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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisation of the education system and of its structure


2.Organisation and governance

2.3Organisation of the education system and of its structure

Last update: 27 November 2023

Pre-school education

A set of requirements for learning outcomes is defined by a state educational standard for preschool education. Pre-school education is provided by kindergartens, but may also be provided by schools that can provide the conditions for it. Pre-primary education (PE) is compulsory from the school year beginning in the year in which the child reaches the age of four, but not earlier than the school year beginning in the year in which the child reaches the age of three. It is organised in four age groups: 3-4 year olds, 4-5 year olds, 5-6 year olds and 6-7 year olds.

The aim of pre-primary education is to provide education, socialisation, training and care for children until they enter Grade 1. The school year lasts 12 months. Preschool education is provided on a full-day, half-day, hourly or individual organisation.

The pre-school lays the foundations for lifelong learning by ensuring the physical, cognitive, linguistic, spiritual, moral, social, emotional and creative development of children, taking into account the importance of play in the process of pedagogical interaction. PE creates conditions for the overall development of the child's personality; the acquisition of a set of competencies - knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for the child's successful transition to school education.

PE as a process of education, socialization and training of children is carried out in interaction and cooperation with parents. Parents are participants and partners in pre-school education together with children, teachers, principals and other educational professionals.

School education

School education in Bulgaria starts at the age of 7. At the parents'/guardians' decision, 6 year olds may enter school if their physical and mental development allows this.

School education according to the level is primary and secondary, and according to the content of preparation is general and vocational. Schools are primary, elementary, unified school, high school, specialized school, secondary school, special school. 

The basic stage of education is divided into the primary stage (grades 1-4) and the lower secondary stage (grades 5-7). Secondary education is divided into the first secondary stage (grades 8-10) and the second secondary stage (grades 11-12). General upper secondary education is conducted in comprehensive schools (3 and 4 years of education) and in specialised schools (4 and 5 years of education). 

Pupils are admitted to specialised or vocational schools after passing entrance examinations after grade VII or VIII in Bulgarian language and literature, Mathematics, humanities, etc. No restrictions based on race, nationality, gender, ethnic and social origin, religion and social status are allowed.

The state educational standard for general education defines a set of requirements for learning outcomes in each general education subject at the end of each stage of the respective level of education and specifies: 

  1. the objectives, content and characteristics of general education; 
  2. the general education subjects; 
  3. the requirements for the learning outcomes of each general education subject for the acquisition of general education.

General education in school education is the same for every type of school and is acquired by studying the same general education subjects.

A set of requirements for the learning outcomes of each subject at the end of upper secondary education is defined by a national education standard for profiling. It defines the competences - knowledge, skills and attitudes - that are expected to be acquired at the end of the second cycle of upper secondary education.

The vocational education and training system prepares pupils for employment in the economy and other areas of social life by creating the conditions for the acquisition of vocational qualifications and for their continuous improvement. Vocational education and training ensures the acquisition of secondary education and of qualifications in a profession or in part of a profession, as well as its further upgrading. Vocational training includes initial vocational training (acquiring an initial qualification in a profession or part of a profession) and continuing vocational training (updating, extending or upgrading an acquired qualification in a profession or part of a profession).

Vocational education and training can also be provided through work-based learning (dual system of training). 

Higher education

Higher education does not allow privileges and restrictions related to age, race, nationality, ethnicity, gender, social origin, political views and religion. It shall be acquired in accredited higher education institutions.

Higher education institutions are universities, specialised higher education institutions and independent colleges. They are granted with academic autonomy. It gives expression to the intellectual freedom of the academic community and the creative nature of the educational, research and artistic process as supreme values. Academic autonomy includes academic freedoms, academic self-government and inviolability of the university territory. Higher education institutions provide education for undergraduate, postgraduate and graduate students. The forms of study at the higher education institution are full-time, part-time, evening and distance.

The higher education system organises post-secondary education for the following degrees:

Bachelor's degree, for the acquisition of which, in accordance with the curriculum, the following are required:

  • not less than 180 credits with a study period of not less than three years - "Professional Bachelor of ...";
  • not less than 240 credits with a period of study of not less than 4 years - 'Bachelor of Science'.

The Bachelor's degree shall provide a broad-based profile or specialised vocational training in professional fields and specialities.

Master's degree, for the acquisition of which the following are required:

  • not less than 300 credits according to the curriculum with a period of study of not less than 5 years;
  • not less than 120 credits after having obtained the degree of "Professional Bachelor of ...";
  • not less than 60 credits after the acquisition of the degree of Bachelor of Science.

The Master's degree provides in-depth fundamental training combined with specialisation in a particular specialty.

Educational and scientific degree "Doctor" - the training is organised in doctoral programmes after having acquired the degree "Master". The period of preparation and independent research work for full-time and independent studies is up to 3 years, and for part-time and distance - up to 4 years. By way of exception, regulated in the regulations of the respective higher education institution or scientific organisation, the term may be extended, but by no more than one year.

Training and adult education

Adult training and education has been adopted as a tool for human resource development in a number of national strategies. The main objective of adult training and education is to improve the skill level of unemployed and employed people and to enable them to adapt to a rapidly changing working and living environment. One of the objectives of the Strategic Framework for the Development of Education, Training and Learning in the Republic of Bulgaria (2021-2030) is namely to expand opportunities for lifelong learning.