The first school law was issued in 1874 by the Croatian Parliament, ordering mandatory five-year primary education that later was expanded to eight years.
Overview of the education system
The Croatian education system today consists of primary, secondary and higher education. It is available to everyone equally, according to their capabilities, and the compulsory public system is free of charge.
The education journey begins with preschool programmes for young children. They are organised in kindergartens, libraries, associations and some primary schools. It is mandatory for all children to attend these programmes in the year before starting primary education.
Children over six and a half must enrol at primary school and attend for a minimum of 8 years. Upon finishing primary education they may choose to continue with optional secondary education. This is divided into two types, depending on the curriculum, gymnasiums and vocational schools (industrial, technical, craft or art schools).
Gymnasiums have programmes that last 4 years, while other schools vary from one to five years. In 2010, Croatia introduced the state graduation exam, which is used as an entry into higher education. The exam is mandatory for gymnasiums, in order to complete the curriculum.
Vocational school students can apply to continue education at a higher education institution after a minimum of four years of schooling, but must also sit the exam. All students are then ready to enter the workforce upon completion of their secondary education.
Points obtained from the state graduation exam are added to points from subjects required by higher education institutions and go towards their application to their desired programme. In 2005, all study programmes were standardised according to the requirements of the Bologna Process, the system that ensures consistency in the standard of education across Europe. Programmes are divided between university and professional studies.
Universities consist of several faculties, preparing students for work in science, business, the public sector or society. Higher education studies at a university level progress from undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate, depending on the degree. The title acquired after the undergraduate programme is Bachelor (univ. bacc.). Higher-level titles are Master (mag.) and Doctor of Science/Arts (dr. sc or dr. art).
Professional studies provide students with specific knowledge and skills and allow students to specialise in selected fields. The title awarded upon finishing is Professional Bachelor (bacc.). Students can continue to the higher level of the specialised graduate and postgraduate programmes which lead to the academic title with reference to their chosen specialisation.
Currently, 90 public and 28 private higher education institutions operate in Croatia. There are more than 150,000 students. Most of them, over 80%, study at university programmes.
Education is mainly provided by the public sector and all students are given a set of rights. If they meet the requirements given each year they maintain the right to free tuition. All students have subsidised meals, and the opportunity to study abroad within Erasmus student exchange programmes.
The Ministry of Science and Education follows a strategic plan set out until 2024 with the goal being to improve the quality, accessibility and efficiency of education on all levels. Curriculums are developed to achieve optimal growth and focus on the potential and talents of each student.