NECE Exchange

15.5.2015 | Von:
Louisa Slavkova

Challenges: Bulgaria


  • Bottom-up

    The installment of citizenship education through adopting international and EU practices is a top-down process, which has not been preceded by an assessment of the needs and forms of citizenship education. While in principle there is nothing wrong with a top-down approach, whenever it is not matching societal needs and the specifics of a country in transition, it runs the risk of remaining on an abstract level.

  • Citizenship education as a separate subject in schools:

    The current legal framework suggests teaching citizenship education through most of the humanitarian subjects. However, there are no support materials to help teachers grasp the necessity and importance of the matter. Moreover, the sensitivity of subjects such as history (because of the absence of a process of dealing with the past) prevents teachers from touching upon entire periods such as the Communist rule and the transition to democracy. It is difficult to rely on the general understanding of the teachers or on the curriculum of existing subjects to pass onto young people the main principles of citizenship participation.

  • Continuing education:

    Citizenship education as part of lifelong learning gets little to no attention. While there are many programmes, mainly with EU financial support, for the development of human capacity and resources with lifelong learning instruments, citizenship education hardly finds its place there. The legal framework also does not touch upon citizenship education for adults. State institutions leave this realm to national media and the CSOs, with the former being often partial and the latter hardly working with adults.

  • Effects of the lack of systematic citizenship education:

    It is too bold to speculate that lower voter turn-outs, support for extremist parties and insufficient knowledge of the recent totalitarian past are all the result of the lack of citizenship education. Nevertheless, these are definitely challenges which are traditionally tackled through citizenship education. Strong institutions, a liberal democratic tradition, a system of well-functioning accountability and responsibility in politics, the media and the state certainly constitute the overall framework, which ideally should support citizenship education for the entire society. However, a targeted and well-thought-out state-driven citizenship education strategy is crucial for the proper understanding of what citizenship is about, especially in years of transition from a closed totalitarian to an open democratic system of governance. A quick look into voter behaviour combined with some basic knowledge about communism reveals the effect of the lack of citizenship education. 47% of young adults say they are not interested in politics. Between 2010 and 2013 the number of young non-voters grew by 10%, from 27 to 37 in only 3 years. When it comes to knowledge about the recent past, 94 % of young people (aged 16 – 30) say they know almost nothing about politics in the 80s, while 40% cannot say whether communism collapsed with the fall of the Berlin, the Chinese or the Moscow Wall. 88 % have never heard of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, 56% - of the Holocaust. Among those very few who have knowledge about the totalitarian regime only 10% have gained this knowledge at school or at the university[1].


Developments on the ground mentioned beforehand speaks very much in favour of a separate subject which follows its own curriculum and for which teachers receive special training, focusing not only on the content, but also on participatory and experiential methods to help students gain their first democratic experience. According to a report by the European Commission from 2012, although every EU country has introduced within its education system some form of citizenship education, only Great Britain and Slovakia ensure special training for future instructors within teachers’ training[2]. There are no forms of organised training in citizenship education for teachers in Bulgaria. However, there are some projects, which help teachers get informed upon their own initiative[3].

What the EU can do: Certainly the EU continues to support citizenship education initiatives through its various granting schemes, but in general CSOs have difficulties sustaining themselves after Bulgaria’s accession to the EU and after the cut of some of the pre-accession support for civil society organizations. Since EU support is generally tied to conditionality and progress, it is worth considering the introduction of citizenship education as part of EU’s Neighbourhood Policy and its various instruments. Countries, striving for EU membership should be assisted in dealing with their authoritarian past not only by means of governance and technical support, but also by means of citizenship education. The current ENP review under the Latvian Presidency of the Council offers a good opportunity to make a strong case for citizenship education in the neighbourhood.

Country Profile: Bulgaria


The data is extracted from two studies of the National Centre for Public Opinion Studies from 2013: “Bulgarian Youth 2013” and “Education about the Communist regime and European democratic values of young people in Bulgaria today”
Press release from the European Commission, 2012, “Citizenship education now taught in all European countries but specialist training for teachers lacking”
For example, Project Civico provides a comprehensive “Guide on developing civic competence in students”

تكوين المواطنة في أوروبا وشمال إفريقيا

تكوين المواطنة في أوروبا وشمال إفريقيا

Here you can find the Arabic version of this Publication.

Mehr lesen

European societies, albeit at different paces, have undergone profound changes in the fabric of their populations due to EU enlargement, European Citizenship, globalization and migration processes. Traditional concepts of citizenship and citizenship education in Europe have to be revised in the light of these developments.

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Associated Partner / Organisations / Projects

Within the NECE Database we gathered projects of associeated Organizations and their projects regarding citizenship education. Add your Project or Organization to help other People creating their own projects.

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