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The Croatian K-12 Education System-Primary and Secondary

The Ministry of Education of the Republic of Croatia administers the K-12 education system in Croatia. 
The Croatian K-12 education system comprises of:
  • Pre-school education
  • Elementary education
  • Secondary education
In Croatia, public education is free of charge from pre-school level till the end of secondary education.

Croatian K-12 Educational Levels

Pre-school Education

Pre-school education in Croatia is optional and is provided by pre-school institutions, nursery schools and kindergartens. In Croatia, there are public as well as private kindergartens available. Children aged 3-6 may attend kindergartens in Croatia. 
  • Ages: 6 months to 6 years
Pre-schools in Croatia aims to create a developmental environment for the children. It provides basic moral values, environment and nature knowledge, and work towards the overall emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual and moral development of the child.  The pre-school education is divided into three levels on the basis of the children age:
  • Age 6 months to 1 year
  • 1 to 3 years of age
  • 3 to 6 years of age

Elementary/Primary Education

Provider: Primary school (Osnovna skola)
In Croatia, elementary education is mandatory to attend, and it lasts for 8 years. Elementary education provides literacy and mathematical knowledge and skills, develops critical thinking and problem solving abilities, and also provides basic artistic knowledge.
  • Ages: 6 to 14
  • Grades: 1 to 8
Elementary education is split up into two cycles:

Lower primary/elementary- Grade 1 to grade 4: At the lower primary level, a single teacher per class teaches all the subjects.

Subjects: Mathematics, religion, nature and society, Croatian language, music, visual art/fine arts, at least one foreign language- English, and physical education.

Upper primary- Grade 5 to grade 8: At the upper primary level, different teachers teach different subjects. 

Subjects: Physics, second language- can be French, German or Italian; chemistry, history, informatics, biology, and geography.

Secondary Education

In Croatia, secondary education is not compulsory.
  • Grades: 9 to 12
  • Ages: 15 to 18
  • Duration: 4 years
Secondary education in Croatia is offered by the following types of secondary schools:
  • Grammar schools: These are general education or specialized gymnasia.
  • Vocational schools
  • Art schools
Examination: Students at the end of general secondary and vocational secondary education must take the national Matura exam. Students who pass this exam are eligible to apply for higher education institutions in Croatia.

Grammar Schools (Gimnazija)

These schools are general or specialised. 
  • Duration: 4 years
Common Core Subjects: Croatian language, mathematics, foreign languages, fine arts, history, music, chemistry, Latin, sociology, informatics, geography, informatics, biology, psychology, physical education, philosophy, physics, politics and economy, logic, and ethics and religion.

The grammar schools provides following four specialised tracks:

General high schools (opća gimnazija) provide general education.

Schools that focus on informatics, science and mathematics (prirodoslovno-matematička gimnazija),

Language high school (jezična gimnazija): Focus on foreign languages- at least three languages 

Classics high school (klasična gimnazija): Emphasize on classics education-Latin and Ancient Greek studies.


Certificate awarded: Upon successful completion of grammar secondary education, International Baccalaureate (Diploma organizacije medjunarodne mature), or Svjedodzba o maturi is awarded.

Vocational Schools (Strukovna skola)

These schools provide education in a specific field-technical and industrial, or in a specific trade. Vocational schools in Croatia offer courses for the following career fields-

Career fields: Education, administration, management, socio-legal profession, technology, arts, care, and economics.

Duration: 1 to 4 years
  • The vocational programmes that last for 1-2 years offer basic vocational qualification. 
  • Vocational programmes that last for 3 years prepare student for a specific trade. Students are trained to work in a particular industry or trade. 
  • Vocational programmes that last for 4 years train students in the field of economics, clerical sector and technology. These programmes are theoretical as well as practical, and internship is compulsory for the completion of these programmes.
Subjects: Common core subjects, computer-science, technical and mathematics based subjects.

Certificate: Vocational qualification and Svjedodzba o zavrsnom ispitu.

Arts School (Umjetnička skola)

These schools provide education in the field of visual arts, dance, design, and music.
  • Duration: 4 years
Certificate awarded: Secondary professional degree and a Svjedodzba o zavrsnom ispitu

Grading System

A grading scale 1-5 is used, wherein grade 1 indicates “insufficient” and grade 5 indicates “excellent”. To know in detail about grading system for primary and secondary schools in Croatia, click here

Academic Year

 The academic year in elementary/primary and secondary schools in Croatia starts from September and ends in June. The academic year is divided into two semesters.
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