Paradigm shift about childhood and the preschool and preschool educational system in Croatia – situation, needs and trends1 Jasminka Zloković and Diana Nenadić-Bilan
Summary: Since 2000s, special attention has been devoted to the paradigm shift about the child and childhood. Several legal acts have enabled a more high-quality organisation of the preschool education in the Republic of Croatia. The preschool educational system has significant regional differences in the number of pupils attending preschool institutions. The demand is higher than the accommodation capacities for children aged one to three, as well as for children from three years of age to the start of primary school, predominantly in larger cities. In the counties of central and eastern Croatia, the areas with the highest unemployment and poverty rates, a smaller number of children attend preschool institutions because enrolment priority is given to the children of working parents. In less economically developed counties, the number of children per preschool teacher in educational groups exceeds the maximum limit. This situation could indicate lower academic quality and an unequal initial educational status of children in relation to their place of residence. Children who are members of the Roma national minority attend preschool institutions less frequently because of their lack of personal documents, unregistered place of residence and their parents’ unemployment status. These circumstances endanger the children’s fundamental right to a uniform and equal start in life. Despite the paradigm shift about the child and childhood, the aforementioned facts lead to the conclusion that the preschool and preschool educational system in Croatia has not yet reached the desired level established in the European Union countries.