High School Education in Romania

Admission to high school
At the end of the 8th grade (at age 14 or 15) a nationwide test is taken by all students called Evaluarea Națională (The National Test) and can be taken only once, in June. The subjects are Romanian Language and Literature and Mathematics(and additionally the language of the school for ethnic minority schools or classes and for bi-lingual schools). Many high schools provide classes with intensive study of a foreign language, such as English, French, German or Spanish; a two-part examination (Grammar/Vocabulary and Speaking) is required for them. The passing mark is 5 for each of the exams. If the student passes, he is allowed to enrol in a high school; should he fail, he will have to join a School of Crafts and Trades for two years. The finishing grade (also known as the admission grade) is computed, taking into account for 25% an average of all the Yearly General Averages starting with year 5 and for the rest of 75% the mark obtained at the National Test (1-10, 10 being the highest, not rounded, precision 0.01). Despite the exams are being published and the marks are public, lists being placed both in schools and on the Internet.

In order to enroll 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 in a nationwide 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 a 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.

National College (Colegiu Naţional) -- the most prestigious high schools in Romania, most are each part of at least one international program such as Cervantes, SOCRATES, Eurolikes etc. All are "theoretical" (see below). Some of them are over 100 years old, and have a very strong tradition in education: Saint Sava National College in Bucharest (1818), National College in Iaşi (1828), Gheorghe Lazăr National College, Bucharest (1860), Mihai Eminescu National College, Iaşi (1865), Mihai Viteazul National College, Bucharest (1865), Vasile Alecsandri National College Galaţi (1867), Roman-Voda National College in Roman (1872), Frații Buzești National College in Craiova (1882), Costache Negruzzi College, Iaşi (1895). Other, newer, national colleges are Tudor Vianu National College of Computer Science Bucharest, Emil Racoviţă National College Iaşi, Carol I National College Craiova, Barbu Ştirbei National College Călăraşi, Mihai Eminescu National College Constanţa, National College of Computer Science in Piatra Neamţ, etc.. The last admission average for these is over 8.70, but for the best national colleges an average result of 9.50 is not enough. Entering in one of these national colleges is usually a sure ticket for a good university scholarship.

Military College (Colegiu Militar) -- there are 3 high schools administered by the Ministry of National Defense. They are considered extremely strict and legally they have the same regime as army units, being considered military installations with all students being members of the army and abiding army rules and regulations, including lights out at 10 o'clock. The Military Colleges are Colegiul Militar Liceal Mihai Viteazu in Alba Iulia, Colegiul Militar Liceal Ştefan cel Mare in Câmpulung Moldovenesc and Colegiul Militar Liceal Dimitrie Cantemir in Breaza.
Economic College or Technical College (Colegiu Economic or Colegiu Tehnic) -- A high school with good results and with an academic program based on technical education or services (see below). An admission average of 8.00 is usually enough.

Liceu (Standard High school) -- An average high school, providing one of the available academic programs. The type of academic program offered is added after this designation (e.g. Liceul Teoretic Dimitrie Bolintineanu or Liceul Economic Ion Luca Caragiale)

Grup Şcolar -- A group of two schools -- a high school (usually offering academic programmes in the field of technical or services education) and a Craft and Trade School. Some are regarded as being the worst alternative to allow access to a highschool diploma and access to university, while others are very well regarded as they give highly useful and well-regarded diplomas and provide a rather high-quality education (such as Grup Şcolar Economic Viilor Bucharest -- training gastronomy specialists, protocol waiters etc. -- and owning their own hotel, restaurant and pastry shop).

Each type of high-school is free to offer one or more academic programs (profile). These are:
Theoretical program

Science -- Profil Real ("mathematics and computer programming" or "earth studies") -- this is the most demanding of all the academic programs, and the most sought-after as it offers the best chance for university admission, teaching as it does most of the subjects needed for admission. There are 15 different subjects per year, with 30-35 hours weekly : e.g. Latin is compulsory for a year, Math for 4 years (4-7 hours/week -- Calculus, Trigonometry and Algebra), Computer Programming (4 hours weekly -- 4 years), two modern languages, such as English for 2-6 hours/week and French for 2 hours/week, also 4 years, Literature 3 hours/week 4 years, Geography, History, Chemistry, Physics (all of these 4 years, 1-2 hours weekly each), Economics, Philosophy, Logic, Psychology (1 year each -- 4 years) etc. This will give an " Computer Programmer" qualification. Besides being the hardest, this is the most common program, as it is the most sought after.

Humanities -- Profil Uman ("social studies" or "languages") -- 3 or 4 modern languages, 4 years of Latin or Ancient Greek, literature (both Romanian and foreign), two years of each of the studied social sciences, more history and geography than in the case of real studies. This program still demands over 30-35 hours weekly but will give no work qualification, with the exception of bilingual colleges, which offer a translator qualification. Classes specialised in Humanities sometimes provide intensive study of a foreign language (at least 5 hours per week), along with the study of the literature, history and geography of the respective country. The social sciences profiles will offer training in economy, logics, sociology, psychology, and most intensively, philosophy. It would also offer two years of mathematics training.

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:
School of Crafts and Trades (Şcoalǎ de Arte şi Meserii) -- a two-year school providing a low qualification such as salesman or welder or builder. In case the student wants to continue to high school he or she must attend a special year between the 2nd year in the School of Crafts and Trades, and the 11th year in high school.

Apprentice School -- a two-year school, almost integrally based on apprenticeship with a company, that usually also hires the graduates. Once highly popular, nowadays only a handful remains and will be almost completely phased out by 2009. There is no access to high school from this type of school.

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.

The Baccalaureate exam
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.

The 6 exams are :
Exam A/1 (Proba A/1) -- Romanian Language and Literature (Oral Examination) -- The candidate draws a literature subject at random and a text comprehension subject, also at random. The candidate has 15 minutes "thinking time" and 10 minutes to answer the questions in front of three persons. The exam is public.

Exam C/1 (Proba C/1) -- The language of study in a school where the teaching is done in a language other than Romanian (usually the language of an ethnic group) -- organized exactly like Exam A/1. C/1 is taken only by those taught in another language than Romanian.

Exam B (Proba B) -- A foreign language (Oral Examination) -- The candidate is allowed to choose from English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian. The choice must be done upon registration for the exam (usually in May) and cannot be changed. The candidate draws one subject with two questions (reading comprehension and speaking) at random, and has 15 minutes thinking time to construct his answers and 10 minutes to answer.

Exam A/2 (Proba A/2) -- Romanian Language and Literature (Written Examination) -- Usually an essay upon a literature theme (such as "Show the features of the modern twentieth century novel with examples on a studied work") and a text with 9 questions based on the text (such as "Find a metaphor and an oxymoron in the text" or "Comment the following passage in ten lines or less"). Half an hour before the start of the exam, the Minister Of Education draws the correct variant on TV, with sealed envelopes containing 20 or 25 exam papers being delivered to the exam rooms and opened in front of the students. According to law, each student must receive an exam paper, writing the subjects on the board being no longer allowed. Exam C was 2 hours long in 2005, 2004 and 2003 and 3 hours long in 2002.

Exam C/2 (Proba C/2) -- The language of study in a school where the teaching is done in a language other than Romanian (usually the language of an ethnic group) -- written examination -- organized exactly like Exam A/2.

Exam D (Proba D) -- Compulsory subject depending on the academic program followed in high school (Written Examination) -- This translates to math for those finishing a real studies, technical or services program or for a choice between Romanian History and Geography for a humane studies or vocational program. However, the difficulty of the exam varies between the academic program followed in high school (e.g. a candidate that was enrolled in a real studies program in high school will receive a Mathematics 1 subject -- the hardest math subjects, including algebra, simple calculus, trigonometry and geometry, while a former services student will receive a Mathematics 2 subject -- a simpler subject, featuring only algebra and simple calculus). Unlike in western exams, calculators, slide rules or any other assistance is forbidden. Exam D is 3 hours long.

Exam E (Proba E) -- Subject at the choice of the candidate from the domains considered as the main part of the Academic Program followed in high school (Written Examination) -- This gives the student more choice depending on the academic program completed. For example, a real studies student may choose from Physics, Computer Programming, Chemistry and Biology, a technical student/railway mechanic may choose Physics, Mechanical Instruments and Machines, Technical Instruments and Measures or Railway Maintenance while a human studies/languages may choose from Latin or a different language than the one in Exam B. The same rules apply as in the case of Exam D, with one exception -- students choosing Basic Accounting (Services Program) may use an account sheet describing the function of each account.

Exam F (Proba F) -- Subject at the choice of the candidate from a lesser domain of the academic program followed in high school (Written or Practical Examination) -- This gives even more choice, with a student from real studies being able to choose from up to 20 subjects, from Philosophy to Physical Education while a student in humane studies/social sciences is free to choose from Math to Biology and, of course, Physical Education (over 50% of all candidates take this subject, as it is not written, usually takes under half an hour, requires no learning and it is nearly impossible to fail). However, the choices must be made from subjects the candidate was taught in high school.

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 a university, because, technically, without passing it, the student is not a high school graduate. However, the importance of the actual admission score varies between universities, with its relevance being minimal for universities that require a separate entrance exam.