Revival of Bulgaria’s education system must be a national priority – long-term, non-partisan and strategic, President Rossen Plevneliev told a national gathering of 12 000 teachers in Sofia on June 19.
Plevneliev’s remarks came with a fortnight of figures showing that Bulgaria’s grade 12 school-leaving and grade seven pre-high school examinations in 2016 had seen the worst results in decades.
His speech was delivered at the same event, which brought together teachers from all over the country, that Education Minister Meglena Kouneva – holder of that portfolio since February – announced that teachers’ salaries were being increased.
Plevneliev said that reform of the education system should be at the centre of public attention and everyone should take responsibility for ensuring that it was carried out.
Bulgarian education was at a turning point, he said.
“Reform is underway and should solve a number of problems that have accummulated in the school system,” Plevneliev said.
“The best investment for the future of a country and a nation is in the education of young people. It is time to begin to manage education as an investment, to invest effort and money, but also to strictly control the efficiency and performance,” he said.
The reform could not succedd without the efforts of teachers, Plevneliev said.
“Without your efforts the new Education Act will remain just a piece of paper and a good intention by the National Assembly,” said Rosen Plevneliev.
He said that the reform of vocational dual education and training was the key to modernising the education system in Bulgaria.
“Improving the quality of education increases the responsibilities, but also the authority, of teachers, as well as the remuneration for their work,” Plevneliev said.
He said that education had been one of the main priorities of the Presidency since he took office in 2012.
Thanks to the efforts of the two caretaker governments, the Operational Programme “Science and education for smart growth” had been launched, he said. Since Plevneliev has been in office, he twice has had to appoint caretaker governments – in 2013 and again in 2014.
“Teachers are people who to the highest degree determine the future of Bulgaria. You are blessed in your profession,” said Plevneliev, who expressed his respect towards what he described as “your mission for an enlightened, educated and modern Bulgaria”.
Kouneva told the assembly that teachers’ salaries would rise above the national average.
From January 1 2017, teachers’ salaries would go up by 10 per cent, she said.
From August 1 this year, teachers will receive 10 salaries at retirement, and from January 1 2017, 10 and a half salaries. Money was an important issue, and there was hardly any other profession of such fundamental importance, Kouneva said.
A Eurydice report released in January 2016 said that Bulgarian teachers were the lowest-paid in Europe. According to the report, Bulgarian teachers’ salaries average just more than 414 euro a month.
The most recent report from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which tests 15-year-old school pupils’ scholastic performance on mathematics, science, and reading, placed Bulgaria – out of 65 countries – 47th in mathematics, 45th in science and 51st in reading. The results of the newest PISA tests are due out in December 2016.