The first steps of education of Serbs in Croatia date back to the 16th centuries monasteries Marča (Čazma) and Gomirje (Karlovac). The large number of Serbian schools was founded during the course of the 18th century but they did not meet requirements of then Serb community. The first step forward was the school reform which started in 1774 with the first legislative act on Serbian public schools, named The Statute of Ilyro-Czech Deputation, proclaimed on November 2, 1776. This law was intended for Ilyro-Czech primary schools. The law made obligatory the foundation of Serbs' schools wherever there was an orthodox parish. This attempt of proclaiming schools public institutions failed. The law of 1872 was another effort in determining public education. That law stipulated obligatory primary schooling of all Serbian children aged 6-12. In 1888, the Cyrillic script was proclaimed as public script all schools across Croatia.

Up to the First World War, the autonomy and development of Serb schools was under influence of the preservation of religious and national identity, pressures coming from inner Serb society, especially wealthy merchants and the military circles of Krajina.

After the First World War, the autonomous Serb education system lost its importance in regards to religious-national status of Serbs in Croatia. Serbian community was placed under educational system of South Slavic community. Education of Serbs, as well as all other traditions of centuries old history of Serbs in Croatia, was totally abolished during the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). After the Second World War, the educational system was set apart from religious institutions and the emphasis was on creating a new and different society.

Current education of the Serbs in Croatia and the degree of educational autonomy is regulated by the Erdut Agreement and is based on the positive legislative acts which guarantee ethnic minorities a right to be educated in their own mother tongue and use their own script. Those acts are the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia, the Constitutional Act on the Rights of National Minorities and the Law on Education in Language and Letters of National Minorities.

Members of national minorities are entitled to follow curriculum in their mother tongue at all levels of the educational system in Croatia, from preschool to higher education. According to The European Charter on Regional or Minority Languages, ratified by Croatia, the schooling languages can be divided in two groups: so called regional or minority languages, and non-regional minority languages. The national minority members take advantage of their constitutional right to education within three basic models and special education forms:

  • Model A - Entire teaching is in Serbian language and Cyrillic script with compulsory learning of Croatian language and Latin script over the same number of school lessons. This model of education is practiced either in separate school institutions or institutions with education in Croatian language education with special classes in Serbian language and script.
  • Model B - The natural sciences group of subjects is in Croatian language, while humanities school subjects are in Serbian language and script. This model is practiced in school institutions in Croatian language but in special classes.
  • Model C- This is an extra-curricular education model which includes studying Serbian language and culture five school lessons a week along with the regular education in Croatian.
  • Class framework in which the language of national minority is taught as the language of social environment
  • Special classes: summer and winter schools, correspondence and consultative classes
  • Special programs for the inclusion of Roma students into the educational system.