At a meeting in the National Assembly, a Bill was discussed, submitted by “Democratic Bulgaria”, “Continue the change”, GERB and “Bulgarian Rise”, to amend and supplement the Law on preschool and school education. The proposal is for a transfer of nurseries and nursery groups in kindergartens from their current principal, the Ministry of Health, to the structure of the Ministry of Education and Science. This will allow the long-awaited and long-delayed reform of early education and care services in municipal nurseries and kindergartens to begin.
The meeting was at the invitation of Elisaveta Belobradova, Member of Parliament from “Democratic Bulgaria”, and the the initiators of the bill from Continuing the Change, GERB and Bulgarian Rise in the 48th National Assembly. It was attended by representatives of the various political parties, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Health, the Office of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria, the National Center for Public Health and Analysis, the National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria, the Municipality of Sofia, UNICEF-Bulgaria, directors of nurseries and kindergartens from all over the country, academia, trade unions, non-governmental organizations, experts and journalists.
As the main proposed essential change is the gradual transition from a medical model of care to a comprehensive model, consistent with European and global trends and good practices for early childhood development in the period 0-7 years, which combines care and support for proper physical, emotional and cognitive development of children. That kind of care is developing knowledge, skills and habits and supports the social environment and the family through the participation of parents and relatives.
Thus, during the transitional period after the entry into force of the amendments, if they are adopted, vocational schools and higher education institutions will be given the opportunity to develop programs and specialties for basic and additional qualifications for specialists with the “early childhood care” profile.
At the same time, these changes will allow preserving the currently existing human resources, building fund and capacity of crèches and crèche groups, planning to improve working conditions, increase the number of pedagogical and support staff who work with children in one group, and modernizing the approach to the individual needs of each child, as well as providing for the needs of children with chronic diseases and special educational needs.
Another goal of the Bill is to encourage municipalities to develop more and better functioning early care services for the benefit of parents and children and to solve the problem of the increasing lack of medical personnel who will not be able to meet the needs in the coming years. unless urgent reform is carried out in both the health and education sectors.
During the meeting, opportunities for improving and clarifying individual texts in the draft law, concerns of directors and employees in nurseries and kindergartens related to its practical application, as well as what will happen to the currently existing nurseries, the medical staff in them and their building stock.
The proponents of the bill have repeatedly emphasized that the goal of the reform is to allow the introduction of unified standards for the quality of care in all childcare facilities. This will be possible with the transition to the Ministry of Education and Science, which for several years has been working on introducing a National Framework for the Quality of Education and Care in Early Childhood. In this way, the Ministry of Education and Culture will be charged with the responsibility of supporting the development of children in the entire period from 0-18 years in the different levels of care and education.
In terms of personnel, the aim is to equalize and improve working conditions and continuing qualification by opening access to national programs and European funds and projects managed by the MES. Increasing the cost standards for crèche groups to the level of those for independent crèches will make it possible in the future to increase the number of staff in relation to the number of children in a group, which is a prerequisite for better quality of care.