World Bank Supports Croatia in Transforming Its Primary Education and Creating Better Learning Opportunities

ZAGREB – Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, H.E. Zdravko Marić and the World Bank’s Country Manager for Croatia, Mr. Jehan Arulpragasam signed today a Loan Agreement for the Croatia: Towards Sustainable, Equitable and Efficient Education Project (SEE Education) in the amount of EUR25 million (US$28.9 million equivalent).

The project will support the design and introduction of the Whole Day School (WDS) system in selected primary schools, which aims to improve student learning outcomes, particularly among disadvantaged students, through increased instructional hours and improved teacher training and school infrastructure. Since school days will be better aligned with common working hours, mothers and fathers of children attending WDS will find it easier to participate in the labor market. The project will also strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Science and Education to roll-out the WDS system at the national level and to undertake other needed sector reforms.

“Through this project, the World Bank will provide a good and effective foundation and support for the reform which is needed to improve the quality and efficiency of the education sector, as well as, to ensure equal opportunities. This will contribute to the mobilization of additional EU funds from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, which will enable the introduction of a Whole Day School system at the national level and other planned reforms in the education sector. It should be highlighted that the implementation of reforms in the education sector will contribute to economic growth by improving skills achieved through better learning outcomes, increased participation of parents in the labor market (especially mothers), poverty reduction and better use of EU funds,” said Zdravko Marić, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the Republic of Croatia.

Croatia has committed to a set of sweeping reforms, outlined in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) 2021-2026, to modernize the education system and respond to learning challenges which have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the two large earthquakes that struck Croatia in 2020.

“The whole day school project will have a significant impact on the Croatian society. Every child in Croatia will have equal educational opportunities as it is envisioned by our Constitution. More instructional hours and dealing with homework in the school will reduce the burden on parents. Family life will benefit from this reform and be less stressful,” emphasized Radovan Fuchs, Minster of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia.

The project will support a systemic transformation of Croatia’s basic education sector. It will initially help to design and implement the WDS reform in 50 demonstration schools by providing

both technical assistance and the needed infrastructure. The capacity built as a result of these efforts will help authorities to introduce the WDS model at the national level. The direct beneficiaries of the project will include approximately 32,500 students, their parents and teaching and administrative staff.

“We look forward to a successful implementation of this important project as its results will ultimately bring benefits to the whole Croatian society through better learning outcomes, higher labor force participation and increased productivity,” said Jehan Arulpragasam, World Bank Country Manager for Croatia. “The SEE project comes at a critical stage of the transformation of Croatia’s education system and will substantially improve educational opportunities for current and future generations of children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds and vulnerable groups.”

The World Bank will also use its experience in implementing complex education reforms across the world to help enhance strategic planning and management of the school network. The project will also support the design of new infrastructure standards for Croatian schools, incorporating seismic resilience into building upgrades, and encompassing best practice OECD-EU climate, environment, and energy-efficiency standards, contributing to the European Green Deal agenda.

The World Bank has been a partner to Croatia for over 28 years. During this period, the Bank has supported more than 50 projects, worth almost US$5 billion, produced numerous studies, and provided technical assistance to help strengthen institutions and support the design of policies and strategies. The Bank’s current program focuses on mitigating the economic and social impact of COVID-19, post-earthquake reconstruction, transport, justice, innovation, business environment, land administration, circular economy, science and technology, and economic development of the Pannonian region.