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National School of Education - Your Child's Future

The National School of Education in Bulgaria states that up until a few years ago it was unusual for British families to move to Bulgaria and enrol their children into the Bulgarian state education system.

However,the National School of Education admit that today, having a British child in the classroom is no longer a rare phenomenon and most schools have at least one "Anglichan." Ask any expat with kids in the Bulgarian school system what they think of the education here compared to the one their child received back in the UK and you may be surprised at their answer - Bulgaria offers a good education for children of all ages compared to that on offer back home.


Bulgaria has a literacy rate of 98.6 percent, with approximately the same rate for both sexes. Indeed, this is testimony to the country's high educational standards. In 1990, the Bulgarian government passed a new law that gave the right to every institution of higher learning to control its teaching methods, such as choosing curriculum, number of students attending the institution, and qualifications they needed to meet in order to attend.


Nursery education

Prior to age seven, children can attend a state kindergarten where they can play with children of their age, participate in craftwork, singing and dancing and as they progress through the system, they learn the Cyrillic alphabet and how to count. Nursery is a particularly happy time for children because of the varied activities designed to develop confidence, as well as gross and fine motor skills. The system differs from the UK in that state nursery education in the UK is free but only lasts for around three hours a day and is only open to children who will start full-time schooling a year later. Obviously many working parents in the UK opt for all day childcare at a private nursery and the Bulgarian kindergarten is more akin to this. Children can start nursery in Bulgaria from two years of age and the fee works out at around 1 lv. per day. Nursery usually starts at 8 am and ends between 4.30 pm and 5.00 pm however; some nursery schools may open for longer hours if parents require extra child care. Within this time children receive three meals and an afternoon nap lasting two hours. Most nursery heads are now au fait with the fact that older children from the UK no longer take a nap in the afternoon and it is possible to pick up your child after lunch at around 12.30 pm.

Much effort is put into confidence building activities and nurseries constantly put on plays and shows to mark public holidays like Easter, Christmas and Baba Marta. By the time children leave kindergarten they are well versed with the intricacies of stage performance! Bulgarian kindergartens also encourage children to pay close attention to detail; much of the work included in the curriculum involves picture matching, copying and colouring. Children are provided with free workbooks covering a variety of topics from nature to Bulgarian language.

To attend Bulgarian kindergarten you need to register your child with the headmistress who requires a lichen nommer from your long term residency permit. You also have to register with the local doctor and your child will have to undergo a series of simple tests to ensure they are healthy enough to attend; this generally involves a urine and blood test.

Elementary education

Children can attend school from age six, although most start a year later at age seven. Children coming from the UK who are aged seven may repeat their year in the first grade, particularly if they have no knowledge of Bulgarian. Whilst it will mean that they are a year behind their peers, they will gain confidence in the new school environment and will learn the language at a user-friendlier pace. If your child already attends a Bulgarian kindergarten, they will automatically be enrolled into the main school system, although you will need to show your lichen nommer to the school.

The elementary education in Bulgaria is subdivided into two categories: elementary (grades first to fourth) and pre-secondary (fifth to eighth). The school year is divided into two terms with Christmas, Easter and Summer Break. Bulgarian schools use a meritocratic system of grading students, which is based on numerals, where 6 is the highest and 2 is the lowest grade a student can obtain. At the end of each year your child will receive a certificate to prove they have completed that year of education. Parents may be informed by the school of their children's good grades. This National School of Education system installs a great degree of motivation and pride in Bulgarian students and is a far cry from the UK system. Children who are graded with a two will have to attend one of the two summer school course that are held in July and September, before being held back a year. The child must first attend the extra course in July and if the child fails to pass the first summer course in July, then will be asked to return for the second school course in September, which if they fail again will result in them having to repeat the previous school year. This often means that children as old as 10 may attend first grade. Political correctness is also another trait lacking in the Bulgarian system. Whilst there is no corporal punishment, teachers do throw chalk across the classroom and may pull a child's ear for eating in class. The fact that your child is British will also carry no weight in terms of political correctness. They will be expected to recite poems extolling the virtues of the country and will be expected to sing the national anthem. Regular parents meetings are held during grades one to four and the names of low achievers or those with discipline problems will be read out and parents may also contact the school at any time to ask about their children's grades and behaviour.

The Curriculum

The curriculum of the Bulgarian Educational system focuses on eight main subjects: Bulgarian language and Literature, foreign languages, mathematics, information technologies, social sciences and civics, natural sciences and ecology, music and art, physical education and sports. Each year parents must pay a nominal fee of around 30-40 lv to purchase textbooks from the school, although some text books can be more expensive. The books are far more interesting than anything provided in the UK and present each lesson in a child friendly manner. Classes take place between Monday and Friday and usually take two shifts e.g. grades one to four may attend in the morning from 8 am until between 12.00 and 14.00. Older children are often given schools shifts depending on the term, which means that sometimes they will attend in the morning (like the younger children) or in the afternoon from 1.30 pm until 7-7.30 pm. Children are not required to wear uniforms, line up or attend assembly. There is a high degree of self motivation and regulation and children are treated more like college students in that they are allowed to leave the school premises during break times and are expected to make their own way to and from school. Bulgaria is a safe country and there are no incidents of kidnapping and figures for bullying are extremely low and the head of the school swiftly deals with any problematic issues on this score. Children will receive homework on a daily basis and some schools have an organised homework club for grades one to five. During summer vacations, which last around three months, children are given long reading lists.

If your child has not made the transition from a Bulgarian kindergarten to the main school, they will need to provide official documentation of their academic achievement in the UK. This must take the form of SAT's results and school reports. Each document must be apostilled at the Commonwealth Office in London and then translated into Bulgarian by a registered Bulgarian translator. These reports will enable the school to slot your child into the appropriate grade. It is wise to obtain some private language lessons for your child prior to them starting the pre secondary school system. Do not be alarmed if your child is put into a lower grade than they were in, in the UK. The standard of education in Bulgaria is much higher than in the UK from a pre-secondary level with children starting subjects like algebra around two years earlier than their UK counterparts. If you do not pay Bulgarian National Insurance you will have to pay around 1,200 lv. a year for your child to attend school from grade five.