Education in Croatia

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Early childhood education

The early childhood development education is organized in kindergartens, which are not compulsory. There are three stages of early childhood education:

  • from when the child is 6 months old to when they’re one
  • from the ages of one to three
  • from the age of three until the child starts attending primary school

Even though these three stages are not compulsory, every child must attend kindergarten for a year prior to primary school.

Primary education

Croatian elementary education consists of eight years, and is compulsory. Children begin school at the age of 6 or 7.

The students are divided into three or more classes and these classes are referred to as the A class, the B class, the C class, and so on. The students stay with their class throughout all 8 years.

The grade schools are split in two stages:

  • 1st through 4th grade – These grades are taught by one teacher per class that teaches every subject with the exception of foreign languages and religion. Subjects include Croatian, mathematics, visual art, nature and society, physical education, music education, and at least one foreign language (usually English). Religious education is an elective subject. The students stay in one classroom for the four years.
  • 5th through 8th grades – Students are taught by different teachers for each subject including history, geography, biology, chemistry, physics, informatics and in addition to English, often a second language. The students no longer have one classroom, but rather move around the school to get to their classes.

Since the primary school became mandatory, the literacy rate in Croatia is substantially high at 98.1%. The majority of children manage to complete primary education.

Secondary education

Secondary education is currently optional, although most political parties advocate that it should be mandatory.

Secondary schools in Croatia are subdivided by focus and/or trade. The current groups are:

  • High schools with four available educational tracks:
    • Prirodoslovno-matematička (specializing in math, informatics and science)
    • Jezična (with a focus on foreign languages and with less science)
    • Klasična (with a curriculum centered around Latin and Ancient Greek)
    • Opća gimnazija (which covers a general education and is not as specific). As a general education school, high school is a transition to the professional training in colleges, universities and faculties.

The subjects taught include: Croatian, Math, English, 2nd Foreign Language (of choice), Latin, Art History, Music Appreciation, History, Geography, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Sociology, Psychology, Information Technology, Politics and Economics, Philosophy, Logics, Physical Education and an elective. Students may choose either religious Studies or ethics as the elective. Education in high school lasts for four years. High schools are harder to get into than vocational or art schools and are generally harder to complete.

  • Vocational schools that teach a student a certain craft, such as cooking or carpentry, and last either three or four years. Schools of economics and engineering go under this category too.
  • Art schools that focus on visual art, music and similar. They take four years.

High schools, schools of economics and schools of engineering take four years. There are also some vocational schools that last only three years.

Secondary schools supply students with primary subjects needed for the necessary work environment in Croatia. People who completed secondary school are classified as “medium expertise”.

Graduates of vocational schools lasting for four years are allowed to sit for the national graduation exam (državna matura).

The process of getting into a high school in Croatia is rather difficult. A student chooses five schools which they want to go to, in order of choice. The first school on the list is the school that the student wants to go to the most. The maximum number of points while signing up is 80 (points are gathered from primary school grades and any extra criteria). The point threshold is a certain number of points below which a student can’t sign up for the school. For an example, if a certain school has the point threshold of 65, nobody with 64 or less points can sign up. Schools usually have quotas of how many students can enroll in that particular year.

Higher education

Students can enroll into two basic kinds of higher education:

  • Polytechnic schools (veleučilište), higher level education
  • Universities (sveučilište), highest level education

The distinction between the programs taught at universities and polytechnics used to be the length of studies and the final classification of the students – but this line is being blurred by the implementation of the Bologna process.

The Bologna Process is a series of meetings and agreements between European countries to ensure comparability in the standards and quality of higher-education qualifications.

With implementation of the Bologna process, the levels of expertise are:

  • Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts
  • Master of Science and Master of Arts
  • Master of Education
  • Doctor of Science and Doctor of Arts

All larger universities in Croatia are composed of independent “faculties”. Each independent college or department maintains its own administration, professional staff  and campus. The colleges focus on specific areas of learning: Natural Sciences, Philosophy, Law, Engineering, Economy, Architecture, Medicine, and so on.

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Expat in Croatia

Sara is an American expat based in Split. After globetrotting between New York, Amsterdam and California, she moved to Croatia in 2012. Sara's blog Expat in Croatia is a guide for foreigners living and traveling in Croatia.