Proposals to the concept for the procedure “Modernisation of the educational environment” under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan
Center Amalipe welcomes the planned announcement of the procedure Modernization of the educational environment, which will be supported under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. The reconstruction, renovation and equipment activities foreseen under this programme will give the supported schools and kindergartens a chance to receive the facilities needed for a truly modern education.
At the same time, we express our strong concern that the implementation of the procedure in the envisaged manner (using the Methodology for Prioritization of the Objects of Educational Infrastructure on the Territory of the Republic of Bulgaria) will further deepen the existing inequalities and disparities in the school network and will lead to favoritism of certain schools and kindergartens. Even now, there is a very serious difference in the ability to provide modern facilities and quality education between some of the schools in large cities on the one hand and rural schools and schools with smaller numbers of students. The gap is even wider between schools that teach Roma students and those that primarily enrol majority students. The procedure (using the Methodology for Prioritisation of Educational Infrastructure Sites…) will primarily support large schools in regional cities and schools educating children of highly educated parents. Thus it will further increase the disparities significantly and cause irreparable damage to Bulgarian education! Large schools educating children primarily from the majority will further become showcases of modern education, while schools with Roma pupils and those in the villages will become even more ghettoised. Moreover, a significant proportion of the schools that will be selected in the first group are precisely those that have already been renovated, have good infrastructure, modern environments and educational resources, and in many cases a modern STEM centre.
As foreseen in the Concept, schools in the so-called first group will be supported, according to the Methodology for Prioritisation of Educational Objects … (which is completely understandable). However, this Methodology disproportionately prioritises schools in district centres in the first group, and even more explicitly prioritises schools where there is no concentration of vulnerable groups.
A review of all schools that fall into the first group in each of the planning regions shows that these are 291 schools, of which 259 have no concentration of vulnerable groups and only 32 have a concentration of vulnerable groups (according to the MoE classification under the Funding Regulations). That is, under the procedure 89% of schools eligible for support are without a concentration of vulnerable groups and only 11% schools with vulnerable groups.
|schools with a concentration of vulnerable groups||% of
total number of schools
|schools without concentration of vulnerable groups||% of total number of schools|
|Total Number Primary school /Elementary school /United school /Secondary school||903||48,76||949||51,24|
|Supported schools under Modernisation …||32||11,00||259||89,00|
|% of schools supported out of the total number in the group||3.54%||27.29%|
This is against the background that almost half of the schools in Bulgaria have a concentration of vulnerable groups. This means that only 3.54% of them can be supported under the procedure, while schools without vulnerable groups will receive many times more support – over 27% of them will be able to be renovated and furnished.
The differences are just as serious if we look at the type of locality in which the schools in the first group are located – mostly in big cities and very few in villages and small towns. A review of Group I schools by region shows that 157 educational institutions in regional towns, 79 in smaller towns and 55 in villages could be supported. This is disproportionate to the fact that there are 297 general and specialised schools in the regional towns, 702 in the smaller towns and 853 in the villages. In other words, 52.86% of the schools in the district towns, 11.25% of those in the smaller towns and 6.45% of the schools in the villages can be supported under the procedure. As can be seen, there is a clear disproportionality also in relation to the type of locality of the supported schools, which will seriously deepen the currently existing disparities.
To overcome the described danger we propose:
Change the Methodology for Prioritization of Educational Objects. It was developed in 2017 and takes into account the presence of secondary and protected schools, but in no form takes into account the other type of schools identified by the Ministry of Education – schools with a concentration of vulnerable groups. The latter is understandable as this category was introduced in 2018.
We propose that 1 to 5 points for schools and kindergartens with a concentration of vulnerable groups, depending on the group they fall into according to the table Appendix No. 6a to Article 52b, paragraph 2 of the Funding Regulation, should be added to the points for assessment and prioritization of educational institutions. This will give more schools with Roma pupils and schools in villages the chance to be supported.
In changing the Methodology, an additional prioritisation criterion should be included, which provides additional points (we propose that this should be a minimum of 3 points) for schools which are the only schools (for the relevant level of education) in the locality. This will enable a reduction in the disproportionality of schools supported in relation to locality type.
We appeal to the EA PO and the Ministry of Education to take the necessary measures to prevent educational inequalities from widening through the Modernising the Educational Environment procedure. The practice of the implementation of the project “Equal access to school education in times of crises”, funded under the REACT-EU mechanism, has shown that if the European funds are not used appropriately (the purchased electronic devices to overcome the Kovid-19 crisis were provided not on the basis of need, but on the basis of the number of students in school) and lead to a deepening of educational disparities, these shortcomings will have to be compensated through funds from the state budget. It is therefore necessary to make changes to the current Concept and especially to the Methodology in order to avoid the risk that the Recovery and Sustainability Plan funds will deepen educational inequalities and exclusion.