"For the success of every child" or how the schools started the new 2016/2017 school year

        The members of Center "Amalipe" are part from these happy people who have unique experiences each year in the day of 15th September, because we enjoy seeing the smiley faces of the children throughout the whole country. We'd like to thank all the schools,  involved in the "Every student will be a winner" program, funded by the Trust for Social Achievement, for the efforts to organize the feasts for all the children and to share the magic with us along with your guests!

              Center "Amalipe" will continue to be your trusted partner and will help you for retaining and developing the schools, for increasing the quality of education and transforming the schools to be the center of community!

               The Vice Minister of education Mr. Krasimir Kiryakov started the 2016/2017 school year in the 5th Secondary school "P. R. Slaveykov" in the city of Pernik! The event was attended also from Mrs. Diana Petkova - advisor of the Minister of education, representatives from the American embassy in Bulgaria, Emil Todorov and Yulia Kanyonska from the Social Assistance Agency - "Children protection" directorate, Milan Milanov - Vice Chairman of the Municipal council in the  city of Pernik, Radoslava Manova - Secretary of the Municipality of Pernik, Vanya Kokonova - superior of the RIO - Pernik, and Maya Pentcheva - regional coordinator in Center "Amalipe".

                Mr. Kiryakov  saluted  to the students, teachers and parents and gave away a multimedia projector to the school. Also, the rest of the guests made greetings to all students and teachers. Center "Amalipe" thanks the school team and guests for the great partnerships and support for the successful integration of vulnerable children at risk. A parent of first-grader and former student of the school made a pathetic greeting, which excited all the people.

               After the prolonged silence of the vacancies, the Primary school "P. R. Slaveykov" village of Dzhulyunitsa yard was filled with joyful childish laugh in the morning. The first-graders were the only ones who were afraid of the unknown, sticked close to their first teacher.

               Parents, former teachers and guests applaused the performances of their little and grown-up students. Guests of the feast were Mrs. Vanya Dobreva - representative of Municipality of Lyaskovets, Mariyan Totchev - Mayor of village of Dzhulyunitsa, Rumen Stoykov - municipal advisor and chairman of the School board, Todor Todorov - municipal advisor and Neli Nikolova - regional coordinator in Center "Amalipe", who shared the magic of the first day in school. After the program, performed by the first-graders and students from the higher grades, the most little children proceeded the tradition of releasing balloons with messages in the air, one of which was: "You, my friend from nigh and far away, give your hand and let's be together". Two white doves                                                                                                             were released in the air with wish for peace.

         The school in the village of Aprilovo was visited by the Ambassador of the Swiss Confederation Mr. Denis Knobel, the Vice Ambassador of the Kingdom of Great Britain Mrs. Sarah Riley, the Chairman of Bulgarian - Swiss business house Mr. Boni Bonev, the Municipal governor of Sofia district Mrs. Rositsa Todorova and engineer Angel Zhilanov - Mayor of the Municipality of Gorna Malina.

                As Mrs. Sarah Riley said: "This is the most beautiful day from the beginning of the year!" Mr. Knobel mentioned  that the atmosphere and cosiness of the village of Aprilovo reminds him of Switzerland!

                The school year in the Elementary school "Hristo Smirnenski" town of Byala Slatina was opened by Yosif Nunev - expert from the Ministry of education. The other official guests were Branimir Botchev - Vice Mayor of the Municipality of Byala Slatina, Boryana Petkova - director of "Humanitarian activities and integration" directorate in the Municipality of Byala Slatina. The regional coordinator Yonka Danova greeted the students and the school board members on behalf of Center "Amalipe". 160 students from 1st to 4th started school once again in one of the biggest elementary schools in the district of Vratsa.

                Representatives of Center "Amalipe" visited the primary school in the village of Tishevitsa to support the children, parents and teachers and to wish them to be successful throughout the year. The event was attended by the chairman of the Center for educational integration of children and young people from the minorities Mrs. Manuela Radeva, Minko Georgiev - Mayor of the village of Tishevitsa, representatives of District information center and Youngsters' center Vratsa, Kalina Durankeva - director of kindergarten "Balgartche" in the city of Vratsa, and the whole school board.

               On 15th September was the official start of the school year in the primary school "Kliment Ohridski" town of Pavlikeni. Official guest was the Vice Mayor of the Municipality of Pavlikeni engineer V. Ivanov, who greeted and made wishes for great success to all of the students.

               The first-graders in the primary school "Yordan Yovkov" city of Plovdiv will remember their first day in school because of their excitement, fear of the unknown and the smile of their first teacher. The pedagogical equip was decorated the entry door and the first-graders' classroom with love and care. The first day began with bread and honey by old Bulgarian tradition.

               The newly elected regional coordinator for Central-Southern region Mrs. Petya Dimitrova was guest in the school. On behalf of Center "Amalipe" she greeted the students, teachers and parents and told the students that their presence at school is a win for all of them!

               For fifth consecutive year representatives from the Center for community development in the town of Dolna banya visited the secondary school "Neophyte Rilski". The event was attended also by Mr. Krasimir Terziyski - Secretary of Municipality of Dolna banya. Greeting letters with wishes for successful year were received from Mrs. Rositsa Todorova - District governor of Sofia, and the Mayor of Municipality of Dolna banya Mr. Vladimir Dzhambazov. The happiest ones were the first-graders.

                Primary school "Hristo Botev" village of Nevestino opened once again its doors to greet all the students, teachers and parents. Official guests were the Ambassador of the Netherlands in Bulgaria Mr. Tom Van Oorschot, Mr. Victor Yanev - governor of Kyustendil district, engineer D. Stamenkov - Mayor of Municipality of Kyustendil, Mrs. Rositsa Novakova - superior of RIO - Kyustendil, representatives of Center "Amalipe", Mrs. E. Makaylova - principal of kindergarten "Rayna Knyaginya" village of Nevestino.

            Mr. Tom Van Oorschot greeted the students and teachers and made wishes for  the students to walk the path to the knowledge and always to be so joyful, smiley and happy as the first day at school. "Teachers are these people who build us as personalities. I remember with joy my school and the days spent there and these days were the most happy for me", said Mr. Tom Van Oorschot. The superior of RIO - Kyustendil Mrs. Radostina Novakova also greeted all the students and teachers.

                The newly affiliated school in the Center "Amalipe" network I Primary school in the town of Radnevo, Stara Zagora district, opened once again its doors for the students. This school receives the students from the school in the village of Troyanovo, which is already closed and was also affiliated in the "Every student will be a winner" program.

                The school board put efforts to organize the feast at its best and to greet all the newly and current students. The event was attended by the chairman of the Municipal council in Radnevo dr. Rumen Yovtchev and Petar Malinov - regional coordinator in Center "Amalipe", who greeted and wished the students to be successful at school and life.

 

We wish good luck to all fellows, teachers, parents and students!

Thank you for sharing these great moments with us!

School program to reduce dropout of students

At the height of summer, when the introduction of the new Act on pre-school and school education is in full force, another challenge facing schools is preparing a program for the prevention of early school leaving (according Art. 263 (1), p. 8 of APSE). In this respect, the shared experience of the schools working on the program for reducing Roma children dropout of school "Every student will be a winner," which Amalipe developed since 2010 with the support of the Foundation "America for Bulgaria" and Trust for social achievement, will be very useful.

During the past academic year 2015/2016 the program involved 177 schools across the country. Under the program, each of the participating schools adopt its school program to reduce dropout which purpose is to systematize school policies to reduce dropout by creating a favorable environment for quality education and educational integration and support each child discovering and developing his/her individual potential. The aim of the school program is to coordinate all available resources and the three main factors in educational process (students, parents and teachers) to achieve the target it set for itself. The activities are aimed also at regular school attendance, increased success of the (Roma) students, increased percentage of Roma children continuing their education in secondary schools (high schools) and having secondary education and encouraging the participation of Roma parents in school life and school governance structures.

Each school program within the "Each student will be excellent student" Program includes several basic elements

Introduction of EPA / ECA (other forms, as provided in the school) "Ethnic Folklore - Roma folklore" and other forms of intercultural education;

Activities for activating students: forming student parliament,

Activities to activate the students and work with students at risk of dropping out: introduction of the "students - mentors" practice;

Activities to engage parents: forming parent club and school parents;

Mechanisms for individual work with risk of dropping out: drafting a profile of risk of dropping out, portfolio, individual consultations. These include: Prepare a list of names of class teachers who have students at risk of dropping out for a different reason (children with difficulties in literacy, students whose parents are abroad, students in families where there are cases of early marriages, especially in some groups where there is still a high percentage of early marriages, etc.); Drawing up a personal profile of these students; Development of individual thematic plan and timetable to address the risk (designed in cooperation with student parliament and parent club)

Prepare a portfolio of these students.

Exchange visits between schools

School program to reduce dropout can be downloaded here, and more information about program activities of "Every student will be a winner" can be found on http://www.romaeducation.com/bg/ or get by writing to Този имейл адрес е защитен от спам ботове. Трябва да имате пусната JavaScript поддръжка, за да го видите., Този имейл адрес е защитен от спам ботове. Трябва да имате пусната JavaScript поддръжка, за да го видите.

Trust for social achievement (TSA) is a nonprofit organization which mission is to break the vicious circle of poverty by promoting opportunities that help the most disadvantaged citizens of Bulgaria to achieve educational and economic success. TSA supports programs for its integrity, growth potential and transparency help to improve the welfare of the poorest people in Bulgaria, with special focus on Roma.

Project brochure can be downloaded from here.

The new Act for pre-school and school education entered into force today: what comes next for education in small settlements and educational integration

From August 1, 2016 the new Act for pre-school and school education, approved by the Parliament on September 30, 2015 has entered into force. The previous national education act and the regulations for its application (known by its abbreviation IRNEA) are already history. Expected more than 10 years (since the adoption of the national programme for development of school education in June 2006) and developed during 5 of them, the Act for pre-school and school education has the ambition to reform fundamentally the Bulgarian education, that have been in deep crisis. What will be its effect on rural education and the educational integration of children and students from ethnic minorities: two of the segments that often go unappreciated as potential for the development of Bulgarian education, but which in fact are key to make the school a leading factor in the success of every citizen and society?

The analysis below is an attempt to answer these questions, which I think are some of the most essential ones. They did not receive enough response and public attention during the discussions about the adoption of the Act. Public attention in the debate about the draft act was concentrated on relatively minor texts: eg. whether  private schools will or will not receive funding under uniform expenditure standards, like other schools, and the aforementioned topics were not discussed in depth. Moreover - the Act contains contradictory tendencies and many unknowns precisely on these issues, so it is very important to identify them clearly. The analysis is not objective: the organization I represent, has been actively working for the educational integration of the Roma community in a network with 190 schools, most of which are in rural areas. Moreover, we participated actively in the debates on the developing of the act. Nevertheless - it is hardly possible for a person to be "objective" when it comes to education ...

The challenges facing education in small settlements

I use the concept "small settlements" for the villages and towns where there is one school or no functioning school. The new act sets serious challenges for education in small settlements and at the same time offering certain "compensatory mechanisms" and even (although to a less extent) opportunities for development.

The most serious challenge which is one of the most important changes introduced by the Act is the new educational structure. According to it eighth grade will move from primary to secondary level of education, primary education will be in two stages - initial (I-IV grade) and pre-secondary (V-VII class). Secondary education will also be in two stages - VIII-X, and XI-XII grade. That change will make Bulgaria the first EU country in which primary education can be completed in seventh grade, in most European countries this happens after completed ninth grade.

In essence, this change reduces with one year the first legal leaving the education system. Currently, around 10% of primary education graduates do not continue in secondary or high school. The new act allows them to stay in school one year less. The change will also lead to changes in the school network. Probably some of the smaller primary schools will be closed due to the "dropping" of eighth grade. In others it will be hard to form a full horarium of classes for the teachers in pre-secondary school level. This will lead to the need for a teacher to teach two or more subjects, which in many cases will further worse the quality of education and will lead to an outflow of students and to eventually closure of the school. It is still too early to say how many primary schools will suffer from this challenge, but it is very likely to have a second wave of mass closures of rural schools, caused by the change in the structure of education (the first such wave was in 2008 and 2009, when the introduction of delegated budgets and unified standards closed 450 schools).

Primary schools will face additional difficulties with the early intake of fifth grade in high schools, as well as the possibility of home-schooling. They would "pull out" the most motivated students yet in pre-secondary school stage, which will further worsen the quality of education in primary schools. After all, early intake remained only for mathematical schools (despite the pressure to be allowed in the language high schools as well), and homeschooling - for children with health problems and certain gifts.

At the same time, the act provides "protection" mechanisms which will compensate losses, caused by moving of the eighth grade in secondary schools. As such can be defined the opportunity for day organization of educational process until the seventh grade, the introduction of a school psychologist in every school, regulating the addition of conditional costs for each school, etc. Additional financial support will be given to protected schools, in which the state will co-finance small classes - change passed on second reading by art. 282, para. 5, which in some cases will double their budget. Such a possibility is open to other schools with small classes according to art. 294 but how exactly will it be accomplished will be seen through the enactment of the Council of Ministers.

The Act provides - this is one of the innovations that is worth being widely acclaimed and supported - an important opportunity not only to preserve but also to the develop the school network and education in small towns: the creation of so-called. "Unified Schools", which will teach students from first to tenth grade (art. 38, para. 1, item 4 of the Act). They will give the chance to students to acquire the first degree of professional qualification. i.e. rural schools may not lose eighth grade, but to obtain ninth and tenth grades. Moreover, they can become a real educational centers that provide a wide range of opportunities for students: professional qualifications, apprenticeships, motivation to continue in the second high school and others. Thus modern schools will be the engine for the development of education in rural areas and thus will improve the quality of education nationwide.

This option is still too vague and will require serious creative effort by teachers, principals and local institutions. It will also require strong support from the Ministry of Education. Lawmakers did not finish this step and did not decide to transform automatically primary schools, which are single for a locality, into unified ones. That can happen after the opinion of the regional institution on education and a decision of the Municipal Council (acc. Art. 8 par. 4 of the Transitional and Final Provisions). The time for this to happen is May 31, 2017 (acc. Art. 8 para. 3 of the Transitional and Final Provisions).

So the new school 2016/17 year will be crucial for education in small towns. It will be the last year of primary school, that will train students in the eighth grade, this is provided in Art. 24, para. 3 of the transitional and final provisions of the Act on pre-school and school education. Alternatives to primary schools are losing their eighth grade (with all the negative consequences - both for the school and for students) or be transformed into unified, ie begin to train students in the first high school. I.e. the alternative is to go the way of its painfully development (including the process of convincing councilors and RIE) or face a fierce struggle for existence.

More about the steps to convert the primary school in unified refer to http://amalipe.com/index.php?nav=news&id=2680&lang=2

Prospects for educational integration

Hardly anyone can say what is the percentage of students from ethnic minorities. In the public space there is guessing from one quarter to over 40%. In any case, it is clear that it is a great rate and that integration cannot be onesided: the introduction of forms of intercultural education, the creation of favorable multicultural school environment and joint training of children and pupils from different ethnic groups in the same classroom is an integral part of the modernization of pre-school and school education.

For the first time the Act provides texts that will support policies for educational integration of children and students from ethnic minorities. For example:

- Introducing the standard for intercultural education: though very common as "civic, health, environmental and intercultural education" (Art. 22, para. 2 pt. 8);

- Provides an opportunity intercultural education to be taught not only as optional classes, but also as subjects of mandatory and optional training, something that will make the school closer to all children (art. 76, para. 5). The same is also provided for the subject Native language (art. 76, para. 5), but the state creates additional conditions for its studying (art. 16);

- Requires all schools to develop their own programs to reduce early school leaving and integration of students from vulnerable groups: art. 263, para. 1, p. 8 and 9;

- It is essential that the Act prohibits the formation of classes with students from one ethnic group in schools, which educate children from different ethnic groups: art. 99, para. 4 and 6. A similar prohibition exists for the formation of groups of children from one ethnic group in multi-ethnic kindergartens: Art. 62, para. 4. Thus the widely spread common practice for the formation of segregated classes and groups is breaking the law since 1 August, and principlas, who have committed it can be sentenced for that.

 The latter was "a decision in half", for MPs did not find the courage to prohibit the establishment of segregated schools in cities with multi-ethnic populations. All these issues will be further developed through a standard for intercultural education, expected to be published in September. 

Author: Deyan Kolev, chairman of Center "Amalipe"

Unified schools- is it a possible mission?

The unified schools, whose programme starts from the 1st to the 10th grade, are the chance for increasing the coverage and quality of the education in the village regions. Well-functioning unified schools will give the opportunity even to the poorest and vulnerable children to graduate minimum 10th grade, i.e the first level of secondary education. This could not be the only reason for creating unified schools. They have to propose wide specter of opportunities to the students: professional qualification, internship, motivation for completing the second level of secondary education in the high schools. In this way, the modern unified schools will become the "locomotive" for developing the education in the village regions and increasing the quality of education by national scale.

These statements united the participants in the roundtable "How to transform our school into unified one". The event was organized by Center "Amalipe" in the city of Veliko Tarnovo and it was a part of the annual meeting of principals, working in the "Every student will be a winner" project. Over 100 principals from the whole country have taken participation in the roundtable. They discussed the deadlines and mechanisms, the threats and difficulties for creating unified schools. Also, they discussed the idea how the "Amalipe" school network could help the process.

The new 2016/2017 school year will be the last one, which will give the chance to students to continue their education up to 8th grade in primary schools. This is provided by Article 24, Paragraph 3  of the Transitional and concluding provisions from the School and Preschool Education Law, said Deyan Kolev, Chairman of Center "Amalipe". The alternatives for the primary schools are whether to remove the 8th grade (with all the negative consequences for the school and its students), or to transform it into unified schools, i.e to prolong the educational process to the first level of secondary education.  According to Art. 8, Par. 3, the deadline is until 31st May 2017. After that, the procedure will be more complicated. "Two are the institutions, whose protection you will have to win for the cause of unified schools", said Kolev. According  Art. 8, Par. 4, the transition process runs after the Regional Institution of Education's statement and the decision of the Municipal council. "Of course, the  most important is to gain the students and parents' trust , who could want to pursue the first level of secondary education in your school", said Kolev.

The consecutive discussion highlighted some struggling points:

1. Part of the principals shared their opinion that the political conflicts at municipal level will be dominating in the process of determining which schools to remain primary or unified. They will be protected by the mechanism of the requirement of statement from the Regional Institution of Education, said Kolev. If you feel constrained about the Municipal council, you have to get guaranteed support by RIO; the Ministry of Education will reckon the Municipal council's decision and the RIO's statement!

2. Some of the principals have doubts that the Regional Inspectorates/Institutions of Education will give negative statements under the gymnasiums pressure in order not to lose their students. In this case the Ministry of Education will give a sign to support all of the schools, who have the chance to become unified.

3. The opportunity for pursuing professional education in the unified schools is a key, but there is a need of additional teachers. The participants discussed the need of preparing contracts for partnerships "unified schools – vocational high school". Thus, teachers from a vocational high school will have classes in the unified schools, after that these students could pursue their education in 11th grade in the same vocational school, i.e this is a win-win situation for the both schools. The opportunities for partnerships "unified school - vocational high school" will have to be specially regulated, insisted the principals.

4. Renovations of the material base and providing new technology for the professional education is needed. The delegated budgets definitely won't be sufficient. Unfortunately, no such thing is provided within the Rural Development Programme. The participants insisted for special programme for transforming the primary schools into unified, which will cover the expenses for technology and renovations. Such programme should be funded by the governmental budget within the OP's frameworks of the Ministry of Education.

The participants have made a plan with concrete steps for the forthcoming months.