ZAGREB, December 28, 2019 – The frontal introduction of the curriculum reform in primary and secondary schools, a record-long strike of teachers in the first semester of 2019-2020 school year, and admission of Croatia as an associate member of CERN have been some of the major events marking Croatia’s education and science in the outgoing year.
Also, in 2019, the University of Zagreb marked its 350th anniversary, and six Croatian scientists at the Ruđer Bošković Institute (RBI) completed the first Croatian project within the European Research Council (ERC), while Zagreb’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences professors and researchers were given funding from the ERC, for their project about architectural culture of the eastern Adriatic between the 15th and 18th centuries, which was thus the first Croatian humanities projects to be funded by the ERC through the Horizon 2020 programme.
The Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (HAZU) entered 2019 with a new leadership: academician Velimir Neiderhart succeeded academician Zvonko Kusić at the helm of this institution after Kusić’s two terms as the HAZU president. Neiderhart’s associates are: Dario Vretenar as the HAZU secretary-general and two vice-presidents Davor Miličević and Frano Paro.
In January 2019, new curricula were adopted to replace programmes introduced in Croatian schools 25 years ago.
As of September 2019, new curricula are being implemented in first and fifth grade of primary schools, in seventh grade for subjects Biology, Chemistry and Physics and in first grade in upper secondary schools as well as in four-year vocational schools in general education subjects: Croatian, Math, Foreign Languages (German and English). Thus, as many as 150,000 pupils in are covered by the new curricula.
The strike of primary and secondary school teachers, launched over a demand for an increase in job complexity indices, lasted from October 10 to December 2, and students lost a total of 16 days of classes during the action. At the beginning of the industrial action, rotating strikes were conducted across counties, and later, a general strike was launched. The industrial action escalated in a protest rally on 25 November.
On 2 December, the government and striking teachers reached agreement on an increase of the job complexity indices of 3% as of December 1, an additional 1% as of June 1 next year and a further 2% as of January 1, 2021. The unions had demanded a pay rise through an increase of the job complexity indices of 6.11% to close the pay gap with other public-sector employees.
On 28 February, Croatia became an associate member of the world’s biggest research centre, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), at a ceremony in Zagreb at which an agreement was signed awarding Croatia the status of an associate member. The agreement was signed by CERN Director-General Fabiola Gianotti and Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak.
Gianotti recalled that CERN was not only the leading world research centre for particle physics but was also dedicated to development of new technologies, education and global peace-loving scientific cooperation. She noted that numerous Croatian researchers had worked and still worked at CERN and that they deserved credit for successful cooperation.
Minister Divjak spoke of some of the possibilities that would open up for Croatia with its associate membership of CERN, including access for Croatian researchers to huge databases and the exchange of knowledge, researchers and ideas.
CERN also provides an opportunity for Croatian high-tech companies to participate in tenders worth more than two billion euros annually – from construction of parts for accelerators and similar laboratory equipment to development of robotics and solutions for the analysis of huge quantities of data and artificial intelligence, Divjak said.
Attending the ceremony, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said he believed that Croatia would become a full member of CERN in a few years’ time. He noted that the national economy would benefit from the country’s accession to CERN. Plenković recalled that in the past two years government investment in science had increased by 29%, including money from EU funds.
The first “Science Oscar”’ was brought to the RBI by scientist Ana Smith who had been awarded a 1.5 million euro worth ERC Starting Grant for her project “MembranesAct – Biological membranes in action: A unified approach to complexation, scaffolding and active transport”, and that was one of just 287 proposals selected for funding out of a record 3,329 submissions six years ago.
The five-year research project, conducted by the researcher Smith and a few young scientists, concerned membranes in living cells – structures which act at the interface of biology, material science and physics. Due to the complexity of membranes and the number of processes occurring simultaneously in their vicinity, the mechanisms driving and controlling protein transport and complexation are not well understood, though are believed to have a biophysical foundation, according to the explanation of the project which was completed in 2019.
In mid-December, Zagreb’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences stated that the project about architectural culture of the eastern Adriatic between the 15th and 18th centuries was the first Croatian humanities projects to receive funding from the ERC. The project, led by Jasenka Gudelj of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, is one of the 78 projects selected among 674 that were submitted in the field of social sciences and humanities. The projects are financed by the ERC from a €600 million budget through the Horizon 2020 programme.
“We expect that the results of five years of work will help in safeguarding and evaluating the early medieval architectural heritage of the Adriatic. We are excited about this success and the possibilities that are opening up for us,” Gudelj said. The research team includes Ana Marinković and Neven Jovanovic from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities in Zagreb, Laris Borić from the University of Zadar and five young researchers. They will be working with the Archaeological Museum of Istria in Pula, the Croatian Museum of Architecture, the National and University Library, and other Croatian and foreign institutions.
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