According to the Law on Education adopted in 1995, the Romanian Educational System is regulated by the Ministry of Education and Research (Ministerul Educaţiei şi Cercetării — MEC). Each level has its own form of organization and is subject to different legislations. Kindergarten is optional between 3 and 6 years old. Schooling starts at age 7 (sometimes 6), and is compulsory until the 10th grade (which usually corresponds to the age of 17 or 16). Primary and secondary education are divided in 12 or 13 grades. Higher education is aligned onto the European higher education area.
Aside from the official schooling system, and the recently-added private equivalents, there exists a semi-legal, informal, fully private tutoring system (meditaţii). Tutoring is mostly used during secondary as a preparation for the various examinations, which are notoriously difficult. Tutoring is wide-spread, and it can be considered a part of the Education System. It has subsisted and even prospered during the Communist regime.
In 2004, some 4.4 million of the population was enrolled in school. Out of these, 650,000 in kindergarten, 3.11 million (14% of population) in primary and secondary level, and 650,000 (3% of population) in tertiary level (universities).
Primary school is compulsory for all eight year olds, from age seven through ten being known as "primary education", while age eleven through fourteen is known as "gymnasium education". Most elementary schools are part of the public school system. Private elementary education has a 0.5% market share, according to the Romanian Ministry for Education
Education in Romania is compulsory until the age of 16. In practice, given that most Romanians start school at the age of 6, the first ten years have been made compulsory by the ministry, starting with 2002. The educational system is identical nationwide and very centralized.
The system gives the following diplomas: Absolvire (elementary school graduation, no exam), Bacalaureat (high school graduation, after the Bacalaureat exam), Licenţă (University undergraduate graduation, after an exam and/or thesis), Masterat (Master's degree, after a thesis and possibly an exam), Doctorat (Ph. D., after a thesis).
In districts where a linguistically-defined ethnic minority exceeds 10% of the total population, free public schooling is provided in that language: some of the classes are taught in that language, and the language and literature of the ethnic group is "the main language studied", although Romanian remains compulsory. There are classes (or whole schools, depending on the existing population) for different linguistic minorities: Hungarian, German, Romani, Polish, Ukrainian, Serbian, Greek, Bulgarian, Czech, Turkish, Hebrew, Slovak, Ukrainian and Russian.
Since 1990, private and religious education at all levels have been accepted and partially funded by the state, through the Ministry of Education and Research, provided they respect some ministerial guidelines. Note that it is impossible to open a school without following the ministerial guidelines, programs and curricula — so, in practice, all Romanian schools get at least some limited funding from the state.
Furthermore much change has taken place since the collapse of the communist system — especially in terms of organization of the system. This article concerns itself only with the current educational system, and may not apply even for the last year's educational system.
Children can start as early as three years old and can stay until they are six or seven years old. Kindergarten is optional and typically lasts for 3 or 4 forms - "Small Group" (Grupa Mică) for children aged 3-4, "Middle Group" (Grupa Mijlocie), for children aged 4-5, "Big Group" (Grupa Mare) for children aged 5-6 and "School Preparation Class" (Pregătire pentru școală) for children aged 6-7. The last form is only offered by some kindergartens.
Services include initiation in foreign languages (typically English or German), introduction in computer studies, dancing, swimming etc. All kindergartens will provide at least one meal or one snack, some having their own kitchens and their own cooks, others opting for dedicated catering services. Many kindergartens (especially private venues) will provide children with transportation to and from the kindergarten. Groups typically have 1-2 teachers (educatori) and 10-15 children (typically more in state kindergartens).
Most kindergartens offer parents three types of programs, in order to better suit the parents' schedules - a short schedule (typically 8 AM to 1 PM, with one snack or meal), a medium schedule (typically 8 AM to 3 PM, with one snack and one meal) and a long schedule (typically 8 AM to 5-6 PM, with three snacks and one meal, and almost always including after lunch sleeping periods).
The private sector has a very large role in providing kindergarten and day care services, having a large proportion in the market share for preschool education. Typical tuition fees for private kindergarten range between 100 and 400 Euro monthly, depending on the town/city where the institution is located and on the services offered, whereas for public kindergarten there is no tuition fee (some may, however, charge for meals and/or transportation).
The relative number of available places in kindergartens is small, many having waiting lists or requiring admission and formalities to be done at least six months in advance. The lack of available places is especially obvious in state-run kindergartens, that charge no tuition fees, especially given the relatively high tuition fees of private venues. Local councils, especially in larger cities (such as Bucharest or Sibiu), where both parents typically work, seeing an increase in demand, have begun investing in expanding existing kindergartens, building new ones or offering stipends for private kindergartens as to cover part of the tuition fees.
School starts in the middle of September and ends in the middle of June the following year. It is divided into two semesters (September to January and February to June). There are four holiday seasons (Christmas — 2 weeks in December; Inter-Semestrial — 1 week in February; Easter (either Orthodox or Catholic in April or May — 1 week; and Summer or The Great Holiday, spanning from June 18 to September 1st), with an additional fifth holiday in November for students in the first 4 years.
A class (clasă) can have up to 30 students (25 is considered optimum), and there can be as few as one class per grade or as many as twenty classes per grade. Usually each group has its own classroom. Each group has its own designation, usually the grade followed by a letter of the alphabet (for example, VII A means that the student is in the 7th grade in the 'A' class).
For grade 5 to 12, a 1 to 10 grading system is used with 10 being the best and 1 being the worst and 5 is the minimum passing grade. The system of continuous assessment is also used, with individual marks for each test, oral examination, project, homework or classwork being entered in the register (these individual marks are known as note). There must be at least as many note for a subject as the number of weekly classes for that subject plus one. Some subjects also require a partial examination at the end of the semester (teza). This requirement is however regulated by the Ministry as mandatory and cannot be changed. The partial is valued at 25% of the final mark, and for grades 5 to 8 it applies to Romanian Language and Math and only in the eight year, Geography or History, and in the case of a bilingual school or one with teaching in a minority language, that particular language. The marks are given on the basis of strict Ministerial guidelines, as they count for high school repartition. At the end of each semester, an average is computed following a four-step procedure : First, all marks are added and an arithmetical average is computed from those marks. If there is a teza, this average, with 0.01 precision, is multiplied by 3, the mark at the "teza" (rounded to the nearest integer) is added, then everything is divided by 4. This average (with or without teza) is then rounded to the closest integer (5/4 system — thus 9.5 is 10) and forms the Semester Average per Subject. The next step is computing the Yearly Average per Subject. This is done by adding the two Semester Averages per Subject and divided by 2. This is not rounded. The last step is adding all the Yearly Averages per Subject and dividing that amount by the total number of subjects. This forms the Yearly Grade Average (Media Generala). This is neither weighted nor rounded. If the Yearly Average per Subject is under 5 for a maximum of two subjects, then the student must take a special exam (corigenţă) at the failed subject in August, in front of a school board. If he fails this exam, he must repeat the entire year (repetenţie). If the Yearly Average per Subject is under 5 for three subjects or more, the student is no longer entitled to the special exam and must repeat the year.
Example: A student in the 7th year with 4 weekly classes of math may have the following marks: 6,6,7,7 in class and 5 in teza. His Semester Average for Math is round((3*((6+6+7+7)/4)+5)/4)=6. If he had 7 in the other semester, his Annual Average for Math is 6.5 (and he passes).
*These subjects may or may not have teachers other than the main teacher.
** These subjects almost always have teachers other than the main teacher.
An 8th grade schedule may contain up to 30-32 hours weekly, or 6 hours daily, thus making it quite intensive, for instance
In addition schools may add 1 or 2 subjects at their free choice. This possibility gave rise to Intensive English Classes or Informatics Groups, accessible only by special exams in the 5th grade.
All schools follow the tradition of school shifts (originally done for lack of space, but now the tradition). Thus, school starts for some groups (usually years I to IV and VIII) at 7:30 or 8:00 and ends at 12:00-14:30 while other groups (years V-VII) start at 11:00-13:30 and end at 17:00-19:30. Normally, a class lasts 50 minutes, followed by a 10 minute break (and sometimes one 20 minute break). From November until March, some schools reduce classes to 45 minutes and breaks to 5 minutes, for fear that 6:30 or 7:30 in the evening is too late and too dangerous an hour to leave school during the dark. School days are Monday to Friday.
Teacher-student relations are quite formal, but this formalism has evolved in the past few years to a friendly, but respectful relationship. This is due to the difference of mentality between generations. While elder teachers usually demand respect and are exigent, some younger ones, who better understand what it is like to be in school, are friendly and understanding, rather than strict. Teacher-Parent relations are also formal, with teachers calling parents to school only for administrative issues at the beginning of the semester, and for reading the marks at the end of the semester. Those teachers able to break the formalism and reach out to the students are very highly regarded both by officials and by students.
Some schools have a uniform for the first four grades, either the Ministry standardized issue or one of their own design. Years V-VIII almost never have a school uniform, nor any other dress code (but rulebooks provide for basic decency).
There is no school lunch in most schools, as school either ends before lunch or starts after lunch, although few schools have an after-school program, that may include lunch.
Both big city schools and rural schools may organize clubs, but this is left to teachers. Dance clubs, school sports, traditions and story telling, drama, music, applied physics or chemistry and even math clubs are popular, depending on the teachers organizing. However, participation in these clubs will not be mentioned on any diploma or certificate, nor is it required. Contests between schools exist, as well as nationwide academic contests (known as Olimpiade — Olympiads) being used to promote the best students. These contests are highly popular, as they bring many advantages to the students taking part in them (like the ability to legally skip school for a longer period of time without punishment, easier evaluation at all other subjects, a different, better treatment from teachers, free trips and holidays, better preparation for the final exams — as these are structured like an exam) with whole classes taking part in the lower phase of such contests. Additionally, many Physical Education teachers organize intramural competitions and one or two day trips to the mountains. Other teachers usually also organize such trips and even whole holidays during the summer - camps (tabere) - this being a Romanian school tradition. However, field trips or research trips are not common (one or two every year), and are usually visits to museums or trips to natural habitats of various animals or plants, to gather information for a school project.
For the duration of the elementary school, each student must take:
In order to enrol in a high school, the student must choose a list of high schools he or she desires to attend (there is no automatic enrolment this time), based on his mark and options by filling a nation-wide form. A national computer system does the repartition, by taking into account students in the order of their preferences and their "admission grade". Thus, somebody with an 9.85 average (this is a top 5% mark) will certainly enter the high school he or she desires, while somebody with 5.50 has almost no chance to attend a top ranked high school. However, based on this system, the last admission averages for some prestigious high schools are over 9.50 or 9.60.
There are five types of high schools in Romania allowing access to university, based on the type of education offered and their academic performance. All of these allow for a high school diploma, access to the Bacalaureat exam and therefore access to University studies. Unlike the Swedish or French systems, the choice of high school curriculum does not limit the choices for university. For example, a graduate of a Mathematics-Computer Programming (Real) Department of a National College may apply to a Language Department of a University without any problem. However, because of the subjects taught, the quality of education and the requirements for admission in universities, artificial barriers may appear: for example, a graduate of a Humane and Social Studies Department will find it very hard to apply for a Mathematics Department at a University because the admission exam for that university department requires knowledge of calculus, a subject not taught in Humanities and Social Studies. But there is no formal limitation: if that student manages to understand calculus, he or she is free to apply.
High school enrolment is conditioned on passing the National Test and participating in the National Computerized Repartition.
High school studies are four years in length, two compulsory (9th and 10th year), two non-compulsory (11th and 12th year). There are no exams between the 10th and the 11 years. There is also a lower frequency program taking 5 years for those wishing to attend high school after abandoning at an earlier age.
Each type of high-school is free to offer one or more academic programs (profile). These are:
Technical programs — Profil tehnic will give a qualification in a technical field such as electrician, industrial machine operator, train driver and mechanic etc. A lot of subjects are technically based (e.g. Calibration of Technical Measurement Machines, Locomotive Mechanics), with some math, physics and chemistry and almost no humanities.
Vocational programs — Profil vocaţional will give a qualification in a non-technical field, such as kindergarten educator, assistant architect, or pedagogue. A lot of subjects are based on humanities, with specifics based on qualification (such as Teaching) and almost no math, physics or chemistry. Art, music and design high schools are grouped here. High schools belonging to religious cults are also included. Usually, admission in these high schools is done by a special exam besides the National Tests in music or art.
Services and Economics programs — Profil economic will give a qualification in the fields of services, such as waiter, chef, tourism operator. Offering a quite balanced program, similar to the real studies in the theoretical program, but a bit lighter, and giving a valuable qualification, this program is very sought after (being second only to the real program).
The following high-schools forms does not allow entrance to universities:
Optional subjects are either imposed by schools on the students, or at best, students are allowed to choose a package of two or three subjects at group level (not individual level). Usually optional subjects provide additional hours of the hardest subjects, through "extensions" and "development classes". In addition, there are also a large number of specializations. A student can be, for example, enrolled in a National College, study a real program, specializing in mathematics-informatics.
Unlike the elementary school, there are no clear guidelines for marking. That means that typically grade averages are not comparable betweens schools or even between different teachers in the same school. The communication between students and teachers is still poor. Usually students have no decision power in the workings of their high school, most high schools do not even have a school council, with all the decisions being taken by one of the principals (Director). Usually, each high school has at least two principals.
High school students graduating from a College, Liceu or Grup Şcolar must take the National Baccalaureate Exam (Examenul Naţional de Bacalaureat — colloquially known as the bac). Despite the similarity in name with the French word Baccalauréat, there are few similarities. The Bacalaureat comprises 2 or 3 oral examinations and 4 or 5 written examinations, usually spanning on the course of one and a half weeks in late June and September. It is a highly centralized, national exam. Usually the exam papers are taken to a centralized marking facility, sometimes even in another city, under police guard (for example in 2001 all the exams from Braşov were sent to Brăila for marking). The exam supervisors (always high school teachers or university professors) cannot teach in, or otherwise be related to, the high school they are sent to supervise. Starting with 2007, the ministry drafts 100 different sets of subjects for each exam, and makes them available 6 months in advance through both the official web site and via booklets available free of charge. The solutions to each of the sets are also made public by the ministry.
The 6 exams are :
Except for the languages exams, the subjects are provided in any language desired by the candidate (demands can be made "on the spot" for a number of languages — Hungarian, German and Romanian subjects are available in all high schools nationwide, with other languages in areas where the respective language is spoken, while for other languages the request must be filed alongside the registration form, two months in advance). Braille can also be provided.
Each exam (Proba) is marked from 1 to 10 with 10 being the best, using two decimals for written exams (e.g. 9.44 or 9.14 is a valid mark) and an integer for an oral exam. Each exam is corrected and graded by two separate correctors (no computers are involved, as this is not a standardized test) agreeing on the mark based on a nationwide guideline. The total mark for the Bacalaureat is the arithmetic mean average of the six or eight marks obtained (0.01 precision). To pass, a student must obtain an average score of at least 6.00 and at least 5.00 at each of the individual exams. A student scoring a perfect 10 will be warded with special honors (Absolvent cu Merite Deosebite). In July 2005, 78 candidates out of a total 179878 scored a perfect 10 (0.04%) while 149435 (83.07%) students passed the Bacalaureat. In case of failure (respins), the student is allowed to retake only the exams he failed, until he manages to graduate but no more than 5 times. A September session is held especially for those failing in the June/July session or for those unable to attend the exam in the summer. In case a student is not content with the mark received, one may contest it in 24 hours after finding his or her score. If passed, unlike the case with most high school completion exams, he or she may not retake it (although this matters less in Romania than in the United States or Germany.
The Baccalaureate is a requirement when enrolling in an university, because, technically, without passing it, the student is not a high school graduate, but, usually it counts for almost nothing in the admission scores (in most universities, 0-20% is the norm). In the best possible situation, it makes up half of the total university admission score, but only in the most undesired departments of the small, backwater universities. Given the extremely atypical Romanian university admission system (usually another exam making up for the rest of the process), these percentages mean even less. Because of the perceived lack of importance, and because of the above average difficulty of the exam, many supervisors are very tolerant to misdemeanors such as talking during the exam, and, there have been some cases when supervisors allow students to swap sheets of paper with answers to questions between themselves. Bribing is also common, in the form of protocol, a sum of money (around 100-300 lei) paid by each student, months before, either to a fellow student, or even a teacher (the protocol treasurer) in order to smooth the exam organizers. Each year, major newspapers such as Evenimentul Zilei, România Liberă or Jurnalul Naţional report on and publish lists of high schools with the value of the protocols. Of course, both the officials and the students deny such findings, but this habit is so accustomed, that from time to time even the education ministry admits it is a phenomenon.
In any country higher education is the moment of truth for the entire society. With many pressures from technical developments, a deficiency in designing higher education is a very costly endeavor paid by a country. The qualified job market suffers directly and one of the numerous direct consequences will be the decreasing number and quality of teachers and professors involved in the educational system. Unfortunately, this is the case in Romania, where the educational system still has many gaps, in contrast to the well established national educational systems in the US, Canada or Western European countries.
The first modern Romanian universities are:
In Romania, after 1990, the universities were the first type of institutions that started the reforms for democratization of education. They achieved autonomy, an impossible goal during the socialist regime. Students had been a very active social category participating in the social protests in the years 1956, 1968 and 1989. After 1990, they formed a very radical offensive campaign aimed against communist politicians. The University Square movement began when, around the University of Bucharest, these students proclaimed a ‘communist free zone’, installed tents around the area and protested for over 40 days demanding that communist statesmen be dismissed from public functions. Additionally, they demanded the autonomy of mass-media. However, Romanian students’ movements were a model for other neighboring countries. For instance, Bulgarian students made an alliance with union syndicates and protested through marathon demonstrations and strikes. The difference in that case was that their union syndicates were strong allies of students. Also, their movement was less radical but more powerful and realistic. In this case, they succeeded to dismiss some communist leaders. In Ukraine, the social movements from the end of 2004 against electoral frauds had the same structure. Universities have full autonomy, in stark contrast from the pre-university segment. Each university is free to decide everything from their management to the organization of classes. Furthermore, many universities devolve this autonomy further down, to each department. Thus, there are huge differences between universities and even between individual departments inside a university.
The admission process is left to the Universities, and, as of 2007, there is no integrated admission scheme. Most universities will give an "admission exam" in a high-school subject that corresponds best to the training offered by the university. Some, however, due to the lack of relevance of the system have begun implementing a different scheme, based on essays, interviews and performance assessments. This was done because in most cases tests, especially multiple choice ones, offered just a superficial assessment and a limited outlook of the students' actual performance.
The professors have been trying to adapt curricula to that of their counterparts from North America or Western Europe. After 1990, Romania has started many projects supervised by countries from the European Union and also in collaboration with the US, obtaining some projects and bursaries. The main goal of the country has been to adapt to the European Higher Education System. Especially notable has been the effort for having their academic diplomas recognised by other European countries and for developing international programs such as: Tempus, CEEPUS, Socrates/Erasmus, Copernicus, Monet, and eLearn. With the US, Fulbright programs have been developed. Tempus is a program for cooperation in Higher Education started between EU member states and partner countries. There are four subprograms (Tempus I, Tempus II, Tempus II-bis and Tempus III between 2000 and 2006). Tempus III is actually a pledge for cooperation in higher education which states to deepen the cooperation on higher education, strengthening the whole fabric of relations existing between the peoples of Europe, bringing out common cultural values. The program allows fruitful exchanges of views to take place and facilitates multinational activities in the scientific, cultural, artistic, economic and social spheres. More specifically, the Tempus program pursues the establishment of consortia. Consortia implements Joint European Projects with a clear set of objectives, financed partially by this program, for the maximum duration of three years. The development is considered in small steps, successful small projects. Tempus also provides Individual Mobility Grants (IMGs) to faculties to help them improve their activities. In addition, non-governmental organisations, business companies, industries and public authorities can receive financial help from Tempus. CEEPUS, Central European Exchange Program for University Studies, was founded in 1994 by countries from the EU and EU candidates. The program provides grants for students, graduates and university teachers participating in intensive courses, networking, and excursions. Project eLearn is being developed by European countries to accelerate and share their strategies in e-learning. Monet is a project which aims to facilitate the introduction of European integration studies in universities. The term “European integration studies” is taken to mean the construction of the European Community and its related institutional, legal, political, economic and social developments. The project targets disciplines in which community developments are an increasingly important part of the subject studied, i.e.,
The Erasmus Mundus program is a cooperation program intended to support high-quality European master courses. These courses are purposed to engage postgraduate studies at European universities. It targets another characteristic, educational mobility, through projects that try to establish consortia for integrated courses of at least three universities in at least three different European countries which lead to a double, multiple or joint recognised diploma.
The Netherlands has accepted starting with May 1, 2008 the articles II.2, IX.2 and XI.5 of the Lisbon Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region Usually, Romanian university diplomas (more precisely, licenses got after four/five years of university study), are granted in the Netherlands either the title baccalaureus (bc.) or ingenieur (ing.), which are specific to Dutch higher professional education (called HBO). But there are instances wherein titles like meester (mr.) and doctorandus (drs.), specific for the Dutch scientific universities (called WO), have been granted based upon Romanian license diplomas (four/five years as nominal study length). In this respect it is a prejudice that one had to do an Romanian university depth study in order to get Dutch titles like drs. and mr. In the post-Bologna Dutch educational system, the title mr. has been replaced by and it is equal in value with the degree LLM, and the title drs. has been replaced by and it is equal in value with the degrees MA or MSc (or possibly MPhil, too).
There is also another argument, namely, even though Romanians have had some remarkable achievements, they have not always received the deserved recognition around the world. Here are some examples:
These situations are regretable and disappointing. They can bring about skepticism about the realistic chances that someone from a mid-sized country may have in achieving international recognition.
The Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC) established the National Authority for Scientific Research (Autoritatea Naţională pentru Cercetare Ştiinţifică). This agency emerged from specific requirements designed to promote the development of a knowledge-based society. As in the other Eastern European countries, the higher education system has witnessed major transformations after 1990. As a result of Romania's effort to adapt its national educational framework to the European Union, the educational system has attained many improvements; however, there is still a long way to go.