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Croatia, officially known as the Republic of Croatia, is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic in Europe, located at the intersection of the Balkans, Central Europe and the Mediterranean Sea. It has a total land area of nearly 22,000 square miles and consists of 20 counties and the independent city of Zagreb, the nation’s capital and largest city. With a diverse continental and Mediterranean climate, Croatia’s weather can range from very warm in the summer months to snowy, icy and cold in the winter.
Almost immediately following World War I, in 1918, Croatia was included as part of the fleeting State of Slovenes and later of Austria-Hungary, from which both the Croats and the Serbs later claimed their independence, co-founding the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. During World War II, however, Croatia became a fascist puppet state, which it would remain for the war’s duration. Following the war, Croatia became a founding member and federal constituent of the Second Yugoslavia, a socialist state. Croatia finally claimed its independence in 1991 following the Yugoslav Wars, a declaration that would lead to the protracted Croatian War of Independence—a successful albeit costly 4-year campaign.
Today Croatia is a free state with a population of approximately 4.3 million, most of who are native Croats (89.8%). Minority groups in the country include Serbs (4.5%), along with Bosniaks, Hungarians, Italians, Slovenes, Germans, Czechs and Romani who account for the remainder of the population. Croatian is the official language of the country and is spoken by the overwhelming majority of its residents. However, minority languages, such as Hungarian, Czech, Serbian and Slovakian are used in addition to Croatian at the local level in municipalities where more than one-third of the population belongs to that specific minority group. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion in Croatia, with more than 88 percent of the population practicing the faith. There is also a significant minority of Croats (4.5%) who practice Orthodox Christianity.
Education in Croatia
Education in Croatia, which is the direct responsibility of the national Ministry of Education, is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 18 (a 2007 law extended the compulsory age from 14 to 18). The system is divided between three levels: primary school, spanning 8 years for children aged 6-14; secondary school, spanning 4 years for students aged 15-18; and higher education. While children are attending primary school they are instructed in a wide range of subjects, beginning with basic reading, writing and arithmetic, with subjects like history, geography, science, music and art added in the mid and late grades (grades 3-8).
Secondary education in Croatia is provided by two very different types of institutions: gymnasiums and vocational schools. In gymnasiums, a range of academic subjects are taught that become increasingly more advanced with every grade level. Students attending these types of schools typically do so as a way to prepare for university admission upon graduation. Vocational schools also teach a variety of academic subjects, albeit not near as advanced as the instruction at gymnasiums, but they also focus on education and training in a number of key career fields, ultimately leading to certification and the essential skills needed to enter the workforce once they graduate. In 2010, a national leaving examination was introduced in Croatia that applies to all secondary students (gymnasium and vocational school students). The examination is given in the weeks prior to graduation and measures students in three key areas: language (Croatian), mathematics and foreign language.
There are over 132 institutions of higher learning in Croatia, including public and private universities where students can earn undergraduate (Bachelor), graduate (Master’s) and post-graduate (PhD) degrees in almost every major academic field. Post-secondary vocational and polytechnic institutions are also popular among students, as these types of institutions tend to focus on occupational training and preparation programs for advanced career fields.
According to a 2010 study published in Newsweek magazine, the education system in Croatia is ranked 22nd worldwide.