Croatia at a Glance
Education in Croatia
Early Childhood Education
Theoretically, Croatian children and their parents can benefit from childcare options as soon as the kids are six months old. In reality, though, few children under the age of 12 months are looked after in nurseries – around 200 in the entire country, according to recent statistics. Expat families living in Croatia should be aware that childcare facilities suitable for infants and younger toddlers are few and far between. They tend to be located in larger cities like Zagreb, Split, Rijeka, Osijek, or Pula.
Plenty of children do attend kindergarten or pre-school, though. 60% of all kids aged about three years or older are enrolled in such a program, and nearly every child, i.e. 98%, goes to kindergarten in the year before they start primary school. Most of these children are sent to a public facility, though the waiting lists are long. About two-thirds (65%) of the circa 670 nurseries and pre-schools all over Croatia are public institutions managed by local authorities, and they take care of over 80% of the kids in the respective age range.
At the age of six, primary school kids in Croatia start the mandatory part of their education. For the following four years, from grade one to grade four, they go to a local elementary school. In primary school, subjects usually include Croatian (plus a minority language, if necessary), math, nature and society, a foreign language (usually English), music, art, religion (usually Roman Catholicism), and PE classes.
The language in the classroom is Croatian, and pupils learn to write using the Latin alphabet. However, official minorities, especially Serbs, also have the right to receive education in their own mother tongue and may use a different writing system (such as the Cyrillic script, as one of the two Serbian alphabets).
Once schoolchildren have finished the first four grades, they proceed to lower secondary school. Now they receive additional lessons in history, geography, biology, chemistry, physics, IT, and at least one foreign language other than English, e.g. German or Italian. The lower secondary cycle of the Croatian education system includes grades four to eight.
Afterwards, children go on to high school. There are three types of secondary education:
- Grammar schools (general or specialized): after four years, pupils graduate and can take up higher education
- Vocational schools (business, technology, or industry, etc.): for one to five years depending on the end qualification
- Art schools (dance, music, fine arts, etc.): at least four years, with access to higher education after graduation
Those who finish high school with a “Certificate of Education” can enroll in a university or a polytechnical school of higher education.
Local vs. International Schools
The public education system in Croatia has the obvious advantage that it is free of charge. Children of foreign residents are also entitled to additional language lessons in Croatian. Sending your kids to a public school in Croatia might make sense if they already speak another Eastern European language, if they are still fairly young, or if you are planning to stay in Croatia in the long run.
If none of this applies to your family, your children might be better off at a private international school. There are several of them in the Zagreb area. There are also a few independent bilingual or international kindergartens in Zagreb too. Plus, some of the international schools may offer an attached nursery or kindergarten for younger children.
- American international School of Zagreb
- British International School of Zagreb
- Deutsche Schule Zagreb (website only in German or Croatian)
- École Française de Zagreb (website only in French or Croatian)
- Bright Horizons: International British School Zagreb
- The Learning Tree: International Kindergarten
- International Kindergarten Horizons
- Kindie Kindergarten
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