Education and training for people seeking and receiving international protection

Фотография: Ивелина Берова

Education in Bulgaria is divided into four main stages: pre-school, primary, secondary and higher. It is mandatory from 5 to 16 years of age.

Under the Asylum and Refugees Act, access to the education system for minors and juveniles seeking or having received international protection cannot be postponed by more than three months from the date of filing an application for international protection. For the enrollment of a child placed in a specific center of the State Agency for Refugees, the social workers from the respective center shall cooperate.

  1. Pre-school education and training

    Kindergartens are institutions that educate, train and provide care for children aged 3 to 7, according to state educational requirements, in order to be prepared for starting a first class at school.

    Up to 5 years of age, the presence of children may be interrupted and renewed at any time and the kindergarten must be notified thereof. From the age of 5 to 7, the child is already in the statutory “preparatory groups” and can only be absent for good reasons. These preparatory groups may sometimes take place in schools.

    According to the Pre-school and School Education Act, children and young people seeking and receiving international protection under the Asylum and Refugees Act are provided with free education and training in state and municipal kindergartens (preparatory group of compulsory pre-school education) and schools in Bulgaria, under the conditions and as provided for the Bulgarian citizens.

    Ordinance No. 3 of April 06, 2017 specifies the terms and conditions for the admission and education of persons seeking or having received international protection in a preparatory group of compulsory pre-school education or in a particular class in a state or municipal school.

    For the admission of prospective pupils seeking or receiving international protection in a particular preparatory group of compulsory pre-school education or in a particular class in a state or municipal school, an application is submitted by the parent to the head of the relevant Regional Education Authority (REA).

    Prior to enrollment at school, an interview is conducted, through a REA interpreter, with the prospective pupil on the child’s up-to-date training in the country of origin. After the interview, a protocol (“card”) is prepared with proposals for the appropriate: preparatory group or class; profile or specialty of a profession; and form of training. After that, the REA head within 7 business days directs him/her to a particular kindergarten or school, according to the place of residence and the parents’ wish.

    Enrollment in state or municipal schools is available throughout the school year, no later than 30 academic days before the end of the second term. The organization and co-ordination of activities related to the admission of minors and juveniles seeking or receiving international protection is carried out by the coordinating team in the kindergarten or in the school established under the State Educational Standard for Inclusive Education.

    Enrollment in kindergarten takes place in children’s municipal gardens after applying for it. Each municipality has adopted specific criteria: general, additional and social (ordinance of the Municipal Council), based on which the classification and reception in the kindergartens is done.

    There are also social criteria that concern children with special educational needs and/or chronic illnesses as well as those with diseases and by decision of the Medical Advisory Committee (MAC) or Territorial Expert Medical Commission (TEMC), which are accepted ad hoc in crèches and kindergartens. Additional criteria are determined by individual childcare facilities.

  2. Primary education (in school)

    Primary education is divided into initial stage (from 1st to 4th grade) and lower secondary stage (from 5th to 7th grade), and after the end of each stage, the pupil passes exams. During the initial stage, the child has the right to move to another school, which is done by taking the relevant official notes from the directors of the previous and the new school.

    In primary grades 1 through 4, children seeking or receiving international protection are enrolled by age. In the classes of lower or upper secondary level, it is necessary to certify the acquired competences (knowledge of all subjects) for the completed previous class by the end of the school year. If a pupil seeking or having received international protection cannot certify competence in all subjects for the previous class to the end of the school year, he/she is entitled to be recorded in the next class, upon successful completion of training than the previous class, and to transfer for certification up to 3 subjects.

    At the lower secondary level, from 5th to 7th grade, pupils study subjects that are the same for all schools and are called “minimum general education”. These include subjects of so-called “compulsory education” (for example, mathematics, Bulgarian, first foreign language) and “compulsory education” (for example, compulsory second foreign language to be selected).

    At the end of this stage, pupils have 2 compulsory matriculation exams (state exams at the end of the year): in Bulgarian and in mathematics, but they can also choose additional subjects to sit a matriculation exam.

    Ordinance No. 3 of April 06, 2017 provides for additional training in Bulgarian language and literature:

    • additional modules in Bulgarian language – for children who are in compulsory pre-school age;
    • further training in Bulgarian language and literature as part of the overall support to acquire the expected learning outcomes on the subject matter as defined in the curriculum for the relevant class – for pupils in compulsory school age;
    • additional training in Bulgarian as a foreign language to support their inclusion – for pupils in compulsory school age.

    Important! Further education in Bulgarian as a foreign language is conducted according to the state educational standards for it (Pre-School and School Education Act) and upon application by the parent (guardian, trustee, representative of the unaccompanied minor or juvenile seeking or receiving international protection) to the kindergarten or the school’s master.

  3. Secondary education (in school/high school)

    Secondary education is divided into lower secondary (8th to 10th grade) and upper secondary (11th and 12th grade). It can be general or specialized (professional or profiled). The selection of a particular high school is made by the family, depends on the pupil’s interests and abilities and requires admission in the respective school.

    For some professions or profiles, apart from the entrance exams (matriculation exams) in Bulgarian language and literature and in mathematics, an aptitude test is also required. Completion of the training in all high schools allows admission to a higher education institution (university) or a college.

    After the 12th grade, pupils have 2 compulsory matriculation exams: Bulgarian language and literature and mathematics, optionally choosing a third one. The results of these exams are important for admission to a university.

  4. Higher education (in so-called higher school, university or college)

    Admission to a higher education institution after graduation at a high school in Bulgaria is based on established matriculation exams and certain entrance exams for the respective specialties.

    Important! Grades already awarded on such subjects or passed exam (similar to math) in these disciplines cannot be proven by people who have graduated from outside Bulgaria. This also requires the need for an alternative procedure that is present in some universities and applies to international pupils as well.

    The criteria for admission depend on the respective higher education institution. Admission is also possible on the basis of attached application documents, without entrance exams. Among the common requirements for such admission for a Bachelor’s degree are: completed secondary education with admission to higher education in the country where the diploma was awarded; the diploma of secondary education is not less than 62% of the maximum possible grade in the country where the diploma was awarded.

    A Bachelor’s degree is often required for a Master’s degree; the average grade of the bachelor’s degree is not lower than “good 4” under the Bulgarian system or 72% of the maximum possible assessment in the country.

    For doctoral studies, a Master’s degree is often required with an average grade of no less than “good 4” in the Bulgarian system. If the applicant wishes to study in Bulgarian, there may be additional requirements for enrolling in a language course.

  5. Evening schools

    Another type of schools, according to the Pre-school and School Education Act, are so-called evening schools. They provide training for primary and secondary education and/or vocational training for those aged 16 and over. In rare cases, and for those aged 14 who, for family or social reasons, cannot be trained in a daily school.

    The form of education can be individual, individual or combined. For pupils with special educational needs, it is possible to draft an individual curriculum.

  6. Access to education and training and conclusion of an integration agreement with the municipality

    According to the Ordinance on the conditions and procedure for concluding, implementing and terminating the agreement on integration of aliens granted asylum or international protection (Ordinance on Integration Agreements) of July 19, 2017, upon signing such an agreement between the beneficiary of international protection and the mayor of the municipality where he/she wants to live is supported by:

    • referral to the Regional Education Authority, if necessary;
    • ensuring and controlling the scope of children and pupils subject to compulsory pre-school and school education, including minor and juvenile aliens who have been granted asylum or international protection.

    The Ministry of Education and Science sets the order for:

    • Bulgarian language training for minors and juveniles;
    • attending preparatory groups for pre-school education;
    • attending school by minors and juveniles.

    Under the Ordinance on Integration Agreements:

    • access to education includes: training of children in pre-primary, primary and secondary education and ensuring equal access to education;
    • access to training includes:providing vocational training and inclusion in lifelong learning policies.

    Under a signed agreement, the obligations of the international protection recipient include:

    • to enroll and ensure the attendance of a kindergarten and a state or municipal school for children for which it is compulsory;
    • to enroll in Bulgarian language course.