in Early and Preschool Education, or a university-level undergraduate study programme in the social sciences or interdisciplinary social sciences, or a professional study in Early Childhood/Preschool Education (for pre-Bologna students), providing that the applicant has completed a specialised programme based on competencies needed for enrolment in the graduate study programme.
Curriculum, level of specialisation and learning outcomes
There is currently no professional framework for ECEC teachers in Croatia. The development of a national occupational standard and qualification standard for ECEC teachers and the development of a new curriculum framework for the education of future ECEC teachers is currently underway. These documents are jointly developed by all faculties that have study programmes for prospective ECEC teachers within the project “Innovation of teacher education programmes using the Croatian Qualification Framework” in accordance with the Croatian Qualifications Framework Act (Zakon o hrvatskom kvalifikacijskom okviru, 2022 ).
Although curricula for initial teacher education are developed by educational institutions, common learning outcomes can be identified at all universities responsible for the education of ECEC teachers.
Graduates with a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood/Preschool Education are qualified for: efficiently planning, programming and evaluating educational contexts as developmentally stimulating, while respecting children’s abilities, needs and interests; that is, implementing an integrated education; independently constructing, implementing and evaluating an integrated curriculum in all developmental areas through activities and materials in accordance with contemporary child development theories; acting as a reflexive practitioner and assessing his/her implicit pedagogy by questioning its effectiveness in constantly improving quality; creating educational contexts appropriate for all children regardless of their socio-cultural and economic status; building close, reciprocal and trusting relationships with parents by encouraging a partnership approach and actively engaging in improving cooperation between local communities and kindergartens; constantly pursuing professional development in the context of lifelong learning trainee.
The goal of the graduate study of Early and Preschool Education is to improve the competencies acquired at the undergraduate level, develop additional, more complex competencies, such as research competencies, and open the possibility of continuing education in postgraduate studies.
Teacher educators are qualified university staff who are employed according to the requirements for university teachers. They should have teaching and research competencies that are assessed on the basis of The Act on Scientific Activity and Higher Education (Zakon o znanstvenoj djelatnosti i visokom obrazovanju), Ordinance on the conditions for election to scientific titles (Pravilnik o uvjetima za izbor u znanstvena zvanja) and Decision on the necessary conditions for the assessment of teaching and scientific-professional activities in the process of election to scientific-teaching titles (Odluka o nužnim uvjetima za ocjenu nastavne i znanstveno-stručne djelatnosti u postupku izbora u znanstveno-nastavna zvanja).
There are three levels of university teaching positions: assistant professors, associate professors, and full professors. The basic requirement for entering the university teaching profession is a Ph.D., a certain number of published research papers and a public lecture for students which is assessed by the senior university staff.
The part of teacher education which is carried out in pre-primary institutions (kindergarten-based practice) is supervised by specially appointed school mentors employed at the respective pre-primary institutions.
Qualifications, evaluation, and certificates
The Act on Preschool Education (Zakon o predškolskom odgoju i obrazovanju) in article 24, paragraph 4 stipulates that the activities of educators of children from 6 months of age to primary school may be performed by a person who has completed an undergraduate study of the appropriate type, or a study of the appropriate type and has obtained a university degree in accordance with previous regulations.
Alternative training pathways
Currently, there are no alternative training pathways for ECEC teachers, although due to their lack in the labour market, it is anticipated that graduate primary school teachers will be offered the possibility of additional education lasting one year that would enable them to work in preschool institutions.