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Education Minister Accepts EU Criticism

Education Minister Accepts EU Criticism
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ZAGREB, March 25, 2018 – Education and Science Minister Blaženka Divjak believes the European Commission’s report on the implementation of structural reforms in Croatia, including education reform, is a realistic look from outside which also recommends what still needs to be done.

In an interview with Hina, Divjak recalled that she took over the ministry in mid-2017 and that the report referred to the whole year, noting what the ministry had done and that a lot more remained to be done.

She said it was good that the Commission noted that a curriculum reform had been launched, that it recognised what had been done, mentioned plans and the experimental implementation of the curriculum reform.

The report notes that part of the necessary documents has been prepared in line with a certain methodology and expected learning outcomes, it emphasises teachers and commends the international review of the documents we have introduced, Divjak said. The report says we are lagging behind in secondary vocational education and underscores that it is not well-connected with the labour market, which we know, and notes that the law on vocational education should be amended, which we have done, she said.

Divjak said she agreed with the Commission’s assessment that Croatia should increase the budget for education, science and research, adding that the goal was for the science and research budget to be 1.4% of GDP by 2020. Currently, it is below 1% and the European average is about 2%, the goal being to increase it to 3%, she said, adding that she would insist on and fight for an increase of the budget.

Divjak said the Commission noted that another problem was the cooperation with industries and industrial research. In this respect, she mentioned the opening of Ericsson Nikola Tesla’s innovation centre in Osijek as well as Swedish investment in a science park.

As for lifelong learning, she said attempts had been made to depict vocational education as unnecessary or less good than university education, but noted that one must admit that, outside of towns, vocational education was more easily available than university education. We must strive for raising the quality of both, instead of giving up vocational education or calling it second class, she added.

Therefore, more needs to be done about scholarships, she said, recalling that this year the number of scholarships had doubled from last year, with her ministry securing the money for over 10,000 scholarships for poorer students as well as for 3,400 STEM scholarships.

Divjak said she would raise the topic of brain circulation at the European Union Council of Ministers and that it should become the motto of Croatia’s presidency in the first half of 2020. We have to see which mechanisms, whether it’s the economy or education and science, enable brain circulation, in order to learn and gain experience, but also to enable people who have gained the experience to come back to Croatia, instead of educating the workforce for developed countries, she added.

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