National Meeting of Board of Principals for Intercultural Education
The snowstorms and the cold weather did not prevent nearly 200 school principals from across the country to gather together at the National Meeting of Board of Principals for Intercultural Education “Every student will be a winner” network. It was organized on 6th and 7th of February by center Amalipe in Sofia.
To talk with the principals of schools the meeting was attended by the Minister of Education Krassimir Valchev, Boris Gerasimov, project manager of Education for Tomorrow, Greta Gancheva Project manager“Support for success”, Vanya Traykova from “Active inclusion”project, Magdalena Stanolova, Directorate “Vocational Education and training”, Gergana Stancheva, director of “Project management and implementation” Department.
The “Every student will be awinner” network has already established itself as the largest informal school network, which works both for the full scope and prevention of school drop out and for increasing the quality of education and the introduction of real educational innovations. It has become one of the main factors for those to be heard at the highest level, the voice of schools from rural areas, the schools where students from the Roma community are trained, and children from other vulnerable groups. This was recognized by the school principles who are part of the network , recognized was also the increased interest in the network -already 297 schools have become members of the informal union and partners of Center Amalipe.
Part of the participants presented some of the successful practices realized throughout the year. The National Pedagogical Conference “Intercultural education as a tool for prevention of school drop out”, the Children’s Roma Festival “Open Heart”, the activities of students ‘ parliaments and the leaders’ academy , the travelling seminar for school principals, the national and local celebrations of the feast Vasiliitsa reached the main national institutions and embassies, as well as the personal histories of some of the students thrilled the conference participants and once again demonstrated the main goals, that unite them. An entire session was devoted on strategic issues related to the development of the network and its future. Most of the school principles appealed for a temporary limitation of the further expansion of the network and for deepening of the interaction between the partner schools, supported by center Amalipe. Other operational issues were also discussed.
Deyan Kolev presented the new in the means for working with vulnerable groups under art. 52 A of the ordinance on financing in 2020. The presentation see here. Ionka Danova presented the training programs on which center Amalipe has a license from theMinistry of Education and Science and discusses with the school principals what are the training needs in their schools.
Another session was related to questions to representatives of the Ministry of Education and Science about the overall policies for the development of Bulgarian education and specific problems in the realization of the system projects of the Ministry of Education and Science. The start up project “Education for tomorrow”, which aims to introduce modern digital education in nearly 2000 schools raised most of the questions. The project manager Boris Gerasimov managed to answer the questions asked and was very sincere what can and what cannot be expected from the project. Many questions were discussed about the already started and approved projects “Support for success” and “Active inclusion”. Detailed information about the questions that were asked and the answers received are coming soon on the Web page of center Amalipe.
The expected session with the participation of Minister Valchev exceeded the planned time and lasted more than two hours. Minister Valchev carefully listened to the findings of the professional director’s community on the progress of national education integration policies. They assess as a positive political context for the work of schools in small settlements and the schools where Roma students study. A total of 87% of the school principals believe that the overall political environment for the work of these schools has improved over the last three years. Only 13% believe that there is no change and no one shares the perception of deterioration. As concrete positive steps,school principals point out the appointment of educational mediators, the launching of the system projects of the Ministry of Education and Science, the extension of the scopeof the resources for working with vulnerable groups and the free transportation for middle school students and others. At the same time Deyan Kolev also shared some of the negative tendencies in recent months. While optimism about the effectiveness of the scope mechanism still prevails (55% of the school principals believe that the scope mechanism is delivering results while 40% are on the opposite view), the overall assessment shows greater redundancy compared to the results of a year ago. Only 9% of school principal show that the suspension of child benefit for one year has a positive effect, although 87% of them apply this measure.
The school principals alerted the worrying tendency that in the next operational programs the educational integration of children from ethnic minorities will not be explicitly includedand insisted that this danger should be quickly overcome. Through the system Slido the presentingschool principals voted whether they felt image pressure from regional governments and the Ministry over their activities as directors in recent weeks. The results were conclusive-almost 80% of the voters found that image pressure was present.
The Minister of Education responded comprehensively to dozens of questions concerning the most pressing issues with the forthcoming national external evaluation, the funding of schools, the transport for students, the scope mechanism and measures for prevention of drop out, the role of school principals and regional governments, segregation in education and overcoming, and many other issues. The concrete, precise and pragmatic answers, as well as the mindset to be heard and reflected all pragmatic proposals, once again impressed the school principals. Minister Valchev did not save his criticism to these school principals who instead of fulfilling their obligations prefer to travel permanently abroad under Erasmus and other projects, as well as to the formalism of many of the experts in the regional offices, which assess schools only on the basis of documentation, not on the actual work done. Despite his many engagements, Minister Valchev stayed until he replied to the last pricipal’s question. Detailed information about the questions received and the main messages of the Minister of Education are coming soon on the website of center Amalipe.
The “Every student will be a winner” network was created by center Amalipe and unites nearly 300 schools throughout the country. It aims to create a workable model for reducing school drop-outs, increasing motivation for education of pupils and parents, creating a multicultural host environment and introducing innovative working methods based on intercultural elements that will increase students’ educational outcomes.
The meeting is supported by the Trust for Social Achievement Foundation (TSA), a non-governmental organization whose mission is to break the vicious circle of poverty by encouraging opportunities that help the most disadvantaged citizens of Bulgaria to achieve educational and economic success. TSA supports programs that, with their integrity, potential for expansion and transparency, help to improve the well-being of the poorest people in Bulgaria, with a special focus on Roma