The National Plan for the Development of Education and Training until 2027 and the accompanying Action Plan
The National Plan for the Development of Education and Training until 2027 and the accompanying Action Plan for the Implementation of the National Plan for the Development of Education and Training until 2024 within the specific objective No. 1. The objective of Providing accessibility to the ECEC system envisages measures aimed at ensuring the necessary infrastructure for the availability of quality ECEC, ensuring the appropriate number and quality of educators, expert associates and heads, increasing equality in the availability of ECEC to children from different local and regional self-government units, as well as disadvantaged children and raising the quality of ECEC. The following are also included: measures related to changing the financing model and strengthening the role of the central government in making some of the key decisions in ECEC, ensuring the prerequisites for the full participation of all children in the education programme as part of compulsory education, and finally the preparation of a feasibility plan ensuring free ECEC for all children of early and preschool age.
In 2023, the preparation of the new National Preschool Curriculum began. In April 2023, a working group was appointed to prepare the draft proposal for the National Preschool Curriculum. In July 2023, the Ministry of Science and Education published a Public call for the selection of candidates for members of the Working Group for the drafting of the National Curriculum proposal for early childhood and preschool education. The national curriculum for early childhood and preschool education is adopted in accordance with the National Curriculum Framework. The National Preschool Curriculum determines the principles, educational goals and educational expectations, as well as the duration of the programme with the plan and method of implementation, which will extend general compulsory education in the Republic of Croatia.
The new National Preschool Curriculum foresees extending the preschool programme from at least 250 hours, according to the current curriculum, to 700 hours during one pedagogical year. As before, the programme will be mandatory for all children the year before starting primary school. Furthermore, children between the ages of four and six will be included in a preschool programme adapted to new circumstances, in a different annual programme. With the introduction of the new National Preschool Curriculum, it is planned to extend general compulsory education.
In July 2023, the Regulation on Criteria and Benchmarks for Determining the Amount of Funds for the Fiscal Sustainability of Kindergartens was prepared and is currently at e-Consultation.
In order to provide an additional 10,000 enrolment places in ECEC institutions, to ensure that the coverage of children in ECEC is closer to the Barcelona objectives, and to harmonise regional differences within the Republic of Croatia, on June 9, 2023, a second Call for the provision of grants named "Construction, Expansion, Reconstruction and Equipment of Kindergartens, Second Call", was published, which provides grants for infrastructure investments in kindergartens. The total amount of grants available for allocation as part of this Call is EUR 51,022,570.00 provided in the State Budget of the Republic of Croatia from the Resilience and Recovery Facility as part of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.
The Act on amending and supplementing the Preschool Education Act adopted
In May 2022, the Croatian Parliament adopted amendments to the Act on amending and supplementing the Preschool Education Act with the aim of enabling every child the right to enroll in a kindergarten, thus increasing the coverage of children in preschool education, and improving the quality of educational work. One of the major novelties introduced by the Act is the stipulation that the Minister responsible for education adopts a decision on the national network of kindergartens, stipulation intended to ensure better access to early and preschool education in all parts of Croatia. The Act also introduces the obligation for local and regional authorities (founders of the majority of kindergartens) to secure access to kindergartens for children under their authority in adjoining local/regional units, if there are no kindergartens operating on their territory. Should enrollment capacities be insufficient in a certain area, children who turn four years old by April 1st of the enrollment year, as well as a special-needs/lesser opportunities children, will be given priority. The last year of kindergarten (preschool programme) can be organised in primary schools.
The second set of novelties introduced by the Act regulates employing primary school teachers in the position of kindergarten educator in situations when there is no possibility of employing preschool educators. Thus the work of a preschool educator can be performed by a person who has completed a teacher training programme. However there is a condition that such employee acquires the teacher's qualification within two years from the date of employment, either through recognition of relevant learning outcomes and/or through a retraining programme. The Act also introduces the service of electronic enrollment in kindergartens, thus formally regulating already available service of e-enrollments in all educational programmes at all education levels.
Draft on Amendments to the Act on Preschool Education
In July 2021 the Ministry of Science and Education opened public consultations on the Draft on Amendments to the Act on Preschool Education.
This Draft proposes that the Minister responsible for education adopts a decision on a national network of kindergartens in order to contribute to more optimal planning of access to early and preschool education in all parts of Croatia. Moreover, the draft proposes the possibility of employing primary school teachers in the position of kindergarten educator in situations when there is no possibility of employing preschool educators, but with the obligation to acquire an additional bachelor's degree in early and pre-school education and earn 60 ECTS credits at one of the higher education institutions where the study of early and preschool education is conducted.