The 2014 Strategy for Education, Science and Technology defines “e-learning” as “temporally and spatially flexible access to up-to-date and current multimedia and interactive teaching materials” and defines “Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)” as "modern opportunities of adjustment to personal learning styles, collaborative learning and acquiring skills for project work and teamwork, as well as providing access to a wider range of learners (learners with special needs, learners in remote locations, foreign learners, etc.)”. The strategy also refers to the following terms with no explicit definition: “distance learning”, “assistive technology”, “digital educational content”, “digital educational resources”, “e-content", “e-tools”, “e-products”, “e-books”, “e-services”, and “e-school”.
The concept “digital maturity of schools” is used as part of the e-Schools project. As defined in the e-Schools programme, digitally mature schools (or e-Schools) are schools with a high level of integration of ICT in their life and work. These schools have a systematised approach to ICT use in school planning and management, as well as in their educational and business processes and operate in a supportive environment, with adequate resources, including not only the financial ones but also adequate ICT equipment for classrooms, laboratories, employees and students. E-schools are connected to ultra-fast Internet, well equipped with adequate ICT, and with a high level of computerisation of business and education processes.
The Digital Croatia Strategy 2032 defines digitalization as the “process of using digital, that is, ICTs, to provide faster, cheaper, safer and better quality services/products”.Digital transformation is further defined as “the digitization of many areas of social and economic life along with cross-sectoral organizational changes”.
The 2018-2030 National Development Strategy (NDS2030) refers to "information and communication technology” and “digital literacy”.
The 2020 Action Plan for the Implementation of Distance Education refers to “virtual classes”.
Constitution and laws: According to the 2013 Constitution, “everyone shall have access to education under equal conditions and in accordance with his/her aptitudes. Compulsory education shall be free, in conformity with the law” (Article 65). There is no mention of technology.
Article 4 of the 2020 Act on Education in Primary and Secondary Schools aims for students to acquire the competencies required for the labour market and changing socio-cultural context, which include knowledge of modern information and communication technologies and science.
The 2022 Electronic Communications Act regulates the field of electronic communications, in particular the provision of electronic communications networks and services, the provision of universal services as well as the protection of user rights. In addition, it regulates the construction, installation, maintenance and use of electronic communications infrastructure, and related equipment and services.
Policies, plans and strategies: Digital transformation in Croatia is governed by the Digital Croatia Strategy 2032, which was adopted at the end of 2022. The strategy has specific objectives that aim towards the digital transformation of the education system, which consists of four key areas: digitally mature environment; digitally mature and self-confident teachers; ICT as support in learning and teaching; and digital leadership.
The 2018-2030 National Development Strategy (NDS2030) is the highest document of strategic planning in the country and aims to lay out the plan to achieve the 2030 Vison towards “a competitive, innovative and safe country with a recognizable identity and culture, a country of preserved resources, quality living conditions and equal opportunities for all”. The Vision is geared towards 4 main pillars: 1) Sustainable economy and society, 2) Strengthening resilience to crises, 3) Green and digital transition, and 4) Balanced regional development, with technology-related objectives in all four pillars. Priorities in the field of education policy in the NDS2030 include the improvement and modernization of the primary and secondary education system, which involves strengthening the information and communication infrastructure in educational institutions, enhancing the digital literacy of students and educational staff, developing a computerized system for ensuring the quality of education and increasing the levels of digital maturity of schools. The Strategy's Chapter on the Green and Digital Transition provides information on the actions that will be taken to encourage the creation of digital skills for all citizens.
In March 2023, the government adopted the National Plan for the Development of the Education System until 2027 and the accompanying Action Plan for the Implementation of the National Plan for the Period until 2024. The National Plan has a specific goal dedicated to the digitalisation of the education system.
The 2020 Strategic Framework for the Digital Maturity of Schools and Education System was developed as part of the e-Schools pilot project and is coordinated with the European Framework for Digitally Competent Educational Organisations. It defines five areas and five levels of the digital maturity of schools and forms the basis for a common understanding of the digital maturity of all the stakeholders in the educational system. Schools can use the Framework for Digital Maturity as a guide in the planning and integration of ICT in learning and teaching, while policymakers use the Framework for the development of policies and initiatives for the successful integration of ICT into the educational system. Within the e-Schools programme, the Framework for Digital Maturity is a basic document intended for the development of an instrument for the self-evaluation and external evaluation of the digital maturity of schools.
The 2014 Strategy for Education, Science and Technology seeks to develop a knowledge-based society through “the use of high technology” and “digital sources of knowledge” accessible to students and adults. According to the strategy, “teachers, counsellors, mentors and trainers thus need to develop the ability to introduce new approaches through information and communication technologies (and related tools) and create new digital educational content".
The 2020 National Implementation Plan states that E-schools were launched in 2018 to support digitalization initiatives to develop ICT infrastructure and develop educational software for schools as well as improve teaching and learning. It is also noted that the rapid introduction of innovations (technologies, methods, digital instruction approaches) and accessible infrastructure, equipment and technology into the educational process, which is accompanied by “versatile pedagogies and tools (e.g. ICT based simulators, virtual and augmented reality)” is necessary for advancement.
Digital competency frameworks: The 2020 Strategic Framework for the Digital Maturity of Schools and Education System is coordinated with the DigCompOrg European framework which applies to all educational institutions. The Croatian Framework for the Digital Maturity of Schools consists of five areas and five levels of the digital maturity of schools The levels are: Digitally unaware; digital beginners; digitally competent; digitally advanced; and digitally mature. The areas of digital maturity are: Leadership, Planning and Management; ICT in teaching and learning; Development of digital competencies; ICT culture; and ICT infrastructure.
The 2020 Croatian Qualifications Framework Act is a reform instrument that regulates the entire system of qualifications at all educational levels in the Republic of Croatia including basic competencies in science and technology and digital competencies part of the Key Competencies for Lifelong Learning.
One of the strategic goals of the Digital Croatia Strategy 2032 is to develop digital competencies for life and work in the digital age, guided by European frameworks.
The Framework for the Digital Competence of Schools was part of the overall “e-Schools: Development of the System of Digitally Mature Schools” (e-School project) in Croatia. It proposes 36 competencies, and consists of three dimensions, namely: "General Digital Competence", "Competence for Application of Digital Technology in Education" and "Digital School Management Competencies". The project was primarily intended for teachers and professional associates, school directors and administrative staff.
The Croatian Digital Literacy Network, formed in late 2020, aims to develop digital citizenship; digital education; and to help the digital transformation of non-IT occupations.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: The 2020 Action Plan for the Implementation of Distance Education was launched in response to COVID-19. It documented that in 2015, the e-schools project was launched and that since 2017, enhancing the digital literacy of students, teachers, expert associates, and school principals, and investing in school facilities has been a priority. By 2018 “the regulations on textbooks were changed to provide for budgetary funding for digitalizing textbooks and learning materials”. Thus, Croatia already had a digital transformation plan integrated within its national agenda and curriculum and COVID-19 only accelerated the efforts and enforced the distance education modality, which was swiftly effective starting on the 16th of March, only two weeks after school closures. The MZO published a great list of policies and guidelines found on the MZO website “Coronavirus – organisation of distance teaching and learning in Croatia”.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
According to the Digital Croatia Strategy 2032, Croatia made large investments in the ICT infrastructure of schools as part of the “e-Schools: Establishing a System for Developing Digitally Mature Schools” project, which aimed for all Croatian schools that are financed from the state budget to be digitally transformed by 2023. The project aims to ultimately contribute to ensuring equal conditions for digital education in all schools in Croatia. Once the project ends, the focus will be on the maintenance and upgrading of the infrastructure.
Electricity: The 2018 Energy Act regulates measures to ensure a secure and reliable energy supply throughout Croatia, which includes mandatory public service electricity supply as part of universal service. The 2021-30 National Energy and Climate Plan aims to develop the electricity transmission network and ensure its energy efficiency, with no explicit mention of schools. The 2014 Strategy for Education, Science and Technology encourages energy-efficient and sustainable construction during the planning and construction of educational facilities.
Computers and devices: Croatia implements a one laptop per child (OLPC) policy but does not explicitly use the term. The 2020 Action Plan for the Implementation of Distance Education states that the Comprehensive Curricular Reform (CCR II) project enabled the procurement of 26,755 laptops for teachers as part of the e-Schools project by 2019, in addition to the purchase of projectors and smartboards for classrooms. Four or five tablets were also provided to students in lower grades (from 6 to 10) in each class to develop graphomotor skills. Tablets were additionally provided for students in the 5th and 7th grades of primary school (91,641 tablets), while 10,000 tablets were provided to students attending lower grades of primary school to “use under the supervision of their class teacher”. In secondary schools, only students from disadvantaged backgrounds were provided with equipment "as the research in the experimental phase of the curricular reform showed that the majority of secondary school students already own equipment with the Internet”.
Schools that are part of the e-School project are equipped with two different types of classrooms, a presentation one – equipped with a PC, a touch screen monitor and loudspeakers – and an interactive one, which includes 30 tablets, along with the presentation equipment. Digital equipment for the teaching and non-teaching staff is also planned for all schools, with the science (mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology) teachers being provided with hybrid computers and the rest of the teaching staff being provided with tablets or laptop computers. The principals and expert assistants are equipped with laptop computers.
The 2023 National Plan for the Development of the Education System aims to provide each school with equal access to ICT infrastructure and services. It specifically supports the constant maintenance and update of computer equipment and the provision of assistive technology for students with disabilities. Similarly, according to the Digital Croatia Strategy 2032, it is necessary to continue investing in the basic network and computer infrastructure of schools, which includes the development and maintenance of computers.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Guidelines for Distance Learning for Primary and Secondary Schools state that secondary schools that have students from low socio-economic families received funds from the Ministry of Science and Education for procuring tablets or an internet connection.
Internet connectivity: The provision of universal broadband internet access is included as part of the 2022 Electronic Communications Act (Articles 117-125). The 2012 Ordinance on Universal Services in Electronic Communications (amended in 2022) prescribes the manner and conditions of the provision and quality standards of universal services.
The 2021-2027 National Plan for Broadband Development aims to ensure the preconditions for the introduction of very large networks capacity with symmetrical speeds of at least 1 Gbit/s, including 5G networks, in households and public buildings including schools “for public users (primary and secondary schools, universities and institutions in the system scientific activities (..)”. In all the aforementioned locations, networks of very high capacity should support broadband access with symmetrical speeds of at least 1 Gbit/s”. Even though the plan does not explicitly mention a “Universal Access Policy (UAP)”, it does aim to achieve a “universal availability of advanced electronic communication networks and services, especially in rural and remote and less developed areas”. The Digital Croatia Strategy 2032 similarly includes objectives which support the development of broadband internet access in the country.
The 2023 National Plan for the Development of the Education System aims to continue systematically equipping all schools with internet access. Schools that are part of the e-School project are provided with a wired and/or wireless network infrastructure, along with the corresponding active network equipment.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
The 2020 Action Plan for the Implementation of Distance Education addressed possible scenarios that could take place at the beginning of the school year 2020/2021 regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2023 National Plan for the Development of the Education System aims to establish a digital education platform and establish hybrid models of learning and teaching.
The 2021-2027 National Plan for Broadband Development stated that when the COVID-19 pandemic took place, virtual classes and online lectures were organized on the Internet. Students in the lower grades of primary school followed the lessons through special television channels and programmes broadcasted on national television. To enhance teaching methods, students used different channels to communicate with peers, teachers and professors.
In response to COVID-19, the Ministry of Science and Education (MZO) published several documents to provide concrete actions and support for students and teachers and prepare schools for distance education. The 2020 Instructions to Primary and Secondary Schools for the Organization of Distance Learning stated that lessons were broadcast through Croatian National Television Channel 3 (HRT 3), or on YouTube and Sportska televizija (Sports channel), while the 2020 Guidelines for Distance Learning for Primary and Secondary Schools focused on establishing communication channels. The summary of measures is mentioned in the 2020 distance learning guiding document which highlights that national school lessons that were already on the national television for all primary and secondary education were continuously published on the School For Life Website.
The MZO also published the 2020 Virtual content and organising classes and Internet access and devices recommendations to guide teachers and students on the access of platforms, and the 2020 Vocational schools, secondary school graduates, practical subjects and student participation to support students in vocational schools.
The MZO has consigned the 2020 Recommendations for organizing a student's workday in distance teaching and learning and the following guidelines regarding assessment and grading in a virtual environment: Guidelines for assessment and grading in a virtual environment, and Examples of assessments and their evaluation in different subjects.
The 2020 Digital Evaluation Tools recommended by the MZo are the following: Loomen, Google Classrooms, Google Forms, Office 365, Microsoft Teams, Edmodo, Matific, Socrative, Testmoz, Flipgrid, GeoGebra, Propyx, Wizer, ClassMarker, Quizziz, Bookwidgets, Wordwall, Rubric Design Tools, Lockdown Browser, and Respondus Monitor.
One of the strategic objectives of the Digital Croatia Strategy 2032 is the development of citizens’ digital competencies for life and work in the digital age, with a special emphasis on competencies for the safe use of ICT in everyday life. In the design of digital literacy frameworks, the use of the European Digital Competence Framework for citizens DigComp2.2 is encouraged.
Both the 2020 Strategic Framework for the Digital Maturity of Schools and Education System and the 2023 National Plan for the Development of the Education System aim to develop students' digital competencies at the primary and secondary levels.
According to the 2014 Strategy for Education, Science and Technology, the acquisition of key competencies lays the basis of the lifelong learning concept. The key competencies for lifelong learning and functioning in society, as recommended by the EU Council and the European Parliament, include: mathematical competence and basic competencies in natural sciences; engineering and technology; digital competence; learning to learn (capability of learning processes, of organisation of one’s own and other people’s time, of collecting, analysing and evaluating/assessing information, etc.); social and civic competencies; a sense of initiative and entrepreneurship; fostering cultural awareness and national identity, creative and artistic expression. The process of acquiring and further developing a particular group of key competencies should foster: critical thinking; aesthetic evaluation/assessment; responsibility to oneself, others and the environment; teamwork; problem-solving skills; core ethical values; parenting skills, civic activism; media, financial and consumer literacy. The acquisition of these competencies aims to be strengthened by non-formal and informal types of lifelong learning. Functional literacy (or ‘new literacy’), which includes basic computational knowledge and skills and the willingness and motivation to learn, aims to be developed at all levels of education. The 2030 Croatia Vison states that developing basic competencies of "learning how to learn" is one of the main priorities in the field of education policy.
The 2017 National Security Strategy further supports the development of knowledge and skills with particular emphasis on information, digital and technological literacy, and harmonisation with the requirements of the labour force market. In addition, according to the 2015 National Cybersecurity Strategy, it is necessary to ensure that primary and secondary school students “acquire knowledge of the dangers they can encounter in the virtual environment; skills and competencies to successfully ensure their safe use of information and communication technologies at all levels of formal education, and awareness of the need to protect personal data”. To this end, the strategy aims to incorporate cyber security elements into formal education programmes from preschool through primary and secondary education to higher education.
The 2020 National Implementation Plan aims to equip teachers and students with the IT skills that will enable them to better compete in the global 21st -century global marketplace and contribute to Croatia’s economic development. The plan additionally states that formal Vocational education and training (VET) lasts three or four years and leads to the acquisition of formal secondary school vocational qualifications. VET is offered at levels 2 to 5 of the Croatian Qualification Framework (CROQF), which corresponds to the same levels of the European Qualification Framework (EQF). It also states that “Curricula documents will encompass key competencies, as well as the green and digital transition” and the introduction of optional content “aimed at strengthening the level reading, math, science and digital literacy of students in VET”.
Special emphasis is placed on the development of STEM in the Digital Croatia Strategy 2032, through the establishment of STEM and ICT scholarships for students and the encouragement of a greater representation of women among ICT experts, starting from primary school education, where girls will be directed and encouraged towards STEM careers.
According to the 2020 Act on Education in Primary and Secondary Schools, teachers are required to receive professional training and improvement through programmes approved by the Ministry of Education in areas relevant to effective and high quality performing educational activities in school institutions including information and communication technologies (Article 115). The 2006 Education and Teacher Training Agency Act (amended in 2022) clarifies that the agency organizes and conducts professional training of educational workers and principals unless otherwise stipulated by special regulations.
The development of teacher digital competencies is systematically implemented as part of the e-Schools project. The Digital Competence Framework developed within the e-School project is intended primarily for the three groups of users in schools: 1) Teachers and Expert Associates, 2) Principals, and 3) Administrative staff. It proposes 36 competencies and consists of three dimensions according to the specific requirements of the key business of the mentioned groups of users. The dimensions are: General digital competencies – required from all user groups; Competencies for the application of digital technology in education and training (required from teachers and expert associates), and Digital competencies for school management (required from school principals). The frameworks make use of the existing frameworks for digital competence in the EU, which are adapted and upgraded according to the specific characteristics and needs of particular beneficiary groups in schools and of the educational system of the Republic of Croatia.
In 2019, over 40,000 teachers and principals were trained in ICT as part of the e-School project, while a new model of professional development for teachers was adopted in 2019 that further supports the development of their digital competencies.
The Digital Croatia Strategy 2032 further aims to develop and strengthen the digital competencies of teachers at primary and secondary education levels, while the 2023 National Plan for the Development of the Education System encourages the development of teachers’ digital skills at all education levels.
The 2030 Croatia Vison states that teachers are to be supported by the provision of “adequate skills and tools for and through digital technologies“ in initial and in in-service training "in both school and work-based settings, as well as distance education and training".
The 2015 National Cybersecurity Strategy further aims to include cyber security topics in the professional development programs for teachers, stating that “ it is necessary to systematically educate persons involved in the implementation of education programmes (teachers, lecturers, head teachers, associate experts and others) about cyber security”.
According to the 2020 Action Plan for the Implementation of Distance Education, teacher training for curricular reform of digitalization was launched online in 2018, through the Moodle platform (Loomen) which enabled in-service training for more than 50,000 teachers until 2020.
A total of five areas of digital competencies in the Framework for Digital Competencies of School Principals were identified as part of the e_Schools project: 1) Planning, management and leadership; 2) Digital technologies in learning and teaching; 3) Development of digital competencies; 4) Digital culture and
(5) Digital infrastructure. Along with the frameworks, a guide (publication) will also be prepared and published, containing the description and purpose of the framework, the methodology of its creation, the method of its use etc
2.4.1. Data privacy
The 2018 General Data Protection Regulation Implementation Act ensures the implementation of the 2018 General Data Protection Regulation in Croatia. The Personal Data Protection Agency ('AZOP') issues and publishes data protection guidance.
The 2015 National Cybersecurity Strategy aims to ensure the implementation of adequate and harmonised standards of data protection. According to the strategy, data controllers, personal data recipients, data processors and all other persons coming into contact with critical national infrastructures and databases containing groups of protected information should ensure a higher level of education in the area of cyber security and raise awareness of the need to protect electronic information. The strategy additionally aims to connect institutions such as the State School for Public Administration, Police Academy and Judicial Academy with the universities (especially the units with established and high-quality programmes in the area of information security, personal data protection, and cybercrime).
According to the 2023 National Plan for the Development of the Education System, the legal regulation of student data privacy is a special challenge for schools.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
The Criminal Code includes provisions for combatting online child sexual abuse.
According to the 2015 National Cybersecurity Strategy, a computer crime, or cybercrime, is a “crime that involves computer systems, programmes and data, committed in cyberspace by using communication and information technologies and poses a threat to achieving a safer information society”. The 2017 National Security Strategy additionally states that there is a zero-tolerance policy towards violence among the school-age population and youth.
The Digital Croatia Strategy 2032 emphasises that the introduction of digital technologies in the education system, especially during the early years, should take into account the well-being of teachers and students and the potential negative impacts of the uncontrolled use of digital technologies in the teaching and learning process.
The European Network Against Bullying in Learning and Leisure Environments (ENABLE campaign) is an EU-funded school- and centre-based intervention that aims to combat bullying in children’s educational and leisure environments, with a focus on addressing the wider culture that enables bullying to exist. The campaign has been implemented in Croatia and uses teacher-led, classroom-based socio-emotional learning (SEL) modules to educate children on how to monitor their behaviour, manage their emotions, and understand the characteristics and consequences of bullying. Printed materials are additionally provided to parents and carers to enable them to keep their children safe online and offline, recognise the signs of bullying and reinforce SEL progress in their children at home.
The ‘For a Safe and Enabling School Environment’ programme was created to reduce bullying and peer violence, promoting respect and creating a supportive environment for children, both within schools and local communities. Within schools, the programme’s goal is to raise awareness of the existing level of bullying, understand the mechanisms and develop processes to address it. The programme also aims to promote participation in activities that encourage children to prevent and intervene in peer violence.
The Ministry of Science, Education, and Sports oversees the whole Croatian educational system. The Ministry’s role is also extended to "the development of the science, technology and innovation system” and “fostering continuous technological development in the Republic of Croatia; administering the Registry of Researchers and Research Organizations; monitoring and establishing scientific, professional and technological cooperation with foreign countries and international organizations according to international agreements”.
The coordinating body for the e-Schools project is the Croatian Academic and Research Network (CARNET), which is the national research and education network of Croatia, funded by the government budget. The competent body authorized for CARNET is the Ministry of Science and Education, which answers to the Government of the Republic of Croatia. CARNET has led the implementation of the e-schools from 2016 to 2023 to raise and improve levels of digitalisation of schools in Croatia.
No legislation has been found concerning the role of schools, particularly concerning their authority to ban mobile phones.