Kick-starting a STEM Revolution in Croatia

What does it take to start a nationwide initiative to introduce coding into schools?

There is a simple answer - hard work and tenacity - usually from an individual, a visionary with the courage to say: "It starts right here, right now, with me."

Nenad Bakic is that type of person, Croatia is the country he has been working in and here is a glimpse of what, in just over a year, Nenad and his team have accomplished:

Micro:bit in Croatia

On Friday November 24th this year 38,000 micro:bits were sent to 6th-graders in 84% of the elementary schools in Croatia. Participation was optional from the participating schools, so this take up rate was fantastic! From early December these students began to use them in class and at home and already the Micro:bit Educational Foundation is seeing a huge surge in web hits from Croatia.

The project delivering those micro:bits was called ProMikro, a collaboration between Nenad’s privately funded, non-profit IRIM, a government agency CARNet and the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education. The project’s aim was to introduce digital literacy and computing into schools in an interdisciplinary and creative way. The project builds on a highly successful STEM Revolution initiative by IRIM in which over 1,000 educational institutions, including elementary and secondary schools, universities, non-profits and libraries, in Croatia received 20 micro bits per institution. With IRIM’s support, some local governments have also introduced coding into their schools using the micro:bit. For example: Varaždin County supplied micro:bits for all students in Grades 1 through 4 and the City of Osijek introduced them for Grade 5. A map of all schools participating in ProMikro can be found here. It is worth remembering, up till now coding was not an obligatory subject in Croatian schools.

The micro:bits for those 38,000 sixth graders and their teachers were provided by CARNet and remaining non-participating schools can still apply for the ProMikro project. IRIM designed ProMikro, administered applications, developed lessons for use in schools and organized teacher education for over 2,200 teachers. There have been two rounds of educational workshops so far (introductory and subject) with a third round of advanced workshops being planned. The funds for the education were provided by the Croatian Employers' Association and shipping was donated by the Croatian Post. The teachers’ education – a key element of the project’s success – had impressive results. Of all participating teachers, 40% had never coded and after only two workshops, 67% of those teachers intend to use the micro:bit in class and among those who coded regularly, over 83% intend to use the micro:bit with their students.

IRIM is a privately-funded, non-profit which has developed an extensive portfolio of programmes in STEM education including: the Croatian Makers robotics league (which has over 500 schools and non-profits participating with over 2,500 donated educational robots); an advanced robotics competition and advanced, massive-collaboration IoT projects. Also, IRIM has donated and helped kick-off projects in STEM to other regional countries. In total IRIM has donated over 70,000 micro:bits to different segments of the Croatian learning community.

Congratulations and thanks to Nenad and all of his team (especially Rujana and Paolo) from everyone at the Micro:bit Educational Foundation.