How is the education system organised?

The education system in Croatia consists of:  

  • kindergartens and preschool institutions, for children from the age of six months until going to school. Kindergartens are optional, but preschool is mandatory for all children in the year before they start elementary school regularly (at age of 6). 
  • eight-year elementary school which is mandatory and free for all children between the age of six and fifteen years. For children with disabilities it can last longer than that, but not longer than until 21 years of age.
  • secondary schools, which are not mandatory, can be gymnasium, vocational or artistic. Secondary school, depending on the type, can last three, four or five years. Young persons can choose which secondary school they want to go to, but enrollment depends on the grades from elementary school.
  • higher education, which can be obtained at universities and professional studies. There are 3-years study for bachelor’s degree, 5-years study for a master’s degree, and additional 3 years (8 overall) for a PhD degree.
  • education for adults, which consists of different forms of formal and non-formal adult education.

State graduation exam is a set of exams for verification and evaluation of students’ knowledge, skills and abilities, gained during elementary and secondary school education. Every young person who wants to continue with higher education has to finish a 4 year of secondary school and pass the state graduation exam.

Education rights for TCNs

Child & youth

All children, regardless of their legal status, have the right to education and to enroll in kindergartens, elementary school and secondary school in Croatia. Elementary school is mandatory for all children between the age of six and fifteen. For children who don’t speak the Croatian language, school should organize a minimum of 70 hours of preparatory Croatian language learning and should provide additional Croatian language classes once the child enrolls. Young persons that are over 15 years of age, who have not completed elementary school, can complete elementary education for adults. Young persons, until they turn 17, can enroll in regular secondary school, after completing elementary education.


If you’re an adult but didn’t complete elementary or secondary education, you can attend education programs for adults

If you want to learn a new skill or a craft, improve skills in your current profession or get qualified, you can choose one of the adult education programs, even if you have already completed secondary education. 

Education programs for adults are carried out in public or private schools for adults. Elementary school for adults is free for persons granted international protection. You will have to pay for other types of adult education.   

Croatian Employment Service (HZZ) offers free adult education programs for registered unemployed persons. The vocational skills training they offer are those which are in demand on the labor market.

How can I access education for myself or my children?

Enrollment in school will depend on a child’s age and location of residence. In most cases Reception center staff will initiate the process soon after you and your children arrive. In case you don’t get any information about your kids starting school, you should ask the Reception center staff or other organizations who work there. To start school a child has to be examined, which includes checking his or her health and determining at what grade the child will start school. In many cases it can happen that your child goes to a class with children younger than him/her. This is because it can be difficult for your child to follow school program if he/she does not speaks Croatian language well and have missed school in the country you previously lived. 

The time of a child’s enrollment will depend on a month of arrival to the country. For instance, if a child arrives in autumn/winter, they will be enrolled in the ongoing school year; if they arrive in spring/summer, they will probably be enrolled in next school year.

To enroll your child in secondary schools is more complex and depend on many things. Regularly, students enroll in the first year of secondary school up to the age of 17. With permission by the school board, a pupil of 18 years of age may enroll in the first year of secondary school, and if older than 18, a pupil needs permission from the Science and Education Ministry. It is good to ask for information and guidance for enrollment to secondary schools organizations that are helping refugees in Croatia.