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Varaždin County

Varazdin County, nestled in the heart of Croatia, has distinguished itself through a remarkable commitment to education, directing around 60% of its entire budget towards it —a figure that stands as one of the highest per capita allocations in Croatia.

95% of students in single-shift teaching schools, 800 % in Centers of Excellence, 70 % of the secondary education system with Erasmus accreditation, 40 % of county schools producing their own energy, 10 % of high school students attending schools from other regions – this is just a part of the results in Varazdin County where education has always been and remains a priority. All activities are aimed at creating an “educational system of equal opportunities” where every student has equal conditions to be educated in the area where one can realize his full potential.

Trademark – Centers of Excellence

Special attention is paid to working with gifted and highly motivated students, for which Varazdin County is recognized beyond the borders of Croatia and is part of the working group of the newly founded European platform for attracting talents. In the past 17 years, 14 Centers of excellence and five Vocational centers of excellence have been formed, systematically working with primary and secondary school students. So far about 11,800 elementary and high school students passed through these Centers. Centers have become nationally and internationally recognized project by ECHA (European Council for High Ability) with the promotion of Centers of Excellence to the European Talent Center, one of 25 operating worldwide.

Varazdin County takes immense pride in its students, who invest their spare time to enhance their talents, gain new knowledge and master skills. County ensures these committed learners receive comprehensive support, including complimentary meals and transportation. During this academic year, an impressive roster of 846 students has immersed themselves in the Centers’ activities, guided by top 168 mentors that secure commitment to fostering teamwork and a research-oriented mindset in well-equipped classrooms and laboratories.

Vocational centers of excellence (Electrical Engineering, Transport, Textiles and Leather, Mechanical Engineering and Tourism) have also been launched as a place where secondary education and the real sector meet, and competencies demanded in the labor market are acquired. The main goal is to enable students to be in trend, understand global movements and be globally competitive with their knowledge and skills. A unique aspect of County’s approach to vocational education is its achievement of having no surplus vocational occupations, signifying a precise alignment between educational offerings and market needs.

Impressively, vocational students in Varazdin County have a 75% passing rate on the state exam, reflecting the high quality and effectiveness of the vocational education system in place. Care is taken to link educational programs with the needs of the economy, so 70% of high school students are educated for vocational professions, 25% in gymnasium programs and the remaining 5% in art programs. From the cohort of students who complete their vocational training, 50% pursue higher education and the other 50% enter the labor market directly.

In addition, high schools implement adult education programs through micro-qualifications in their Vocational centers of excellence through Croatian Employment Service vouchers.

Regional Centers – a step forward in lifelong learning

Two Regional Centers of Competence, worth a total of 31.6 million euros, mark a significant milestone in raising quality in the education system in the fields of healthcare and agriculture. The Regional Center of Competence for Innovative Health Technologies at the Medical School in Varazdin is equipped with the most modern equipment for practical lessons and it will educate healthcare personnel that is not available in the market today – not only in Croatia but also in this part of Europe. In the Regional Center of Competence in Agriculture at the “Arboretum Opeka” High School a genetic base for seeds, laboratories for testing the quality of plant oils, wines, honey, soil, a center for floristry and a wine practicum are placed.

Varazdin County’s strategic emphasis on vocational education not only prepares students for immediate entry into the workforce but also lays a solid foundation for those opting for higher education, ensuring that the future workforce is versatile, skilled, and well-aligned with the evolving needs of the economy and labor market.

As part of the EARLALL (European Association of Regional and Local Authorities for Lifelong Learning), Varazdin County was involved in three projects: Stride for Stride for Skills/Anticipation in European Regions – S4Regions (Erasmus+K2) project, aimed at strengthening the vocational education system across European regions, Youth Entrepreneurial Spirit Specialists – YESpecialists (Erasmus+ K2) project and REGALE (Regional Capacity for Adult Learning and Education).

Moreover, the county’s commitment to quality management underscores its dedication to transparency and citizen satisfaction. In 2005/2006, Varazdin County implemented a Quality Management System aligned with the ISO 9001:2000 standard. This system serves as a catalyst for continuous improvement, ensuring efficient management and supervision across all facets of county operations.

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