Pre-primary education in Bulgaria
Kindergartens and schools are public, municipal or private, depending on the type of their funding.
The process of signing up a child in a pre-primary education facility can be very long and stressful due to the fact that in the past few years there haven’t been enough free spots for all children.
As of 2010/2011, two years of pre-primary education is compulsory either at kindergarten or in preparatory groups at primary schools.
Free education aids for children in the compulsory pre-primary groups are provided by the state. Parents pay only a monthly fee for food. The size of the fee can be reduced for low-income households. As of 2010, parents also pay for the activities outside of the state’s educational requirements (e.g. English classes, dance classes etc).
Kindergartens and nursing schools operate Monday to Friday, 7.00-19.00, but parents can choose to take their children home around lunch time. There are nursery schools for children aged 0-3 and kindergartens (detska gradina) for children aged 3 to enter the first grade (children aged six or seven).
Primary and lower secondary education
The duration of primary education (natchalno obrazovanie) is four years. Normally, it starts when a child turns seven, but it is not uncommon for parents to send their children in the 1st grade at the age of six. There are no restrictions regarding the choice of non-specialized primary schools. However, some schools would only accept children with an address registration in the neighbourhood where the school is located.
There is a relatively small number of primary schools and most children attend basic schools or general secondary schools from the first to the fourth grade. Primary school students who go to basic or general secondary schools can switch schools after the fourth grade, if there is another school that offers specialized subjects that interest them.
The past few years many schools offer specialized classes after the fourth grade in order to attract more students and to make the choice of a specialized high-school class/school easier. However, most students would switch after the seventh or the eighth grade and apply for a vocational school or an upper school of specialized studies.
After finishing the fourth grade students get a certificate of elementary education. To get a basic education diploma students can go to a lower-secondary school or choose to attend a general secondary school. Lower-secondary education (osnovno obrazovanie) is also four years. At the end of the four years, the student receives a basic education diploma. It gives students the right to enroll in an upper-secondary education school. If the student chooses to go to one of the specialized high schools, they have to pass two or more exams in order to get a spot in one of the classes of their choice.