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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.1 General context

Last update: 23 April 2021
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  1. Main trends in young people's participation in education and training
  2. Organisation of the education and training system
  3. Main concepts

The Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria sets forth the right of each Bulgarian citizen to education; it secures the compulsory education until the age of 16 and the gratuitous primary and lower secondary education in the municipal and state schools. Bulgaria was one of the first countries in the EU which, apart from recognizing the existence of the problem with early school leaving, has developed special policies for reducing the share of the early school leavers and plans to achieve reduction of this share to 11% as of the year 2020.

Main trends in young people's participation in education and training

According to the 2019 Annual Youth Report (Годишен доклад за младежта за 2019 г.), the percentage of young people who continue their full-time education in university after they graduate high school is high.

Bulgaria develops rapidly in terms of information technologies. 54% of young people at the age 16 – 24 have basic or better digital skills.

The percentage of young people who hold certificates for any kind of professional qualification or a document issued with regard to non-formal education is low, however more and more young people start realizing that any additional qualification would provide them with better opportunities for successful realisation.

92% of young people with higher or college education, 66% of young people with secondary education, and 67% of young people with basic education speak a foreign language. More than 80% of young respondents say they speak English language. Data for high percentage of foreign language study are given in the ОЕCD PISA 2018 study. In 2018, Bulgaria registered a small proportion of students who do not learn foreign languages at school (0.4 %, rank 62/64).

37% of young people have participated in training or practice during their course of study. These are an important factor for the professional development and the career orientation of every young person.

According to the Education and Training Monitoring 2019 of the European Commission, the percent of early school leavers in 2019 is 12.7%

Eventhough school and education rank high among the values of young people at the age of 15-17 (82% go to school to obtain knowledge and to educate, 60% - to have a profession) as stated in the national representative study “Children’s Voices” („Гласовете на децата“) carried out by Market Links Agency upon assignment of UNICEF Bulgaria.

Young people are critical in terms of used teaching methods, curriculum, school organization, and believe that the training they get is not sufficient for their future professional and personal realisation, that practical classes at school are not enough and there is no connection between education and labour market.

13,9% of young people at the age of 20-29 complete their higher education in the field of technologies, technical studies and mathematics, the EU average being 19,1%.

Organisation of the education and training system

According to the stage or degree of education, non-specialised schools are as follows:

1. primary (1st – 4th grade inclusinve);

2. elementary (1st – 7th grade inclusive);

3. high schools (8th – 12th grade inclusive);

4. joint (1st – 10th grade inclusive);

5. secondary schools (1st – 12th grade inclusive).

(2) According to the education content of the high schools, they are:

1. profiled high schools;

2. professional high schools.

Pre-school education

Preschool education is provided by nursery schools. The compulsory preschool education, in addition to nursery schools, may be also provided by schools that may ensure conditions to this effect in accordance with the terms and conditions of the state standard on preschool education and the state standard of education for physical environment and information and library service provision fo nursery schools, schools and personal development support centers, and in terms of children at the age of 4 – only if there is no nursery school in the town/city/village. By decision of the mayor of the respective municipality, compulsory preschool education is provided by nursery schools only.

Pre-school (pre-primary) education in Bulgaria is compulsory from the school year beginning during the year in which the child reaches 4 years of age, where the parents choose one of the above options, and the state and the municipalities are obliged to ensure conditions to enroll children in nursery schools and preschool education groups.

School education

School education is compulsory until the age of 16 and starts during the school year in which the child reaches the age of 7. School education may start during the school year in which the child reaches 6 years of age at parent’s discretion and if ready to go to school, which is verified in accordance with a procedure determined in accordance with the state standard of preschool education. Compulsory preschool and school education in state and municipal nursery schools and schools is free of charge for children and school students.

In the course of the school education, the school student may study the subject Mother Language. In the course of the school education, the school student may study the subject Foreign Language, other than the foreign languages according to the state standard of general education and the state standard of profiled education. In the course of the school education, the school student may study the subject Choreography. In the course of the school education, religions are studied in historic, philosophic and cultural aspect through the content of other subjects. In the course of the school education, the school student may study the subject Religion as well. In the course of the school education, the school student may study subjects in the field of global, civic, health and intercultural education, entrepreneurship, personal finance management and programming, protection of the country, population and environment, subjects that establish childrens’ and school students’ national self-esteem, patriotic spirit and love of the country. Extended education comprises competences that develop and improve specific general education competences. Extended education is obtained by studying general education subjects within the course of the school education and subjects that complement the content integrated in other subjects.

Upper secondary general education

General education comprises the following groups of competences: 1. Competences in the field of Bulgarian language; 2. Competences in foreign languages; 3. Competences in mathematics and basic competences in the field of natural sciences and technologies; 4. Digital competences; 5. Learning skills; 6. Social and civic competences; 7. Initiative and entrepreneurship; 8. Cultural competences and creativity skills; 9. Skills to support sustainable development and skills for healthy lifestyle and sports. General education is obtained through studying general education subjects.

Profield education covers enhanced competences for the respective profile determined by the state standard of general education. Profile means a complex of profiling subjects two of which are determined by the state standard of education and the other are determined by the school in the curriculums and are the same for 11th and 12th grade. Profiles are as follows: 1. Foreign languages; 2. Humanitarian studies; 3. Social studies; 4. Economic development; 5. Software and hardware studies; 6. Entrepreneurial studies; 7. Mathematics; 8. Natural studies; 9. Arts; 10. Music; 11. Physical education and sports. Profiled education is obtained in the upper secondary level by studuing the profiling subjects for the respective profile.

Vocational education covers competences that are necessary for obtaining professional qualification and for obtaining license for professions that require such license, including for purusing regulated professions. Vocational education ensures the achievement of the state standard of education for acquiring qualification for professions at both the lower and upper level of secondary education. Vocational education for each profession comprises general, sectoral, specific and extended training as well as training for the profession’s theory and practice. The objectives, content and characteristics of types of vocational education are governed by the Vocational Education and Training Act.

Supplementary training covers competences that correspond to school student’s interests and support the development of their talents. Subjects, modules and activities for obtaining supplementary training are offered by the school, depending on its capacity, are chosen by the school students, depending on their interests, and are determined in the school curricula. The content of the supplementary training is determined in the curricula approved by the school principal.

Specialized training is obtained in specialized schools through education in the field of sports, culture or arts, respectively, or through religions education. Specialized training is obtained by studying specialized subjects determined in the respective standard curriculum approved by the Minister of Education and Science. The content of the specialized training for the respective specialized subject for each grade is determined in curricula approved by: 1. the Minister of Culture for schools of arts and culture; 2. the Minister of Youth and Sports for sports schools. The content of specialized training for specialized subjects of religious education in theological schools is determined in curricula approved under the terms and conditions of the religion in coordination with the Minister of Education and Science.

In order to obtain general education in foreigh language schools, at least three subjects, other than the Foreign Language subject should be studied in the respective language in the 9th and 10th grade.

Higher education

The Republic of Bulgaria is also among the first countries which signed the Joint Declaration for European Higher Education Area in 1999 in Bologna. The higher education governance is performed at state and institutional level. The state is responsible for the development and the implementation of a long-term national policy and establishment of conditions, which guarantee the academic autonomy of higher education institutions, the quality of education, and the provision of adequate conditions for performing scientific research. The institutional management is performed according to the rights for an academic autonomy of the higher education institutions, but the state assists for development of modern institutional

governance through distribution of resources on a competitive basis. Bulgaria works actively towards building up of a favorable environment for modernization of higher education, in line with the needs of the society and of the business. Good practices are studied and multiplied. Possibilities for introduction of new models, which are related to application of modern approaches for institutional governance leading to better financial management, are studied.

Main concepts

School leaving “Отпадане от училище” means signing off a school of a student under 18 before enrolling the last course of the higher education course if the same student is not enrolled in another school.

Bulgaria defines early school leavers „Преждевременно напуснали училище”,  as persons between 18 and 24 years old with only lower secondary education or less and no longer in education or training.

Special educational needs (inclusive education) for children with special educational needs. There are seven categories outlined for children with special educational needs.

•          intellectual disabilities;

•          hearing impaired;

•          visually impaired;

•          language-speech disorders;

•          physical disabilities;

•          learning difficulties;

•          multiple disabilities.

Non-formal education (Неформално образование) is the form of education not obtained in the official educational system but rather through the method of non-formal education such as role model games; volunteering and other activities.