We published Bulgaria: Children and School, because of course we want our family with us wherever we go. Or we can start a family wherever we land. In either case it could be good to know a bit more about the Bulgarian school system. Also in Bulgaria children are obliged to follow a basic education.
Public and Private Schools
First it is good to know that in cities schools are overpopulated. This has consequences for group sizes and the quality of individual education. This fact made way next to the public schools for many private schools. In cities one finds more private schools for children of all ages. As early as 5 months you can find schools for your children. And in recent years more and more (private) international primary and high schools can be found (mostly in Sofia).
General Lay Out School Program
Basically children follow a schoolsystem where they will attend kindergarten from 3-6 years old and in the year they turn 7 they will move to a primary school. Primary school takes 4 years and offers basic education with attention for calculation, language, history, geography and more elementary subjects. After primary school children will attend for a period of 3 years a pre-high school.
During these years children are assessed for the following trajectory. Either children can develop for a study trajectory or a professional trajectory. At professional or trade schools students typically follow a 4 year program where they learn the chosen subject. Other children will proceed at a high school or lycée.
High schools offer a program based on interest and previous results. High school programs take 5 years. This can be Alpha or Beta orientated to which the program is adjusted. After high school children usually follow up with a 4 or 5 year program at a university. Universities in Bulgaria each have their own specilisation.
It is unknown to us to what extend Bulgarian diploma’s give access to universities in other EU countries. This information can vary per country and should be asked for at the embassy of that country. Bulgarian universities are connected to programmes such as AIESEC and Erasmus.
Public schools cost less than private schools. Of course this has effect on the quality of the education, regardless of this, public schools are co-financed by the state and for each child attending one should pay a fee of around BGN 60-100/month.
Private schools exist in many different forms and tuition fees are set by these institutions themselves. For the smallest children fees start around BGN 600/month and can go up to as much as the school offers, for example some schools offer extra curriculair activities such as skiing, swimming, sports, music, art, languages, etc.
Public Schools Point System
As public schools have trouble coping with the number of children, the state created a point system that applies in busy districts or for more popular schools. Parents that wish to enroll their child in a public school should visit the school director and will be asked for their references for that specific school. based on your situation you receive points. If you have enough points and you qualify, depending on available places, your child can start or is placed on a waiting list.
Points are awarded for your personal situation, such as living and/or working in that area, single parent, brothers and sisters. If you are a business owner and you pay social security, you are also awarded points for this. Ask the director for more information.
So if you have a child in Bulgaria and you wish to organise the school trajectory for your child, take some time to inform yourself of the possibilities. If required, ask someone who speaks Bulgarian to come with you to a school and get familiar with the particularities.
Experiences from Expats
From many expats we have heard different stories. We know of expats that moved to the country side because it proved worth to enroll their child in a public school there. Classes were small and the attention for their child was excellent. We also know of expats that started their own school, so their child could follow an education in the (second) mother tongue.
Then there are unfortunately many stories of corruption in the school system, where point systems can be avoided, diploma’s arranged etc. If this is true we did not verify. But it is good to know this could exist.