Romanian students learn a sloped, continuous cursive hand locally known as litere de mână during first and second grade. A distinguishing feature of handwriting instruction is the use of an underlying grid in teaching cursive writing.
The Ministerul Educaţiei, or Ministry of Education, and specifically the Direcția Generală Educație Timpurie, Învățământ Primar și Gimnazial, or General Directorate of Early Education, Primary and Secondary Education (DGPRE), oversee pre-university education in the country. The DGPRE is responsible for creating the national curriculum and setting learning objectives, standards, and assessment criteria.
The education system in Romania is divided into the following levels: preparatory or pre-primary (6–7 years), primary (grades 1–4, 7–10 years), lower and upper secondary (up to 15–18 years), and higher education. Schooling is compulsory for pre-university levels. The state provides basic funding for both public and private education, from preparatory to secondary.
There have been several curricular reforms in Romanian primary education since 1990. They aim to standardise education at the national level, make it high-quality for compulsory and optional subjects, and set minimum and maximum lesson requirements. The most recent iteration of the national curriculum for primary education was published in 2013, while the early education curriculum was last updated in 2019.
The curriculum goals for the subject Comunicare în limba română, or Communication in the Romanian language, place importance on teaching handwriting. Instruction happens during the early years of primary education, specifically in preparatory, first, and second grades. While schools and teachers have some flexibility in their methods, the instruction process, its stages and writing models are widely standardised.
Handwriting education begins in preparatory grade with a focus on print script alphabet, also known as scris de tipar or litere bloc, and on development of communication skills. In first grade, students gradually transition to a cursive writing model called litere de mână. It is a continuous cursive style with a 18º slope, and its narrow proportions follow a grid.
Re-Latinization of Romanian
In alignment with European influences, Romanians switched from Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet in 1862. This transition helped promote literacy and standardise written Romanian, contributing to a stronger sense of national identity and integration with Europe. It is in this context that Ion Creangă, a school teacher who would later become one of the most important Romanian writers, made his contribution to handwriting education. In 1868, he and other authors published the primer Metodă nouă de scriere și cetire pentru uzul clasei I primară, or A new method of writing and reading for the use of 1st grade primary course students. The handwriting model presented in this primer, a clear derivative of the English roundhand, was also known as Creangă’s Alphabet.
Sample pages of “New Method of Writing and Reading”, or Metodă nouă de scriere și cetire, by Ion Creangă, also known as Creangă’s Alphabet, published since 1868. (www.dacoromanica.ro).
The first half of the 20th century witnessed several efforts to enhance handwriting instruction methodologies, including the publication of a Romanian edition of Palmer’s method. However, it wasn’t until after World War II that we find samples related to contemporary pedagogical processes. Notably, an edition of Abecedar, a renowned teaching collection published by Editura Didactică și Pedagogică, introduced a calligraphic model similar to English roundhand. This model featured letters with contrast, and the publication utilised a slanted grid to guide not only the horizontal proportions of letter shapes but also the spacing between letters.
Sample pages of Abecedar teaching collection from the 1950’s. Giurgea, M., Bostina, M.G., Maru, C., 1959. Abecedar. Didactică şi Pedagogică, Bucarest.
Abecedar remained in use in the coming decades, and a significant shift occurred only in the 1970s when the previous handwriting model was replaced by a simplified and monolinear version with more moderate slope. However, the fundamental letter shapes persisted through this transition, characterised by their elliptical foundation and looped extenders. The 1970s and 1980s issues of Abecedar credit Constantin Vlădescu as the calligrapher responsible for creating the handwriting samples.
Sample pages of Abecedar, from 1970–1980’s. Giurgea, M., Bostina, M.G., 1986. Abecedar, Clasa I. Didactică şi Pedagogică, Bucarest.
Educator and researcher Anca-Georgiana Simion explains that the teaching of handwriting in Romania continues to rely on the aid of grid systems that guide letter formation, even though there may be minor variations in some shapes based on preferences of different publishers. In preparatory level, a method called Dictando is used, where children learn upright print script letters with a pencil on a notebook with parallel guidelines.
In first grade children learn cursive letters using the “Tip 1” notebooks that contain a slanted grid that resembles those used by Abecedar in the 1950s. The “Tip 2” notebooks, used in second grade, do away with the slanted grid, and maintain only horizontal guidelines. The adaptation of shapes to the “Tip 1“ grid results on a number of oddities in the horizontal proportions of the letter shapes. Nevertheless, the guidelines system is a standard in Romania. It is featured in books from major publishers like Editura Didactică şi Pedagogică, Litera, Kreativ, and Carminis, among others, all of them approved by the Ministerul Educaţiei.
It is quite common for schools and teachers in Romania to specify the use of fountain pens during the first and second grades. It is understood that these pens, with new designs and ergonomic shapes adapted for children’s use, are conducive to the development of writing skills and promote the smooth flow of cursive writing.
Sample pages of Comunicare în limba Română, clasa 1. Editura Didactică şi Pedagogică. (Pițilă and Mihăilescu, 2023)