What would the new Education Programme fund in pre-school and school education
On 8 August, the European Commission approved the Education Programme 2021-2027. Its budget is 1 887 219 069 BGN and in the new period it will be financed only by the European Social Fund Plus. What priorities and what activities will the Programme finance in the coming years? How will schools and kindergartens and other institutions involved in education be able to participate?
The Education Programme 2021-2027 will continue the Operational Programme “Science and Education for Smart Growth” from the outgoing programming period. The main objective of the Programme is to support the process of innovative and intelligent development of Bulgaria by providing quality and inclusive education for all, proactively targeted to the changing trends in the labour market, with a view to improving the quality of skills and forming highly educated, innovative and active individuals, who would be able to succeed as professionals and citizens and thus contribute to their personal well-being and the development of society. One of the main differences is that activities for creating educational infrastructure in universities (such as the construction of Centres of High Achievements, etc.) would now be implemented under a new operational programme. Thus, the Education Programme (EP) will primarily finance “soft measures” (additional training, out of class activities, teacher training, etc.). It will be managed by the Education Programmes Executive Agency. There will be four priority areas in the EP:
- Inclusive education and educational integration
- Modernisation and quality of education will continue the systemic project
- Activities to support renewal and quality assurance of education workforce by promoting alternative access to the teaching profession and by supporting new teachers and heads of schools
- Technical assistance (aimed at increasing the administrative capacity of the Education Programmes Executive Agency, as well as conducting evaluations on the implementation of the most important parts of the Programme.
The new Agenda was prepared by a working group of representatives of the main directorates of the Ministry of Education, trade unions and employers’ unions in education, as well as five NGO groups. The Programme is laid out in a way that allows visibility of the main operations that will be announced and financed by the PO in the coming years. In practice, the new EP continues the main “system projects” of the current SESGOP such as “Support for Success”, “Active Inclusion in Pre-school Education, “Education for Tomorrow”, “Support for Dual Education”, etc. At the same time, new operations are also foreseen. A balance has been sought between the projects, which are to be implemented by the Ministry of Education and those, in which schools, kindergartens, NGOs, etc. will be able to apply directly to the Managing Authority. Opportunities for funding projects through the so-called “territorial/ spacial approaches” (implemented by Local Initiative Groups in rural areas, etc.) are also included. This means that a school or kindergarten will be able to participate in the implementation of the new programme in three different ways:
- As a partner/beneficiary of the Ministry of Education and Science on the main “system projects”: this practice existed in the past programming period. It allowed involving almost all schools and many kindergartens – within the projects “Your Lesson”, “Support for Success”, “Active Inclusion in Pre-school Education”, “Education for Tomorrow”;
- As a partner of municipalities or Local Initiative Groups: during the past programming period, some schools were partners of rural LIGs that applied with projects to the SESGOP. In the new programming period, this approach (called “community-led local development”) will continue and will be complemented by the ITI – Integrated Territorial Investments approach. Under this approach, municipalities in an area or region will implement joint projects to address local and regional issues. Mandatory participation of educational institutions as well as active NGOs will be required;
- As a stand-alone beneficiary: the new EP also foresees the announcement of grant schemes (competitive project selection procedures). Schools, kindergartens, NGOs, etc. will be able to apply for them. Partnerships between different types of schools will be encouraged (e.g. schools with a concentration of vulnerable groups and those without vulnerable groups, etc.). This possibility existed in the outgoing programming period, but was used much less frequently. The Managing Authority rarely announced grant procedures, but bureaucratic and other difficulties led to participation only of the largest schools, primarily from regional cities. In the new programming period, there is a call for more procedures to be announced in order projects to be selected competitively and to reduce the financial and bureaucratic burden.
What are the main procedures expected to be announced under the new EP?
Under Priority 1 Inclusive Education and Educational Integration, the “system projects” “Support for Success” and “Active Inclusion…” will be continued. The first one has already been approved as Selection Criteria for Operation “General and Additional Support for Personal Development…” at the end of June this year. The specific project is yet to be developed by the MES and the ambition is it to be launched as early as the end of 2022. The project will fund the well- known additional training for pupils with learning gaps, matriculation preparation, interest-based activities, work with parents (including the continued employment of educational mediators), e t c . More about the approved criteria and the upcoming project here.
The intentions of the Managing Authority are to launch a “system project” in the field of pre-school education, which will continue the present “Active Inclusion”. It will fund similar activities as those described above, but in kindergartens and in preparatory groups of schools.
Priority Axis 1 will also fund another MES project related to supporting the ScopeTeams. It will include the organisation of information campaigns among parents as well as additional incentives for those involved in the Inter-institutional ScopeTeams at local level.
A new project, to be implemented through a competitive selection procedure, will aim to prevent violence and reduce aggression in schools. The procedure will be open to schools, PDSCs and NGOs that will implement campaigns to improve communication between students, provide psychological support, student participation in school governance, volunteer initiatives and other activities that develop civic and global competences.
The current “New Chance for Success” project, i.e. adult literacy, will be continued. In addition to degree, stage or grade level courses, it is planned to include knowledge validation and other activities. In the new programming period, adult literacy will be implemented through projects under the ITI approach described above. That is, schools and partner NGOs will be able to submit projects at regional level, reflecting local specificity.
Three different procedures specifically targetting “marginalised” communities such as Roma are foreseen. The first of these will also be implemented through regional projects under the ITI approach – “Creating conditions for access to education by overcoming demographic, social and spatial issues”.
Under this procedure, schools, NGOs and others will be able to apply for additional training for children and students to communicate in a multicultural environment, work with parents (including short-term training for parents, teacher training, provision of textbooks, educational books, tools and materials, etc. The second procedure “Comprehensive programmes at municipal level for desegregation and prevention of secondary desegregation” will be implemented through Local Initiative Group projects. These will be aimed at promoting learning in ethnically mixed environments, including the organisation of joint activities between segregated and non-segregated schools, campaigns among parents, etc. The third procedure “Promoting intercultural education through science, culture and sport” will be implemented through a competitive selection procedure. Schools, kindergartens, NGOs and others will be eligible to apply. These projects will cover a wide range of activities necessary for the effective implementation of intercultural education, including implementation of a learning process involving students from schools with a concentration of vulnerable groups and other schools, exchange visits, trips, ‘’green schools’’, cultural and educational initiatives and many others. A special focus of all three procedures will be to promote partnership and systematic interaction between different types of schools (e.g. Roma and non-Roma schools, rural and urban schools). Another focus will be intensive work with parents.
The systemic project “Education for Tomorrow” through Operation “Digital Transformation of School Education, including Vocational Education and Training” will be continued under priority Axis 2 “Modernisation and Quality of Education”
The new project will also incorporate some of the activities of the Equal Access in Crisis project, funded in 2021-2022. It will include not only comprehensive schools but also vocational schools. Activities will continue the training of teachers to work with digital technologies and creating digital learning resources. Activities with students and parent trainings will also be conducted. The operation will also enable the purchase of additional computer devices, etc.
Innovative operations will also be funded under this priority area and will be implemented through competitive project selection procedures. One of them is “Support for talented students”. Schools, NGOs and others will be able to apply for projects to motivate and prepare students to participate in national and regional competitions and Olympiads. A wide range of activities will be eligible for funding, including training camps, summer academies, additional training and scholarships. The focus of the projects will be those rural and urban schools that have not been active in such competitions and contests. The projects will help motivate and prepare talented children who are undoubtedly being taught in all types of schools.
Operation “Supporting the creation and implementation of a culture of innovation, innovative kindergartens and schools” will be realized as a grant procedure involving schools and kindergartens. Approved projects will aim to create networks to share experiences and resources between kindergartens and schools that are actually implementing innovation. They will be able to support the creation and implementation of packages of methods and tools to support and encourage all schools to diversify their learning process.
The procedure “Activities to support renewal and quality assurance of the education workforce by promoting alternative access to the teaching profession and by supporting new teachers and heads of schools” will aim to further develop and expand practices to attract highly qualified professionals from different fields as teachers. The Procedure will also support newly recruited teachers and heads of schools through mentoring programmes and networking to share experiences.
A wide range of activities will also be supported under Priority Axis 3 “Linking education to labour market”. They will be aimed at expanding current activities in vocational schools and at new ones. This strand will also include operations extending pupil and student apprenticeships. The Priority Axis will be discussed in a separate article on Amalipe’s website, because of the many innovative activities foreseen under it.
The Education Programme approved by the European Commission
When and how the new systemic project “Support for Success” will be launched
Author: Deyan Kolev (Chairman Amalipe Center and representative of NGOs working for the integration of marginalized communities in the working group on preparation of the Education Program)