In pre-primary, single structure primary and secondary education (ISCED 1-3) quality assurance is managed and monitored by:
- the Education and Teacher Training Agency and Ministry of Science and Education for general education;
- the Agency for Vocational Education and Training and Ministry of Science and Education for vocational education and training and adult education;
- the National Centre for External Evaluation of Education (NCEEE) for external assessment.
A public institution in the Republic of Croatia that performs external evaluation of the educational system at the national level is the National Centre for External Evaluation of Education. The role of the NCEEE along with the external evaluation of education, is to provide support to educational institutions in the projects of quality assurance, i.e. projects of self-evaluation. With the help of the NCEEE, the self-evaluation has been a part of grammar school and vocational school programmes since 2006, and as of 2008 it has been a part of the primary school programmes. Along with the methodological framework, the National Centre for External Evaluation of Education provides the educational institutions with advisory assistance in improving the quality of education.
Approaches and methods for quality assurance
The National Centre for External Evaluation of Education established the Committee for the development of the methodology and instruments for monitoring the quality of work of early childhood and pre-primary educational institutions, consisting of various experts, ranging from university professors to practitioners who have proven themselves through their work in the field of early childhood education.
One of the first tasks of the Committee was to define the quality of early childhood and pre-primary educational institutions, the quality areas of work and the associated indicators. A quality institution of early childhood and pre-primary education is defined as one that promotes the growth and development of each child, parents, staff and the community in which it operates. The quality areas of work of the institution refer to the strategy of early educational institution, i.e. to the mission, vision and values of the institution, its organizational management, culture, spatial and material, and technical working conditions, health and hygienic working conditions and safety, human resources, cooperation with the narrow and the wider social environment, and the process of monitoring and evaluation. For each quality area of work, guidelines of key quality indicators, which are in line with the current knowledge in the field of early childhood education, have been developed. After defining the key quality areas of work, the key players in the process of monitoring and assurance of the quality of work of the early childhood and pre-primary educational institution have been defined: director, Governing Council, educators, professional associates, administrative, technical and support staff, and parents.
After defining the key elements of the quality assurance process, the Committee has elaborated instruments and methodology for monitoring the quality of work of early childhood and pre-primary educational institutions.
The holder of the process of self-evaluation at the level of institution is the Quality Team, which brings together the director of the institution and the representatives of the Governing Council, educators, professional associates, administrative, technical and support staff, parents and the local community. The role of the Quality Team is to inform the key players of the quality assurance process, the implementation of the process of self-evaluation of the National Centre for External Evaluation and monitoring of the implementation of the development plan, i.e. improving the quality of the institution.
The proposed model of self-evaluation of early childhood and pre-primary educational institutions was tested through a pilot project in 14 institutions of early childhood and pre-primary education. The aim of the pilot project was to test the prepared methodology, instruments and supporting materials in real conditions of the early childhood and pre-primary educational institutions. Pilot project of the National Centre for External Evaluation of Education resulted in a total of 14 development plans for early childhood and pre-primary educational institutions. The experiences of the institutions that participated in the pilot project were very positive and encouraging for further work on improving the quality of the institutions of early childhood and pre-primary education.
The need for a systematic introduction of the self-evaluation process at the national level is justified by the following:
- the need for a systematic approach to quality improvement at all educational levels,
- the legal framework that includes self-evaluation of the institutions for early childhood education,
- the protective function of the quality assurance for the child, whereby every child has the right to quality care and quality start,
- raising awareness of quality standards of all key players of early childhood education,
- continued work on quality at all levels,
- improving the quality of the educational system,
- setting guidelines for the improvement of educational policy.
The ministry responsible for education is in charge of supervising the implementation of the Act on Preschool Education (Official Gazette No. 10/97, 107/07, 94/13, 98/19) and the regulations adopted on the basis of the Act.
The inspection is carried out by the Education Inspectorate, in line with the Act on Education Inspectorate (Official Gazette No 61/11, 16/12, 98/19).
The expert and pedagogical supervision of the work of educators, expert associates and principals is carried out by the expert and pedagogical supervisors and other experts, within the scope of the activities and responsibilities of the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports. The supervising personnel, usually senior advisers in the Education and Training agency, is authorised for such supervision by the minister responsible for education. The manner in which the supervision is carried out, as well as the rights, responsibilities and authority of the expert and pedagogical supervisors and other persons authorised for the supervision is defined by the Act on Expert and Pedagogical Supervision (Official Gazette 73/97) and the Act on Education and Training Agency (Official Gazette 85/06).
The health inspection supervision over the implementation of the Act on Preschool Education (Official Gazette No. 10/97, 107/07, 94/13, 98/19), in the part relating to the children’s health protection and nutrition, is carried out by the ministry responsible for health – the health inspectorate.
The sanitary inspection supervision over the implementation of the Act on Preschool Education (Official Gazette No. 10/97, 107/07, 94/13, 98/19), in the part relating to the children’s nutrition, is carried out by the ministry responsible for health – the sanitary inspectorate.
The supervision over the expert work related to the implementation of the Act, in the part relating to the children’s social care, is organised and carried out by the ministry responsible for social care.
The external evaluation and the assistance to kindergartens in self-evaluation and the development based on the results of standardised tests is carried out by the National Centre for External Evaluation of Education.
The public responsibility for the quality of work and processes is held by the educators, principals and teams of expert associates: pedagogue, psychologist, chief medical nurse, special education needs teacher teachers of various profiles, medical doctor, social workers, etc. With their joint activity they must contribute to the realisation of all the functions of the kindergarten, ranging from programming, monitoring, achievement, evaluation of achievements, professional advancement and training, library, IT and documentation to connecting family upbringing and care to the institutional factors, not only of kindergartens, but also of other education and culture factors in the vertical and horizontal hierarchy of the education system.
Primary Education and Secondary Education
Pilot project External evaluation of primary and secondary schools was implemented in the period from 2017 to 2019. It has been conducted by the National Centre for External Evaluation of Education (NCEE) in accordance with the Strategy for Education, Science and Technology in 20 primary and 10 secondary schools.
The main aim of this pilot project is to analyse and evaluate an experimental model of external evaluation, to prepare and launch a nationwide external evaluation programme, to strengthen internal capacities for school self-evaluation, and to provide an external support network for school self-evaluation.
The participating schools are working with the NCEE project team, critical friends and external evaluators. Each school appoints a school quality team and its coordinator. Critical friends have several significant roles: create feedback about the applicability of the suggested model for external evaluation, support schools during the preparatory process for external evaluation (concept, aim and process of external evaluation), support self-evaluation of schools, build capacity for long-term school development.
The suggested model encompasses school management, work environment, teachers’ professional development, cooperation with parents and local community, international cooperation, school curriculum, quality of teaching and learning, evaluation of learning outcomes and students’ wellbeing.
Vocational Education and Training
The Vocational Education and Training Act, Art. 9., states that the system of quality assurance of vocational education is established at the level of vocational education providers and at the level of qualifications. It also prescribes that the quality assurance system is based on self-assessment and external evaluation procedures. Self-assessment and external evaluation procedures are carried out in individual vocational education institutions, including direct insight into the work of vocational education institutions and on the basis of national or special exams. The results of self-assessment and external evaluation of vocational education institutions must be used to improve the quality of work and achieve better results.
To support the implementation of the self-assessment process The Agency for Vocational Education and Training carries out the following activities:
- continuous advisory support to schools in the implementation of the self-assessment process
- professional training for school Quality committees
- monitoring the implementation of the self-assessment process – Self-assessment reports
- visits to schools and Quality committees for support
- reporting on the self-assessment process
In vocational education institutions in the Republic of Croatia, the self-assessment process, as part of the quality assurance system, was developed according to the recommendations of The European Quality Assurance Reference Framework for VET (EQAVET), and schools implement it according to the Vocational Education Act.
Schools independently and with full responsibility assess the quality of their own work. Self-assessment is conducted during the school year and schools implement it for the following priority areas: work planning, teaching and learning support, student achievement and learning outcomes, material conditions, human resources and professional development of employees, cooperation within the vocational education institution and cooperation with other stakeholders as well as institution promotion and management. Each priority area is divided into several quality areas that are described by quality criteria. According to the quality criteria, schools assess the level of their success in the implementation of the educational process and plan to improve their work.
The VET institution compiles a report on the conducted self-assessment and, according to the results, plans and implements improvements. In the process of self-assessment, schools use the online tool for self-assessment e-Quality and the Self-assessment Manual with guidelines for self-assessment. The self-assessment of the school is monitored and evaluated by the Quality Committee appointed by the governing body of the vocational education institution. The Quality Committee has seven members from the ranks of stakeholder representatives, teachers, students and parents.
According to the Vocational Education and Training Act, vocational education institutions are obliged to participate in the external evaluation procedure. The methodology of external evaluation of vocational education institutions is adopted by the National Center for External Evaluation of Education in cooperation with the Agency.