Early Childhood Education
Just like this gap in attendance, there is a large disparity of quality between the various pre-schools around the country. There are also rather long waiting lists for pre-schools and nurseries, which can only be applied for from May onwards. If you want to avoid these waiting lists, or want to apply at any point of the year, a private kindergarten may be your best choice. The price for private kindergartens will most likely be between 2,500 and 3,500 HRK per month, but you should check with your kindergarten of choice for a specific price.
If you are only staying in Croatia temporarily without a permanent residence permit, you should be aware that the cost for public pre-school will be 1,900 HRK per month. You may be interested to know that many public kindergartens offer different programs, such as early foreign language learning programs or sport programs. Among the language learning programs, you can usually choose from English, German, French, Italian and Spanish, although not all languages will be available in every area.
At the age of six, primary school children in Croatia start the mandatory part of their education. Primary education in Croatia is split into two stages, the first being from grades one to four and the second being grades five to eight. In the first stage, students usually study Croatian language and literature, math, nature and society, fine arts, music, physical education (PE), a foreign language from grade four onwards, and supplementary and elective studies.
In the second stage, they will likely study Croatian language and literature, fine arts, music, a foreign language, math, history, geography, technology, PE, supplementary and elective studies, and nature in grades five and six followed by biology, chemistry and physics in grades seven and eight. Whilst the language in the classroom is usually Croatian, official minorities have the right to be taught in their mother tongue.
After finishing their primary education, children may continue into optional secondary education. There are three types of secondary education to choose from:
- At general or specialized grammar schools pupils study a comprehensive curriculum. At the end of the four years, they take the state matura, after which they can take up higher education.
- Vocational schools (business, technology, or industry, etc.) last one to five years depending on the end qualification, which can either be a final assignment or the state matura.
- Art schools (dance, music, fine arts, etc.) function in largely the same way as vocational schools.
Those who finish high school with a “Certificate of Education” can enroll in a university or a polytechnic 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.