Ruzica VUK, University of Zagreb, Faculty of science, Department of geography, Croatia
Biljana VRANKOVIC, Nacionalni centar za vanjsko vrednovanje obrazovanja, Croatia
Ivan IVIC, University of Zagreb, Faculty of science, Department of geography, Croatia
In the last 15 years, the population of Croatia has decreased significantly, and so has the number of students, with significant spatial differences. From the 2005/2006 school year to 2020/2021 school year, the number of students in primary school decreased by 19.6%, while the total population decreased by 12.5%. Five counties in Eastern Croatia have lost more than a third of their student population. This is reflected in the network of primary schools and represents a challenge for the young geographical discipline of educational geography. The described situation represents an opportunity for educational geography to develop possible solutions for the sustainability of the educational function, which can be offered to decision makers in the educational system. The paper is based on the analysis of data on the number of students and school classes at the county level, as well as on the analysis of the content of educational policy documents. The paper shows how the erosion of the school network in primary education is reflected in the need for geography teachers and in the competencies that geography teachers need to acquire through their initial education and professional development. In the last 15 years, educational geography in Croatia has answered many questions of the current social and spatial development of Croatia with the results of research on geographical education. In addition to improving the methodology of educational geography, the results of this research contribute to strengthening the role of geography among primary school subjects, confirming its importance in educating young people and understanding the modern world. The subject of geography in Croatian primary education contributes to meeting expectations of all seven curricular areas and all seven cross-curricular subjects, making it an important link in the integration of knowledge and skills acquired in primary education.
Keywords: population decline|educational geography|school network|educational function|spatial development