General themes

Summary of main elements ( 1 )

Overall responsibility for vocational education and training (VET) in Croatia lies with the Ministry of Science and Education supported by the Agency for VET and Adult Education (ASOO). The agency is responsible for developing VET curricula, continuous professional development of VET teachers, skills competitions and quality assurance. Stakeholders are involved in curriculum development, sector skills councils and in the VET Council.

Initial VET is publicly financed and free of charge. All VET programmes combine professional and general competences, to varying degrees; all include work-based learning (WBL), with duration and type varying.

VET is provided at upper secondary and postsecondary levels; the entry point is completion of compulsory education at age 14 or 15.

At upper secondary level, almost 70% of learners participate in initial vocational education and training (IVET). Around two thirds of VET learners are in 4-year school-based programmes, with under one third in 3-year programmes. Only one upper secondary programme lasts 5 years, leading to a general nursing qualification.

The 4-year, mostly school-based, VET programmes, with a WBL share of around 10%, as well as dual model VET programmes with WBL share of around 70%, lead to qualifications at CROQF level 4.2/ EQF level 4 and allow progression to tertiary education; this follows completing external State Matura exams. In 2020, around 80% of 4-year and 5-year programme graduates took State Matura exams and around 50% enrolled in higher education on completion of secondary education.

3-year VET programmes give access to the labour market and lead to qualifications at the Croatian Qualifications Framework (CROQF) level 4.1/ EQF level 4; WBL share ranges from 5% and more in school-based programmes, over 60% in apprenticeships (programmes for crafts, nationally referred to as unified model of education, JMO) and up to 80% in the dual model of education. Within the final exam for completion of the 3-year JMO programme, learners take the apprenticeship exam. Around 10% of all IVET learners are in apprenticeships.

Only a few learners take part in 2-year VET programmes, leading to qualifications, without completing upper secondary education. Graduates of 2- and 3-year programmes can continue their education as regular students to attain a (one level) higher qualification, which is decided by each school individually.

VET specialist development programmes (EQF 5) are foreseen but not introduced yet at post- secondary level.

Professional education and training are offered at tertiary level. Short-cycle professional undergraduate programmes last 2 to 2.5 years (at least 120 and under 180 ECTS points) and lead to qualifications at CROQF/EQF level 5. 3- to 4-year professional undergraduate programmes lead to a professional bachelor diploma at CROQF level 6.st ( 2 ) /EQF level 6. Professional bachelors may continue their studies in university; this is decided by each higher education institution individually. Specialist graduate professional studies last 1 to 2 years and lead to a professional specialist diploma at CROQF 7.1.st ( 3 )/EQF level 7.

Adult education and training in Croatia lead to educational attainment at EQF levels 1 to 5 for learners older than 15. Most programmes are VET-related, ranging from short training and professional development to programmes leading to qualifications equivalent to those in IVET. The education ministry's approval of programmes leading to formal certificates is necessary, with prior positive opinion from ASOO. Adult learning is typically financed by learners.

Distinctive features ( 4 )

VET in Croatia has two main roles. Alongside preparation for labour market entry, it enables progression to tertiary education; this is primarily through 4-year VET programmes, where learners spend half of their time acquiring general competences. In 2020, around 54% of 4-year VET graduates enrolled in tertiary education on completion of secondary education.

Participation in VET at upper secondary level is one of the highest in the EU (69% compared to the EU-28 average of 47.3% in 2019). Croatia has the lowest rate of early school leaving in the EU (2.2% in 2020, compared to the EU-27 average of 9.9%) and has thus met its Europe 2020 national target of 4%.

Self-assessment at VET schools is part of the quality assurance system. Support measures are in place to advance self-assessment, including school visits, upgrades to the online tool e-Kvaliteta and feedback reports with recommendations.

To promote excellence in VET, Croatia is establishing a network of 25 regional centres of competence. These will offer state-of-the-art technologies, teaching excellence and work-based learning, training for professionals, VET teachers and in–company mentors, as well as close cooperation with local businesses.

In 2019, the first WorldSkills Croatia competition launched a reformed model of VET student competitions with over 560 competitors in 47 disciplines and fairs. With 10 000 visitors, high visibility and stakeholder endorsement, this became the leading national event for the promotion of VET. Following disruption by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the WorldSkills Croatia competition was held live in 2021 for over 300 IVET learners in 43 disciplines.

Priorities for VET development focus on increasing its labour market relevance, quality, attractiveness and internationalisation. Determined reform efforts are under way to address outdated curricula, skills mismatch, the quality of work-based learning and apprenticeship, as well as the public image of VET. As the flagship initiative, VET curriculum reform is oriented towards comprehensive redesign in line with labour market needs, learning outcomes, work-based learning, contemporary teaching and close support to VET providers. New VET curricula, developed by the Agency for VET and Adult Education (ASOO) as a part of the VET curriculum reform, are expected to be implemented in 2022/23.

Youth unemployment has been gradually falling (16.6% in 2019 among those aged 15 to 24), yet it increased to 21.1% in 2020 in consequence of the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, the share of young people (aged 15 to 24) neither in employment nor in education and training (NEETs) fell to 11.8% by 2019, yet increased to 12.2% in 2020. Youth guarantee schemes are in place to help young people get into employment, apprenticeship, education and training within 4 months of leaving school or becoming unemployed.

National demographics are reducing the number of learners, particularly in 3-year IVET programmes. Those most affected are the apprenticeship programmes (JMO), losing half of their learners in the past 8 years. A new model of dual education was introduced as of 2018 to improve the quality of work-based learning and apprenticeships.

Participation in adult learning in 2020 was only 3.2%, positioning Croatia at the lower end of EU range despite the tax incentives available for entrepreneurs for education and training costs, and VAT exemptions for adult education providers offering programmes approved by the education ministry. The main activities aim at promotion of lifelong learning in Croatia through awareness-raising efforts by ASOO ( 5 ).

Demographics

Population in 2021: 4 036 355 ( 6 ).

It has fallen by 5.3% since 2013 due to negative natural growth and emigration that has been steadily intensifying since Croatia joined the EU in 2013 ( 7 ).

As in many other EU countries, the population is ageing. The old-age-dependency ratio is expected to increase from 33.5% in 2021 to 59.4% in 2070.

 

Population forecast by age group and old-age-dependency ratio

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Source: Eurostat, proj_19ndbi [extracted 1.9.2021].

 

Overall reduction in the number of learners at upper secondary level has been reflected in a sharp decline in enrolment rates in 3-year VET programmes over the past years. National demographics are reducing the number of learners, particularly in 3-year IVET programmes. Those most affected are the apprenticeship programmes (JMO), losing half of their learners in the past 8 years.

There is only a small number of VET providers that offer education in minority languages (9 institutions, 618 enrolled students). Language options include Serbian and Italian, followed by Hungarian, and VET providers are located in regions with higher representation of minority communities.

Economics

Although the number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) fell by 9.8% between 2010 and 2017, it started increasing again in 2018 (+2.7% from 2017). The majority of SMEs in 2018 were micro enterprises (91.1%) ( 8 ).

SME contribution to the Croatian 'non-financial business economy' is of key importance. In 2017, 60.8% of overall value-added and 68.1% of employment is generated by SMEs, exceeding the respective EU averages of 56.8% and 66.4% ( 9 ).

SMEs are concentrated in major urban centres (Zagreb, Split, Rijeka, Osijek) and the surrounding areas. According to total revenues, the leading industrial branches are the production of food, drinks and tobacco, chemical and oil industries.

Tourism is an important driver of the economy and generates strong multiplying effects spilling over to other economic fields. The total contribution of travel and tourism to GDP was 24.3% in 2019, against global average of 10.4%. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected the sector, halving its contribution to GDP in Croatia in 2020 (10.2%) and globally (5.5%) ( 10 ).

Capital investments in infrastructure would boost the economy's growth potential; this is particularly so in transport, energy efficiency, transition to a circular economy, public and private research and development and digitalisation, but benefit would also come from resources used getting people to work and promoting social inclusion ( 11 ).

Labour market

Alongside a fair number of regulated professions, the labour market is flexible to some extent.

Regulated professions extend over a range of sectors relevant to VET, including occupations in crafts and trades, medical care, tourism, and transportation.

The list of regulated professions is published by the Ministry of Labour ( 12 ).

Total unemployment ( 13 ) (2020): 6.4% (6.2% in EU-27); it decreased by 4.8 percentage points (pp) since 2016 ( 14 ).

 

Unemployment rate (aged 15-24 and 25-64) by education attainment level in 2011-20

Image
Croatia - 2021 - 2

NB: data based on ISCED 2011; breaks in time series; low reliability for ISCED 0-2 and 5-8, age 15-24.
ISCED 0-2 = less than primary, primary and lower secondary education. ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education. ISCED 5-8 = tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, lfsa_urgaed [extracted 1.9.2021].

 

The figure above shows unemployment is significantly higher among young people (aged 15-24) then among those aged 25-64 and it is distributed unevenly between those with low- and high-level qualifications.

As of 2015, for the 25-64 age group, the gap has been decreasing, with the unemployment rate for unskilled workers (9.1%) still high in comparison to those with medium-level qualifications, including most VET graduates (6.8%) and to those with tertiary education (4.9%) in 2020.

Employment of VET graduates aged 20 to 34 increased from 72.2% in 2016 to 77.6% in 2020 ( 15 ).

 

Employment rate of VET graduates (20 to 34 years old, ISCED levels 3 and 4)

Image

NB: Data based on ISCED 2011; breaks in time series.
ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, edat_lfse_24 [extracted 30.8.2021].

 

The increase (+7.4 pp) in employment of 20- to 34-year-old VET graduates in 2016-2020 in Croatia was higher compared to the increase in employment of VET graduates (+2.9 pp) in the same period in EU-27. However, in 2019-20, the COVID-19 pandemic affected the employment of VET graduates somewhat less in the EU-27 (-1.4 pp) than in Croatia (-2.0 pp).

Share of high, medium and low level qualifications

In 2020, 13.4% of the population (aged 25-64) in Croatia attained lower education level (ISCED 0-2), 61.4% attained medium education level (ISCED 3-4) and 25.2% attained tertiary education (ISCED 5-8).

 

Population (aged 25 to 64) by highest education level attained in 2020

Image

NB: Data based on ISCED 2011. Low reliability for 'No response' in Czechia and Latvia.
ISCED 0-2 = less than primary, primary and lower secondary education.
ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
ISCED 5-8 = tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, lfsa_pgaed [extracted 6.5.2021].

 

VET learners by level

Share of learners in VET by level in 2019

lower secondary

upper secondary

post-secondary

10.5%

69.0%

Not applicable

Source: Eurostat, educ_uoe_enrs01, educ_uoe_enrs04 and educ_uoe_enrs07 [extracted 30.08.2021].

At tertiary level, 29% of higher education students attended professional programmes in 2019 ( 16 ).

Female share

In 2020-21, there were 57% male students enrolled in initial VET, against 43% female students ( 17 ).

Male students are the majority in 3-year industrial programmes in IVET, whereas female students are the majority in 5-year programme for general care nurses.

Early leavers from education and training

Croatia traditionally has very low rate of early school leaving, 2.2% in 2020. It is significantly lower than 9.9%, the EU-27 average.

 

Early leavers from education and training in 2011-20

Image

NB: Share of the population aged 18 to 24 with at most lower secondary education and not in further education or training; break in series; low reliability
Source: Eurostat, edat_lfse_14 [extracted 31.8.2021] and European Commission. [accessed 14.11.2018].

 

Participation in lifelong learning

 

Participation in lifelong learning in 2009-20

Image

NB: Share of adult population aged 25 to 64 participating in education and training.
Source: Eurostat, trng_lfse_01 [extracted 6.5.2021].

 

The share of adults participating in training programmes in 2020 remains among the lowest in the EU (3.2%) and significantly below the EU-27 average (9.2%).

The education and training system comprises:

  • preschool education (ISCED level 0);
  • integrated primary and lower secondary education (ISCED level 2) (hereafter basic education);
  • upper secondary education (ISCED level 3);
  • post-secondary non-tertiary education (ISCED level 4);
  • tertiary education (ISCED levels 5, 6, 7 and 8).

Early and preschool education is offered from the very early age of 6 months and is provided at childcare institutions (dječji vrtići). 1-year pre-school education is compulsory before enrolling in primary education.

Primary and lower secondary education are integrated and last 8 years, typically from age 6 to 15; it may last to age 21 for special education needs learners.

Upper secondary education includes 4-year general education gymnasium programmes, art education and initial VET programmes that might last from 1 to 5 years.

VET specialist development programmes (strukovno specijalističko usavršavanje i osposobljavanje) are envisaged as further education programmes (specialisation) at the post-secondary level (CROQF/EQF 5, at least 60 CSVET ( 18 ) or 120 ECTS) for learners who completed VET programmes at secondary level (at least CROQF/EQF 4.1. or higher). Up to now, these programmes have not been developed, nor delivered by VET providers in Croatia.

Access to tertiary education is ensured through achieving adequate results in State Matura exams (državna matura) for general education, art education and 4-year programme VET graduates. 3-year VET programmes may be offered as apprenticeship and dual education programmes leading to the labour market. Graduates can enter an optional 1- to 2-year bridging programme and, if successful, take State Matura exams to qualify for tertiary education. In order to enrol in higher education, VET graduates can opt to take the State Matura exams (ispiti državne mature) following the completion of 4- and 5-year programmes. The National Centre for External Evaluation of Education administers the State Matura exams in cooperation with upper-secondary schools. These exams serve three aims: final examination and requirement for graduation from general upper-secondary schools; entrance exams for undergraduate studies at tertiary level for all students (including VET graduates); and external evaluation of student competences and learning outcomes. State Matura exams are administered in general education subjects only, as obligatory and optional exams. Obligatory exams are in Croatian language, mathematics and foreign language and they may be taken at A (advanced) and B (elementary) level. The list of optional exams is determined by the National Centre for External Evaluation of Education for each school year. Higher education institutions set the required level of exams and optional exams among their admission criteria independently.

Professional higher education is offered at polytechnics in the form of short-cycle undergraduate programmes (ISCED 5), professional undergraduate programmes (ISCED 6) and graduate professional specialist programmes (ISCED 7).

Initial and continuous VET is offered. The majority of initial VET programmes are 3-year or 4-year programmes leading to formal upper secondary VET qualifications. These programmes might be delivered as:

  • apprenticeships (alternation schemes);
  • school-based, with training periods at employers;
  • dual education programmes (in an experimental phase since the 2018/19 school year).

Delivery modes of upper secondary IVET programmes

IVET programmes

Delivery modes offered

 

Apprenticeship programmes

School-based VET with periods of training at the workplace

Dual education programmes

3-year VET programmes for crafts (WBL performed through practical training in licensed crafts and/or legal entities and school workshops)

x

   

3-year VET programmes for industry and related education programmes (WBL is performed through practical training in school workshops, in the workplace and in school laboratories, and through professional practice performed in the workplace (included in most programmes))

 

x

X

4-year VET programmes (WBL is performed through practical training in school workshops and laboratories and through professional practice performed in the workplace (included in most programmes))

 

x

X

5-year VET programme – general care nurse (WBL is performed through training in school facilities, laboratories and clinical training)

 

x

 

Source: Agency for Vocational Education and Training and Adult Education.

IVET at upper secondary level leads to VET qualifications at levels 3 and 4 that are the same as in the European qualifications framework (EQF). There is an offer of 1-to 2-year VET programmes leading to levels 3, but these are minor pathways, for less than 1% of upper secondary learners. There is one 5-year programme only (general care nurse) with the implementation mode different from other programmes (2-year general education training and 3-year VET programme).

4-year VET programmes combine general and vocational education on average in the same shares. Therefore, they have good progression opportunities to tertiary education if learners pass the State Matura exams that are entrance exams.

3-year programmes delivered as apprenticeships and dual education programmes leading to labour market. Graduates who want to progress to tertiary education will take 1-to 2-year bridging programme that will allow them to take State Matura exams.

Professional education and training programmes at tertiary level are not considered VET.

Non-formal continuing VET is part of adult learning regulated by the Adult Education Act ( 19 ).

Currently, there are two types of apprenticeship programmes in Croatia:

  • Unified Model of Education (Jedinstveni model obrazovanja, JMO);
  • experimental dual education programme based on the Model of Croatian Dual Education.

Unified Model of Education (Jedinstveni model obrazovanja, JMO)

As of the school year 2004/05, the apprenticeship scheme is implemented in 3-year initial VET programmes for crafts and trades, also known as the Unified Model of Education (Jedinstveni model obrazovanja, JMO).

Previously, programmes in dual education were introduced in the school year 1995/96. Their main characteristic was the separation of general education from vocational theoretical and practical education. In consequence, students were issued two certificates: one for general education and the other for vocational education. Due to the complexity, dual education programmes were replaced by the Unified Model of Education (JMO).

JMO programmes consist of two parts: general education part and apprenticeship. Apprenticeship consists of a professional-theoretical part and practical training and exercises. The share of work-based learning at apprenticeship providers is about 60% of the programme.

Apprenticeship providers are typically business entities such as craft business workshops or trade associations, institutions or cooperatives, licenced to offer practical training and exercises for apprentices. In order to get the licence, apprenticeship providers must ensure conditions for students to acquire competences in the real work environment, including a student mentor with adequate qualifications and pedagogical competences.

The JMO programme student has the status of regular student and apprentice in craft. Entry requirements include completed primary education, demonstrated medical fitness for the particular profession, as well as placement and apprenticeship contract with a licensed apprenticeship provider.

The apprenticeship contract in writing is concluded between the apprenticeship provider and the student or his/her parents or guardian if the student is not of legal age. It is not a contract of employment. The apprenticeship contract also prescribes the obligation to pay monthly remuneration to the student.

JMO programmes end with formal qualification at EQF level 4, ISCED 353. Students finish their education with the preparation and the defence of the final practical assignment (završni rad). The defence involves taking the apprenticeship exam, which includes a practical task within a complex examination item. The school issues a certificate of completion (svjedodžba o završnome radu) and the chamber of crafts issues a certificate supplement on apprenticeship (dodatak svjedodžbi o naukovanju). The main destination of graduates is the labour market. As of 2014, graduates from 3-year VET programmes can enter an optional 1- to 2-year bridge programme and, if successful in gaining a second VET qualification, can also take State Matura exams to access higher education. JMO graduates can also apply for the master craftsman exam after at least 2 years of work experience in the field.

Various stakeholders are involved in the implementation of JMO programmes. The Ministry of Science and Education decides on enrolment quotas, adopts JMO curricula and approves programmes, with the prior consent of the ministry in charge of crafts. The ministry responsible for crafts shares the responsibility with the ministry in charge of education. It ensures apprenticeship vacancies and suggests the enrolment structure, drafts curricula, defines and supervises the licensing procedure for apprenticeship providers, maintains the database of licensed crafts, and sets minimum conditions for apprenticeship contracts. It also defines the method and process of taking apprenticeship exams and exams on elementary teaching skills for workplace mentors. The Agency for VET and Adult Education proposes curricula to the Ministry of Science and Education for adoption and is in charge of the external evaluation of apprenticeship exams. The chamber of trades and crafts issues licences to apprenticeship providers, verifies and keeps record of the apprenticeship contracts, issues certificate supplements on apprenticeship, runs training programmes and conducts exams in elementary teaching skills for workplace mentors in JMO. Apprenticeship providers offer practical training and exercises to students and participate in exam committees for apprenticeship exams. VET schools enrol students in JMO programmes, implement the general, vocational theoretical part and a smaller part of the practical training of the programme, organise the preparation and defence of the final practical assignment, and issue certificates of completion.

In the school year 2020/21, 11 445 students were enrolled in 42 JMO programmes delivered by 103 VET providers; this equates to 8.0% of all secondary school students and 11.8% of all VET students. JMO programmes are facing a steady decline in participation, with the number and share of JMO students in all VET programmes decreasing by more than a half in the past 8 years. JMO programmes are offered in nine sectors: agriculture, food and veterinary medicine; forestry and wood technology; textiles and leather; mechanical engineering, shipbuilding and metallurgy; electrical engineering and computing; construction and geodesy; economy and trade; tourism and hospitality; and personal and other services. The most popular qualifications in 2020/21 were hairdresser, car mechanic, car mechatronic, carpenter and installer of heating and air-condition.

Dual education programme based on the Model of Croatian Dual Education

In 2018, the Ministry of Science and Education (MoSE) launched the experimental dual education programme based on the document Model of Croatian Dual Education ( 20 ). The responsible institution for the implementation of the programme is MoSE, with other ministries, agencies, economic and crafts chambers, employers' associations and with the support from partner institutions from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Key participants in dual education represent students, VET schools and business entities. The partnership of VET schools and business entities reflects in cooperation in planning and implementation of work-based learning, continuous professional development of VET teachers and mentors in business entities, exchange of new technologies and know-how, monitoring and assessment of students' progress in work-based learning activities and the organisation of final exams. VET schools are responsible for teaching and learning activities in line with vocational curricula, planning work-based learning activities with business entities, preparing students for work-based learning, and supporting and supervising mentors in business entities. In the first year of the programme, work-based learning is mostly organised in VET schools, while in the following years, most work-based learning is undertaken in business entities. The entities are required to provide training and continuous professional development to mentors, as well as to ensure quality assurance of work-based learning. Students sign contracts with business entities and are entitled to a monthly allowance for the period of work-based learning undertaken in business entities. The experimental phase of the programme started in the 2018/19 school year. In 2020/21, it was conducted in nine qualifications at EQF level 4 (3-year programmes for salesman, glazier, chimney sweeper, CNC operator, waiter, cook, and painter decorator and 4-year programmes for beautician and hairdresser) in 28 VET schools. In 2020, curricula were adopted for four qualifications (salesman, glazier, chimney sweeper, and beautician). The programme is financed from the State Budget and from the Swiss-Croatian Cooperation Programme as part of the project Modernisation of VET Programmes.

Learn more about apprenticeships in the national context from the European database on apprenticeship schemes by Cedefop ( 21 ).

Please, see also Cedefop Thematic country review on apprenticeship in Croatia ( 22 ).

Although several governmental ministries have an influence on the development of VET for the sectors under their remit, the Ministry of Science and Education (Ministarstvo znanosti i obrazovanja) is responsible for overall VET policy. It monitors the overall compliance of the VET system with legislation and coordinates multiple executive agencies in the field of education.

Since the mid-2000s, the government has established several new agencies. Establishing the Agency for VET in 2005 marked the beginning of profound reforms in VET. In 2010, VET and adult education agencies merged into the Agency for VET and adult education (Agencija za strukovno obrazovanje i obrazovanje odraslih, ASOO) ( 23 ). As an executive body in charge of the overall development and organisation of the VET system, ASOO is responsible for the following:

  • development of VET programmes/curricula;
  • ensuring stakeholder involvement in VET;
  • support and follow-up for VET school self-assessment;
  • monitoring the work of VET and adult education institutions;
  • provision of advice and counselling services for VET and adult education institutions;
  • professional exams for new, and promotions for experienced, VET teachers, offering continuous professional development opportunities for VET teachers;
  • foreign VET qualification recognition process;
  • organising national skills competitions.

Other stakeholders in VET are:

  • Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development (Ministarstvo gospodarstva i održivog razvoja) defines conditions and procedures for licensing apprenticeship providers, taking apprenticeship exams, apprenticeship contracts, etc.;
  • Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy (Ministarstvo rada, mirovinskoga sustava, obitelji i socijalne politike) is in charge of employment policies and labour market forecasting;
  • Council for VET (Vijeće za strukovno obrazovanje) consists of 21 members from various stakeholders. The role of this body is to coordinate activities of all stakeholders in VET, initiate the development of new curricula and revision of existing curricula, recommend new developments in VET, and to provide its assessment for the establishment of the network of regional centres of competence;
  • Education and Teacher Training Agency (Agencija za odgoj i obrazovanje, AZOO), responsible for the development of general education part of VET curricula;
  • the Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts issues licences to apprenticeship providers, verifies and keeps record of apprenticeship contracts, issues certificate supplements on apprenticeship, runs training programmes and conducts exams in elementary teaching skills for workplace mentors in JMO. It is also a partner in the experimental programme in dual education, launched as of school year 2018/2019;
  • the Croatian Chamber of Economy (Hrvatska gospodarska komora) is an independent organisation of all legal bodies performing business activities. The chamber advocates for the advancement of VET in Croatia and it is also a partner in the experimental programme in dual education, launched as of school year 2018/19;
  • the Croatian Employers' Association (Hrvatska udruga poslodavaca) is an independent organisation of all legal bodies performing business activities. Its tasks are to represent the interests of members in the development of the economic system, assess means and conditions of economic growth, improve the development of entrepreneurship, develop business relations with foreign partners, and support innovation and development;
  • industrial trade unions (six confederations of trade unions) are key stakeholders in social dialogue in Croatia who represent the position of Croatian labour force.

IVET providers are public and private secondary vocational schools that can be vocational or polyvalent (offer both gymnasium and VET programmes). The majority of schools are public, with the share of private VET schools at 4%. Local authorities are legal founders and owners of the public schools. Vocational schools can be technical, industrial, craft and others, based on the type of programmes and their duration (2-, 3- (industrial and crafts schools), 4- or 5-year (technical schools)). Some VET schools offer programmes from a single education sector or subsector, such as health and medicine, economy, commerce, administration, forestry, carpentry, agriculture, veterinary medicine, maritime, traffic, aviation, hospitality, tourism, engineering, electrical engineering, and construction.

Based on new legislative provision in 2018 ( 24 ), 25 schools from the sectors of tourism and hospitality, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and ICT, health care and agriculture have been chosen in the process of establishing the network of regional centres of competences.

Since 2001, the financing of public upper secondary VET schools has been decentralised.

The State budget finances:

  • salaries for teachers and other employees in education;
  • in-service training of teachers and other specialists;
  • education of at-risk groups (ethnic minorities, learners with special needs) and gifted learners;
  • transportation costs of learners;
  • teaching materials and equipment;
  • information and communication technology infrastructure and software for schools;
  • school libraries;
  • capital investments (buildings, infrastructure).

Local and regional governments cover:

  • costs related to school premises and equipment;
  • operating costs of secondary schools;
  • transportation costs of employees;
  • co-financing of food and lodging in learner residences;
  • capital investments (buildings, infrastructure) according to criteria determined by the Minister of Education ( 25 ).

If local/regional governments cannot ensure minimum funding, the centrally managed equalisation fund (Fond za izravnavanje) provides the deficit amount.

In 2019, the distribution of education expenditure by level shows greater inclination to funding pre-primary and primary education (50.1%), rather than tertiary (19.9%), and secondary education (19.1%) ( 26 ).

In CVET, adult learners usually cover the expenses of the education programmes they attend. The exception is primary education programmes, which are free of charge for adults and financed by the Ministry of Science and Education. The public employment service, as a part of ALMP, covers for the education expenses of the unemployed, and some adult education programmes have recently been financed through different ESF-funded projects.

The reforms of IVET and CVET ( 27 ) foreseen strongly rely on EU structural funds.

VET teacher types

In VET, there are:

  • general subject teachers;
  • vocational teachers and trainers.

Teachers of general subjects, such as mathematics and English, are qualified according to general regulations on teachers set by the education ministry. These require graduate university or professional studies, as well as pedagogical competences.

Teachers and trainers in IVET and formal CVET ( 28 ):

  • teachers of theoretical vocational subjects (nastavnik stručno-teorijskih sadržaja) require higher education (180 ECTS or more) and completed supplementary pedagogical-psychological education (60 ECTS) and other requirements according to the VET curriculum;
  • teachers of practical training and exercises (nastavnik praktične nastave i vježbi) require an undergraduate university or professional degree (180 ECTS or more), pedagogical competences and holding a qualification of a required profile;
  • vocational teachers (strukovni učitelj) require a level of education defined by VET curriculum (at least a secondary vocational education of the corresponding profile) pedagogical competences and at least 5 years of work experience in the appropriate profession;
  • teaching associate (suradnik u nastavi) requires a secondary education, pedagogical competences and at least 5 years of work experience, unless regulated differently by the vocational curricula.

In 3-year VET programmes (JMO), apprenticeship providers (crafts and legal entities) have to assign a mentor, usually a qualified staff member who accompanies apprentices during their work at employers. According to the legislation ( 29 ), mentors can be:

  • master craftspersons;
  • persons who have the same rights, as per the Crafts Act, as the persons who have passed the master craftsman's exam and also have passed the exam that proves elementary teaching competences;
  • persons with relevant higher education qualifications and the exam proving elementary teaching competences;
  • inventors or persons with high school qualifications who have their trades and crafts businesses registered in the region of particular national interest, with at least 3 years of relevant professional experience and the exam proving elementary teaching competences;
  • persons with relevant high school qualifications, at least 7 years of relevant professional experience and the exam proving elementary teaching competences.

In 2019, about 15 100 teachers taught either vocational or general education subjects in upper secondary vocational education ( 30 ).

In dual education programmes the mentor must be employed by the employer, have the appropriate qualification and have passed an exam that proves the basic knowledge of teaching.

Continuing professional development of teachers/trainers

The continuing professional development and in-service training of VET staff is mainly provided by the Agency for VET and Adult Education. VET schools are also expected to provide in-house staff development activities. However, there are currently no data available on the quality or effectiveness of these activities (see also below for school-based developmental projects and mobility projects funded by EU programmes). Travel and accommodation costs of in-service training for teachers are covered by VET institutions, which affects the numbers of teachers attending training. Overall, the provision of in-service training for VET staff is underfinanced and generally perceived as insufficient.

Apart from the State-funded in-service training described above, in-service training of VET teachers is also implemented by:

  • professional associations and other non-governmental organisations offering training (fee-based or free of charge);
  • public open universities (Pučka otvorena učilišta);
  • the Chamber of Crafts and Trades;

Such in-service training does not require programme or provider accreditation.

The system enables promotion in the profession of teachers, vocational trainers and teaching associates. The Regulation on the promotion of teachers in primary and secondary education ( 31 ) guides promotion in the profession, and teachers can acquire the title of mentors, advisors and excellent advisors.

They can be recognised for outstanding achievements in education. The Regulation prescribes levels, conditions and ways of progression. VET teachers initiate the process of promotion, with mandatory notification to their schools. The Agency of VET and Adult Education conducts the promotion procedure and issues decisions on the promotion of VET teachers. The requirements for advancement include a professional exam, work experience as a teacher, participation in CPD, and meeting additional assessment criteria, which cover organisation, participation or mentorship in student competitions; mentorship to students or teacher trainees; delivery or participation in training; activity in professional associations; publications and production of teaching materials and educational content; project management or implementation; and contribution to school (a mandatory criterion) and the education system.

Teachers are elected into positions of mentor and advisor for the period of 5 years and can be re-elected.

In 2018, the Agency for Vocational Education and Training and Adult Education (AVETAE) produced the concept for the new model of continuing professional development (CPD) and open programme of CPD for VET school teachers ( 32 ). The concept significantly expands the scope, the quality and the modalities of CPD and defines general and elective modules delivered through guided training, individual assignments and assessment activities. Modules are directed at developing teaching competences, teaching talented students and students with disabilities, quality assurance, class management, innovative teaching methods, adult education, service learning, as well as strengthening peer- and lifelong-learning, digital and project management competences.

More information is available in the Cedefop ReferNet thematic perspective on teachers and trainers ( 33 ).

Anticipating skill needs

Based on the Government Decree on the monitoring, analyses and prediction of labour market needs and the development of an educational enrolment policy ( 34 ), PES ( 35 ) (Hrvatski Zavod za zapošljavanje) conducts an annual analysis and prediction of labour market needs for specific qualifications. This analysis is based on relevant statistical data and employment indicators of currently unemployed persons with specific qualifications, data from the Employers questionnaire (anketa poslodavaca) and regional and local development strategies and plans. PES publishes the Recommendations for educational enrolment and stipend policies (Preporuke za obrazovnu upisnu politiku i politiku stipendiranja). These recommendations are regionally and locally determined and are qualitative, rather than quantitative in nature, indicating only if there is a need for an increase or decrease in the enrolment in a specific VET programme. They have not always been taken into account while determining the enrolment vacancies in the specific VET programmes and the need for a more efficient and precise system was recognised.

Legislation on NQF ( 36 ) in 2013 provided a new tool for qualification development and reshaped the structure for labour market anticipation and feedback loops between occupational standards, qualification standards and curricula. The process of adjusting education to labour market needs begins with an estimation of future needs for knowledge and skills, as outlined in key strategic documents ( 37 ). The process of adjustment between education and labour market needs is based on the development of occupational standards (standard zanimanja) and subsequently on the development of qualification standards (standard kvalifikacija). The occupational standards are empirically founded upon the sector profiles (profil sektora) and the occupation standard survey (anketa o standardu zanimanja). The development of VET curricula is based on the qualification standards.

In order to support qualification development, the Ministry of Labour has, in previous years, launched the Croatian Qualifications Framework (CROQF) web portal ( 38 ) as the central portal with labour market and education indicators. The CROQF portal is designed to serve as the central tool for labour market monitoring and the main evidence base for the development of sector profiles and occupational standards as the key mechanisms of CROQF. The portal offers data visualisation, statistics and analyses by CROQF sectors. It integrates data on employment, unemployment, enrolment in secondary and higher education programmes, key economic activities and corresponding employment rates, and distribution of different occupations in sectors in relation to economic activities. The portal associates data on unemployment from the Croatian Employment Service, data on employment from the Croatian Pension Insurance Institute, enrolment in secondary and higher education programmes from the Ministry of Science and Education and the relevant statistical indicators from the Croatian Bureau of Statistics.

See also Cedefop's skills forecast ( 39 ).

Designing qualifications

VET qualifications

Three major elements of qualification development are foreseen:

  • occupational standards (standard zanimanja)

The occupational standards are a tool developed to identify the skills and associated knowledge required to be 'competent' in a particular job role. The standards are broken into units, which classify different sets of skills and knowledge. For VET qualifications, the occupational standards are being developed to a level of detail that highlights and describes the broad skills and knowledge sets that may be applied across a number of subsectors and related job roles within a particular industry.

  • qualification standard (standard kvalifikacija)

The qualification standards take the skills identified and described within the occupational standards and translates them into criteria against which learners are evaluated. The qualification standards are broken down into a series of logical 'units'. Each unit is comprised of a set of 'learning outcomes' and 'assessment criteria'. The learning outcomes describe what a learner should be able to achieve once a programme of study has been completed. The assessment criteria establish the activities and benchmarks that must be achieved by the learner in order to demonstrate that learning outcomes have been achieved. Each unit is also given a credit value that identifies the amount of time required by an average learner to complete all relevant learning and assessment activities to achieve the required learning outcomes. When a range of qualification standards has been developed, a decision is made as to which units need to be 'mandatory' or 'elective'.

  • VET curriculum (strukovni kurikulum)

The final phase of the development process is associated with the production of VET curricula, which set out what needs to be taught in order to ensure that learning outcomes can be achieved.

The qualification development in VET follows the general process for qualification development at all levels, described in the CROQF Act ( 40 ) and the Regulation on CROQF Register ( 41 ). The CROQF Register represents the central repository of approved occupational standards, qualification standards and units of learning outcomes, organised in corresponding sub-registers. In order to be approved, the proposals for occupational standards and qualification standards follow the prescribed procedure for the entry in the CROQF Register.

The first stage of qualification development consists of the development and entry of the relevant occupational standard for the qualification. According to the CROQF Act, any legal entity or natural person, as well as public administration body with legitimate interest, may propose an occupational standard for entry in the CROQF Register. The proposed occupational standard needs to be empirically founded on relevant development strategies, sector profiles and occupational standard survey, which ensures the input of employers. The proposed occupational standard is submitted to the Ministry of Labour to decide on the entry of the occupational standard in the CROQF Register based on the expert opinion of an assessment commission set up by the Ministry.

Qualification standard development follows a similar process, with the Agency for VET and Adult Education responsible for the entry of VET qualification standards in the CROQF Register, based on expert opinions of assessment commissions set up by the Agency.

The final stage comprises the development of a vocational curriculum, which is based on the qualification standard and aligned to the occupational standard. The proposed vocational curricula should be aligned with the National curriculum for VET and the relevant sectoral curricula. Based on the learning-outcome approach, the National curriculum for VET from 2018 describes teaching and learning processes, including work-based learning and learning cycles. It encompasses qualifications on CROQF/EQF levels 2-5 and defines the curricular framework for VET, which comprises sectoral curricula, vocational curricula and VET school curricula. The document sets out the structure for each qualification level in terms of the proposed teaching time devoted to general content, vocational modules, elective modules and work-based learning in line with sectoral and vocational curricula. The National curriculum for VET defines enrolment, permeability and assessment in VET. It allows for learning flexibility and specialisation through elective modules integrated in qualifications at CROQF level 4.1. and 4.2. / EQF level 4 for up to 30% of vocational curricula. The sectoral curricula set out the framework for all vocational curricula for qualifications on EQF levels 2-5 within particular education sectors. This way, the sectoral curricula ensure the attainment of broader competences relevant for all occupations within a sector. The sectoral curricula development is envisaged within the current AVETAE project for the modernisation of vocational education and training system in Croatia.

Managing qualifications

Several bodies are involved in designing, updating and awarding qualifications:

  • Assessment commissions appointed by the Ministry of labour for expert evaluation of occupational standards and by the Agency for VET for evaluation of qualification standards in VET;
  • Ministry of Science and Education: as the national coordinating body responsible for CROQF, the Ministry of Science and Education offers methodological guidelines for the development of qualification standards. It also coordinates quality assurance of qualifications and learning outcomes, and is responsible for developing a system for the recognition and validation of non-formal and informal learning;
  • Ministry of Labour: as the responsible authority for the labour market, the Ministry of Labour is in charge of the sub-register of occupational standards. It offers methodological guidelines for the development of occupational standards and decides on the entry of the proposed occupational standards in the CROQF Register. It is also responsible for producing evidence-base for the development of occupational standards by collecting information about current and future labour market needs and the necessary competences. The Ministry of Labour is expected to monitor the labour market needs and propose corresponding development of qualification standards and occupational standards;
  • Agency for VET and Adult Education (ASOO): as the public administration body in charge of VET, AVETAE proposes occupational standards, qualification standards and curricula in VET. AVETAE also processes and decides on the requests for entry of qualification standards in the CROQF Register. Currently, AVETAE leads a large-scale project for the modernisation of vocational education and training in Croatia, as the largest initiative for update of VET qualifications and reform of VET curricula;
  • The National Council for the Development of Human Potential (Nacionalno vijeće za razvoj ljudskih potencijala): as the strategic advisory body responsible for CROQF, the National Council offers recommendations for policies relevant to qualification development and the alignment of education to the labour market.

Developing a coherent system

The area of quality assurance is informed by:

  • external assessment of student competences and VET providers, administration of the State Matura exams and national exams in VET, based on the VET Act and the National Centre for External Evaluation of Education Act ( 42 ), by the National Centre for External Evaluation of Education;
  • external assessment of institutions ( 43 ), inspection ( 44 ) performed by the Ministry of Science and Education and professional-pedagogic supervision of VET providers ( 45 ) by the Agency for VET and Adult Education;
  • quality assurance of programmes for acquiring qualifications by the Ministry of Science and Education and the Agency for Science and Higher Education through the CROQF ( 46 );
  • supervision over the implementation of apprenticeships ( 47 ) by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development;
  • external assessment of apprenticeship exam by the Agency for VET and Adult Education ( 48 );
  • self-assessment of VET providers ( 49 ), based on the VET Act and relevant methodology ( 50 ) organised and supported by the Agency for VET and Adult Education.

VET schools do self-assessment once a year, within the six assessment areas:

  • planning and programming of work;
  • teaching and support to learning;
  • learning outcomes;
  • material and human resources, including continuing professional development of staff;
  • cooperation within the VET school and with stakeholders;
  • administration and management.

Each area is further broken down into quality areas, which are described using individual quality criteria. All areas are applied primarily to IVET. In 2011, secondary VET schools launched a self-assessment process and the first annual reports were produced and analysed. To assist VET schools in the process, the VET agency developed a comprehensive manual and an online E-quality tool ( 51 ) (e-kvaliteta) that enabled secondary VET schools to present their self-assessment data and plans for improvements. Both measures are evidence-based.

The strategic documents call for the establishment of a coherent, unified system of VET quality assurance at the national level, at the level of VET providers and at the level of qualifications developed in line with EQAVET recommendations. This system is to be used for both IVET and CVET. Strong argumentation for a coherent, unified system comes from analyses indicating the existence of parallel and uncoordinated structures that are insufficiently used for the amelioration of school practice and the development of VET policy.

Formal qualifications cannot be acquired through recognition of non-formal and informal learning.

Allowances for learners

In the 3-year VET programmes for crafts and trades, the contract for apprenticeship (ugovor o naukovanju) regulates learner allowances as stipulated by the legislation ( 52 ). In other VET pathways, learner allowances are also regulated through contracts for practical training and exercises (ugovor o provedbi praktične nastave i vježbi) ( 53 ).

Scholarships for shortage occupations

In 2019, EUR 9.8 million was granted for scholarships to 4 126 students in 3-year VET programmes in crafts and trades (jedinstveni model obrazovanja, JMO) for which there is a labour market shortage; the amount of support is increasing by the year. The list of eligible programmes was determined nationally, but allows regional modification. Local communities, as well as professional associations and private firms, also provide incentives and stipends for learners.

In Croatia, the main employment policy relevant to VET is the Active labour market policy (Mjere aktivne politike zapošljavanja, ALMP).

Tax exemptions

Companies that provide apprenticeships for learners in 3-year VET programmes have tax breaks reducing their taxable income ( 54 ). Entrepreneurs that train one to three learners per year on their premises may reduce their taxable income by 5%; an additional learner further reduces the taxable income by 1 percentage point, up to a limit of 15%.

The Croatian Employment Service (CES) systematically organises activities aimed at giving information, guidance and counselling for students in the final years of primary and upper secondary education (including VET).

Several elements developed by CES within this comprehensive guidance and counselling system are aimed at young persons. In recent years, CES has organised a regional network of 13 centres for career information and guidance under the name of CISOK ( 55 ) (Centri za informiranje i savjetovanje o karijeri). This allowed for a tailor-made approach to guidance and counselling. The services are free of charge and open to both students and parents. Trained guidance counsellors provide services. Guidance is provided to learners in transition from primary to secondary and from secondary to higher education through open days and career fairs. These initiatives are supported by chambers, employers, former students and parents. Further establishment of CISOKs is planned to cover all counties in Croatia.

Career guidance for learners is conducted through the joint efforts of school counsellors and CES career guidance counsellors. Particular attention is devoted to learners with lower achievement and those who, according to the evaluations, might face labour market problems after they complete their education, i.e. those with developmental and health issues, learning disabilities or behaviour disorders. Team evaluation is carried out, including psychological assessment, an interview and, if needed, a medical examination by an occupational health physician. Labour market needs, educational opportunities and learners' individual abilities and needs are taken into account while forming the expert team opinion on the most appropriate choices in education.

CES has also developed a web portal e-Guidance ( 56 ) to offer the information needed for the selection of education programmes and to provide assistance in setting and reaching professional goals and searching for jobs.

Finally, CES conducts a yearly survey of the vocational intentions of primary and secondary school students. Using the results of this survey, expert teams of school and CES representatives define target groups that need specific services for career guidance. The aggregate results of the survey indicate the trends in the intentions of learners and are forwarded to stakeholders in education and employment at both regional and national levels.

Please see:

  • guidance and outreach Croatia national report ( 57 );
  • Cedefop's labour market intelligence toolkit ( 58 ).

Vocational education and training system chart

Programme Types

ECVET or other credits

The total workload for acquiring a vocational qualification at EQF level 3 is a minimum of 60 CSVET credits of the EQF level 3 or a higher level of units of learning outcomes ( 59 ).

CSVET credits are awarded for vocational education and training at EQF levels 2 to 5. ( 60 ). Each CSVET credit includes 15 to 25 hours of study work, duration of 60 minutes.

Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)
  • school-based learning; 
  • work practice (practical training at school and in-company practice).
Main providers

Upper secondary VET schools

Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

> 50% ( 61 )

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)
  • practical training at school
  • in-company practice
Main target groups

2-year programmes at EQF level 3 are particularly suitable for young people aiming to enter the labour market upon completion of the programme, or learners at risk of early leaving.

Students with disabilities may enrol adapted 2-year VET programmes, which could extend for up to 3 years.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

Entry requirements include a certificate of completion of primary education and good physical and mental health, as required by the curricula.

Assessment of learning outcomes

For 2-year programmes at EQF level 3, VET providers perform the final learner assessment, which comprises production and presentation of the final practical assignment (završni rad).

Diplomas/certificates provided

For 2-year programmes at EQF level 3, certificates of completion (svjedodžba o završnome radu) represent a formal award recognised by the education and training and labour authorities.

Examples of qualifications

Welder (zavarivač), administrator (administrator).

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Students holding this certificate normally enter the labour market meeting requirements to execute simple tasks in familiar conditions. After completing 2-year VET programmes, learners have the possibility of vertical mobility and continuing their education at a higher level in the status of regular learners. They can enrol in a 3-year VET programme and pass additional and supplementary examinations.

Destination of graduates

2-year programmes at EQF level 3 are labour market-oriented, which is the primary destination of graduates.

Awards through validation of prior learning

No

General education subjects

Currently, the share of the general education content in the total teaching load for 2-year programmes ranges from 20-40% ( 62 ).

Key competences

Depending on the curricula, key competences in programmes at EQF level 3 usually include competences in Croatian and foreign languages, mathematics and ICT.

Application of learning outcomes approach

No

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

In the school year 2020/21, 10 VET providers enrolled 162 students (0.2% of all IVET learners) in 9 programmes at EQF level 3.

ECVET or other credits

The total workload for 3-year vocational programmes is a minimum of 180 CSVET credits, with at least 120 CSVET credits of level 4 or a higher level of units of learning outcomes ( 63 ).

CSVET credits are awarded for vocational education and training at EQF levels 2-5. Each CSVET credit includes 15 to 25 hours of study work, duration of 60 minutes.

Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)

JMO programmes:

  • apprenticeships

School-based programmes for industry and crafts:

  • school-based learning with practical training at school and in-company

Dual education programmes

  • practical training at school and in-company
Main providers

JMO programmes:

  • VET schools
  • Companies (licenced craft workshops or legal entities)

School-based programmes for industry and crafts:

  • VET schools

Dual education programmes

  • VET schools
  • Companies
Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

JMO programmes: 60%

School-based programmes for industry and crafts:

5%-10% ( 64 )

Dual education programmes: 70% (exceptional to other 3-year programmes, which have up to 60% of WBL (JMO).

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)

JMO programmes:

  • apprenticeships
  • practical training at school

The education follows a VET curriculum that consists of two parts, the general education part and the apprenticeship. The apprenticeship consists of a professional-theoretical part and practical training and exercises. The general education and the professional-theoretical parts are implemented in VET schools. The practical training and exercises are implemented mainly in the work process, in craft business workshops or in a trade association, institution or cooperative, and, to a lesser extent, in VET school workshops for a certain number of hours, according to the curriculum for each qualification.

School-based programmes for industry and crafts:

  • practical training at school
  • in-company practice

Dual education programmes

  • practical training at school
  • in-company practice
Main target groups

Programmes are available for young people and also for adults.

Many curricula at this level, for example for assisting professions, are also suitable for learners with special educational needs, such as moderate and severe disability. Special arrangements are available for them in VET schools.

Programmes are also suitable for learners at risk of early school leaving.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

The entry requirements for 3-year programmes include:

  • certificate of completion of primary education;
  • adequate physical and mental health, as required by the VET teaching plans and programmes.

For JMO programmes, an apprenticeship contract is also required.

Assessment of learning outcomes

To complete a VET programme, learners need to take a final practical assignment (završni rad) which is mandatory for all learners in order to receive a valid qualification. The final assessment is organised and conducted by schools ( 65 ); upon passing it, a learner acquires a secondary school qualification and the VET school issues a certificate.

The final assessment consists of the final practical assignment (izrada završnog rada) and its defence (obrana). Each school can have different timelines regarding the organisation of the final exam as well as the specificities regarding the choice of topics. Learners choose topics (tema) from the list of topics set by the school; learners may also propose topics themselves, in line with teaching plans / curricula. Each learner is assigned a VET teacher as mentor for the final practical assignment. Defence involves presentation of the final practical assignment in front of a commission, which consists of VET school teachers, including the learner's mentor.

For learners in JMO programmes, the defence of the final practical assignment includes the apprenticeship exam. This consists of a practical task performed within a complex examination item, which assesses the practical skills, autonomy and responsibility of learners to perform an occupation in crafts in line with the qualification standard. VET schools organise apprenticeship exams and form assessment commissions, consisting of VET teachers and mentors in crafts (mostly the latter); the chamber of trades and crafts proposes mentors from licensed crafts and other legal entities for commissions. The apprenticeship exam may take place in school or craft workshop, including where the learner completed apprenticeship. JMO graduates receive a certificate of completion (svjedodžba o završnome radu) from schools and certificate supplement on apprenticeship (dodatak svjedodžbi o naukovanju) from the chamber of trades and crafts.

Learners in JMO programmes can also take an intermediate test (kontrolni ispit) in the second year ( 66 ).

An intermediate test (ispit provjere znanja i vještina) is also foreseen in other VET pathways, such as dual education programmes, in the second year of education.

Diplomas/certificates provided

For 3-year programmes, certificates of completion (svjedodžba o završnome radu) are a formal award recognised by the education and training and labour authorities.

Examples of qualifications

JMO programmes:

Chef, hairdresser, auto-mechanic, carpenter, photographer

Programmes in industry:
CNC operator

Dual education programmes:

Salesman, waiter, painter decorator

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Both horizontal and vertical pathways are stipulated ( 67 ). As of 2014, graduates from 3-year VET programmes can enter an optional 1- to 2-year bridging programme (program za stjecanje više razine kvalifikacije) ( 68 ) and, if successful in gaining a second VET qualification, can also take State Matura exams to access higher education.

JMO graduates can apply for the master craftsman exam after 2 years of work experience in the field.

In 2016, an additional regulation on the conditions and the pathways of continuing education for obtaining a higher level of qualifications was introduced ( 69 ). According to that regulation, learners can continue education for 2 years after acquiring the lower-level qualifications, conditional on previous education, i.e. qualification profile and the minimum grade point average achieved during their 3-year education. Schools providing 3-year programmes are obliged to organise a tuition-free fourth year for learners wishing to continue their education.

Before enrolling a learner into the bridging programme, the teaching council at VET school determines the list of supplementary exams to the qualification already attained and the qualification that the learner aims to attain by completing the bridging programme. The number of supplementary exams determines the duration of the bridging programme. Learners with fewer supplementary exams can immediately integrate into the regular classes of the final year of 4-year programmes under condition that they pass the exams before 31 March of the same school year. Learners with more supplementary exams first take 1 year to pass them, and then can attend the classes regularly the following year. To complete the bridging programme, learners need to produce and present the final practical assignment (izradba i obrana završnog rada) which is mandatory for all learners to receive a valid qualification. The final assessment is organised by schools; upon passing it, a learner acquires a secondary school qualification and the VET school issues a certificate of completion (svjedodžba o završnom radu).

To enrol into higher education, graduates can opt to take the State Matura exams (ispiti državne mature) following the completion of the bridging programme and the attainment of the qualification at EQF level 4, ISCED 354 ( 70 ). According to the findings of the Cedefop review ( 71 ), provisions for access to higher levels of education are not widely used in practice. It is very hard for JMO learners to continue with their education: schools reported approximately 10% of their third-year learners continuing their studies. Learners have to take many exams to catch up with learners from other programmes and enrol in the regular fourth year: according to some, about 20-25 exams, or equal to 2 years of schooling, the successful graduation of which gives access to the State Matura exams (državna matura). Most schools offer, and learners opt for, adult education programmes that are not free of charge but are provided as evening school option allowing learners to work full-time. The learners who decide to continue their education are mostly those with higher grades achieved during the 3-year period of the JMO programme.

Destination of graduates

Students holding this certificate generally enter the labour market. In the school year 2020/21, 163 students are recorded to have enrolled a 4-year VET programme after having completed a 3-year programme, which equals 0.3% of students in 4-year VET programmes. The trend is similar for previous years.

Awards through validation of prior learning

No

General education subjects

JMO:

currently, the share of the general education content in the total teaching load for JMO programmes is around 20%.

Programmes in industry and crafts: currently, the share of the general education content in the total teaching load for 3-year school-based programmes is 20-40% in the first and the second year, and 25-40% in the third year ( 72 ).

Key competences

Depending on the curricula, key competences in 3-year programmes at EQF level 4 usually include competences in Croatian and foreign languages, mathematics and ICT.

Application of learning outcomes approach

In the school year 2020/21, one 3-year outcome-based programme for salespersons is in implementation in Croatian VET schools. Other qualifications and vocational curricula in line with the learning-outcome approach are yet to be developed in the VET reform process currently under way. In dual education, 3-year programmes are also outcome-based for the qualifications of salesman, glazier, chimney sweep, CNC operator, waiter, cook, and painter decorator.

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

In the school year 2020/21, 212 VET providers enrolled 27 505 students (28.4% of all IVET learners) in 144 programmes. Over the last 15 years, student participation in these programmes has been steadily declining. Specifically, the number of students finishing 3-year programmes has fallen from 21 000 in 1998 to 9 965 in 2017, declining as a share of upper secondary education graduates from 40% to 22%.

ECVET or other credits

The total workload for 4-year programmes is a minimum of 240 CSVET credits, with at least 150 CSVET credits of the level 4 or a higher level of units of learning outcomes ( 73 ).

CSVET credits are awarded for vocational education and training at EQF levels 2-5. Each CSVET credit includes 15 to 25 hours of study work, duration of 60 minutes.

Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)

For 4-year programmes:

  • school-based learning with practical training at school and in-company

Dual education programmes

  • practical training at school and in-company
Main providers

4-year programmes:

  • VET schools

Dual education programmes

  • VET schools 
  • Companies
Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

4-year programmes:

less than 10% ( 74 )

Dual education programmes: 80%

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)

In 4-year programmes:

  • practical training at school
  • in-company practice

Dual education programmes:

  • practical training at school
  • in-company practice
Main target groups

Young people

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

The entry requirements include a certificate of completion of primary education and adequate physical and mental health, as required by occupational standards.

Assessment of learning outcomes

For the completion of the educational programme learners need to produce and present a final practical assignment (izradba i obrana završnog rada) which is mandatory for all learners in order to receive a valid qualification. A final assessment is organised and conducted by schools ( 75 ); upon successfully passing it, a learner acquires a secondary school qualification and the VET school issues a certificate.

Diplomas/certificates provided

For 4-year programmes, certificates of completion (svjedodžba o završnome radu) are the formal award recognised by the education and training and labour authorities.

Examples of qualifications

In 4-year programmes: beautician, mechanical engineering technician, ICT technician, commercialist.

Dual education programmes: hairdresser, beautician.

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

In order to enrol into higher education, graduates can opt to take the State Matura exams (ispiti državne mature) following the completion of 4-year programmes. Students holding the certificates of completion (svjedodžba o završnome radu) as well as a certificate on the State Matura exams passed (potvrda o položenim ispitima državne mature) can apply to higher education. The National Centre for External Evaluation of Education administers the State Matura exams in cooperation with upper-secondary schools. These exams serve three aims: final examination and requirement for graduation from general upper-secondary schools, entrance exams for undergraduate studies at tertiary level for all students (including VET graduates) and external evaluation of student competences and learning outcomes. State Matura exams are administered in general education subjects as obligatory and optional exams. Obligatory exams are in Croatian language, mathematics and foreign language and they may be taken at A (advanced) and B (elementary) level. The list of optional exams is determined by the National Centre for External Evaluation of Education for each school year. Higher education institutions set the required level of exams and optional exams among their admission criteria independently. National data from 2019 suggest that over 80% of 4- and 5-year VET programme students expressed a wish to study at the tertiary level by enrolling in the national information system and taking the three obligatory State Matura exams (Croatian language, mathematics, foreign language).

Destination of graduates

In 2020, around 54% of 4-year programme graduates enrolled in higher education.

Awards through validation of prior learning

No

General education subjects

The programmes consist of general education and vocational parts in approximately equal shares.

The share of the general education content in the total teaching load in 4-year programmes ranges from 40-70% in the first year, 40-60% in the second year and 30-40% in the third and fourth years.

The National curriculum for VET states that vocational curricula for 4-year programmes in IVET should comprise up to 45% of general education content.

Key competences

Depending on individual curricula, 8 key competences ( 76 ) are integrated in 4-year programmes at EQF level 4 to different extents.

Application of learning outcomes approach

In 2020/21, 25 outcome-based curricula were in implementation in Croatian schools in 4-year IVET programmes. In dual education, 4-year programmes for beautician and hairdresser are also outcome-based.

All other programmes are content-based teaching programmes ( 77 ).

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

In 2020/21, 267 VET providers enrolled 63 876 students (66.0% of all IVET learners) in 128 4-year programmes.

ECVET or other credits

The total workload for 5-year programmes is a minimum of 240 CSVET credits, with at least 150 CSVET credits of the level 4 or a higher level of units of learning outcomes ( 78 ).

CSVET credits are awarded for vocational education and training at EQF levels 2-5. Each CSVET credit includes 15 to 25 hours of study work, duration of 60 minutes.

Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)

5-year programmes for general nursing qualification follow a different structure:

  • school-based general education in the first 2 years;
  • school-based vocational theoretical and practical parts in schools and practical training in hospitals in the second 3 years.
Main providers

VET schools

Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

60% in the final 3 years of the programme

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)

For 5-year general nursing qualification programmes, practical training is organised in hospitals and other teaching healthcare institutions.

Main target groups

Young people

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

The entry requirements include a certificate of completion of primary education and adequate physical and mental health, as required by the occupational standard.

Assessment of learning outcomes

For the completion of the educational programme learners need to produce and present a final practical assignment (izradba i obrana završnog rada) which is mandatory for all learners in order to receive a qualification. A final assessment is conducted by schools ( 79 ); upon passing it, a learner acquires a secondary school qualification and the VET school issues a certificate.

Diplomas/certificates provided

Certificates of completion (svjedodžba o završnome radu) also represent the final formal award. However, after completing the first 2 years of the nursing programme, which focuses on the general education content, learners receive a certificate of completion, for 2-year general education for the attainment of a medical care qualification (uvjerenje o završenome dvogodišnjem općeobrazovnom programu za stjecanje zdravstvene kvalifikacije).

Examples of qualifications

General care nurse

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

In order to enrol into higher education, graduates can opt to take the State Matura exams (ispiti državne mature) following the completion of the 5-year programme. Students holding the certificates of completion (svjedodžba o završnome radu) as well as a certificate on the State Matura exams passed (potvrda o položenim ispitima državne mature) can apply to higher education. The National Centre for External Evaluation of Education administers the State Matura exams in cooperation with upper-secondary schools. These exams serve three aims: final examination and requirement for graduation from general upper-secondary schools, entrance exams for undergraduate studies at tertiary level for all students (including VET graduates) and external evaluation of student competences and learning outcomes. State Matura exams are administered in general education subjects as obligatory and optional exams. Obligatory exams are in Croatian language, mathematics and foreign language and they may be taken at A (advanced) and B (elementary) level. The list of optional exams is determined by the National Centre for External Evaluation of Education for each school year. Higher education institutions set the required level of exams and optional exams among their admission criteria independently. National data from 2019 suggest that over 80% of 4- and 5-year VET programme students expressed a wish to study at the tertiary level by enrolling in the national information system and taking the three obligatory State Matura exams (Croatian language, mathematics, foreign language).

Destination of graduates

In 2020, around 40% of 5-year programme graduates enrolled in higher education on completion of secondary education.

Awards through validation of prior learning

No

General education subjects

The general education ratio is 100% the first 2 years, and VET part ratio is 100% in the second 3 years.

Key competences

Depending on individual curricula, eight key competences ( 80 ) are integrated in 5-year programme at EQF level 4 to different extents.

Application of learning outcomes approach

Curriculum for the qualification of general care nurse is learning outcome-based.

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

In 2020/21, 25 VET providers enrolled 5 263 students (5.4% of all IVET learners) in one (general care nurse) 5-year programme.

ECVET or other credits

The total workload for programmes at EQF level 5 is a minimum of 60 CSVET, with at least 30 CSVET credits of the level 6 or a higher level of units of learning outcomes ( 81 ).

CSVET credits are awarded for vocational education and training at EQF levels 2-5. Each CSVET credit includes 15 to 25 hours of study work, duration of 60 minutes.

Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)

VET specialist development programmes may include:

  • school-based learning
  •  practical training at school and in-company
Main providers

VET schools or higher education institutions

Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

> 50% ( 82 )

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)

VET specialist development programmes may include:

  • practical training at school; 
  • in-company practice (preferred).
Main target groups

Learners who completed VET programmes at secondary level (at least CROQF/EQF 4.1. or higher)

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

Completed VET programmes at secondary level (at least CROQF/EQF 4.1. or higher)

Assessment of learning outcomes

Not defined.

Qualifications at this level were foreseen by the Act on NQF ( 83 ) in 2013, yet no VET specialist development programmes have been developed to date.

Diplomas/certificates provided

VET post-secondary development and training certificate

Examples of qualifications

Qualifications at this level were foreseen in 2013 by the Act on NQF ( 84 ), yet no VET specialist development programmes have been developed to date.

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

These programmes have strong labour market orientation. Progression mechanisms to higher education are not defined at this point.

Destination of graduates

Information not applicable since programmes are not introduced yet.

Awards through validation of prior learning

No

General education subjects

No

Key competences

Not defined. Qualifications at this level were foreseen by the Act on NQF ( 85 ) in 2013, yet no VET specialist development programmes have been developed to date.

Application of learning outcomes approach

All future qualifications, developed in line with the National curriculum in VET, should be outcome-based.

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

Qualifications at this level were foreseen by the Act on NQF ( 86 ) in 2013, yet no VET specialist development programmes have been developed to date.

ECVET or other credits

120 -150 ECTS

Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)
  • part-time
  • full-time
Main providers

Higher education institutions

Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

Opportunities for practical training depend on individual curricula.

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)
  • practical training at higher education institutions, if determined by curricula
  • in-company training, if determined by curricula.
Main target groups

For full-time studies: young people, secondary school graduates at EQF level 4.

Besides young people, part-time studies may also be available to working adults.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

Previously acquired EQF level 4 qualification or higher.

Assessment of learning outcomes

Written or oral examinations at course level.

Final assessment may include written and/or oral examination or final thesis, as determined by curricula.

Diplomas/certificates provided

Professional associate (stručni pristupnik).

Examples of qualifications

Professional associate in chemical engineering (stručni pristupnik kemijskog inženjerstva).

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Graduates may continue their education with professional undergraduate programmes.

Depending on the curricula, at the discretion of higher education institutions, graduates may also enrol in university graduate programmes or specialist graduate professional programmes; on condition they pass additional and supplementary exams.

Destination of graduates

Not applicable

Awards through validation of prior learning

No

General education subjects

General education subjects are taught mostly in relation to vocational subjects.

Key competences

Some courses may be offered to teach key competences.

Application of learning outcomes approach

Not consistent.

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

In 2018/19, there were 53 students enrolled in short-cycle professional undergraduate programmes, representing 0.1% of students in higher education professional programmes, and 0.03% of all students in higher education.