Correspondent's Report - Croatia
(ECHA NEWS, volume 17, no 2, 2003)
by Croatia national correspondent Jasna Cvetkovic Lay
Croatia is a country in transition, in which encouraging human resources has yet to achieve the top one priority position in the process of joining the European Union. Numerous problems, which exist in all governmental subsystems, are also being reflected in science and education. In comparison with other transition countries, Croatia is running late with the implementation of the Bologne declaration by some five to six years, so that even international specialist training programmes such as the ECHA Diploma in the field of gifted education, are not adequately recognized. A newly founded Institute for Research in Education is about to prepare a programme for educating those kinds of experts. At the moment, the Institute is conducting comprehensive projects directed towards the efficient reform of science and education.
The allocation of state funds for the education system is insufficient, so the system is behind with its reform in relation to neighbouring countries (e.g. Slovenia). Consequently, there is even no national programme for the education of the gifted. However, the problem has been recognized, so that some institutions (e.g. the Croatian Pedagogical Literary Association) have lately been dedicating their meetings to the problems of encouraging gifted children and students, emphasizing the problem of long-standing neglect of this important part of the education system.
Documents from the government, such as the Strategy for the development of Croatia in the 21st century, mention the reform of education as an important project including the development of a national programme for the education of the gifted. However, so far there has been no systematic and interactive activity in this field, nor cooperation of the government sector with nongovernmental associations, academic institutions or general practice. An international conference, held in Rovinj in 2000 - with the professional support of ECHA and the Centre for the Study of Giftedness in Nijmegen, The Netherlands - was dedicated to this issue with the topic of «National Networks for Gifted Children». The conference was attended by 50 participants from 11 transition countries of south Eastern Europe; the main conference sponsor was the Open Society Institute Croatia and it was organized by the Bistrić Centre (see ECHA news, No. 1 April 2001, Report on the East-East ECHA conference).
Only a few experts in Croatia have explored the theme of giftedness at an academic level, but in practice we may see some worthy actions and initiatives which bring together gifted and talented children in the fields of innovation, natural sciences, creativity, arts and literature. Unfortunately, they are of a limited scale and not incorporated in the whole system or national programme. A group of prominent enthusiastic professionals has managed to gather the gifted at a professionally applied level in a kind of «centres of excellency». Those are, for example, the Small Academy of the Gifted «Leonardo», in Istria, which has organized international schools of creativity on the Brioni islands (led by Z.I.Pasini), as well as the Observatory in Višnjan, Istria (led by K.Korlević), which has organized well known international summer schools in astronomy and natural sciences. The Small Academy of the Gifted «Archimed» in Varaždin (led by S.Ozimec) gathers young innovators, and the Bistrić Centre in Zagreb (led by J.C.Lay) organizes teacher training and workshops for gifted children and their parents. Meetings of gifted and creative students «Lidrano» and «Novigrad spring» are sponsored by the Croatian Ministry of Education, which in 2002 has also carried out a project to improve the work of gifted students with their mentors in high-school education. In years to come, this project needs to be extended, and the NGO sector has to be included, which has not been the case so far.
Legal regulations for the work with the gifted exist at all levels of education, but there are a lot of difficulties in the actual realization of the legally guaranteed rights of gifted children in schools and kindergartens, due to a lack of specialized training for teachers in educating the gifted.
In the year 2000, 70 schools in Croatia were allocated a sum of money by the Ministry of Education for various programmes in the field of giftedness. However, this proved to be ineffective in actually improving the work with the gifted, precisely due to the lack of teacher training in undergraduate education as well as additional education in in-service teacher training. The Department of education in Zagreb (department of Croatian Ministry of Education and Sport) has not yet replied to the offer made by the Bistrić Centre (the only NGO association specialized in teacher - training in gifted education) in 2000, which proposed to them that the ECHA specialist should participate in or organize the teacher training.
Significant progress has been made in the cooperation of the informal sector and the government with respect to this year's competition of the Ministry of Education for extracurricular projects by NGO’s. The Bistrić Centre has been allocated a sum of money for its two professionally applied projects (a Programme of workshops for gifted students and a Project for the prevention of behavioural disorders of gifted children).
We mention with special emphasis the initiative of one academic institution in relation to practice : as the only ECHA specialist in Croatia the author; Jasna Lay, has been offered to start an elective course of lectures called «Education of the gifted» at the Faculty of Croatian Studies of the University of Zagreb in the summer semester of 2004.
It will also be the first time that a skilled practitioner will be involved in the work of an academic institution in this field (gifted education); this will be discussed at the 9th conference of the Croatian psychologists in October 2003. Topic of the conference will be: «Psychologists in the improvement of the quality of life». The author of this article has only recently had word that she will be rewarded with the annual award for applied psychology by the Croatian Psychological Association.
National Correspondent from Croatia
ECHA News wishes to compliment
Jasna Lay on being the recipient of this
 Regarding the Bologne declaration Croatia have to accomodate the academic education to the standards of EU. On of the consequences will be that various international diplomas will be finally recognized and accepted in Croatia.
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