Poor educational outcomes, dropping out of school, increasing incidences of violence and lack of basic knowledge and skills are among the main challenges facing students in Bulgaria

New UNICEF report* reveals little progress in basic education and on commitment to transform education

14 September 2023
Ученици от Природоматематическата гимназия „Проф. Емануил Иванов“ в гр. Кюстендил
UNICEF Bulgaria/2023/Dobrin Minkov

Sofia, 14 September 2023 – In the beginning of the new school year, UNICEF warns for very little progress on the commitment to transform education. A new report presents findings on the actions countries[1] have taken to reduce disparities and accelerate foundational learning based on the RAPID Framework.

UNICEF is calling on government to:

  1. Reach every child and keep them in school 
  2. Assess learning levels regularly
  3. Prioritize teaching the fundamentals 
  4. Increase catch-up learning and progress beyond what was lost
  5. Develop psychosocial health and well-being so every child is ready to learn.


The situation in Bulgaria

  • Data from this year’s National external evaluation reveals worsening results for students completing IV grade which further deepens the so-called learning poverty measured through percentage of children at the end of IV grade not able to read and understand simple text. (World Bank, October 2019). Data for students completing VII grades reveals insignificant progress on Bulgarian language and average result of 35 points on mathematics – just above the threshold of 30 point. 
  • Though the Ministry of Education and Science reports a 40% decrease in dropout rates through the Mechanism for Inter-institutional work on enrolment and inclusion, still the latest NSI data shows that 11.2% of children 3-6 and 5.7% of children 7-10 are out of school. 
  • Data from Ministry of Education and Science for 2022 presented at joint conference with UNICEF, show increase in almost all types of violence reported in schools, incl. physical, verbal, cyber bullying.
  • In today's digital world, nearly every second young person in Bulgaria lacks basic digital skills (World skills clock).
  • While the above data reveals concerning trends about children in school and not learning, UNICEF points out the depth of the learning crisis adding up those who are out of school stating that almost every second young person in Bulgaria does not have basic reading and math skills. (World skills clock).
  • Transforming education starts with ensuring all children attain foundational learning – literacy, numeracy and socio-emotional skills which provide the building blocks for all other learning. To this end, a global coalition has been established, inviting governments and stakeholders to endorse the Commitment to Action on Foundational Learning as a first step to accelerate the agenda on foundational learning.


“Schools need resources, support and trainings for the teachers, as well as an up to date curricula in order to be adequate and relevant for the students. In addition, violence and bullying at school is one of the main factors, undermining children’s ability to learn and fulfil their potential. Together with the Ministry of Education, UNICEF in Bulgaria is implementing programmes towards more inclusive and accessible education for every child and building a safe and positive environment at school for the whole community” – Christina de Bruin, UNICEF Representative in Bulgaria

Teachers - Heroes in the Mission for Transforming Education


* The report is using data based on survey responses from 94 low- and middle-income countries and UNICEF’s yearly monitoring exercise with its programme country offices

UNICEF Bulgaria/2023

There is need for actions and investments so that every teacher can be supported and equipped with necessary knowledge and skills, and every child learns in a safe and inclusive environment.

UNICEF in Bulgaria starts a campaign with the slogan “sCOOLteachers”. It will focus on the role of the teachers – the main agents for change at every school. The main goal of the campaign is to call for support and appreciation of teachers, so that they empower students and build a more inclusive, and positive environment at school enabling every boy and girl to reach their full potential allowing them to build their competencies for a successful transition to adulthood and to decent work. Many public figures will join UNICEF’s campaign with the slogan #sCOOLteachers can #ActivateTheHero: Mikaela from “life with Down Syndrome”, Alexander Sano, Krisia, Slavi “The Clachers”, Andrea Banda Banda, . They will record and share a Thank you message for their favorite teachers in order to show them appreciation.

UNICEF wants to put a special focus this year on the role of resource teachers and all specialists, working with children with special needs.

How UNICEF supports teachers and students in Bulgaria

For the last year we have supported nearly 2750 professionals - teachers, principals, professionals through different interventions. Some of them are:

  • "Steps Together to a Violence-Free School" programme, which we implement together with the Ministry of Education and Science. In 2022, nearly 3,000 students from grades 1-12 took part in workshops to develop social-emotional skills (managing emotions, solving interpersonal problems, etc.), and some of the students received a special "Peacemaker" training to help their peers. In addition, more than 160 educational professionals were trained to apply restorative approaches in school and were also supported with trainings to prevent professional burnout. The programme also delivered training aimed at systematically improving interaction with all parents or working with parent(s) in a crisis situation, with over 500 parents participating in thematic parent meetings and community events.
  • We built and launched the first in Bulgaria free online platform for additional support for children with special educational needs, their teachers, and parents - "Help me thrive” platform. The platform provides a library of free educational and therapeutic resources to support children with special educational needs (SEN), accessible to all children, parents, teachers, and professionals at: http://podkrepime.mon.bg/. In the past 2022 year we have reached and supported 3472 children and 805 professionals through the platform.
  • We created C-Board - a free innovative tool for alternative communication for children and adults with speech and language disorders, which UNICEF developed and adapted in Bulgarian with typical Bulgarian symbols. The mobile app supported the inclusion and learning of 162 non-verbal children and increased their competence to cope with everyday tasks, their adaptability and self-esteem by an average of 15%. UNICEF developed a free online interactive training course and trained 41 national trainers in Augmentative Alternative Communication as well as 806 professionals to work with these augmentative communication tools.

Media contacts

Nadya Marinova
Communications Associate
UNICEF Bulgaria
Tel: 0888 552 645
Tel: 0899 058 087

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.