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Croatia: Whole-Day School – towards a more balanced, efficient and sustainable primary education system

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Croatia: Whole-Day School – towards a more balanced, efficient and sustainable primary education system

24 October 2023
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Country news

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. 

Challenges faced 

Despite changes introduced over the past decades and some positive impacts, system monitoring and available indicators show that primary schools in Croatia are still facing considerable challenges and have ample imminent needs. 

One of the major challenges concerns schools organised in two shifts. At the present time, 40% of primary schools - enrolling 60% of students - still operate in double-shift work. Due to this shortcoming, schools experience various educational and organisational difficulties and the mandatory instruction time in Croatia falls below the average of the European Union. The national network of out-of-school care for children is underdeveloped, as well as the system of school and after-school activities for children. Regional differences in these two respects are also considerable. 

Another set of challenges concerns below-average national educational achievement and outcomes in key literacies (e.g. PISA results). There are also visible differences in school achievements, educational outcomes, and education pathways among diverse groups of students, pointing to a significant need to improve equality, equity and fairness in primary education. Croatia also lags behind the EU average in compulsory instruction time which plays a key role in students’ learning process.  

The third set of needs and challenges concerns the teachers. There is a need for designing and providing a new teaching framework, where teachers could have greater autonomy, flexibility, and new professional opportunities. Teachers' shortages need to be addressed through various initiatives: a substantial salary increase, a new primary school model as a frame for greater attractiveness of the teaching profession, and greater social recognition of teachers’ work. 

Measures and changes 

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 Whole-Day School model is composed of four education programmes. Two of them – A1 and A2 programmes - are compulsory for all students, and they comprise regular lessons (A1) and the programme of support, assisted, and enriched learning (A2). The remaining two programmes are optional – B1 comprising extra-curricular activities, and B2 - after-school activities.  

To improve student outcomes, the A1 programme envisages more instruction time for Croatian Language, Mathematics, and Art at the in-class teaching level. Science lessons have been reconceptualised through the new Science subject in primary schools, replacing subject-specific teaching currently in practice. Physical activity and well-being of students will be strongly addressed through providing more instruction time for the Physical Education subject by kinesiology teachers even in primary schools (1st to 4th grade). The Information and Digital Competences subject will be complemented by the cross-curricular topic Use of Information and Communication Technology and new out-of-class activities through workshops, project work and extra-curricular activities.  

The new A2 programme represents a strong modernisation element, which offers more time and opportunities for teachers and schools to differentiate and adapt teaching to heterogeneity in the class, at the same time providing extended opportunity for every student to develop their own potential. The A2 programme does not introduce new learning outcomes but provides more flexibility for all to achieve the outcomes and goals of the A1 programme.  

The B1 and B2 programmes are offered to all students and are funded by the state.  

Expected outcomes and impact  

National implementation of Whole-Day School is expected to lead to better school achievements of all students, with reduced social differences and better conditions for teachers’ work. Whole-Day School aims to transform current schools into modern and dynamic primary schools, with better public services for all parents, as well as improved well-being and quality of life for students, teachers and parents. Schools that will participate in the pilot project have already been chosen, and the pilot stage will begin in September 2023.  

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

 

For more information:https://mzo.gov.hr/vijesti/cjelodnevna-skola/5409  

Source: Eurydice Unit Croatia 

 

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