Educational Challenges in Croatia

Written by Matilde Ribetti


Education stands as the bedrock upon which a nation’s future is built, empowering generations to thrive and contribute to the growth of their societies. In the enchanting land of Croatia, a country known for its stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage, the quest for a quality education system has been both a journey of remarkable achievements and persistent challenges. As we delve into the realm of Croatian education, we find ourselves confronted with a tapestry of complexities that demand attention, innovation, and collective action.

From the vibrant city streets of Zagreb to the picturesque coastal towns of Split and Dubrovnik, Croatia’s diverse landscape is mirrored by the diversity of its educational challenges. While Croatia has made significant strides in reforming its education system since gaining independence in the 1990s, it still grapples with a range of obstacles that hinder its quest for excellence. These challenges affect the lives of students, teachers, and parents and have far-reaching implications for the nation’s social cohesion, economic prosperity, and global competitiveness.

The education sector in Croatia has requested the government to reduce budget cuts and promote active changes to improve quality and access. Photo by the European Trade Union Committee for Education.

Preschool Education

Preschool education in Croatia faces several significant challenges. Insufficient infrastructural capacity, with a lack of institutions and limited enrollment places, makes it difficult for many children to access preschool education. This issue is further exacerbated for disadvantaged families, who face more significant challenges in terms of availability. Additionally, there is an inadequate human resources capacity, especially in rural and less developed areas, resulting in a shortage of educators and professional staff. Moreover, the funding model for preschool education is ineffective, with a suboptimal division of responsibilities between central and local authorities.

Primary and General Education

Primary and general education in Croatia also encounters various obstacles. The low number of teaching hours compared to the European average leads to underachievement in educational outcomes, as reflected in PISA scores. In addition, insufficient infrastructural capacity to introduce a whole-day school model effectively would increase the number of teaching hours. The partial implementation of education reform, including a lack of teacher preparation and inadequate reform assessment systems, hampers progress. Furthermore, the lack of systematic educational policy measures to attract and retain the best candidates for the teaching profession contributes to the challenges. The underutilization of data and modern evaluation instruments further hinders effective policymaking. Lastly, there is an imbalanced enrollment structure, with excess VET (Vocational Education and Training) programs and a deficit in gymnasium programs.

Higher Education

Higher education in Croatia presents its own share of challenges. The country experiences a low rate of completing tertiary education, coupled with a low employment rate for individuals with completed tertiary education. Disparities exist between the offer of study programs and the capacity of student dormitories. Insufficient resources are allocated to ensure the quality of study programs. The lack of systematic data collection and integration between existing databases hampers effective monitoring and evaluation of higher education. Moreover, there is a need to develop stronger connections between teaching and scientific research activities within higher education institutions and society. Additionally, the internationalization of Croatian higher education remains at a relatively low level.

Proposed Solutions

Croatia has developed a comprehensive plan known as the National Plan for the Development of Education and Training to tackle the existing educational challenges until 2027. This ambitious plan outlines ten specific goals the country aims to achieve within the given timeframe, addressing various aspects of the education system.

One of the primary goals is to provide universal accessibility to preschool education, ensuring that every child has an equal opportunity to receive high-quality early childhood education. This involves expanding the infrastructural capacity of preschool institutions and increasing the number of enrollment places.

Another crucial aspect is the improvement of educational outcomes in primary and general secondary education. To achieve this, the plan focuses on enhancing the education system’s overall quality, efficiency, effectiveness, and fairness. This includes implementing reforms, refining teaching methods, and providing adequate resources to schools.

Lifelong learning among adults is also prioritized, aiming to boost participation rates by enhancing the quality and relevance of adult education programs. This involves expanding the range of available courses, promoting collaboration between educational institutions and employers, and ensuring continuous professional development for adult education experts.

Furthermore, the plan emphasizes the need to ensure the quality, relevance, and accessibility of higher education. This encompasses addressing completion rates, employment outcomes, and program quality while also strengthening connections between academic institutions and the labour market.

In line with fostering inclusivity, the plan aims to ensure access to education for students with developmental disabilities and disabilities. This involves creating an inclusive environment that supports their unique needs and promotes equal opportunities for learning.

Gifted children and students receive special attention through the establishment of a coherent system that identifies and supports their talents. This includes providing appropriate educational pathways, tailored support, and enrichment programs to nurture their potential.

To foster cultural diversity, the plan focuses on improving the education of children and students belonging to national minorities. This involves developing inclusive curricula, promoting cultural exchange, and providing support to facilitate their educational success.

Additionally, the plan addresses the education of Croatian nationals residing outside the country, ensuring that they have access to educational support and opportunities that align with the national curriculum.

Lastly, the integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) across all education levels is a key priority. This entails leveraging modern technologies and digital tools to enhance teaching and learning experiences, promote digital literacy, and prepare students for the digital age.

By implementing these proposed solutions, Croatia aims to overcome its current educational challenges and pave the way for a more inclusive, effective, and high-quality education system. Through strategic planning, resource allocation, and collaboration between stakeholders, Croatia endeavours to create a robust educational framework that nurtures the potential of every learner and prepares them for a successful future.


In conclusion, Croatia’s educational challenges are diverse and multifaceted, spanning from preschool education accessibility to disparities in primary and secondary education, higher education quality, and inclusivity. However, Croatia has outlined a comprehensive plan, the National Plan for the Development of Education and Training until 2027, which addresses these challenges.

By focusing on preschool education, improving outcomes, enhancing vocational training, promoting lifelong learning, ensuring quality higher education, fostering inclusivity, supporting gifted students, addressing minority education, and integrating ICT, Croatia aims to create a more effective and inclusive education system.

Collaboration, resource allocation, and continuous evaluation are crucial to achieving these goals. Croatia’s commitment to transforming its education system will empower learners and prepare them for the future.

Croatia’s journey towards educational excellence serves as an inspiration globally, emphasizing the transformative power of education. By investing in education, Croatia is building a brighter future where every student can thrive and contribute to societal progress.



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