First school day brings in focus problems in system of education

Photo: BGNES

We all have fond memories of our very first day at school, the emotions of meeting our first-grade teacher, classmates and future friends for the first time.

The official date on which school starts in Bulgaria is 15 September. This year, however, the 15th falls on a Sunday, so school begins on Monday, 16 September. Every school creates a festive atmosphere to welcome the youngest children who will be entering school for the first time, and classrooms are filled with the flowers the children have brought to give to their schoolteachers.

But the fireworks on the first day of school will eventually die down, to be replaced by the debate we know only too well - of the reform in Bulgarian education. And, as usual, it will start with the bulk and weight of school books which the children have to carry on their backs to school and back every day. One of the solutions here is for the books to be printed on lightweight paper, and for the children to leave them in lockers at their school.

One more issue is, only too logically, on the agenda – the matriculation exams after 7th and 12th grade, and the national external evaluation, which, besides in 4th grade, will also introduced for the 10th grade as of this year. The overall impression conveyed is that Bulgarian schools are changing, albeit at a slow pace. The focus of change are teachers, who have, on more than one occasion historically, proved to be civic-minded intellectuals and humanists. Today, respect for the good teacher is being revived – in a moral, but also in a material sense.

The programme “Motivated teachers” encourages teachers financially who have decided to work at schools with specific problems, including with schoolchildren with low educational attainments or a low social status.

“Bulgarians are still keen on investing in the education of their children and have respect for school,” said Subka Popova, senior expert at the regional administration of education, Sofia, for the Bulgarian National Radio. She highlighted the work of the innovative schools, 395 in number across the country, which means that 1 in 5 schools in Bulgaria have introduced innovative methods of education.

“Every school has its own specific characteristics, that is why the range of innovations is so wide,” Subka Popova says and adds that there are a great many schools working with more than one innovation. “They develop programmes in which they integrate the curriculum of two or more subjects. New methods are developed to make the study of Bulgarian, English or Croatian, for example, easier. Other innovations put the emphasis on foreign language learning, mathematics or natural sciences. Still others focus on citizenship education, on enriching children’s knowledge of Bulgarian traditions and folklore. On the whole all innovations aim to increase children’s motivation to learn, to develop their thinking, to help them form a civic position, to help shape their personalities so that, in these dynamic times we are living in, they may be capable of addressing any challenge, while at the same time coping successfully with their given tasks,” Subka Popova says.

Gergana Mancheva

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