Skip to main content
European Commission logo


EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Ongoing reforms and policy developments


14.Ongoing reforms and policy developments

Last update: 27 November 2023

This chapter provides a thematic and chronological overview of national reforms and policy developments since 2021.

The introduction of the chapter describes the overall education strategy and key objectives across the whole education system. It also looks at how the education reform process is organised and who are the main actors in the decision-making process.

The section on ongoing reforms and policy developments groups reforms in the following broad thematic areas that largely correspond to education levels:

Early childhood education and care

School education

VET and Adult learning

Higher education

Transversal skills and employability

Inside each thematic area, reforms are organised chronologically. The most recent reforms are described first.

Overall national education strategy and key objectives

At the end of March 2023, the Government of the Republic of Croatia adopted the National Plan for the Development of the Education System until 2027 and the accompanying Action Plan for the implementation of the National Plan for the Period until 2024. The National Plan defines the implementation of the strategic goal and priority areas of public policies for the education sector from the National Development Strategy of the Republic of Croatia until 2030. The umbrella strategic document within the strategic goal "Educated and employed people" lists the accessibility of early and preschool education, the acquisition and development of basic and professional competences, the improvement of higher education and the prospective labor market as priority areas of public policies.

The thematic areas of the National Plan include early and preschool, primary school education and secondary school general and artistic education, vocational education and training and adult education, higher education, education of students with special educational needs, members of national minorities and members of the Croatian nation outside of the Republic of Croatia and the application of digital technologies in the education system.

Along with the National Plan, an implementation document - Action Plan for the period up to 2024 - was created.

A total of more than EUR 2 billion is planned for the implementation of the measures of the National Plan, and the main source of funding for projects in the field of education will be European Union funds for the period from 2021 to 2027, as well as the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. The foreseen financial resources represent a significant step forward in investments in the field of early and general education and care and enable the implementation of key reform processes in the system.

Key areas of intervention are governing and improving the system at central level (legal, organisational, financial framework and quality assurance mechanism), support to education providers (infrastructural, material, and human resources capacity building) and support to learners (access to the system, success in the system and transition through the system).

National Plan for the Development of Education and Training until 2027 defines 10 goals to achieve till year 2027:

  • 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 programmes
  • 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 (Information and Communication Technology) across the education at all levels.

Concerning digitalisation, National Plan for the Development of Education and Training until 2027 has a special goal dedicated to the digitalisation of education system. Furthermore, at the end of 2022, the Croatian Parliament adopted Digital Croatia Strategy 2032. One of the strategic goals - developed digital competences for life and work in the digital age - encompasses digital transition as support for the development of the educational and research system.

Croatian Qualifications Framework (CROQF)

The activities concerning development of the Croatian Qualifications Framework (CROQF) started in 2006. The Act on the Croatian Qualifications Framework of 2013 established the Croatian Qualifications Framework and regulated its implementation. It also defined connection of CROQF with EQF and QF-EHEA. The Act comprehensively regulates relevant issues related to CROQF and the improvement of the system of qualifications at all educational levels. The Act has undergone several amendments, the last in 2021.

The revised CROQF Act (2021) describes different types of qualifications (partial and full), their scope (e.g. CSVET or ECTS credits) and allocation within the levels of CROQF. These make up a foundation for the establishment of the validation system. The revised Act also defines a procedure for recognition and validation of units of learning outcomes.

The Ordinance on CROQF Register (adopted in 2014, amended in 2021) is  the implementing act which regulates: the content and the manner of conduct of the CROQF Register, applications for the entry into the Register, content and form of requests for the entry into the Register, assessment of the submitted requests, entry procedures, names of the Sector Councils, the selection of Sector Councils’ members and its tasks, and the external and the internal quality assurance system.

As an instrument, CROQF has a reform role in the education system by providing educational programmes based on learning outcomes and aligned with the needs of the labour market, transparent criteria for evaluating learning outcomes, development of criteria and procedures for evaluating and recognising non-formal and informal learning outcomes, strengthening and further development of lifelong learning, and quality assurance of the acquisition of all qualifications.

For more information related to CROQF please refer to chapter 2. Organisation and governance/ 2.5 National qualifications framework.


Key challenges and opportunities for Croatia’s education system

The National Plan for the Development of Education and Training until 2027 identifies key challenges in the system. Main challenges are systemic weaknesses (funding arrangements, system quality management and monitoring capacity), insufficient support to institutions (infrastructural, material and personnel capacities of institutions) and insufficient support to learners (access to the system, transit through the system and successful completion). Presented at the particular level of the system, the challenges are as follows:

Preschool education:

  • Insufficient infrastructural capacity - insufficient number of institutions and number of enrolment places in institutions
  • Insufficient human resources capacity - number of educators and other professional staff, especially in rural and less developed areas
  • Ineffective funding model - division of responsibilities between central and local authorities is not optimal
  • Disadvantaged families face greater challenges in terms of the availability of preschool education
  • Short pre-school programme for children not included in regular ECEC programmes cannot provide a child with the same opportunities for inclusion and subsequently success in primary education system
  • Inadequate application of quality assurance procedures in ECEC

Primary and general education:

  • The number of teaching hours is very low compared to the average in Europe / underachievement in terms of educational outcomes (PISA score)
  • Insufficient infrastructural capacity required for introducing whole day school model (an effective increase in the number of teaching hours)
  • Partial implementation of education reform (lack of teacher preparation, inadequate reform assessment system)
  • Lack of systematic educational policy measures needed to attract and retain the best candidates for the educational profession
  • Insufficient use of data and modern, effective instruments for public policy evaluation (standardized knowledge assessments, analytical tools, etc.)
  • Suboptimal enrolment structure in gymnasium programmes versus surplus VET programmes

VET and Adult education:


  • Decreased student interest in enrolling in three-year vocational programmes and a significant surplus of four-year vocational occupations
  • Insufficient capacity of employers to organise and implement work-based learning
  • Lack of regular research on the future needs of the labour market in certain sectors and the employment outcomes of persons who have recently completed VET
  • Inadequate network of schools, programme offer at the regional level, insufficiently flexible implementation of VET
  • Slow adjustment of the VET programmes to the labour market needs
  • Insufficient participation of vocational teachers in continuing professional development, shortcomings in evaluating the quality of teachers' work
  • Insufficiently coherent quality assurance system.

Adult education

  • Low level of participation in lifelong learning (especially among the low-skilled, elderly, rural, and long-term unemployed population)
  • Low level of employers’ involvement in needs assessments, skills development programmes and their evaluation, uneven quality of programmes
  • Absence of a coherent system and quality assurance mechanisms
  • Absence of a system for recognition of prior learning through previous life or work experience
  • Insufficient information about the possibilities and different forms of lifelong learning and education
  • Insufficient participation of adult education experts in professional development, lack of relevant educational materials.


Higher education

  • Low rate of completing tertiary education
  • Low employment rate of persons with completed tertiary education
  • Disparity between the offer of study programmes and student dormitories capacities
  • Insufficient resources to ensure the quality of study programmes
  • Lack of systematic data collection and connections between the existing databases in higher education
  • Insufficiently developed systems for monitoring higher education graduates
  • Lack of strategically oriented financing of higher education
  • Low level of internationalization of Croatian higher education
  • Weak connection between teaching and scientific research activities (transfer of knowledge and technologies between higher education institutions and society).



The Whole-Day School

In 2023, Croatia started the most substantial revamping of its primary education system in the past thirty years. The project – bearing the name Whole-Day School - will be implemented in the first phase as a four-year pilot project in 62 schools. During its pilot stage all programmes, elements and activities will be prepared, implemented and externally evaluated. The full implementation of the project is envisaged for the 2027/2028 school year.

The Whole-Day School (WDS) represents a contemporary and evidence-based response to expressed needs and challenges. The fundamental goals and accompanying support measures of the whole-day primary school aim at:

  • 1. Improved school achievements and educational outcomes of all primary school students in all curricular areas through an increase in teaching hours.
  • 2. Reduced differences in the educational outcomes for groups of students with different socioeconomic, social, territorial, family and personal circumstances that the students themselves have no influence on.
  • 3. Significantly improved financial, professional and social status of teachers, expert associates and school principals.
  • 4. Improved well-being and quality of life of all students, the quality of life of parents/guardians, and the quality of life in local communities and society.

The project is heavily supported by EU funding through which infrastructural investments and new curricula are to be mainly financed. Planned increases of teachers’ salaries will be financed from the State Budget.

For more information please refer to the Croatia's article in the news and articles section of the Eurydice website.

In the period from November 2017 to September 2023 the Agency for Vocational and Adult Education is implementing a project "Modernization of Vocational Education and Training System", co-financed by the European Social Fund.  The project aims to contribute to the development of vocational education and training that is attractive, innovative, relevant, inclusive, and connected to the labor market.

The acquisition of qualifications in vocational education and training is based on a learning process that is strongly related to the tasks that pupils/participants will perform in their future workplace.

By the beginning of September 2023, as far as the project activities are concerned, 108 occupational standards have been developed, of which 104 have been entered in the CROQF Register. Also 140 qualification standards have been developed, of which 117 have also been entered in the CROQF Register, and 94 vocational curricula with 6 related guidelines (teacher guidelines) for their application.

In the final phase, the project's activities will concentrate on providing support to principals, teachers and professional associates for the introduction, implementation and monitoring of sectoral curricula through continuous training, workshops, visits and education.

With the entry into force of the Adult Education Act in December 2021, the system of adult education has been 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 qualifications 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 micro-credentials (micro-qualifications in Croatia) and recognition of prior non-formal and informal learning.

An additional incentive for the development and implementation of micro-qualifications is provided through opportunities of financing programmes for acquiring competences needed on the labour market through structural and investment funds and mechanisms for recovery and resilience, with a special emphasis on the development of green and digital skills.

National Curriculum for Preschool, Primary and Secondary Education

The National Curriculum for Early Childhood Education and Care and the Ordinance on the Content and Duration of Preschool Programme are the documents on the basis of which the kindergarten curriculum is created.

As part of the amendments to the Preschool Education Act of July 2013, since 2013 the pre-school programme has been mandatory for every child in the year before starting school. For children who do not attend kindergarten, a special pre-school programme - lasting 250 hours per year - is delivered.

The programme is held either in kindergarten or in elementary school, depending on the possibilities in a local government unit. Considering the needs of the children of lower socioeconomic status and those in more isolated settlements, it is necessary to reduce differences and enable each child to be involved in ECEC for a longer period of time i.e. to attend regular ECEC programmes from an early age.

To address the abovementioned circumstances and needs, the National Curriculum for Early Childhood Education and Care is being revised to harmonise the mandatory pre-school programme with regular programmes.

The National Curriculum for Early Childhood Education and Care is adopted in accordance with the National Curriculum Framework for Preschool Education and General Compulsory and Secondary Education which determines the components of education for preschool children at a general level. The Preschool Curriculum is an integral part of the National Curriculum for Early Childhood Education and Care.

The National Curriculum for Early Childhood Education and Care and the Preschool Curriculum are documents based on which the Kindergarten Curriculum is created. The Kindergarten Curriculum determines the programmes and their purpose, the providers, and ways of implementing the programmes, the time frame of activities and methods of evaluation.

National curriculum determines elements for all levels and kinds of primary and secondary education; its goals, values, and principles, as well as guidelines for encouraging and adapting learning experiences and evaluating achievements.

The curriculum of the teaching subject determines the learning objectives, structure of the subject, learning outcomes, and/or contents, and descriptions of the level of learning adoption, and, in some cases, a list of needed teacher qualifications.

National curricula, subject curricula and education programmes are brought by the minister.

A school implements its activities based on the school curriculum and its annual plan and programme. The school curriculum determines the plan of extracurricular and optional subjects and activities if they are not determined by the national curriculum.

The Primary and Secondary School Education Act states that students should be educated in accordance with general cultural and civilizational values and human rights, be trained to live in a multicultural world, to respect diversity and tolerance, and to actively participate in democratic development of society.

Vocational Education and Training Act (amendments here and here) states that the objectives of vocational education are:

  • to enable trainees to acquire basic and vocational competences to obtain the qualifications required by the labour market, for continuation of education and in the function of personal development and economic and general development of society
  • to ensure the international comparability of the acquired professional qualifications
  • to ensure the development of open curricula.

Furthermore, the Parliament adopts State Pedagogical Standards in a unique document encompassing all three pre-tertiary levels: pre-school education and care, elementary and secondary education. Standards define criteria for material, financial, personnel and other conditions necessary for the realisation of educational activities and equal development of the system.

The National Framework Curriculum for Preschool Education and General Compulsory and Secondary Education  and the National Curriculum for Vocational Education are umbrella curriculum documents that contain the objectives of subject curricula containing a clear specification of learning outcomes. In addition to the above, the system also uses cross-curricula documents, a set of curricula documents which covers the following topics:

  • Curriculum of cross-curricula topic Personal and social development
  • Curriculum of cross-curricula topic Health
  • Curriculum of cross-curricula topic Sustainable development
  • Curriculum of cross-curricula topic Learn how to learn
  • Curriculum of cross-curricula topics Entrepreneurship
  • Curriculum of cross-curricula topics Use of information and communication technology
  • Curriculum of cross-curricula topics Civic education

The learning outcomes of the curricula of cross-curricula topics are either directly embedded in the relevant subject curricula or are achieved through the planning and implementation of the school curriculum.



Overview of the education reform process and drivers

The Croatian education system is a centralised system governed at all levels of education by the Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia and its national agencies.

The Ministry of Science and Education (MSE) is the competent ministry for the field of education and it performs administrative and other tasks related to the education system in Croatia. In the area of early childhood education and care, primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education it performs tasks related to the development of the system, national curriculum, norms and standards, student standard, inspection control, establishing and supervising the work of institutions and ensuring financial and material conditions for work and training of students to acquire technical knowledge and skills. In the area of higher education, it performs tasks related to the development of higher education, implementation of national strategies and programmes, 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 programmes, student standard, monitoring the education process and success of studies, managing the implementation of the Croatian Qualifications Framework, managing the registers of HEIs and study programmes, managing the databases on higher education and administrative supervision of HEIs. Some of the tasks the Ministry is performing are delegated to other national institutions.

Other national institutions involved in implementing education policy, monitoring, evaluation, system development and programme development of various aspects of the Croatian education system are the Education and Teacher Training Agency (ETTA), Agency for Vocational Education and Training and Adult Education (AVETAE), Agency for Science and Higher Education (ASHE)Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes (AMEUP)National Centre for External Evaluation of Education (NCEEE) and Croatian Academic and Research Network (CARNET). Sectoral agencies are responsible for different areas of education.

Early education and care is financed and managed by local authorities, while MSE provides central guidance, accreditation and control over the educational programmes which are implemented in organisations providing ECEC. Primary and secondary education is jointly financed by central and local/regional authorities - central government secures funds for the staff costs, while local authorities cover capital and running expenses. Higher education is almost fully financed from the state (central) budget, with minor share of funding being secured from the higher education institutions' own income.

For more information related to education reform process and drivers please refer to chapter 2. Organisation and governance.

Article Overview

This article gives an overview of the national ongoing reforms and policy developments in education and training. It groups reforms in the following broad thematic areas that largely

correspond to education levels:

  • Early Childhood Education and Care
  • School Education
  • Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning
  • Higher Education
  • Transversal Skills and Employability