Education in Croatia

Education in Croatia is broken down into four levels:

  1. Kindergarten – 6 months to 6 years old
  2. Elementary school – 6 years to 15 years old
  3. High school – 15 years to 18 years old
  4. College – 18 years old or older

In this post, we’ll dive into each Croatian education level in detail as well as cover the standard school year schedule. If you want to learn how to find a school and enroll your child in Croatian school, check out this post.

Kindergarden (vrtić)

The early childhood development education is organized in kindergartens (called “vrtić”), which are not compulsory. There are three stages of early childhood education:

    1. Jaslice (first level) – from 6 months to 1 year
    2. Second level – from 1 to 3 years
    3. Third level – from 3 to 6 years

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

Primary school (osnovna škola)

Croatian elementary school (called “osnovna škola”) 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:

Niži razredi – 1st through 4th grade

Niži razredi, or “lower classes” in English, are for children aged 6 to 10 years.

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.

Viši razredi – 5th through 8th grades

Viši razredi , or “upper classes” in English, are for children aged 11 to 15 years.

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.

Elementary school programs

Parents usually choose the school nearest to their home address when enrolling their children in elementary school.

You also have the option to choose other schools that offer alternative school programs such as Waldorf education or Montessori education. These schools are available in bigger cities such as Zagreb and Rijeka.

Special programs are also available for children with disabilities. For children whose parents belong to the national minorities, special programs with classes on foreign languages are available.

Children also have the possibility to attend music or dancing school in parallel with primary school. Music elementary school usually lasts for 6 years, while dancing school lasts for 4 years.

Secondary school (srednja škola)

Croatian high school (called “srednja škola”) is currently optional, although most political parties advocate that it should be mandatory.

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”.

Secondary schools in Croatia are subdivided by focus and/or trade and last 4 years. The current groups are:

  • Gimnazija – General schools that include the following education tracks:
    • Prirodoslovno-matematička – Specializing in math, informatics and science
    • Jezična – Focused on foreign languages and with less science
    • Klasična – Centered around Latin and Ancient Greek
    • Opća gimnazija – Covers a general education and is not as specific. Treated as a transition to the professional training in colleges, universities and faculties.
    • Sportska gimnazija – Focused on one individual sport.
    • Prirodoslovna gimnazija – Focused on natural sciences with equal emphasis on
      mathematics, chemistry, physics, and biology with special attention on
      laboratory exercises.
  • Obrtničke škole – Craft schools with a focus on craft professions.
  • Strukovne škole – 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. Graduates of vocational schools lasting for four years are allowed to sit for the national graduation exam (državna matura).
  • Umjetničke škole – Art schools that focus on visual art, music and similar.

High school class subjects

The subjects taught in general education 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 an elective.

In craft, vocational and art schools, the school subjects are shifted to be centered around the school’s particular focus.

Applying for high school

High schools are harder to get into than vocational or art schools and are generally harder to complete. 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.

A point system is used to determine which schools you can attend. Points are gathered from primary school grades. Candidates who participated in national competitions get earn additional points according to the result achieved. They can also get direct enrollment in a specialized high school if they won a competition in a relevant subject. At the other end of the spectrum, certain schools may define a minimum point level for applicants.

Schools usually have quotas of how many students can enroll in that particular year so they can fill up. Here are the instructions for applying for high school.

Higher education (fakultet)

Any education beyond high school is referred to as “fakultet”. 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:

  • Prvostupnik (Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts)
  • Magistar (Master of Science and Master of Arts)
  • Magistar edukacije  (Master of Education)
  • Doktor znanosti  (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.

If you wish to come to Croatia to study, read this post about how to get a student residence permit.

School Year & Holidays

The school year, as defined in the law, officially starts on September 1 and finishes on August 31, however students may not attend school during this entire period.

School classes for students start according to the school calendar defined by the ministry each year. Classes usually start at the beginning of September and last until mid-June.

The school year is divided into 2 semesters:

  • Winter
  • Summer

Children have 3 extended school holidays (not including the national holidays):

  1. Winter holidays – 3 weeks for Christmas
  2. Spring holidays – 1 week for Easter
  3. Summer holidays – 2 ½ months
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9 thoughts on “Education in Croatia

  1. Ibtesam
    September 29, 2018 @ 6:50 am

    Hi, I am croation and I have my 4 kids are croation. But they don’t speak croation, am planning to bring them to coratia so they learn Croatian and learn thier culture.
    They study here in kics (Khartoum international community school) but my plan is to put them to public schools.
    My concern is in the public schools do they teach English, will it be easy for them. Can I find any support from the school.
    Which best public schools in coratia so I can relocate near it.
    Your reply will be very appreciated.
    Thank you
    Ibtesam.

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      October 22, 2018 @ 10:46 am

      Hi Ibtesam,

      I have heard that the schools will give individual support to get them up to speed on Croatian. I’m not familiar with the best public schools in Croatia. I recommend posting in one of the expat groups to see if anyone can make recommendations for you. Here is a list.

      Regards,

      Sara

      {reply}

    • Brisbane
      February 16, 2019 @ 6:23 pm

      Hi. I just recently moved to Croatia, I can’t help you with which schools are best but what I can say is that most public schools are very good.

      {reply}

      • Beckon
        December 11, 2019 @ 2:17 pm

        Your feedback will be going to help me as we are planning to move to Croatia this new year. My son is of 6 years. We are very curious and tense at the same time, as its completely a new place to us.

        {reply}

  2. Ibtesam
    January 20, 2019 @ 8:07 pm

    Thank you for your valuable reply.
    Bless you.
    Ibtisam.

    {reply}

  3. Sarah B.
    February 8, 2019 @ 1:19 am

    This is great! I am planning to go to Croatia this coming month. I have to see how education works there since I am planning to take my children with me or leave them here in our place. I want to know if their educational system is the same on us.

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      February 8, 2019 @ 11:45 am

      Hi Sarah,

      I recommend posting in one of the Expat Facebook groups to connect with other parents. They will be able to help you get an idea of what the school system is like. Here is a list.

      Cheers,

      Sara

      {reply}

  4. Surabhi Varma
    January 2, 2020 @ 11:18 am

    Hi ..I am Surabhi from India. I along with my kids are moving to Zagreb in the month of April 2020. How can i get my kids admission in schools there aged 11 and 14. They do know Croatian at all. And I Found international schools are very expensive. Kindly guide me where and how to proceed

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      January 14, 2020 @ 3:55 pm

      Hi Surabhi,

      We are working on a post right now for this topic. Stay tuned!

      Regards,

      Sara

      {reply}

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