Construction sites and low salaries: It’s back to school in Bulgaria

Written by on September 5, 2017 in Perspectives - Comments Off on Construction sites and low salaries: It’s back to school in Bulgaria

On September 15, 2017, tens of thousands of Bulgarian kids will be heading back to school. On the first day after the long summer vacation, little celebrations on all of the nation’s school yards will mark the start of the new school year. After those little ceremonies, everyone will leave into the weekend, since September 15 is a Friday.

At this moment, less than two weeks before the first day of school, 460 Bulgarian schools are basically construction sites. Over the holidays, 843 schools were renovated, while in over half of them those efforts have not been completed by now.

Bulgarian National Television (BNT) just quoted the Ministry of Education saying, in only 21 of those 460 schools, renovations would continue after September 15, but this would not prevent a normal opening of the school year. In Sofia alone, 72 schools are still being renovated right now, while in 9 of them the construction work will continue into the school year, according to the ministry.

The rather chaotic situation in the nation’s school buildings is exemplary for the situation in Bulgaria’s education system. Only now, the government is beginning to understand that education should be a priority and that teachers will actually have to be paid in order to make sure they are more motivated.

As of September 1, teacher’s salaries were therefore increased by 15 percent. The issue is that 15 percent of nothing is still nothing. But, Education Minister Krassimir Vulchev announced in May, the government wanted to double teacher’s salaries by the end of its 4-year term, which at least would be a step in the right direction.

According to the E.U.’s Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, the average gross annual salary of a teacher in Bulgaria was the equivalent of 3,681 euro. This is what German teachers earn per month.

The average age of Bulgarian teachers is very high and urgently needs to be decreased, especially in villages and small towns. University students have to be motivated to become teachers in state schools, rather than in private institutions or abroad.

In too many schools across Bulgaria, students do not really learn, for several reasons. Those include a lack of motivation on the part of the teachers, which they pass on to the kids, and qualification issues (e.g. the English teacher who does not speak English). Also teacher-centered teaching is wide-spread. Following more modern approaches to teaching would help a lot, for sure.

The way things are now, there are hardly any school kids who do not need private lessons, in order to understand the advanced mathematics they try to teach at school, as well as all other subjects which are part of the curriculum. Private lessons are therefore a big business in Bulgaria.

Like in other countries as well, there are good schools and bad ones. In the latter, school kids are being harassed by teachers. When their parents complain, those children will get even worse grades. Headmasters protect incapable teachers, who wreak their aggression and frustration on their students.

Due to those and other problems, Bulgaria’s school dropout rate is high: 13.4 percent, while the E.U. average is 11 percent.

In order to change things effectively, more investments and a general modernisation of the education system are necessary. And the will to improve things. The latest Eurostat numbers paint a grim picture: Bulgaria spent only 250 Euro per capita on education in 2015, less than all other E.U. countries, with the exception of Romania.

All photos by Imanuel Marcus





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