Bulgaria – Raising the prestige and social status of teachers
The Bulgarian School Education National Development Programme aims to upgrade education across all levels from 2006 to 2015. As the programme is nearing its completion, it becomes easier to discern its great successes and shortcomings, but one of its most prominent accomplishments has been the changes it brought to teaching, something which has greatly helped upgrade education in Bulgaria.
Among its numerous important goals put forward by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Science, the programme includes the raising of the prestige and social status of teachers, as one of its top priorities. “The teacher, as the main participant in the process of school education and upbringing indisputably is a key factor for the development of the educational system.”
Under this light, the programme aims to increase the self-esteem and social prestige of the teacher, recognizing their great social importance, in order to impel teachers to work more eagerly and with dedication, as well as be willing to improve the overall quality of services they offer to students.
Additional efforts exerted by the state include the allocation of funds and investments for the qualification of teachers, as well as the implementation of a model for career advancement. In turn, despite the crisis Bulgaria is one of the only countries that set a higher remuneration scheme for teachers. This has effectively stimulated improvement and motivation for high quality performance of duties. For the effective realization of such goals, the state will monitor, analyze and assess the development of teachers including their further development through the National Register of Teachers, which also includes information on the qualification courses passed. Bulgaria has created a model for equal access of all teachers to the various forms of qualifications training, including by the creation of an information system about the qualification activities and courses, as well as the elaboration of this model throughout its implementation for assessment of the effectiveness of the qualification services offered by the various institutions.
Effectively, the qualification of teachers, which will no longer remain complacent in its initial state, but will be consequent and life-long. This aims to ensure that teachers’ knowledge will always be up to date with modern knowledge, especially concerning their ability to work with technology. This also ensures competitiveness and self-esteem as well as prestige in the eyes of students. Most pupils today possess good information technology skills from a very young age and, as a result, may develop a sense of cognitive superiority over the teacher if he or she is incompetent with new and emerging technologies. Therefore, this development of professional competencies of pedagogical staff has focused on a periodic up-dating of knowledge, adopting new teaching methods, and training in ICT.
More specifically, with regard to changes in training of teaching methods, the focus has been to increase interactivity in the classroom especially in science classes, so that students are better able to absorb emerging knowledge. In part, this has been achieved via the conducting of periodic tuition of specialists in subjects related to learning of novelties. This integrated approach in learning ensures the learning process is more attractive and promotes the pupils’ interest.
Finally, the programme has introduced a system for teacher career development bound to the system of payment. This system creates the conditions for competition among teachers and motivates them to participate in the learning process more actively.
From the point of view of the contemporary system for career development, two trends can be isolated horizontally and vertically across the system of education: In a horizontal aspect, the opportunity for teacher development shall be provided by differentiating the concept of “Teacher” under six new categories, namely “Junior Teacher”, “Teacher”, “Senior Teacher”, “Methodist” and “Professor”. The horizontal career development depends on the experience gained, via various forms of compulsory education and assessment of the results. In a vertical aspect, the changes are related mostly to the qualifications required for occupying administrative posts in the system of national education, namely “Headmaster”, “Deputy Headmaster”, “Expert”, “Head of Regional Inspectorate of Education” and “Administration of the Ministry of Education and Science”.
The presence of a teaching background, the real participation in the process of teaching and educating, shall ensure administrative staff possesses the necessary experience and knowledge to guarantee a better understanding of problems and the effects of the application of certain managerial decisions. The implementation of a system for differentiated payment for the work of teachers is bound to the results of the pupils in the national exams (external assessment). This system has led to increasing the quality of education as a result of the higher motivation of teachers to continuously develop their knowledge and qualifications and to exert more efforts in the process of teaching and educating. Moreover, objective indicators and criteria for the assessment of the quality of work include work with pupils who have won awards at various national and especially international competitions, contests and Olympiads, work with students with special educational needs, the application of new teaching methods, foreign language tuition and ICT skills, teacher research added to the scientific community in his or her field, student and parent assessment. In other words, each teacher’s salary is awarded on an individual basis.
What is unique about this system is that teachers no longer can remain complacent. Effectively, the individual salary of each teacher has become a function of a teacher’s career development and the results achieved in the process of teaching and educating. Moreover, the nation-wide implementation of the system of delegated budgets has allowed flexibility in determining teacher remuneration and opportunities for better payment combined with more effective management of funding for education. Besides the material form of awarding good teachers, the public manner of announcing the award winners as well as the creation of an air of solemnity increases the prestige of Bulgarian teachers in society.