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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisation of general lower secondary education


6.Secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education

6.1Organisation of general lower secondary education

Last update: 27 November 2023


Lower secondary education or gimnaziu is part of the 11 years of  compulsory education.

Lower secondary education/gimnaziu covers grades 5 – 8 and is targeted at children aged between 10/11 and 14/15.

In order to finish their compulsory education, the students who completed lower secondary  education may choose between two educational paths:

  • high-school education – the lower cycle of high-school education (grades 9 - 10), which is structured along the following routes:
    • theoretical
    • technological
    • aptitude-based – a path which can be taken after the participation in the National Evaluation examinations and in the process involving the registration and the computerised distribution.
  • vocational education or dual vocational education, with a duration of at least 3 years – a path which is not subject to the participation in the examinations of the National Evaluation.

The general legislative framework for the organisation and functioning of lower secondary education is provided by the Legea educatiei  (Law 1/2011, with its subsequent changes and additions).

The specific organisational framework covering the entire activity of schools is provided by the Framework Regulation for the Organisation and Functioning of School Education Establishments (Ordinul Ministerului Educatiei nr.  5079/2016, complemented by the Ordinul Ministerului Educatiei nr.  3027/2018). Specific orders issued by the Minister of National Education stipulate the approved curricula and textbooks, the assessment and examination system, the structure of the school year, the organisation of “second chance” education, etc.

Types of institution

Lower secondary  education may be delivered in various types of settings, but most frequently being organised together with primary education (the preparatory grade and grades 1 - 4) and delivered by schools covering grades 1 – 8 .

Especially in urban areas, there are schools which provide both primary and secondary education (grades 1 - 12/13), or only secondary education (grades 5 - 12/13).

Most counties organise arts education and sports education for students who have aptitudes in these fields. - Such schools may be either with additional school time, or with integrated school time. They are approved by the Ministry of National Education based on a proposal from the School Inspectorates.

Geographical accessibility

Generally, the territorial distribution of schools providing lower secondary  education satisfies the demands of the population.

In urban areas, most neighborhoods have at least one public school which provides lower secondary  education, close to students’ homes.

In rural areas, in all commune (administrative divisions which group together several villages) and, sometimes, in individual villages, there is at least one school covering grades 5 – 8.

For  students who have no possibility to attend a school in their locality, the Ministry of National Education reimburses the cost of transport to the nearest school or the costs of accommodation and free meals in a boarding school. In addition, the local public administration authorities, in some cases with support from individuals or legal entities, NGOs, charity foundations, etc., ensure school transport. For the purpose of improving access to education for all, the Education Law 1/2011, with its subsequent changes and additions, provides as follows:

  • Orphan students, students with special educational needs, as well as students for whom a special protection measure has been established, under the law, or who have been entrusted to a tutor, benefit from free transport for all categories of transport. 
  • Students who cannot attend school in their home locality receive a refund of their transportation costs from the budget of the Ministry of National Education, through their schools, based on commutation, within the limit of 50 km.  They can receive a refund of the amount representing the costs of 8 round-trip tickets per semester, if they stay at a boarding school or with a host.

For children with special educational needs or children who are immobile due to medical reasons, home-based education or education within medical assistance units can be provided.

Admission requirements and choice of school

The number of places at all levels of public education is determined on an annual basis by a Government Decision, based on the proposals from the Ministry of National Education.

The proposal of the Ministry is preceded by several successive foundation-draft-consultation stages involving:

  • the local public administration authorities
  • the County School Inspectorates
  • the Local Committees for the Development of a Social Partnership in Vocational Education
  • the main teacher unions
  • and other partners.

All students who completed primary education (the preparatory grade and grades 1 - 4) are admitted to lower secondary  education (grades 5 - 8; general education).

In some cases, there are schools which include in their educational provision the intensive teaching of a modern foreign language in the 5th grade. In such situations, the schools organise a test for students who completed the 4th grade in order to assess the communication skills in Romanian and the language concerned. Testing is also valid for some schools where the demand exceeds the actual educational offer, and the governing body of the school may decide to assess the mathematics or Romanian/modern language skills of the students who are to be admitted to the 5th grade.  

The enrolment plan approved every year for grade 5 provides for a number of places at least equal to the number of students who completed primary education in each locality or in neighbouring localities in rural areas.

The schools covered by compulsory education admit to primary and lower secondary education, with priority and within the limit of the approved enrolment plan, the students residing in the area assigned to each school. Enrolment is based on a written request from the parent, the tutor or the legal supporter.

The parent, the tutor or the legal supporter is entitled to request that the child attends another school which provides primary and lower secondary  education than that to which their residence is assigned. In this case, the school board  approves the request within the limit of the approved enrolment plan, after having ensured the enrolment of the students residing in the area. 

When students are enrolled in lower secondary education , the continuity of the study of modern languages is, usually, ensured.  

Students can switch schools, classes, profile of studies and routes under the conditions established by the methodology developed by the Ministry of National Education

Students in public or private school education can transfer to another public or private educational establishment with the assent of the receiving school. 

Age levels and grouping of pupils/ students

Throughout secondary education, each subject of the Framework Curriculum is taught by a different teacher.

Usually, the same teacher works with a particular group of students during all grades in which that subject is taught at a given educational level. 

The composition of classes of students is decided by the school board of every school. In lower secondary education (grades 5 – 8), the composition of classes is determined mainly by the modern languages learnt by students.

Classes are generally homogenous with regard to students’ age. Lower secondary education is provided for students who are aged 10-14 and covers grades 5 - 8.

The number of students in a class depends on the educational level and is stipulated by the Education Law (Law 1/2011, with its subsequent changes and additions).. In lower secondary education (grades 5 - 8) this is 25 students per class on average, but not less than 12 and no more than 30.

The Ministry of National Education may approve the functioning of classes with less than the minimum number or more than the maximum number of students provided by law taking into account the concrete local conditions

Students with exceptional aptitudes and achievement may complete two grades in a single school year, following a procedure approved by an Order of Minister.

Organisation of  the school year

The organisation of the school year for lower  secondary education is decided on an annual basis by an Order of the Education Minister.

The structure of the school year is based on a series of considerations:

  • a balanced distribution of school days and holidays
  • the specific climate of Romania
  • the respect for the religious beliefs of the population. 

The National Curriculum  established by the Ministry of National Education  specifies:

  • the minimum and the maximum total number of hours per week
  • the minimum and the maximum number of hours per week for each subject of the Core Curriculum
  • the minimum and the maximum number of hours per week dedicated to optional subjects/activities.

Within this framework schools are fully responsible for deciding the daily and weekly schedule for each class of students.

The school year in Romania comprises two semesters, two holidays in the period of classes and a summer holiday.

The exact timetable of the school year is determined annually by an Order of the Education Minister. 

Schools may ask the County School Inspectorates to change the timetable of the school year for objective reasons:

  • special climate conditions.
  • the specificity of an area (agricultural works).
  • natural disasters.
  • schools where most students have another religion than the Eastern Orthodox one, etc.

The County School Inspectorates may approve such requests provided that the total number of school weeks and the corresponding number of school days, is that stipulated by the Order of the Education Minister.

Organisation of the school day and week

Students go to school 5 days per week. The weekly and daily schedule are decided by the school board following a consultation with the teachers and parents. The schedules are based on the following criteria:

  • the number of hours per week provided in the Framework Curriculum for each subject and each grade.
  • the total minimum and maximum number of hours per week assigned by the Framework Curriculum to each grade. 

Lessons last for 50 minutes and are followed by 10 minute breaks. Most schools have a 20 minute break after the third lesson. In special situations, for a definite period of time, the duration of lessons and breaks may be changed. The school board may decide this, while informing the School Inspectorate.

As a general rule, lower secondary education is organised as full-time education. Lower secondary education  is usually organised and delivered in the morning.

In schools working in two shifts due to low capacity, some grades start classes at 12:00, 13:00 or 14:00. Because the students in a particular grade have classes either in the morning, or in the afternoon, schools do not usually provide for a lunch break in their schedules. The only exception is when schools organise School after School activities at their own initiative. 

Schools may expand the student activities after classes through School after School programmes.  In a partnership with local authorities and parent associations the School after School programme provides:educational activities

  • recreational activities
  • free time activities aimed at consolidating the acquired competences or speeding-up learning
  • as well as remedial learning activities.

Where possible, the partnership may be established with NGOs with expertise in the field concerned. The School after School programmes are organised based on a methodology approved by an Order of the Education Minister.  

During these activities, students are supervised by teachers, usually the same teachers who teach the students in the classroom. The necessary costs are mainly covered by contributions from parents.  Financial support may also be provided by the local public administration authorities, NGOs, natural or legal persons, etc.