Schools in Bulgaria can divided into state, municipal and private. State schools are of national importance and are funded by the state budget through the Ministry of Education, Youth and Science as well as through other ministries and government departments. Their material facilities are considered public state property. These schools provide training and schooling for children and pupils from the whole country and are geographically distributed relatively evenly in the capital, the district centers and other larger or smaller towns and villages so as to cover all regions in Bulgaria.
Vocational schools, which represent a large group of the above mentioned schools, are located in different territorial and administrative districts. These schools take into account the predominant occupation of the population in their region, the industrial production, as well as the supply and demand in the respective sphere.
When vocational schools are relatively small in number, such as those in the fields of agriculture and forestry, mining, construction, tourism, and hotel keeping, they are established near the places where qualified personnel are needed and with a view to admitting and training pupils from a number of districts or larger regions. More often, schools of national importance are established in the capital and larger cities, while schools of art, sport, tourism, some special schools, etc. are located in such a way that they will admit and train pupils from all regions and will try to meet all their needs. Generally, those schools have hostels or boarding houses for pupils coming from distant places, and also provide their own transportation for pupils from neighboring settlements.
Municipal schools can be opened after a proposal of the municipal council and are funded by the municipality. They are established by order of the Minister of Education, Youth and Science and are geographically distributed throughout the whole territory of Bulgaria, in different municipalities, to conform to the number of pupils and the needs of the respective schools.
Municipal schools include most of primary, basic, secondary general schools and general upper secondary schools. Primary and/or basic schools are established in each settlement in Bulgaria provided that the number of schoolchildren is sufficient to meet the requirements. Such schools are easily accessible to all schoolchildren.
In recent decades – mainly for demographic reasons and due to a reduction in the number of children and pupils in small settlements, there is a growing tendency towards closing down schools when they do not meet the requirements for the number of children in classes and schools. Although the bottom limit of the required number of pupils is quite low, there are settlements where these requirements cannot be met and such schools and/or classes are closed down by decision of the municipality and order of the Minister of Education, Youth and Science.
For children in settlements where a school is closed down, free of charge transport is provided by the municipality to the school they attend, most often one of the so called ‘central schools’. Free transport and/or boarding school education in a local school within the closest proximity on the territory of the same municipality is provided to pupils up to 16 years old, who come from towns and villages that do not have a proper school.
Admission Requirements and Choice of School
Students start school on completing 4 years of age at a school chosen by the parents. Children can be enrolled in 1st grade at the age of 6 if their physical and mental development allows it. There are no specific admission requirements for basic schools, besides schools with special programs and schools for gifted children, where pupils are admitted after an aptitude exam.
The right to choose a school allows pupils to apply for and attend schools of high prestige, good quality of instruction, interesting and diverse activities, thus meeting their interests and needs.
Enrollment in certain schools (specialized – foreign-language schools, schools of natural sciences and mathematics, sports, arts, vocational schools, etc.) is done after students sit for a competitive examination.
Upon graduating successfully from a primary school students can go on with their lower secondary education generally only with their 4th grade certificate.
Age Levels and Grouping of Pupils
The single structure education consists of:
- primary education - from I to IV grade including
- secondary secondary– from V to VII grade including.
Basic single structure education is comprised of primary (1st to 4th grade) and lower secondary (5th to 8th grade) education. School education is organised in consecutive grades of students at the same age (besides some exceptions like students repeating the grade, for example).
Students belonging to one and the same grade are divided into groups or classes. According to the specific features of the studied subject, the class can be divided into sub-groups, joint groups can be formed from different classes, or individual instruction can be organized.
The school can organize joint groups in free elective subjects or for activities related to meeting the interests, abilities and needs of pupils in the fields of sport, science, technology, arts or recreation.
Such groups can consist of pupils from different grades and include pupils from other schools as well. The number of pupils in a class, the division of classes into groups and individual instruction are defined by ordinance of the Minister of Education, Youth and Science stipulating that the number of pupils in one class from 1st to 4th grade can be from 16 to 22, and of pupils from 5th to 8th grade – from 18 to 26. Up to f5 children with chronic diseases and/or special education needs can be enrolled in state and municipal schools.
Organisation of the School Year
The school time for all forms of education, except for the independent one, is organized in school terms, school weeks, school days and school classes. The school time for the independent form is organized by the school through exams and by the student who prepares independently for them. The school time in а day form in classes I to III inclusive includes five days for project and creative activities, including visits to cultural institutions, for recreation and sports, for excursions, for team projects in the classroom, school or between schools, which can be planned as consecutive within one week after the end of the classes according to the curriculum or several times during the two school terms. The total number of school weeks for one school year is as follows:
- 32 weeks - from I to III grade;
- 34 school weeks - from IV to VI;
- 36 weeks - for VII grade.
In view of the need to limit the spread of COVID-19 in order to ensure the life and health of students, teachers and other school staff by Order of the Minister of Education for the school year 2020/2021, two weeks are set for students in IV- VI grade, in which the days should be non-school, but should be used for compensatory measures, activities of interest and / or general support, incl. and from a distance in an electronic environment, as the time for their use is determined by decision of the respective school, one school week for students in grades I - III for project and / or creative activities and two weeks in which the days are non-school, but to are used for compensatory measures, activities of interest and / or general support, including from a distance in an electronic environment, and the time for their use is determined by a decision of the respective school. The end of the second term for the academic year 2020/2021 - 23.06.2021 for I - III grade and 30.06.2021 for IV - XI grade has been changed.
Organisation of the School Day and Week
The school learning plan distributes the school time among the school subjects or modules for acquiring school preparation covering three sections: compulsory,selective and facultative school classes. In the compulsory school classes training for acquiring general educational preparation shall be realized, and in the vocational high schools and in classes for vocational preparation – also the general vocational preparation. In the selective school classes, training shall be realized for acquiring the extended preparation, the profile preparation and/or branch, specific and extended professional preparation, as well as of the specialized preparation. The total number of compulsory and elective school hours for one school week is as follows: twenty-two school hours - in I grade; twenty-three school hours - in II grade; twenty-seven school hours - in III and IV grade; thirty school hours - from V to VI grade; thirty-one school hours - in VII grade. For innovative schools, an increase of up to 10% in the total number of hours is allowed. Based on the school curriculum, an individual curriculum is developed for students in an individual form of education.