How to enroll (or transfer) your child in a Croatian school

Elementary school in Croatia
Image by Al Jazeera Balkans

UPDATED: 30/11/2023

Enabling a proper education for children is a priority for every parent. If you are a foreigner whom has just moved to Croatia, one of your first steps will be to get your child enrolled in school.

Before picking the school and beginning the enrollment process, definitely read our post about education in Croatia and the Croatian school system as there will be some surprises.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

How to enroll or transfer your child to a Croatian school

How to find a school for your child in Croatia

Smaller Croatian cities usually have only one elementary school, but larger cities can have many. High schools are usually located in bigger municipalities and cities.

If you are looking for an elementary school, we put together a clean, clear list in Excel that you can sort by county and city – it is available here. You can download a PDF version here. The state only offers a gobbledygook .csv list for elementary schools and looking at it will give you a headache.

For high schools, you can view all schools in your county on this government site. Just click on the desired Croatian county and a list of Croatian high schools will open.

If you feel like you need help sorting out which school to go to, you can go to the nearest police station and ask for help. View a full list of administrative police stations in Croatia here.

It is also good to talk to your acquaintances or neighbors to see if they have any recommendations.

How to enroll your child in a Croatian school

Children in Croatia are usually enrolled in the public school closest to their home address. However, it is possible to enroll a child in another school if the školski ravnatelj (school principal) allows it upon request. If the principal agrees, you must notify the nearest school that your child will attend another school.

There are some exceptions when you don’t need to ask for permission to enroll in another school. These include cases when:

  • Your child has disabilities and requires special education
  • You want to enroll your child in a school founded by a religious community
  • You want to enroll your child in a private school

To enroll your child, go to the desired school and make a request for enrollment in the school with the tajništvo (secretary office) of the school. The tajništvo will then set an appointment with the head teacher.

A team of experts who work at the school will see whether the child needs special help for integration into the school system. The transcripts from their foreign school(s) will also be reviewed and then a decision will be made on their enrollment.

The enrollment procedure usually lasts about two weeks. Before your child starts school, you should inform yourself about school shifts.

[Read: School shifts in Croatian schools]

Children from abroad

Foreign children can enroll in Croatian schools as early as the first grade. To continue education, the school must accept proof of a finished education in a foreign school.

According to the law, a child must be enrolled in school 30 days after arriving in Croatia.

Another option is to enroll your child in an international elementary or primary school in Croatia.

[Read: International kindergartens, elementary and primary schools in Croatia]

Special needs

Schools are required to provide special help to:

  • Children whose parents belong to vulnerable groups – asylum seekers and foreigners under the subsidiary protection
  • Children of Croatian nationals who came back to the country from abroad and want to continue their education here, but don’t know the language very well
  • Children whose parent is a citizen of the EU/EEA and works or was working in Croatia (the child has to have a residency here)

To integrate these groups of students into the school, the school has to organize individual and group classes. Children learn to speak the Croatian language and improve knowledge they couldn’t learn in any other school class (math, biology, chemistry, etc.).

Also, if your child is bilingual and does not speak the Croatian language well or at all they are considered under the law to be special needs children. This means that the school, according to the needs they have, has to allow them the change of program as per their needs. For example, if they failed the test because they did not understand the language they would be allowed to do the test again. The special needs program is determined by the Ministry of Science and Education, while the school expert team determines the level of special needs your child has.

Croatian language classes for foreigners

If a child doesn’t speak the Croatian language well or at all, additional Croatian language classes will be required. The level of knowledge of the Croatian language is going to be checked using a Croatian language test. The test is divided into written and oral parts.

A team of the school’s expert associates called stručni suradnici škole will conduct the language test. They will decide if additional language education is needed after they determine a child’s level of knowledge of the Croatian language. This team also determines the psycho-physical state of the child.

In elementary schools, the school’s expert team consists of:

  • Pedagog (pedagogue)
  • Psiholog (psychologist) and/or educational and rehabilitation experts
  • Učitelj razredne nastave (classroom teacher) or učitelj predmetne nastave (a teacher of a specific subject)
  • Croatian language teacher and/or Croatian language and communication expert

In high schools, the school’s expert team consists of:

  • Pedagog (pedagogue)
  • Psiholog (psychologist) and/or educational and rehabilitation experts
  • Učitelj predmetne nastave (a teacher of a specific subject) or Croatian language and communication expert

After the team brings the decision on additional language education, they send the decision to the county government office or Gradski ured za kulturu i šport Grada Zagreba (City office for culture and sports of the city of Zagreb) in Zagreb. They must check the decision and confirm it.

If needed, the additional Croatian language education will include a minimum of 70 hours of preparatory Croatian language learning. It is paid by the state. For elementary school children, the school will provide additional Croatian classes after the child starts school.

How are the Croatian language classes structured?

The preparatory Croatian language classes for students of elementary schools and high schools last for 70 hours. The program must be personalized to the individual student. Students listen to one or two hours of language lessons per day.

The number of total hours can vary due to the language knowledge and learning progress of each student. This means that a student can listen for up to 7 hours more or less. The program can last for up to one year.

The goal of the language classes is to train students to:

  • Slušati (listen)
  • Govoriti (speak)
  • Čitati (read)
  • Pisati (write)
  • Međudjelovati (collaborate)

Students may attend regular school classes in parallel if their knowledge of the Croatian language is sufficient to follow the class. In this case, they won’t be evaluated by grades. They will only be monitored in terms of socialization and language learning.

After the preparatory classes finish, the school expert team checks the acquired language knowledge through a written and oral exam. They deliver results to the county government office who issues the pisana potvrda o završenom programu pripremne nastave (written proof of completion of the preparatory language teaching program).

After passing the test, a student can attend regular school classes. Those who didn’t pass the test must attend the preparatory classes once more.

If you want to learn more about the language classes, you may review the Pravilnik o provođenju dodatne nastave hrvatskoga jezika (Rulebook on additional language classes for students).

Mandatory documentation for school enrollment

The documentation you must provide to enroll your child in a Croatian school includes:

  • Health records
  • OIB
  • Apostilled/legalized and officially translated birth certificate (if foreign) or rodni list (if Croatian-born)
  • Proof of citizenship, such as a foreign passport or domovnica (if Croatian)

[Read: How to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia]

Health records

Before enrollment, children must pass several examinations for which they will receive certain documentation.

Every February, Croatian schools publish a list of medical offices where you can take your child for a medical examination. This list is published in the local news, on schools’ notice boards, on medical office notice boards, and on the official counties’ web sites. Call one of the medical offices on the list to make an appointment for your child.

Medical examinations include:

  • Pregled stomatologa (dental examination)
  • Vađenje krvi (blood sample)
  • Pregled urina (urine analysis)
  • Sistematski pregled (general medical examination)

Sistematski pregled

Sistematski pregled or sistematski in short is a general medical examination used to check:

  • Physical functions
    • Health condition
    • Weight and height
    • Sight and hearing
    • Motor functions
    • Heart condition
    • Lung condition
    • Muscle condition
    • Bones
    • Genitalia
  • Intellectual functions
    • Grapho-motor capabilities
    • Intellectual capabilities
    • Speaking capabilities
    • Perception
  • Socio-emotional functions

You must bring all relevant medical records to the sistematski including:

  • Zdravstveni karton pedijatra (medical documentation from a pediatrician)
  • Medical documentation from neuropedijatar (neuro-pediatrician), logoped (speech therapist), psiholog (psychologist), etc.
  • Zdravstvena iskaznica (health insurance card, which includes OIB)
  • Knjižica cijepljenja (vaccination records)
  • Nalaz o pregledu zubiju (teeth examination) from a dental specialist
  • Nalaz krvi (blood examination)
  • Nalaz urina (urine examination)

Obligatory vaccinations

While enrolling your children in school, it is necessary to enclose your child’s knjižica cijepljenja. (vaccination records) with all vaccinations that the child has received. Children in Croatia are vaccinated according to the vaccination calendar prescribed by the HZZO. If they haven’t received certain vaccinations, they will be vaccinated during school enrollment.

During the first grade of elementary school, children must be vaccinated against:

  • Ospice (measels)
  • Zaušnjaci (mumps)
  • Rubeola (rubella)
  • Dječja paraliza (polio)

Eight-graders are vaccinated against:

  • Difterija (diphtheria)
  • Tetanus (tetanus)
  • Dječja paraliza (polio)
  • HIV – optionally

How to transfer from one school to another

If you have not moved

Every student has the right to transfer to another school within the same educational program. Students also have the right to change their current educational program for another program. This must be done by the beginning of the second semester, which starts in January.

The transfer request will need to be approved by the council at the original school.

If you’ve moved from one district to another

If your family moves to a new district, your child will need to change schools. The new school should be the one closest to your new address that offers a program equal to the child’s previous school.

The school is required to accept your child regardless of when your move occurs during the school term. When transferring, you need to enclose a transcript of the child’s grades of all the completed classes from the previous school. This transcript is called prijepis ocjena.

View our other education posts

Enrollment in the first grade by e-Građani
Enrollment in high school by e-Građani
Rulebook on classes for students who do not speak the Croatian language by Narodne Novine

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.

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