Photo CroatieCroatia is the most recent country to join the European Union. Within a difficult economic climate and with a very high unemployment rate among young people, Croatia has undertaken sweeping economic and political structural reforms.  

It is counting on its membership to become competitive and increase the living standards of its inhabitants. The GDP per capita is 2.5 times lower than the EU average.

Within the field of education, the lack of teachers is increasingly problematic. Croatia offers a broad variety of courses in secondary and higher education and vocational training plays a significant role.

As Croatia has common borders with many other countries, there are also opportunities of following studies in one’s native language in 50 schools (Hungarian, Italian, Serbian and Czech etc.).

VET in Croatia has two main roles. Alongside preparation for labour market entry, it enables progression to tertiary education, primarily through four-year VET programmes, where learners spend half of their time acquiring general competences. Almost 80% of four-year VET graduates take matura exams and around 60% of VET graduates continue to higher education.

The level of participation in VET at upper secondary level is one of the highest in the EU (70.7% compared to the EU average of 47.4% in 2014).

The VET system development programme 2016-20, adopted in September 2016, addresses these issues with a series of measures, which, among others, aim to align VET with labour market needs, develop new curricula and strengthen the WBL model.

Vocational education and training (VET) plays a key role in the Danish strategy for lifelonglearning and meeting the challenges of globalisation and technological change.

Two reforms have had significant influence on VET development. The VET reform (2014) established VET students’ minimum entrance requirements. Earlier, requirements for VET teachers were strengthened. Since 2010, all VET teachers must have a pedagogic diploma (60 ECTS) at EQF level 6. Both initiatives are expected to increase VET quality. Social assistance reform (2014) makes it mandatory for unemployed people under 30 receiving social benefits to participate in education and training. This will increase the number of weaker learners entering VET.

The Croatian education system





The vocational pathway in Croatia

Full-time education is compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 15.

Secondary education


Free secondary education is provided from the age of 15 to 19 but is not compulsory. There is a choice of three tracks:

  • General education track, which takes place in a high school (gimnazije), lasting 4 years,
  • The vocational track, taking place in trades, industry and technical schools (strukovne škole), lasting 3 or 4 years according to the subject taken,
  • The artistic track, which takes place in schools of dance, music and art (umjetničke škole), also lasting 3 or 4 years according to the subject taken.

The focus is placed on the vocational track. Croatia currently boasts 90 general education high schools and 300 vocational schools. The diploma taken at the end of the secondary education cycle is called the “državna matura”, the equivalent of A-levels. Pupils who have followed 4 years of study in other tracks may also sit the “Ispit državne mature”, in addition to their final exams, if they want to go onto higher education.


L’enseignement supérieur


Higher education is divided into two tracks: the vocational track and the university track. Different institutions provide higher education:

  • 10 universities (sveučilišta) comprising 68 faculties (fakultet), arts schools (umjetničke akademije) and vocational school most of which are state-run,
  • 16 polytechnic schools (veleučilišta) teaching vocational courses,
  • 28 colleges of applied sciences (visoke škole).

At university, the Bachelor’s Degree is obtained after 3 or 4 years of study (prvostupnik), the Master’s Degree in a further 1 or 2 years (magistar struke), and the Doctorate after a further 3 years. Holders of the Master’s Degree can also study for a professional specialisation in 1 or 2 years.

In the vocational track, specialisation studies last for 2 years leading to a professional diploma (stručni pristupnik) or 3 years for a vocational Bachelor’s Degree (stručni prvostupnik). Students can then further specialise in a subject by pursuing their studies for 1 or 2 years. It should be noted that some establishments offer a vocational diploma in 1 or 2 years directly after the secondary education cycle.




There are apprenticeship programmes lasing for 3 years, in particular in the trades. On average, pupils spend between 650 hrs and 900 hrs in work placements.


Key figures

  • Croatia has a relatively high proportion of upper secondary students participating in IVET (70.7% compared with 48% in the EU in 2014). (CEDEFOP – 2016)
  • Croatia has the lowest rate of early school leaving in the EU (2.8% in 2015, compared to the EU average of 11%) and has already met its Europe 2020 national target of 4%. (CEDEFOP – 2016)
  • More students must enter VET directly from compulsory school; from 18% in 2015 to 30% by 2025; completion rates in VET must be improved; from 52% in 2012 to 67% in 2025. (CEDEFOP – 2016)

Last update : 19/03/2018