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Education and Schools

Croatia - Education and Schools


If you are arriving in Croatia with children, the educational choices available will be of paramount importance.

Preschools In Croatia

Croatian maternity leave is generous and a statutory right. As long as a woman has contributed to the Croatian Health Insurance Fund (CHIF) in the preceding twelve months, or if she meets one of a number of alternative conditions, she can take statutory maternity leave from 28 days before the expected date of birth, until the baby is 10 weeks old. Then follows a period of additional maternity leave, some of which can be transferred to the father, until the baby is six months old. The CHIF will pay an amount equivalent to the parent’s full salary whilst they are on maternity leave, or alternative but lower benefits if the parent was not working and paying taxes. Many mothers will use further maternity rights to extend their maternity leave until the child reaches their first birthday, if they can afford to do so on the reduced income.

This strong state support for maternity leave means many women are able to enjoy time with their baby before returning to the workplace, so there is a healthy provision of childcare facilities available. It is estimated that almost six in ten pre-school children receive regular childcare and education in a formal setting, even with fees.

Kindergarten facilities are sometimes shared with those providing childcare for babies and toddlers, whilst others are solely for three to five-year-olds. You can choose any kindergarten you wish your child to attend. The only limitations will be the fees and whether places are available.

In March 2017, the Istrian town of Umag opened the first completely free kindergarten, as part of an investment programme to help families make Umag a permanent home. Two hundred places were being made available on a new and well-equipped site.

Obviously, Croatian is the language used at most childcare and kindergarten facilities. If you are staying in Croatia for a number of years, this will strongly benefit your child, even if they take a few weeks to learn to communicate with the staff and other children.

Should you decide that an English environment is essential even at this age, you may be able to find a specialist provider if there are plenty of expats in your area.

Compulsory Education in Croatia

All children in Croatia must receive an education between the ages of six and 15. A national curriculum is set, and home schooling is not permitted. According to the constitution, each child in the nation has access to free education during the mandatory years on an equal basis and under equal conditions with all other children.

Unfortunately, teaching salaries are comparatively low when compared with other graduate professions, which leads to ongoing shortages in various subjects and locations.

The state education provision is all in Croatian, apart from foreign language lessons. If your child already has a competent grasp of Croatian, there should be no issue with this. New expats whose children do not understand Croatian can request additional help at school to help their children learn the language.

To get a place at a state elementary school, first contact the school to ask if they have places. If they do, the head teacher will normally give you the statutory enrolment papers to complete. Entrance to secondary schools is more complicated because of the selection process which determines the educational route each child is to undertake.

Many expats, particularly those who intend to move home at some point, or whose children are fast approaching exam years, may prefer their children to be taught in English, in which case paying for a place at an international school will be the only option in Croatia.

Foreign Language Teaching In Croatia

About 20 percent of Croatia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) comes from tourism, and the location of the country means it has strong business ties with other nationalities who do not know any Croatian. Therefore, being able to speak at least one foreign language is seen as an essential and worthwhile skill and is an important part of the Croatian school curriculum.

In state elementary schools, a foreign language is introduced in the first grade. The school will select either English, German or Italian.

By the fourth-grade, pupils are introduced to an additional foreign language. This will usually be English, German or Italian. Sometimes Spanish, French or Russian are also offered.

Secondary Schools In Croatia

Children finishing elementary school will be assessed on their academic performance and achievements so far, and allocated to a secondary education commensurate for their abilities.

• Vocational schools are focused on technical, industrial and trade skills
• Gymnasiums focus on strong academic studies
• Artistic schools develop talented musicians, dancers and artists

Those students hoping to access higher education will work towards the matura exams, which are taken at the end of four years at secondary school.

International Schools In Croatia

There is not a huge choice of International Schools available in Croatia, although if you live near a large expat community, you will have more options.

In Zagreb, the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum is delivered in English by the primary Matija Gubec International School and the International American School, which teaches pupils from kindergarten to year 12.

The state secondary school for academic pupils known as XV. Gimnazija is located in Zagreb. It has been delivering the IB curriculum in English since before Croatian independence, and about 200 of its 1200 student body follow this programme. Otherwise, the school language and education is Croatian. The school enjoys a good reputation and places are increasingly oversubscribed.

Higher Education In Croatia

Higher education degrees and diplomas are offered at a variety of institutions, including universities, polytechnics, colleges and academies of art. The basis for enrolment is success in the matura exams, although quotas must be maintained.

All programmes in Croatia have had to meet the Bologna requirements so that employers across Europe would recognise the quality of Croatia’s qualifications and institutions.

A number of institutions offer degree programmes taught entirely in English, German, Hungarian or Italian.

As one example, three undergraduate programmes and one master’s science programme are taught entirely in English at RIT Croatia. This private college, which has facilities in Zagreb and Dubrovnik, was established by the US Rochester Institution of Technology (RIT). It awards dual American and Croatian degrees for graduates of RIT Croatia. In 2017/2018, the full year tuition costs were €6,100, which is significantly below the tuition fees charged at most universities in the UK.

For those attending state universities, which teach in Croatian, there are no university tuition fees or health insurance costs to pay. Students can also apply for a scholarship if their family cannot meet the essential living costs.

University students also have the opportunity to study abroad through exchange programmes or the EU Erasmus programme.


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