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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisation of vocational upper secondary education


6.Upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary Education

6.7Organisation of vocational upper secondary education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Types of Institutions

Vocational upper secondary education is provided by vocational upper secondary schools (high schools) and general upper secondary schools, offering classes leading to acquisition of vocational qualification.

Students can be enrolled after completing basic education (9th to 12th grade) and/or after completing seventh grade (8th to 12th grade). Vocational upper secondary schools provide vocational education through the acquisition of different degrees of vocational qualification depending on the duration of the corresponding study course.

There are also special schools leading to completion of secondary education and/or the acquisition of vocational qualification for students with special educational needs.

Geographical Accessibility

The characteristics of school distribution at the level of upper secondary education are generally the same as those for basic schools.

Upper secondary schools are distributed mainly in the cities, where the number of students is greater. Students living in villages where there is no school offering secondary education, travel to an appropriate school outside the village. There are discounts on travelling costs for students and for railway and city transport as well as for certain bus services.

The rationalisation of the school network with regard to education institutions granting general and vocational secondary education has some specific dimensions. It is executed in accordance with the development of the different regions of the country, their social and economic status and the general status of the labour market. There is a constant effort to bring professions that are taught and majors as close as possible to the specific features of the region, its industrial development and the need for certain specialists for the different branches.

Admission Requirements and Choice of School

Students can apply to an unlimited number of schools. Up to 5 students suffering from chronic diseases, physical and sensor disabilities can be enrolled in each class. In vocational schools and vocational upper secondary schools these could also be students from institutions for raising and educating children deprived of parental care.

The chief of the Regional Inspectorate of Education approves the state enrollment and the enrollment in non-specialized classes at every school not later than September 5th.

Students are enrolled after examining their abilities and/or their documents. Examining their abilities can be done through three types of exams:

  • оn a school subject;
  • a test;
  • examination of abilities.

Entrance exams for 8th and 9th grades should be taken on the territory of the region where the students have completed their 7th grade or basic education. When a certain exam is planned to be carried out in a particular region only, students can sit for this exam on the territory of another region. As of 2010 all 7th graders sit for an external assessment in all major subjects they have studied. Those who want to study in one of the more selective schools should also take a second module in Bulgarian Language and Literature and Mathematics. When the results are announced students can make their choice of schools to apply to. Together with the application form they also submit their original certificate for having completed 7th grade or corresponding basic education certificate. For some schools and study courses students should also submit a medical certificate issued by their GP.

Students can enroll in grade 8 at vocational upper secondary schools and class sections leading to the acquisition of professional qualification at secondary general schools and specialized upper secondary schools. Only students who have completed the 7th grade in the year of application can be enrolled.

The requirement for enrollment is a grade of at least Fair (3.00) in each of the entrance exams. The exams are as follows:

  • for Humanities, Natural Sciences, Foreign languages and Technology profile schools and class sections, as well profession-acquiring majors – in Bulgarian Language and Literature and in Mathematics;
  • for specialized study courses in Art and certain profession-acquiring majors requiring abilities in the sphere of fine arts, music or choreography – a test and examination respectively in arts, music, choreography;
  • for specialized study courses in Sports – a test and examination in sports.

Students can enroll in grade 9 at vocational upper secondary schools and vocational schools, as well as at non-specialized schools and class sections leading to acquisition of professional qualification at secondary general schools. Students are accepted after submission of the required documents or after taking an entrance exam in a subject or after examination of their abilities. Upon applying students are required to:

  • have finished basic education;
  • be not older than 17 (for full-time education only);
  • show that instruction in Arts, Sports or particular fields within professions will not affect unfavourably their health;
  • have received at least Fair (3,00) at the entrance exam(s) in the case of such.

To be enrolled students should submit the following documents at the corresponding school:

  • application form;
  • certificate for completed basic education;
  • certificate proving the mark from the entrance exam in the case of such;
  • medical certificate issued by the student’s GP.

Holding a document certifying that the person has completed 7th grade (for those who apply after grade 7) and a certificate of basic education (for those who apply after grade 8) is a compulsory condition for students’ admittance to an entrance exam. It is not necessary to sit an entrance exam to be accepted at some of the non-specialized classes, as well as at some specialized upper secondary schools and vocational upper secondary schools if the school pedagogical council has passed such a resolution (e.g. due to lack of enough applicants). In such cases students are accepted according to their final marks from their certificate of completed basic education.

Age Levels and Grouping of Students

Students within one and the same age form the grades and classes at the upper secondary level in different schools leading to completion of secondary education in the daily form of schooling.

Division into classes and groups for the different academic subjects and the formation of groups from different classes is done within one and the same grade. In evening form of schooling and in adult education forms, which acquire secondary education, classes and groups are formed by students of different age groups.

Between 18 and 26 students are included in one class at vocational schools and vocational upper secondary schools.

Classes in the last grade of a high school can be of at least 13 students.

At the upper secondary level of education classes can be divided into groups in the following cases:

  • In classes where students study different foreign languages a group is formed with at least 10 students, if this language is not studied in other classes of the same grade.
  • For laboratory classes in Chemistry and environment protection, Physics and astronomy, Biology and health education whenever the class is more than 25 students;
  • In computer science and information technology the minimum number of students in a group is eight;
  • Classes formed from two specialisations or from two specialities/professions are divided into two groups during instruction in the specialised subjects and in subjects related to their vocational training whenever it is different for the two specialities/professions;
  • When the number of students in vocational schools and vocational upper secondary schools is insufficient to divide the classes into groups for foreign language learning, the formation of mixed groups of students from one and the same class with at least 11 students in a group is  possible;
  • For arts and sports specialized studies groups can be of 5 to 7 and 3 students respectively;
  • Grouping is also done according to subjects for vocational training, for study and laboratory practice, for drawing, construction, modelling, etc.;
  • Groups in core curriculum optional and free elective education should comprise of at least 8 to 12 students depending on the academic subjects.

Organisation of the School Year

School time is organized in school years and school weeks in two terms.

For students it begins on 15th September and finishes on 15th June for grades 7th and 8th. It ends on 30th June for grades 9th,10th,11th. Twelfth graders graduate in May depending on when the 31st week ends. During the school year, students take a Christmas, interterm, spring or Easter and summer break. The duration of breaks (summer vacation excluded) and other non-attendance days is specified by an order of the Minister of Education, Youth and Science.

The school year at the extracurricular teaching establishments begins on 1st October and finishes on 31st August; activities for children are organized during the summer break as well.

Organisation of the school day and week

The number of compulsory hours per week is 32 for 9th to 12th grades.

Weekly schedule is not fixed at national level but is at every school’s discretion.

The relation between compulsory and core curriculum optional hours for upper secondary is 45% to 80% compulsory education hours.

The duration of a school week is five school days.

The organization of a school day is half-day and whole-day and includes from 4 to 7 compulsory teaching hours. Half-day organization may be carried out in two shifts – morning and afternoon.

The weekly schedule of school instruction takes into consideration the psychophysical features and capabilities of students. It is in accordance with the requirements stipulated by an ordinance of the Minister of Health.

The duration of a teaching hour is:

  • Forty-five minutes in grades 8, 9,10, 11 and 12;
  • Forty-five minutes in case of evening classes;
  • Fifty minutes in school and laboratory practice;
  • Sixty minutes in manufacturing practice.

Breaks between teaching hours (lessons) may not be shorter than 10 minutes and not longer than 30 minutes.

When lessons are organized in two shifts, the school-hour duration may be 40 minutes with permission by the head of the Regional Inspectorate of Education.