NECE Exchange

2.12.2016 | Von:
Vedrana Spajic-Vrkas

Citizenship Education in Croatia

  • Background information
  • Definition of Citizenship Education
  • Non-formal Citizenship Education
  • Legal Environment
  • Stakeholders
  • Challenges

    PDF-Icon Text as PDF-File

    Background information

    The development of policy, theory and practice of citizenship education in Croatia should be seen in conjunction with the building-up of a democratic state after decades of communist regime in the context of war in which the country’s territorial integration was threatened. Both led to the lack of appreciation that the protection of national interests and the strengthening of democracy were two interrelated and interdependent processes in the centre of which is emancipated citizenry. In the populist discourses of the centre-right ruling party of that time, the former was primarily associated with the idea of a nation-state based on the principle of ethnicity to which the renewal of tradition and religion was essential and the latter with the establishment of the democratic political and public institutions that were turned into instruments for the reproduction of power positions in all sectors of society. The term citizen was introduced as a part of the new legal set-up. It had no roots in the political culture of people and its relation to the constitutional rights and freedoms was vague in the minds of individuals as the government and, in particular, the Ministry of Education referred to the citizen more in terms of duties towards the new state than in terms of liberties, autonomy and active participation.

    This is, to a great extent, the reason why several attempts to introduce systemic learning for citizenship in Croatian schools have failed. First such attempt was the National Human Rights Education Programme (NHREP) developed by the National Human Rights Committee in 1998 as the government’s response to the 1995-2004 UN Decade of Human Rights Education [1]. Of the four sub-programmes then prepared - from preschool to secondary school, only elementary school sub-programme was, in 1999, included in the Framework Plan and Programme for Elementary School as "an optional integrative content"; the preschool sub-programme was widely spread semi-officially, while the impact of the sub-programme for secondary schools on the Politics and Economy, which was a mandatory subject, was minimal. An interdisciplinary sub-programme for universities, including teacher training faculties was developed independently in 2005 but was never made a part of NHREP [2].

    In the context of the NHREP implementation, the Agency for Education and Training nominated former national religious education advisors as national human rights education advisors with a task to organize teacher training seminars in this field and to prepare 22 human rights education coordinators at the county level. By the beginning of 2000 the Council of Europe’s concept of education for democratic citizenship was added to the original title of the NHREP which continued to be implemented optionally as well as? the preparation of teachers for its implementation.

    In the following years, the human rights and democratic citizenship education would be nominally included in all major laws and strategic papers on education, as well as in national policies, plans and action programmes in other related sectors, such as youth development and human rights protection [3].

    As the implementation measurements and analytic data on NHREP in practice were missing, an independent research on the quality of its outcomes was triggered, which disclosed a wide gap between policy and practice [4] and led to drafting of the first Croatian Citizenship Education Curriculum (CEC) [5] following the values and principles defined by the National Framework Curriculum for Pre-School, General Compulsory and Secondary Education (NFC), of 2010 [6]. The new minister of the centre-left coalition that came to power in 2011 accepted draft CEC and issued the Decree on its pilot-implementation with monitoring and evaluation in 12 elementary and secondary schools in 2012-13 and 2013-14 [7].

    The process was supervised jointly by the Ministry, the Agency for Education and Training, the National Centre for External Evaluation of Education, a research institution and four civil organisations. Apart from numbers of data showing positive outcomes, the evaluation report pointed out problems, especially in reference to pupils’ knowledge and understanding of democracy, citizenship, cultural pluralism and the European integration, which were found to be related mainly to inadequate teachers’ preparation [8]. As in the meantime the format of curriculum had not, yet, been recognised by law, CEC had to be formally rewritten as the Citizenship Education Programme for Primary and Secondary Schools (CEP) [9].

    In the process of "e-consultations with the interested public" opened by the Ministry in April 2014, CEP was attacked by the coalition of civil organizations who claimed to be the guardians of the family and national interests. They opposed CEP for its liberal orientation, especially for the introduction of, on the one hand, the notions of gender and gender equality and, on the other hand, the European and global citizenship, and claimed that it violated the rights of parents to educate their children in accordance to their own values and worldviews. The minister who in April 2014 already prepared a draft Decree on the progressive mandatory implementation of CEP from school year 2014/15 to 2016-17 as a cross-curricular theme for all levels and forms of education, and as a mandatory separate subject for the 6th to the 8th grade of elementary school and in the 1st and the 2nd grade of secondary school, suddenly left the office without signing the Decree [10]. The new minister disregarded CEP and, in July 2014, released a new draft document for public discussion that was prepared by the Agency for Education and Training – the Programme of Cross-curricular and Interdisciplinary Contents of Citizenship Education for Elementary and Secondary Schools for public discussion (PCICCE) [11]. A month later the minister signed the Decree on the pilot-implementation of PCICCE in all schools in 2014/15 [12]. Two months later the Experimental Optional Citizenship Education Programme for the 8th Grade of Elementary School was also launched for a one-year trial [13]. In 2015, the national Comprehensive Curricular Reform that relied on NFC of 2010 was also launched [14].

    The working groups published their documents in February 2016, including the draft Citizenship Education Curriculum developed as a cross-curricular topic [15]. With the change of the government these documents were said to need improvement and a new expert team was nominated to accomplish the task [16]. Consequently, since 2014-15, when PCICCE was launched for a one-year trial, no new decision on citizenship education has been made. In the most recent empirical study it was found that, despite its mandatory status, PCICCE was not implemented in all schools and, moreover, that pupils and teachers were not satisfied with the approach [17].

  • Fußnoten

    Vlada Republike Hrvatske (1999). Nacionalni program odgoja i obrazovanja za ljudska prava: Prvi dio: Predškolski odgoj, Osnovna škola – razredna i predmetna nastava, Srednja škola [Engl. National programme for Human rights. 1st Part: Preschool Education, Elementary School – Lower and Higher, Secondary School]. Zagreb: Vlada Republike Hrvatske.
    The University Curriculum for Human Rights and Democratic Citizenship was developed and tested in 2005-2006 by an interdisciplinary group comprised of 25 university professors and assistants, researchers and civil activists from 13 institutions/organisations, which was supported by the Governments of Austria and Croatia and was carried out by the Research and Training Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Citizenship of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Zagreb in cooperation with the World University Service - Austria. Its development was based on a series of interdisciplinary round-tables, as well as on a study on the Universities of Zagreb and Rijeka students’ political and civic knowledge and attitudes.
    These include: The National Plan of Activities for the Rights and Interests of Children (2006-2012); the National Programme for Roma in 2002, and the Action Plan for Roma Inclusion (2005-2015); the National Policy for the Promotion of Gender Equality (20062010; 2011-2015); the National Strategy for the Creation of an Enabling Environment for the Civil Society (2006–2011; 2012-2016); the National Programme for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights (2008-2011; 2013-2016); and the National Programme for Youth 2009-2013.
    Batarelo, I.; Čulig, B.; Novak, J.; Reškovac, T.; Spajić-Vrkaš, V. (2010). Demokracija i ljudska prava u osnovnim školama: teorija i praksa. [Engl. Democracy and Human Rights in Elementary Schools: Theory and Practice]. Zagreb: Centar za ljudska prava (; retrieved November 2, 2016); Bagić, D. (Ed.) (2011). Odgaja li škola dobre građane? Studija o političkoj socijalizaciji hrvatskih srednjoškolaca. [Eng. Does the School Educate Good Citizens? Study on Political Socialization of the Secondary School Students]. Zagreb: GONG and Fakultet političkih znanosti Sveučilišta u Zagrebu (, retrieved on November 2, 2016); Spajić- Vrkaš, V.; Žagar, M. (2012). Civic Education in South-Eastern Europe: Education and Training for Human Rights and Active Democratic Citizenship. In: Benedek , W.; Benoît-Rohmer, F. Karl, W.; Nowak, M. (Eds.) European Yearbook of Human Rights, Antwerp: Intersentia N.V., and Wien: Neuer Wissenschaftlicher Verlag GmbH Nfg KG, 2012, pp. 401-416.
    Kurikulum građanskog odgoja i obrazovanja. Zagreb: Ministarstvo znanosti, obrazovanja i sporta i Agencija za odgoj i obrazovanje, kolovoz 2012. (, retrieved on November 2, 2016). See also a text published in Croatian and English: Spajić-Vrkaš, V.; Lončarić-Jelačić, N.; Ogrinšak, T. (2013). Education for democratic citizenship and human rights in Croatia. In: Education for Democratic Citizenhsip and Human Rights: Insights from Croatia, Hungary, Montenegro and Romania. Zagreb: Agencija za odgoj i obrazovanje, pp. 6-11 (, retrieved on 2 November 2016).
    Ministarstvo znanosti, obrazovanja i sporta (2010). Nacionalni okvirni kurikulum za predškolski odgoj i obrazovanje te opće obvezno i srednješkolsko obrazovanje. Zagreb: Ministarstvo znanosti, obrazovanja i sporta (, retrieved on November 2, 2016).
    Odluka o eksperimentalnoj provedbi i praćenju provedbe Kurikuluma građanskog odgoja i obrazovanja u dvanaest osnovnih i srednjih škola u 2012./13. i 2013./14. školskoj godini, Ministarstvo znanosti, obrazovanja i sporta, 6. rujna 2012., Klasa: 602-01/12-01/00370; Urbroj: 533-21-12-0002 (, retrieved on November 2, 2016).
    Spajić-Vrkaš, V. (in cooperation with M. Rajković; I Rukavina) (2014). Eksperimentalna provedba kurikuluma građanskog odgoja i obrazovanja: Istraživački izvještaj [Engl. Pilot Implementation of the Citizenship Education Curriculum: Research report]. Zagreb: Mreža mladih Hrvatske (, retrieved on 2 November, 2016); Spajić-Vrkaš, V. (in cooperation with I. Elezović, I. Rukavina, M. Pažur, D. Vahtar; M. Čehulić) (2016). (Ne)moć građanskog odgoja i obrazovanja: Objedinjeno izvješće o učincima eksperimentalne provedbe Kurikuluma građanskog odgoja i obrazovanja u 12 osnovnih i srednjih škola (2012.-2013). [Engl. Dis/empowerment of Citizenship Education: A joint report on the outcomes of the pilot-implementation of the Citizenship Education Curriculum in 12 elementary and secondary schools (2012-13)]. Zagreb: Nacionalni centar za vanjsko vrednovanje obrazovanja (, retrieved on November 2, 2016).
    The Programme can be retrieved as an annex to the unsigned draft decree on its progressive mandatory implementation (, retreived on November 2, 2016).
    The Programme can be retrieved as an annex to the unsigned draft decree on its progressive mandatory implementation (, retreived on November 2, 2016).
    The Programme is attached to the Decree on its pilot implementation signed by the minister on August 27, 2014, Klasa: 602-01/14-01/00421; Urbroj: 533-26-14-0001 (, retrieved on October 25, 2016).
    The Programme is attached to the Decree on its pilot implementation signed by the minister on August 27, 2014, Klasa: 602-01/14-01/00421; Urbroj: 533-26-14-0001 (, retrieved on October 25, 2016).
    Eksperimentalni izborni program građanskog odgoja i obrazovanja za 8. razred osnovne škole u školskoj godina 2014.-15. Zagreb: Ministarstvo znanosti, obrazovanja i sporta, rujan 2014. (, retrieved on October 25, 2016).
    The Decree on the nomination of an Expert Working Group for the development of the All-encompassing Curriculum Reform was issued by the minister on January 28, 2015 (, retrieved on October 25, 2016).
    All draft documents of the all-encompassing Curriculum Reform, including Citizenship Education Curriculum are available at:; (retrieved on October 25, 2016).
    Information about the members of the new commission, who were nominated by the minister directly in July 2016, appeared in media (;, retrieved on October 28, 2016).
    Pažur, M. (ur.) (2016). Rekonstrukcija građanskog odgoja i obrazovanja u Hrvatskoj: koncept, institucije i prakse [Eng. Reconstruction of Citizenship Education in Croatia: The concept, institutions and practices]. Zagreb: Mreža mladih Hrvatske. (, retrieved on November 2, 2016).

    تكوين المواطنة في أوروبا وشمال إفريقيا

    تكوين المواطنة في أوروبا وشمال إفريقيا

    Here you can find the Arabic version of this Publication.

    Mehr lesen

    European societies, albeit at different paces, have undergone profound changes in the fabric of their populations due to EU enlargement, European Citizenship, globalization and migration processes. Traditional concepts of citizenship and citizenship education in Europe have to be revised in the light of these developments.

    Mehr lesen

    Associated Partner / Organisations / Projects

    Within the NECE Database we gathered projects of associeated Organizations and their projects regarding citizenship education. Add your Project or Organization to help other People creating their own projects.

    Tip: By using the "topics / subjects"-filter you can search for euro-mediterranean projects within the database.


    Looking for further/new information? Then feel free to register to our Newsletter and stay up to date.


    NECE Newsletter 03/2020

    #digitalNECE #NECEcampus
    Auf der findet ihr weitere Informationen zum NECE Campus.

    Useful information ahead of the EU elections on
    Going to the polls can make a difference, as Brexit and other electoral shocks have shown. Elections do matter! Read more about it here.

    Interview with Sarah de Lange
    Our new Advisory Board member, Sarah de Lange, introduces herself to NECE. Read the interview here.

    NECE Conference 2018: Brave new Worlds?! The Future of Democracy and Citizenship Education
    6 - 9 September 2018, Marseille (France)
    Conference documentation available here.

    Lorenzo Marsili on the parliamentary elections in Italy
    NECE asked Lorenzo Marsili in what way the results of the parliamentary elections in Italy fit in Europe’s current political landscape. Read the comment here.

    bpb statement to the Public consultation on EU funds in the area of values and mobility
    The consultation took place as part of the preparations for the Multiannual Financial Framework which will define and shape the EU Budget after 2020. Click here for the PDF-Icon statement and the PDF-Icon questionnaire.

    DARE (Democracy and Human Rights Education in Europe) Mini-conference on Populism and Democratic Resilience
    14 June 2018 in Nafplio, Greece
    Find out more

    25th EUROCLIO Annual Conference and Professional Training and Development Course: Mediterranean Dialogue
    April 21-26 2018 in Marseille
    Find out more

    Eurydice Brief: Citizenship Education at School in Europe – 2017
    In an age where the importance of citizenship education is becoming apparent to deal with the current threats to fundamental European values, many countries are implementing changes in their national policies. Read more here

    NAME CHANGE: “Hard to Reach” Focus Group now “All-in network” - Your chance to get involved!
    Labelling learners as “Hard to Reach” immediately suggests that the problem lies with the learner rather than the educational system.
    Find out more

    MAPPING TRANSITION IN EASTERN EUROPE: Experience of Change after the End of Communism, edited by Louisa Slavkova
    Click here for the publication

    Civic Education in Eastern Europe - bpb publishes collection of essays as free e-book
    The publication is available in English and Russian language.