Education system in Croatia

Home » Information about Croatia » Education system in Croatia

Education system in Croatia

The education system in Croatia consists of:

  • kindergartens and preschool institutions, for children from the age of six months until going to school
  • eight-year elementary school which is compulsory 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 is not mandatory. Secondary school can be gymnasium, vocational or artistic.
  • higher education, which can be obtained at universities and professional studies
  • 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 pass the state graduation exam.

Education for children and youth

All children legally staying in Croatia have the right to enrol in kindergartens, preschool, elementary school and secondary school. This include children asylum seekers, children granted international protection and children with temporary residence who came in Croatia in family reunification.

Kindergartens are not mandatory. They are open for enrolment throughout the school year, so you can enrol your child if they have places left. Usually, you will have to apply in May for the next educational year, which lasts from September of the same year until August next year.

Preschool is mandatory for all children in the year before they start elementary school regularly (at age of 6).

Elementary school is mandatory for every child in Croatia between 6 and 15 years of age. If your child is older than 6 years and just starts elementary school in Croatia, he/she will be enrolled in the class based on the assessment of school counsellors.

If your child doesn’t know Croatian language, school will organise a minimum of 70 hours of preparatory Croatian language learning. Schools also provide additional Croatian classes once the child starts elementary education.

School meals and transport to school are organised by the local or regional government unit so it differs from city to city.

The child needs to be vaccinated to be enrolled in kindergarten and school. It is extremely important to keep, if possible, vaccination records of your children. If you do not have it or your child had not get vaccinations, he/she will need to be vaccinated in Croatia before enrolling.

For young persons who are older than 15 and have not completed elementary school, there is a system of elementary education for adults.

Young persons, until they turn 17, can enrol in regular secondary school after completing elementary education.

Secondary school, depending on the type, can last three, four or five years. You can choose which secondary school you want to go to, but enrolment depend on the grades from elementary school.

Enrolment in secondary schools can be difficult to manage and is very competitive for some schools, so you might ask for help and guidance organizations who support refugees, school counsellor in elementary school or visit one of 13 Vocational Information and Counselling Centres ( in Croatia.

Admissions to higher education (university or professional studies) are carried out on the basis of an open competition announced by the university, polytechnic or college.

If you are a student from third-country, you can enrol in higher education institutions as part of the quota for foreigners and pay the fee set by the education institution. If you are a person granted international protection, you can take the state graduation exam and enrol under same criteria as Croatian citizens or enrol a study as part of the quota for foreigners, paying the fee set by the education institution.

If you started the higher education (university or professional studies) in your country of origin or other non-EU country, and want to continue studies in Croatia, first you need to apply for academic recognition of the diploma you already have or the period of study, if you haven’t completed the studies.

Education for adults

Adult education programs are for persons over 18 years of age, unless they are higher education students or started secondary education before they turned 17 (in that case they have the right to complete it even if they are adults).

If you are adult but didn’t complete elementary or secondary education, you can attend education programmes for adults.

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

Education programmes for adults are carried out in public or private schools for adults. Elementary school for adults is free if you are granted international protection. Other types of adult education you will have to pay.

Croatian employment service offers free adult education programs for registered unemployed persons. The vocational skills they offer are those which are in demand on the labour market.

Recognition of foreign qualification

If you have a certificate, diploma or other proof you attended or completed elementary school, secondary school or higher education, there are few different procedures for recognition of foreign education qualifications in Croatia (

You can have your diploma or qualifications recognized for two purposes:

  • for the purpose of employment, which is called professional recognition,
  • for purpose of continuing your education in Croatia.

Depending on the level of your previous education, have you completed it or not and the profession you are educated / trained for, different state agencies and education institutions are in charge of recognition procedure.

Agency for Vocational Education and Training and Adult Education ( is manly in charge or recognition of secondary vocational education and certificates.

Agency for Science and Higher Education is manly in charge of professional (for purpose of employment) recognition of higher qualifications (university and professional studies).

For continuing higher education you already started abroad, you need to apply for academic recognition at university, polytechnic or college you want to enrol.

Further information & links


  1. Do I have right on scholarship?

Foreign citizens studying in Croatia don’t have the right to state scholarships. Some local governments allow persons granted international protection right on scholarships.

  1. How long I have to wait until being enrol in elementary or secondary school?

It depends in which status you are but within 2 weeks upon your arrival you can be enrolled in elementary school. Maximal period according to law should be 30 days. After verification of the Croatian language, you will be included in an appropriate type and level of education of an educational institution that is closest to yours residence.

There are some challenges with access to secondary school if you don’t have all needed papers. So, you have the right to go to secondary school but in practice some problems can occur.

  1. What should I do, if I don’t have papers/diploma?

If you had completed elementary school and want to enrol in secondary school you should give a statement to a public notary. That statement replaces the document from the country of origin which you have not been able to obtain. If you hadn’t completed elementary school you can attend basic adult education.