Today, the Croatian Academic and Research Network – CARNET signed two grant agreements worth a total of HRK 1.3 billion for the 2nd phase of the “e-Schools: Development of the system of digitally mature schools (phase II)” programme. European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund provided the funds.
Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds Nataša Tramišak, Director of the Central Finance and Contracting Agency (CFCA) and CARNET CEO Goran Kezunović signed the agreement on the allocation of HRK 996,310,200.00 from the European Regional Development Fund.
Minister of Science and Education professor Radovan Fuchs PhD, Assistant Director of the AVETAE for Implementing Structural Instruments of the European Union Martina Hundrić, and CARNET CEO signed the contract on the allocation of HRK 350,000,000.00 from the European Social Fund.
The funds are intended for the construction of local networks in schools, equipping schools and classrooms, procurement of laptops for teachers, numerous and continuous education for teachers, principals, and administrative staff on how to use ICT equipment in everyday work, development of digital materials and content used in teaching, as well as development of e-services for teaching and business processes in schools.
“We continue to raise digital maturity of schools. The pandemic especially showed how important it is to raise the level of digital competencies of our schools, teachers and students because we were more prepared for the challenges we faced. If you look at the numbers, they speak enough in favour of of this project. The project is co-financed from two funds – from the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund, and including the pilot phase of the project implemented under both funds, we are investing a total of HRK 1.6 billion, covering over 90 per cent of primary and secondary schools in Croatia and more than 20,000 teachers, professional associates and other employees”, stated Minister of Science and Education professor Radovan Fuchs PhD.
“This project contributes to strengthening the capacity of the primary and secondary school system and training students for the labour market, further education and lifelong learning, as well as the complete informatisation of administration, teaching and learning in schools. The project also finances the construction and improvement of infrastructure aimed at implementing a system of digitally mature schools through the application of information and communication technologies in teaching and business processes in all public primary and secondary schools in the Republic of Croatia. In the context of promoting Cohesion Policy projects, the European Commission has repeatedly highlighted the e-Schools project as an example of good practice on how a Member State can help the education system cope with a difficult situation and minimise the long-term social and economic consequences of a coronavirus pandemic. Encouraged by the success of the pilot project and the planned goals of the major project, the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds has proposed the major e-Schools project for the REGIOSTARS award given by the European Commission each year to EU-funded projects. The REGIOSTARS award highlights excellence and new approaches in regional development and focuses on areas crucial for the future of EU regional policy. In a competition of over 200 projects that applied, the European Commission selected the e-Schools project for the shortlist of the best projects in the Inclusive Growth – Skills and Education for a Digital Europe category”, said Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds Nataša Tramišak, speaking about the part of the e-Schools programme financed from the European Fund for Regional Development.
Minister of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy Josip Aladrović stated that “the purpose of the project worth over HRK 349 million, co-financed by the European Social Fund, is to raise the digital maturity of all primary and secondary schools in Croatia and thus contribute to the digital transformation of teaching and of business processes in the education system, and to empower students to live and work in the 21st century, upgrade strategic management of the schools by raising the level of digital maturity and improve the digital competencies of educators and other school employees.”
“Although today marks the signing of the contract for the major e-Schools project, thanks to successful cooperation with the beneficiary Croatian Academic and Research Network – CARNET, the activities of this strategic project worth almost HRK 1 billion have already begun, monitored by CFCA. These are activities primarily related to the design of school networks, construction of local networks, procurement of specialised equipment and equipping teaching staff. The e-Schools project of digitally transforming education will include educational staff, administrative staff and students in more than 1000 primary and secondary schools to develop a system of digitally mature schools,” said Tomislav Petrić, Director of CFCA.
CARNET CEO Goran Kezunović pointed out that CARNET continuously designs various projects and develops e-services following new trends in the purposeful use of information and communication technology in education.
The pilot project covered 10 per cent of schools and achieved results that gave us the additional impetus for the second phase of the project. In addition, by equipping schools and teachers with digital content and education on the application of ICT in teaching, we have contributed to the rapid adaptation of schools for distance learning during the extraordinary circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Last fall, as part of the second phase of the project, we delivered more than 26,000 laptops for teachers, and in the coming months, we will equip another 27,000. So far, in the second phase of the e-Schools programme, we have performed activities worth more than HRK 281 million.
Systematic and regular use of modern technologies in learning and teaching, adequate infrastructure and computer equipment in all schools in Croatia, as well as numerous developed e-services for teaching and business processes, and a series of training for the development of digital competencies of school staff – are just some of the benefits of CARNET’s e-Schools programme, which also played an important role in the emergency situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the need to switch to online classes during the past school year.
The programme “e-Schools: a comprehensive informatisation of school operation processes and teaching processes aimed at creating digitally mature schools for the 21st century” began in March 2015 with a pilot project in which 10 per cent of Croatian primary and secondary schools participated (151 schools). The pilot project increased their level of digital maturity by at least one.
Based on the experiences and results of the pilot project, in September 2018, CARNET started implementing the second phase of the programme called “e-Schools: Development of the system of digitally mature schools (phase II)”, which will digitally transform teaching and business processes in all schools in the Republic of Croatia financed from the state budget by the end of 2022.
So far, local networks in 1,056 schools have been designed within the second phase of the e-Schools programme, and 767 out of 1483 locations have been constructed. Procurement for active network equipment that will enable the commissioning of local networks is coming to an end soon.
Last year, CARNET supplied 26,350 laptops to 1,200 schools, and during the fall, CARNET will deliver another 26,755.
Thirty-one new digital educational contents were published for 15 subjects for the fifth and sixth grade of primary school and the first, third and fourth grade of gymnasium.
Mobile teams consisting of CARNET experts have been established to provide maximum support to schools. The teams are distributed regionally at hubs in Croatia (Zagreb, Osijek, Rijeka and Split) and visit school locations to provide support for the use of the network and computer equipment.
The beneficiary institution, the Croatian Academic and Research Network – CARNET, is responsible for implementing the project. The project partners are the Education and Teacher Training Agency, the Agency for Vocational Education and Training and Adult Education, Faculty of Organisation and Informatics, University of Zagreb and Innovation Centre Nikola Tesla and National Centre for External Evaluation of Education.
More information about the e-Schools programme is available at https://www.e-skole.hr/.