Early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Bulgaria is provided in nurseries, kindergartens and primary schools, which ensure good conditions for early childhood development and preparation of the children for school.
ECEC provision is centre based and organised on a whole-day, half-day or hourly basis, according to the parents’ choice.
Nurseries are independent organisations. They provide upbringing, education and training for children from 3 months to 3 years of age. They fall under the responsibility of the Ministry of Health.
In kindergartens, children from 3 years of age are cared for, educated, socialised and trained until they start the first grade of primary school. The Ministry of Education and Science is responsible for the education process in kindergartens. Kindergartens may include nursery groups for children from 10 months to 3 years of age. These groups are under the joint responsibility of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Science. If there is a lack of nursery groups in the relevant municipality and if there are available places, children may start kindergarten at 2 years of age.
The final 2 years of preschool education (for children aged 5–7 years) have been compulsory since 2010, and children may attend either kindergartens or primary schools. Compulsory pre-primary education will apply to all 4-year-olds from 2023/2024 (see amendment to Article 8 of the Preschool and School Education Act of 18 September 2020). Schools can provide compulsory preschool education for children aged 4 years only when the municipality does not have a kindergarten.
Compulsory preschool education in state and municipal kindergartens is provided free of charge.