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Bulgaria - Constitutional & Legal Foundations

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Education was in a state of reform and had been subject to intense legislative activity throughout the 1990s. The Bulgarian Constitution adopted by the Great National Assembly in 1991 and promulgated in The State Newspaper No. 56 on July 13, 1991 laid out the basic principles of education. Article 53 guaranteed the right to education for all citizens as well as the right to free primary and secondary education in state and municipal schools. Higher education was also free under conditions specified by law. Education was compulsory until the age of sixteen. The constitution placed all schools under the control of the state; however, it provided for the academic autonomy of institutions of higher learning.

The Public Education Act of 1991, amended and supplemented several times since, gave substance to the constitutional provisions and enhanced the democratic character of changes in the education system. It established the secular character of education; however, it also authorized the establishment of religious schools and the equality of religious education. The Act sanctioned the restoration of private schools as an alternative to state and municipal schools, and allowed the establishment of schools with foreign participation. The Act specified the compulsory age and the official language of instruction. The law guaranteed the right to choice of school and type of education based on personal preference and ability. It ruled out corporal punishment and guaranteed students the right to dignified treatment. The Act detailed the rights and obligations of both teachers and students. It further laid out the structure of the education system, comprising of basic, secondary, and higher education and outlined the system of administration and finance of education.

The Higher Education Act of 1995 describes the goal of higher education; the training of highly qualified specialists and promoting the progress of science and culture. The Act legalized many changes that were made in the sphere of higher education during the period of 1990-1995. The state allowed higher schools to initiate their reform and sanctioned the results, which included the introduction of new system of academic degrees—specialist, bachelor, master, doctor; the initiation of the process of accreditation; and the principle of academic autonomy. The latter gives expression to the intellectual freedom of the academic community and provides for academic freedoms, academic self-government, and the inviolability of the higher school's territory. The law also strictly lessens the functions of the state in the management of higher education, reducing considerably its role of supervisor and sponsor of higher learning. The Act has been amended several times since its adoption in 1995.

A Law on the Level of Schooling, the General Educational Minimum, and the Curriculum was adopted in 1999. It aimed at establishing uniform requirements for all schools in the country, guaranteeing equivalency of certificates issued for the completion of a particular grade and level of schooling. The law regulated the first two levels of schooling, basic and secondary. It provided the basis for curriculum development and grading.

The Vocational Education and Training Act of 1999 sanctioned a large variety of educational programs guaranteeing professional education to all citizens who were older than thirteen and had completed at least sixth grade of general education. It established uniform requirements for certification of the acquired professional skills, comprising six degrees of proficiency. The law also sanctioned the establishment of a network of centers for professional orientation.


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