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Why do Bulgarian children start school on 15 September?

Photo: National Museum of Education in Gabrovo

Every year, on September 15 - the first school day in Bulgaria - the curious mind asks: why exactly on this date? Why does the school year start on September 15 in Bulgaria? The answer comes from historical references about the beginning and the end of the school year in the Bulgarian lands before and after the Liberation (Bulgaria's Independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878– ed.) These reports, regulations and other documents are kept in the National Museum of Education in Gabrovo.

"During the Renaissance in the monastery schools established in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the school year was not linked to a specific date - says historian Veselin Lazarov, chief curator at the museum. - In some places it was taught only in winter, in others - all year round, and the school closed its doors only during church holidays. 

Recreation of a monastery school at the National Museum of Education - Gabrovo.Later, the mutual tuition schools also did not have a specific date for the beginning and end of the school year.It mostly depended on for what period of time the teacher was hired. Habitually the contracts were for the six months from St. Dimitar's Day (October 26) to St. George's Day (May 6)."

This is what the a mutual tuition classroom looked like presented at the National Museum of Education - Gabrovo.The first school laws were drawn up in the middle of the 19th century and established a more or less fixed school year. It would start at the end of August or the beginning of September and end in June, with school starting 2-3 months later for children who were engaged in farm work.The length of the school year was fixed at the teachers' and diocesan councils in the 1870s, until the "Statute of rural schools" was drawn up at the 1873 Teachers' Congress in the town of Shumen. According to it, the school year for rural schools should be 9 months. The Congress decided that the primary education of children would be compulsory and that the school year would begin on 15 September immediately after the Day of the Holy Cross (14 September).

A public exam in Gabrovo school at the end of the school year (Petrovden). Students demonstrate their knowledge and the best students receive a book as a gift."After the Liberation the tradition was continued - says Veselin Lazarov in an interview with Radio Bulgaria. - Gradually, legislative acts established the basic guidelines and structure of school organisation - the very organisation that still exists today. In 1879 the date of 1 September was set for the beginning of the school year. The following year, it was decided that the school year would last 10 months in the towns and between 7 and 8 months in the villages because of the children's involvement in agricultural work. This legal framework was main