Education in Croatia is broken down into four levels:
- Kindergarten – 6 months to 6 years old
- Elementary school – 6 years to 15 years old
- High school – 15 years to 18 years old
- 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.
The early childhood development education is organized in kindergartens (called “vrtić”), which are not compulsory. There are three stages of early childhood education:
- Jaslice (first level) – from 6 months to 1 year
- Second level – from 1 to 3 years
- 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.
Read more about kindergarten in Croatia here.
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 onlaboratory 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:
Children have 3 extended school holidays (not including the national holidays):
- Winter holidays – 3 weeks for Christmas
- Spring holidays – 1 week for Easter
- Summer holidays – 2 ½ months
Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.