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There is existing national strategy called Strategy for reducing the share of early school leavers (2013 – 2020) (Стратегия за намаляване дела на преждевременно напусналите образователната система (2013 – 2020)). The main ways of achieveing the policy goals of the strategy are prevention, intervention and compensation.
The Ministry of Education and Science is responsible for the processes connected to the implementation and coordination of the Strategy. An important milestone in the Strategy is the establishment of a Coordination mechanism (referred to as the Mechanism) (back2school) to tackle early school-leaving, involving the educational, social, health and administrative services as well as municipalities.
Shared responsibilities among different institutions are ensured through the mechanism partnership agreement and the coordination unit.
The coordination unit supports the Minister of Education and Science in the process of organization, coordination and control of the implementation of the Strategy with the help of other ministries, institutions and social partners.
Since its introduction for the time period 2013 – 2020, the strategy has not been amended. Action plans are prepared on annual basis and a two-year action plan was drafted for the period 2018-2020.
A report for the implementation of the Strategy was published in 2019. This interim report presents the results from the implementation of introduced policies and measures reported by the stakeholders – ministries and institutions, directorates and departments of the Ministry of Education and Science. The purpose of this report is to inform all stakeholders about the progress of the Strategy implementation in 2019 measured in accordance with the indicators of the Action Plan.
During the period 2013 – 2016, the share of early school leavers in Bulgaria increases from 12,5% in 2013 to 13,8% in 2016. For the first time since 2013, in 2017 the indicator decreases by 1,4% in comparison to 2016, thus reaching 12,7%. This is due both to the efficient policies for reducing early school leaving during the previous years and to the effective relevant policies aimed at inclusion in forms of education and training of those who have not completed secondary education. In 2018, the share of early school leavers remains at the 2017 level – 12,7%, i.e. no progress is reported in 2018.
National Program “Together for Every Child” (Национална програма „Заедно за всяко дете“)
One of the priorities of the work of the Ministry of Education and Science is to cover and involve children and school students at compulsory school age in the education system and to ensure equal access to education for all children and school students. The program consists of 2 modules:
1. Module 1 – Support of the Coverage Teams – BGN 100 000 (about EUR 50 000)
2. Module 2 – Good Practices for Interation of Preschool and School Institutions with Parents – BGN 100 000 (about EUR 50 000).
The program is effective until 2020. Its total budget is BGN 200 000 (about EUR 100 000).
Eligible beneficiaries under Module 1 comprise schools, nursery schools, regional inspectorates on education, and under Module 2 – state and municipal nursery schools and schools.
The activities under the program should ensure interaction between insitutions and parent community for the purposes of applying an integrated approach to the realisation of measures for improving the coverage of children and school students and their inclusion in the system of preschool and school education. The activities should also ensure active cooperation in accordance with the Coverage Mechanism model established with Council of Ministers’ Decree No 100/08.06.2018, amended and supplemented by Council of Ministers’ Decree No 259/14.10.2019.
Principles for funding under Module 1:
• Ensuring support for the implementation of the work of the coverage teams, including expenses for business trips of the coverage team with regard to the implementation of the Home Visit measure;
• Holding interinstitutional meetings at regional and/or municipal level organised by the Regional inspectorates on education with the participation of coverage teams to discuss and solve organizational and methodological issues to improve the effectiveness of the teams’ work;
• Preparation and dissemination of information materials supporting the work of the teams to communicate the measures for coverage and keeping children and school students in the education system among parents and within the community – printed materials, videos, audio materials. The maximum amount of the grant per application is BGN 3500 (about EUR 1800).
Eligible beneficiaries under Module 2 comprise state and municipal nursery schools. The funds under this module are intended for the interaction of the coverage teams with the parents and other family members; for organization of activities to attract and engage all stakeholders in the process of coverage and keeping children and school students in the system of preschool and school education. Eligible activities comprise:
• Awareness raising campaigns for the role of education of children and school students among parents and within the community children live in;
• Activities aimed at involving parents/ families in the school life and motivating them for the education of their children through trainings, group training courses, lectures, etc.;
• Training of parents on how to recognise, prevent and avoid adverse manifestations among children and school students – discrimination, aggression, bullying, etc.;
• Organisation of initiatives for promoting best practices for interaction of institutions for coverage and inclusion of children and school students in education.
The maximum amount of the grant under any application submitted by the beneficiary is BGN 2000 (about EUR 1000).
Ready for Tomorrow – mentorship program for work with children of Ela Association (Менторска програма за работа с деца „Готови за утре“ на Сдружение „Ела“). The team of Ela Association for Shared Learning developed a mentorship program for work of young volunteers with children. The program addresses all stages and processes within the interaction between the mentor and the mentee, offers a structure and responds to the main demands of young people who are willing to spend time for being mentors.
The mentorship program comes as a natural continuation of the long-term work of the association with students in Pedagogy and other humanitarian programs and their training to work directly with children. With this program, the team of Ela offers a structured process with clearly defined roles, principles of work and proper relationship limits. The program considers targeting an important aspect of the mentorship process. The skill to set targets, to define steps for their achievement and the ability to analyze the results are important both for everyday and school life and for the professional development of children in future as well. Targeting is addressed as a tool to find school students’ strengths and their actual use in life.
The program is presented in a handbook available on Ela Association’s website. The handbook further addresses the challenges that a mentor could face and the ways to overcome them.
The program was developed with the held of student volunteers and schools students from the 5th grade in 156th School of General Education “Vasil Levski”, Kremikovtsi. Children’s feedback is totally positive. Almost all of them state they they loved the communication with students. More than 80% believe that they set targets more easily after these meetings, and 70% share that it was nice to find out and discuss their own strengths and that they feel more confident in doing plans for themselves. The training program and the handbook for volunteering mentors are developed under project “Ready for Tomorrow – program for young volunteers as mentors of children from vulnerable groups”. The project was funded by the National Youth Program (2016-2020) of the Ministry of Youth and Sports under contract No 25-00-25/02.06.2020.
The main topic of the new free online handbook developed by the Center for Inclusive Eudcation is how to make school make sense again. It is aimed at supporting teachers and principals across the country to cope with the constantly increasing lack of motivation among school students to go to school.
The Handbook is a collection of the experience of the Center for Inclusive Eudcation during the intermediate stage of the School Makes Sense Program, implemented with the support of Velux Foundation in two Bulgarian schools – Secondary School Georgi Benkovski in the town of Teteven and Secondary School Hristo Smirnenski in the town of Brezovo. Only for a year the program managed to increase the motivation for learning of more than 70% of the participating children and even to decrease the number of unauthorized absences by 20% in comparison to the previous year by focusing on the link between learning and life.
Namely the broken link between school and life turns out to be among the key problems in the Bulgarian education – children do not understand how what they study in class would be useful for their future and therefore lose their interest in school. According to the national representative study of the Center, 30% of 6th grade students in Bulgaria are at risk of school leaving and 45% of them believe that the basic subjects, such as mathematics, hisotyr and natural sciences, are not interesting at all.
There is a Coordination unit for performance of the Agreement for implementation of the Strategy for Reducing the Share of Early School Leavers (2013 – 2020). The Unit is responsible for the implementation of the Coordination mechanism (referred to as the Mechanism) (back2school) to tackle early school-leaving, involving the educational, social, health and administrative services as well as municipalities.. The rules of procedure set out the functions, structure and organization of the work of the Coordination unit for performance of the Agreement for implementation of the Strategy for Reducing the Share of Early School Leavers (2013 – 2020).
The unit supports the Minister of Education and Science in the process of organization, coordination and control of the implementation of the Strategy with the help of other ministries, institutions and social partners. It works in accordance with the proposed measures and actions and the competences of every government authority and organization – party to the agreement.
It comprises the ministers of: education and science, labor and social policy, interior, healthcare, regional development and public works, finance, the director of the National Agency for Children, the director for the Agency for Social Development and the president of the Commission for Anti-Law Crime of Youngesters, three mayors and representatives of the regional authorities, who are invited by the national committee of the municipalities. The official start of the Mechanism was on 08.06.2018.