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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.1 General context

Last update: 28 March 2024
On this page: 
  1. Main trends in young people’s participation in education and training
  2. Organisation of the education and training system
  3. Main concepts


Main trends in young people’s participation in education and training

According to Eurostat’s stratification by completed education levels from 2022, 25.4% of young people (aged 15-29) completed the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) -2, 57.8% completed ISCED 3-4, and 16.8% completed ISCED 5-8.  Research findings suggest that school is a significant factor in reproducing social inequality across all education levels (Spajić-Vrkaš and Potočnik, 2017). Another study finds long-term continuity in social inequalities in access to higher education in Croatia: “Students from better-educated family backgrounds tend to be overrepresented in higher education and students form better educated and white-collar family backgrounds are more likely to enroll in academic as opposed to professional study courses” (Doolan, Puzić, and Baranović, 2017, p.1). 

In 2022, Croatia, at 2.3%, had the lowest percentage of early leavers from education and training among young people (aged 18-24) in the European Union (EU). Although this rate is low, it is concerning that the main reason that most young people left education was poor material family conditions (Spajić-Vrkaš and Potočnik, 2017).

Erasmus+ is the biggest EU programme for mobility and transnational cooperation in the fields of education, training, youth, and sport from 2014 to 2023. The Erasmus+ budget for Croatia in 2019 was €25.5 million, and the budget for 2020 was €32 million. The budget for 2021 was over €28 million, for 2022 is over €36 million, and for 2024 is over €44 million. At the same time, the research indicates that over half of students with international mobility experience received support from their parents, while only 25% received support from European funds (Spajić-Vrkaš and Potočnik, 2017).

Over ten years, the number of young people able to communicate in English has doubled, along with a doubling in the number of young people using computers for study and practice (Spajić-Vrkaš and Potočnik, 2017). During the same period, the number of young people using computers for communication, internet research, and music listening has tripled. Croatian youth show levels of communication in foreign languages and digital competence comparable to those in EU countries. Eurostat data for 2022 also shows low levels of young people participating in non-formal education and training (within the four weeks preceding the survey), with only 6.1%. This indicates an increase from 2016 when the percentage was 2.3%. 


Organisation of the education and training system

Children start their compulsory education at the age of six. It lasts for eight years and encompasses elementary school and lower secondary education. It is compulsory for all children with residence in Croatia, regardless of their nationality. 

Secondary school is non-compulsory. Students can choose from vocational schools, art schools, or gymnasiums. Vocational schools offer 3-year or 4– 5-year vocational programmes, while gymnasiums offer generalist programmes. After finishing a generalist gymnasium programme, students are required to take a state matriculation examination. Education in vocational schools lasts from one to five years, depending on the programme. Finishing an educational programme lasting three, four, or five years, students achieve middle vocational qualifications, while finishing a programme lasting up to two years grants them lower vocational qualifications. 

Primary and secondary education is carried out according to the provisions of the Primary and Secondary School Education ActHigher education is carried out by institutions of tertiary education. Those are universities, polytechnics, and schools of professional higher education. Universities can encompass other tertiary institutions (faculties and art academies). Universities conduct university and professional studies while polytechnics and schools of professional higher education conduct only professional studies. Higher education is regulated by the Act on Scientific Activity and Higher Education, the Professional and Academic Titles Act, the Quality Assurance in Science and Higher Education Act, and the Recognition of Foreign Educational Qualifications Act

For more details about the Croatian education and training system please visit Eurydice.


Main concepts

Main concepts linked with education and learning are formal, non-formal, informal, and lifelong learning, which are defined in the Croatian Qualifications Framework Act and in the Adult Education Act. Besides these concepts, the Adult Education Act also recognises self-directed learning. The concepts align with internationally accepted ones.