According to the Pre-school and School Education Act, the state implements policies for improving the quality of education. The legislation requires the education and training to be carried out under quality assurance in the education system.
Quality assurance in pre-school and school education is carried out by responsible institutions at national, regional and school level.
At the national level, the responsible institution is the Ministry of Education and Science, which performs control functions in the school system through its specialized administration and units. It establishes a mechanism for visibility, transparency and annual analysis of the results of national external evaluations, which is used for developing policies and measures to ensure sustainable improvement in the quality of education. Activities in the pre-school and school education system are financed by the state budget, as funds for the development of kindergartens and schools include also funds for improving the quality of education. Activities related to quality assurance are planned and implemented under the budget programme "Quality Assurance in the Preschool and School Education System", which is an integral part of the Ministry's Programme Budget for each year.
The National Inspectorate of Education to the Council of Ministers is the body for external inspection of kindergartens and schools. It carries out the activity of producing a comprehensive independent expert assessment of the quality of education that the inspected kindergarten or school provides and sets guidelines for quality improving.
At the regional level, quality assurance in the school system is carried out by the 28 Regional Directorates of Education, which are territorial administrations under the Minister of Education and Science for the management and control of the system of pre-school and school education, providing the environment for the implementation of the state education policy in the 28 regions. They ensure the conditions for the functioning of the institutions in the pre-school and school education system in the territory of the respective regions and provide methodological support to kindergartens and schools via their specialised administration. With regard to municipal kindergartens and schools, control is also carried out by the mayors of the respective municipalities.
At the school level, quality assurance is carried out by the Heads and Deputy heads of kindergartens and schools. Schools are required to implement measures to improve the quality of education. They choose the organization, methods and means of teaching to ensure quality education. The public council in the kindergarten and school proposes policies and measures to improve the quality of the educational process based on the results of the institution's self-evaluation, external evaluation - for schools, and inspection of the kindergarten or school. On the other hand, the Pedagogical Council at the school adopts measures to improve the quality of education. Principals of kindergartens approve measures to improve the quality of education and upbringing of children.
So-called innovative schools (defined as such by criteria according to state education standards) exist that achieve improvements in the quality of education, by:
- developing and introducing innovative elements in the organisation and/or content of learning;
- organising the management, teaching and learning environment in a new or improved way;
- using new teaching methods;
- develop teaching content, curricula and syllabuses in innovative ways.
Teaching staff are also actively involved in this process, and one of their duties is to maintain and improve their qualifications in order to improve the quality of their work and to raise the results and quality of education of children and pupils. The head of schools and kindergartens must provide the necessary conditions for this.
Approaches and Methods for Quality Assurance
Quality assurance in pre-school and school education is linked to quality management. It is a continuous process of organisational development based on analysing, planning, implementing activities, evaluating and improving the performance of kindergartens and schools.
Assessment is carried out through self-assessment and inspection. Self-evaluation is focused on producing an internal assessment of the quality of the education provided through activities, procedures and criteria set by the kindergarten or school.
Inspection provides a comprehensive independent expert assessment of the quality of the education delivered by the kindergarten or school at a particular moment in time and identifies areas for improvement. Inspection is carried out by the National Inspectorate of Education, according to criteria and indicators grouped by inspection areas. It is conducted at least one inspection per 5 years of every kindergarten and every school.
Assessment identifies and measures learning outcomes and students' level of preparedness for their future careers, and one of its main objectives is to monitor the educational process in order to implement policies and measures aiming to enhance the quality of education.
Assessment takes place during the school learning process; at the end of a grade or stage of a degree; at the completion of a degree. Assessment may be: internal - where the assessment is made by the teacher responsible for teaching; external - where the assessment is made by a committee or by a person other than the teacher responsible for teaching. Depending on its scope, assessment may be:
- national - covering pupils in one grade throughout the country;
- regional - covering pupils in one grade within one or more regions;
- school-based - covering pupils in one grade within an individual school;
- group - covering some or all pupils in one or more classes;
- individual - for an individual pupil.
The objectives of the external assessment at the end of the grade or stage of the degree are:
- diagnosis of individual progress and of pupils' learning needs;
- monitoring the educational process to implement policies and measures aimed at improving the quality of education;
- determining the extent to which have been achieved the individual expected learning outcomes in a subject, as defined in the curriculum for that grade;
- determining the extent to which individual expected learning outcomes in a subject, as defined in the State educational standard for general education in the subject concerned, have been achieved at the end of a stage of education.
National external evaluations within the school education system are conducted at the end of grade IV, VII or X and aim to identify the degree of achievement of the competences for the respective stage defined by the state educational standard for general education.
The format, the subjects in which they are carried out and the conditions and procedures for their organisation and holding are determined by the State educational standard for the assessment of pupils' learning outcomes.
The exams of the national external assessment at the end of grade IV are in the subjects Bulgarian language and literature and mathematics.
The examinations for the national external assessment at the end of grade VII are in the subjects Bulgarian language and literature and mathematics. Pupils may also take an examination in a foreign language at their request.
The examinations for the national external assessment at the end of grade X are in Bulgarian language and literature and mathematics. Students may also take an examination in a foreign language or in information technology.
The State School Leaving Examinations (SLE) for secondary education are taken by pupils who have successfully completed grade XII. They are compulsory in Bulgarian language and literature and in another subject of the student's choice. At his/her own request, a student may also take up to two additional state school-leaving examinations in subjects of his/her choice. Successful results of the State examination are recognised by some universities for admission to the Bachelor's degree programme without taking an entry examination in the relevant subject.
The Centre for Evaluation in Pre-school and School Education at the Ministry of Education and Science is a state specialised service unit for the organisation, preparation and conduct of internal and external evaluation and participation in international research related to pre-school and school education. It carries out its activities by:
- participating in the process of assessing the learning outcomes of pupils in school education and in the process of diagnosing children's readiness for school in pre-school education;
- participates in the organisation, preparation and conduct of national external assessments and state matriculation examinations;
- provides methodological support in the organisation, preparation and conduct of regional external evaluations;
- organising, preparing and conducting external assessments with a sample of pupils from one or more grades in one or more schools in one or more regions of the country;
- organise the development of examination materials for different types of examinations and assist in the development of examination materials for ongoing examinations;
- develop procedures and tools for internal assessment in school education;
- develops and provides analyses of learning outcomes in school education and of the diagnosis of children's school readiness in pre-primary education, as well as the factors influencing them;
- participates in the organisation, preparation and conduct of international studies related to pre-school and school education, analyses and promotes their results, etc.
A new methodology for assessing the added value in schools is under preparation for introduction, and mathematical modelling will be applied to compile this assessment, which is directly related to the control and management of the quality of education.