Bulgarian society has traditionally valued education very highly. Although Bulgaria’s post-communist instability had an adverse effect on Bulgaria’s schools, the education system has since entered a period of recovery with the tertiary sector experiencing particularly profound growth.

Schooling in Bulgaria is compulsory from the age of seven to 16. There are four stages of schooling in Bulgaria – preschool, primary school, lower secondary school and upper secondary school.

Although Bulgarian schools have high standards of education, most expats send their children to international schools as Bulgarian is the language of instruction in the public schooling system.

Public schools in Bulgaria are relatively inexpensive and EU and EEA citizens have the right to attend Bulgarian public schools for free. This, as well as the quality of Bulgarian public schools, means that most Bulgarian children go through the public schooling system. However, due to the language barrier and potential culture differences, most expat families send their children to private or international schools. On the other hand, expat families in Bulgaria for the long term may find that public schooling is an excellent way for their children to learn the language and integrate with the local culture.

Though Bulgarians traditionally send their children to public schools, private education is beginning to gain popularity.

The curriculum in Bulgaria’s private schools remains influenced by the state, which mandates that certain core courses be taught. Beyond this, private schools are able to supplement the curriculum with extras, such as offering a focus on business studies or intensive language courses.

Language academies are generally cheaper than international schools and can provide a bilingual or even multilingual education. This is a good option for families who can’t afford international school fees.

International schools allow expat students to continue learning from the curriculum in their home countries. Teaching is usually in the language associated with the school’s country of origin. Bulgaria is home to international schools offering German, American, French and British curricula, as well as the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. 

Expats sending their children to international schools in Bulgaria will find that school fees are their highest expense. There are a few international schools in Bulgaria, most of which can be found in Sofia. High demand can often lead to oversubscription, so it’s a good idea to start applications as far in advance as possible.