The post-war reforms of the education system in Romania were strongly influenced by Soviet policies. A law passed in 1948 (which was in force until 1968) was aimed at addressing the problem of illiteracy among both children and adults, as in 1945 around 25% of the population could not read. The campaign had largely succeeded by 1956. Other aspects of these educational reforms were less progressive: e.g., the compulsory education period was shortened from seven to four years, and then to three years (in 1951). But the major accomplishment of the reforms, which required large financial investments, was the enrolment in school of all children ages 7-11 after 1948. (Radulescu, 2006)
After 1956 the elementary phase of education was extended to seven years, while the middle phase of education (with two programmes: humanities and science) brought the total number of years of schooling to 11. The technical education system had several layers: attendance at an apprentice school was followed by attendance at a foreman school and a technical school. After 1959 night school (or evening education) for working people was introduced.
The reforms of 1968 maintained some of the important aspects of the previous reforms: education remained free at every level, and continued to have a productive orientation (most students earned qualifications in technical and professional fields). Preschool education was followed by compulsory education (primary and middle school). The transition to a 10-year period of compulsory education was implemented at a slower pace than the new law had mandated. After the eighth grade, students took national exams. The results of these exams were used to assign them to different educational paths: theoretical (humanities and science), vocational (e.g., arts, economics, pedagogy), and technical.
Following the economic crisis of 1970, the education budget in Romania was cut in half. This dramatic decrease in funding led to sharp reductions in the number of educational institutions (both schools and universities) and the school population, especially in kindergartens and middle schools (between 1980 and 1989). (Rădulescu, 2006)
Higher education reforms. Between 1978-1995 all forms of education were free, and there were no registration or tuition fees. Students could receive grants, free accommodation and meals, free health care, and paid vacations. In 1993 the first private universities were established. Students had to fully cover the cost of their education at these universities, which was set by each institution. Between 1995-1999 education at public universities remained free, except for some taxes levied in connection with the entrance and graduation exams and re-examinations. Grants were awarded to students from state universities who achieved good marks, or who had low incomes. Students at public universities were entitled to free health care (until the age of 26), and to a 50% discount on local transportation costs. From 1999 onwards, public universities have offered two forms of higher education: the fully subsidised programme in which students do not pay registration or tuition fees, and the paid education programme in which students are charged tuition fees. Each institution establishes the amount of tuition charged (between 400 and 1,000 euros per year). Students enrolled in paid education programmes or in private universities are not entitled to grants, but they are entitled to a 50% discount on transportation costs (local and national).
Organisation of the educational system
- The national pre-university educational system includes the following levels:
- Early education for children ages 0-6, which includes an ante-preschool level for children ages 0-3 provided by crèches; and a preschool level for children ages 3-6 provided by kindergartens).
- Primary education includes:
- A preparatory grade (class 0, since 2013) and grades 1-4 for children ages 6-10.
- Secondary education includes:
- (i) Lower secondary or middle school with grades 5-9 for children ages 10-16 (or Gimnaziu with grades 5-8 and the lower cycle of high school). Certificate or diploma awarded: Certificat de capacitate.
- (ii) Upper secondary or high school education, with grades 10-12/13 for students ages 16 to 19 years, and offering the following programmes: theoretical, vocational, and technological. Certificate or diploma awarded: Diploma de Bacalaureat.
- (iii) Professional education (for three years ).
- Tertiary non-university education, which includes post-high school education (scoala postliceala).
The general compulsory education system is made up of primary and secondary lower education. High school education, vocational and technological education, and training are organised with the areas of specialisation and qualifications set by the Ministry of National Education, according to the National Qualifications Register. Technical education consists of grades 12 and 13, with a high school and a technological programme. The types of training and technical education offered include job training, technical skills, and post-high school education. Pre-university education courses can be taken in the daytime or in the evening. Compulsory education courses are offered only in the daytime.
Higher education in Romania is provided by both public and private higher education institutions. These include universities, academies, and colleges organised into specialised departments. The first stage of university-level studies provides a short-term (three-year) or a long-term (four- to six-year, according to the field of study) diploma, which is awarded as a Diploma de Licenta. The second stage of university-level education is the master’s level, in which students can earn a Diplomă de Studii Aprofundate after conducting one to two years of research. The third stage of university-level studies is the doctoral level (only one form exists: doctor of science), which can last for three to six years. Candidates who have passed the examination for a doctoral degree (a doctorate) are awarded the Diploma de Doctor în Stiinţe. Public higher education institutions are coordinated by the Ministry of Education and Research under the principle of university autonomy. Private higher education is an alternative to public education, and is subject to an accreditation process.
Students in Romania are tracked after taking an entrance exam for the lower cycle of high school. Historically, theoretical and science-oriented lyceums were the most selective, while industrial and agricultural lyceums were the least selective. As university entrance exams were much harder than the baccalaureate, students who attended highly selective lyceums were more likely to perform well on these exams than other students.
The forms of standardisation in Romanian education can be summarised as follows:
- Central exams: The tracking exam (taken at the end of eighth grade, awarded with a Certificat de Capacitate) is a national exam. The baccalaureate (taken at the end of high school) is also a national exam. In 2014 there will be several national exams for the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth grades. The rest of the exams are class-based exams.
- Uniform curricula: The national curriculum, which is established by the Ministry of Education, consists of seven curricular areas: language and communication, mathematics and natural science, people and society, the arts, physical education, technologies, and counselling and guidance. This core curriculum represents 75% of all of the courses offered, while the rest of the courses follow school-based curricula (based on specialisation). Alternative manuals are accepted at the national level, and schools can opt for one for each course.
- Uniform training for teachers: Preschool and primary school teachers are required to attend a pedagogical lyceum, while secondary school teachers are required to have a higher education degree. A teacher’s professional development consists of three stages: on-the-job certification (definitivat) after three years of teaching, didactic grade II, and didactic grade I (the highest form).
The compulsory education period is 10 years (or 11 if we count the preparatory grade), and includes primary and secondary education. The obligation to attend daytime education for at least 10 years ceases at age 18. Compulsory education is based on a common core curriculum (as opposed to a single structure curriculum). Thus, after successfully completing their primary education (ISCED 1), all students progress to the lower secondary level (ISCED 2), where they follow a common core curriculum. Public high school education (12 or 13 grades) is generalised and free.
The national education system starts with early childhood education and care (ages 0-6), and thus includes an ante-preschool level (ages 0-3 provided by crèches) and a preschool level (ages 3-6 provided by kindergartens). The Ministry of Education is responsible only for the later form (preschool education).
The structure of compulsory education is as follows:
Primary education includes:
- A preparatory grade (class 0, since 2013) and grades 1-4 for children ages 6-10.
Secondary education includes:
- Lower secondary or middle school with grades 5-9 for children ages 10-16 (or Gimnaziu with grades 5-8 and the lower cycle of high school with grades 9-10) for a total of 11 to 17 years. A Certificat de capacitate diploma is awarded after the eighth grade national exams. Entrance to high school (ninth grade) is based on performance in an exam (National Tests and participation in the National Computerized Registration). A student’s choice of high school curriculum does not limit his or her choice of specialisation at university. The last two years of high school (the 11th and the 12th grades) are not part of the compulsory education period.
- Rădulescu, D.C. (2006) "Invatamantul romanesc 1948-1989 - intre deriva si recuperare institutional-functionala", Calitatea Vietii, XVII, nr. 3-4, p. 307-318.
- Euridyce https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/fpfis/mwikis/eurydice/index.php/Romania:Overview