The Bulgarian tradition in adult education originated in 1870s when the first Sunday schools were organized. Following liberation from the Ottoman Empire (1878), Sunday and evening schools for adult education became widespread. Although the education system during the Communist regime (1944–1989) was subjected to enormous ideological pressure and constant politically motivated reforms, it was mostly successful in widening access to education and achieving priority status for continuous vocational education. After the ‘Gentle Revolution’ of 1989 there has been a clear tendency of an increasing number and diversification of the institutions offering adult continuous education. A significant part of this increase is due to efforts by the state to support the vocational education and the requalification of people over 16 years of age as well as to spread programmes targeting specific social groups (such as Roma, low-literate and long-term unemployed people). The post-totalitarian educational dynamics has culminated in the years prior to the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union (EU) and, ultimately, after the accession when the country took part in the EU lifelong learning (LLL) policies. This historical dynamics of the Bulgarian educational system, however, is still not systematized and convincingly understood in theoretical terms. That is why our chapter aims, first of all, to propose a theoretical perspective for better understanding both the tension-provoking presence of the LLL concept in scientific debate and the (national) specificity of the development of LLL in Bulgaria.
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