The project titled “Principal: a profession and a qualification, not a function” was launched on 19th June, 2015. Duration of the project implementation is fifteen months. The total project value is HRK 2 048 032.87, with the non-refundable fee amounting to HRK 1 945 631.22. The project was financed from European social fund and approved for financing within the framework of the Call for submission of project proposals titled Improvement of the quality in higher education applying the Croatian qualifications framework, from the Operative program titled Development of human potentials 2007 − 2013.
The project coordinator is University of Zadar, while partner institutions are Faculty of economics at the University of Zagreb and Faculty of educational sciences at the University of Josip Juraj Strossmayer in Osijek.
The project objective includes also professionalization and depoliticization of principals’ vocation through the development of standards of profession and qualification of educational institutions’ principals as well as development of higher education curriculum. The project will result in creating a model for recognition of competences acquired through formal, informal and non-formal education of the principals as well as in creating a model for licensing principals. Due to the mentioned objectives, this project presents a direct contribution to the quality of educational system.
The project complies with the strategy Europe 2020 and its priority Smart grow, which partly refers to education, training and lifelong learning, directed towards acceleration of the education modernization program and promotion of recognition of non-formal and informal learning. In accordance with the Strategic development plan issued by MZOS RH, 2014 – 2016, within the scope of the special objective titled 1.2. Development of the quality insurance system on all levels of education, this project will contribute to the development of competences of principals, educators, teachers and assistants in kindergartens and elementary schools. County development strategy of Zadar County, 2011 − 2013 (with an extended validation until issuing the new one), provides for Priority 1.2 titled Strengthening the capacity and efficient operation of the public sector, while education of principals and formalization of principal qualifications contribute to a more efficient education system, reduce costs and increase productivity of the entire system. Furthermore, the project will contribute to achieving the objective 2, Strengthening of educational institutions planned in the Strategy of development of human potentials of Zadar County, 2011 − 2013 (with an extended validation until issuing the new one), and especially to measure 2.1 Adaptation of existing and introduction of new educational programs adjusted according to the needs of the economy through development of the new study program for education of principals and the acquisition of partial qualifications.
Unlike other carriers of educational activities in Croatia, school principals and other educational institutions have been left behind in the education system and considered a “function”, not a profession and a qualification. The mentioned function is conditioned by 5 years of experience of direct work with students or work in educational institutions (the Law on education in primary and secondary schools, 2008). None of the other conditions (basic qualification, for instance) for becoming a principal assume defined knowledge, skills, abilities and attitudes (competences) for efficient, high-quality, professional management and administration of educational institution. Furthermore, the law just partially defines the degree of independence and responsibilities of the principals. Principals usually hold professional trainings and take part in trainings organized by relevant agencies or associations of principals. Professional trainings, however, are not systematic, but “suitable” in the sense of political and reform changes. The same law assumes licensing of principals, but until today the basic assumption of licensing has not been ensured, since educational system does not recognize and does not have defined principals’ qualifications that precede licensing (professional examination, competence and continuous professional development).
The above-mentioned refers to:
- the split between professional competences of principals, receiving the first license and further licenses, i.e. insistence on principals holding their position according to their function, which is contradictory to social, economic, educational and other changes in the Republic of Croatia
- disabling of measuring the quality of work of principals in education system
- the split between recognition of experience as a working criterium in the educational institution (safety, inclusion, management, business, responsibility relating to sustainable development, respecting the conventions etc.).
Principals present a relevant factor of the quality of work of an educational institution. However, the system of external evaluation does not have any assumption for conducting external evaluation of principals’ work.