During the Annual Meeting of the National Children’s Network, organizations from all over Bulgaria participated in thematic working groups, including the Education group. Over 30 experts and ten young people from our children and youth participation program contributed to identifying the most urgent measures that we want to be included in the Vision for Family Policy 2030. We reviewed the highlights of the working meeting and discussed the policies we want to advocate for with the Network’s member institutions.
Gergana Efremova from the “Together in Class” Foundation opened the “Education” panel with a brief overview of the activities of the National Children’s Network related to the topic. The unstable political situation made dialogue with institutions challenging, but the Network continued to seek constant contact with them. Over the past year, we have submitted opinions on current issues, cases, and solutions. We advocated for changes in the criteria for director selection competitions, worked on the inclusion of refugee children, and continued to push for reforms in child care facilities.
The panel continued with a presentation prepared by the youth from “Megafon,” in which they presented their vision of a perfect school. “It is important to create a favorable environment in which we feel good,” explained the students. Their dream school includes a relaxation area, sports halls, and school chairs with healthy food. Regarding youth participation, they would like to see a student council that participates in decision-making and event organization at the school. With a smile, they said that in the perfect curriculum, subjects like a class about their rights, where they can learn about their rights and responsibilities, and a health and sexual education class where they can freely ask their questions, are present. “It may not be the perfect school, but we will make it perfect for ourselves,” summarized the youth.
After the presentation, the members divided into working groups based on four topics: “Everyday Life in Kindergartens and Schools,” “Mental Health and Learning Climate,” “Knowledge and Skills,” and “Inclusion.” Each team had to answer one main question: what specific measures in support of families do we want to see as a network in education?
The important measures that we agreed to advocate for are as follows:
In the everyday life of schools and kindergartens:
- Accessible environment (in every sense – physical environment, financial opportunities).
- Unity and teamwork among all students, avoiding the division into “high achievers” and “low achievers.”
- Single-shift system.
- Modern libraries.
- Suitable places for dining and relaxation (students currently eat in the corridors because eating in the classrooms is prohibited, and there is a lack of school chairs).
- Well-maintained and accessible toilets.
- Flexible and diverse forms of childcare.
- No televisions and screens in kindergartens.
- Integrated physical education and sports programs in the curriculum of kindergartens.
- Small group sizes of 15-18 children with 2-3 professionals in kindergartens.
Knowledge and skills:
- Focus on developing skills in education.
- Involvement of professionals and practitioners from universities, businesses, NGOs, and scientific organizations.
- More subjects focused on personal development (presentation skills, career development).
- Teacher qualifications aligned with the characteristics of different generations and training them to develop skills.
- Integration of informal teaching methods (interactive methods) into formal education.
- Development of leadership skills among school directors.
- Encouragement of civic engagement among students.
- Increased control by the non-governmental sector over the acceptance and implementation of programs by the Ministry of Education, including the use of allocated funds.
- Quality framework for secondary education.
- Increased number of psychologists in schools.
- Confidentiality and professionalism of psychologists.
- Support groups for teachers’ psychological well-being.
- Open discussions on various issues related to bullying between students and school staff.
- Raising awareness about the availability of psychological support.
- Topics related to mental health discussed during class hours initiated by students.
- Collaborative support within teams.
- Knowledge and skills for independent living.
- Teachers with willingness, readiness for self-improvement, compassion, courage, and inclusive teaching skills.
- Accessible and welcoming environments in all schools.
- More resource teachers and specialists.
- Motivated and rewarded teachers (financially and morally) based on results.
These measures are based on the experience and expertise of organizations such as the “Together in Class” Foundation, FTIK, Science and Technology Center, “Eureka” Foundation, BTC, “Children at Risk Worldwide” Foundation, “Initiative for Development – Kardzhali Solves” Association, Parents’ Association, “Jeanette” Association – Razgrad, “Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus” Association, “Center Nadezhda” Foundation, “Life with Down Syndrome,” as well as the opinions of youth from “Megaphone.”