Key highlights of the survey:
- 46% of children believe that the most important subjects (such as mathematics, history, geography, English) are totally uninteresting;
- Favourite subjects are physical education (76%), drawing (57%) and music (56%);
- 95% of them agree that going to school is important and 79% like their teachers;
- 23% of 6th graders live in extreme poverty and 18% have difficulties with Bulgarian;
- According to children not the violence (18%), but the fear of failure in learning (56%) is the biggest problem.
Before the start of the new school year, Centre for Inclusive Education (the Centre)
presented via detailed infographic data of national representative survey on 6th graders in Bulgaria. The Infographic “What is to be a 6th grader in Bulgaria” shows not only positive, but also worrying tendencies.
The best news is that 95% of 6th graders in the country believe that going to school is important, while 79% of them like their teachers. But the fact that almost half of them (45%) share that they are ready to run out of class at the earliest opportunity clearly shows that the school is inadequate to the requirements of modern children.
This could be especially seen within the questions related to favourite and less liked subjects. Children’s favourite subjects are physical education (76%), drawing (57%) and music (56%) – this is not surprising because during these classes there is learning by doing and children are active participants in the process.
And the less liked subjects by the children are the most important – history (43%), mathematics (40%), geography (35%) and English (31%). Almost half of 6th graders (46%) define them as uninteresting which mean that the conventional education system, where they are widely thought fails to inspire children to learn.
“There are around 57 000 6th graders per year. And they are the least studied group of students, which, however, is at the most critical age, “ Dimiter Lazarov, Programme Director of Centre for Inclusive Education explains and adds: “Usually we are very excited around 5th grade when children start to learn with different teachers and around 7th grade where there are school examinations. But 6th grade is critical for the children because this is the time when they develop for the first time perceptions for life and there is the highest risk to lose interest in learning and even to drop out. Therefore, the battle for their interest and love for learning should be done in 6th grade and it is important for all of us to win this battle.
The Centre’s experts consider that for many children we are on the way to lose it. The survey shows that 30% of 6th graders in Bulgaria are at risk to lose interest in learning and even to drop out from school.
There are many and various reasons - except the mentioned above boring and difficult to understand way of teaching of key subjects, it becomes clear that the main fears of children are also related to school. But, contrary to the popular statements, most of 6th graders are not afraid of school violence (only 18% mention it as something they are afraid of), but of failure or serious failure in learning - 57%.
In addition, almost a quarter (23%) of children in 6th grade live in families of extreme poverty and 18% have difficulties with Bulgarian at school. 14% of 6th graders need to work to make money, 12% of them travel to school in another location, and 10% of them do not live with their parents – all these factors put children at extra risk of dropping out.
Although the challenges are extremely serious, there are decisions to wake up the interest of children and keep them in school, experts from the Centre say and share some major recommendations
- To demonstrate children the importance of studied material and how it could be applied in life..
- To introduce more practical classes and lessons, related to learning by doing.
- To teach out of the classroom, in environment related to lesson’s topics. The school should open out and at every opportunity to meet children with people outside because there is a large unused resource in the local community which the school could attract.
The national representative survey is organized within Looking Forward My Future – School Makes Sense programme
which is realized with the financial support of Velux Foundations. Centre for Inclusive Education aims with it to encourage school and local community to help children to realize the connection between school and their own realization. The programme is implemented among all 6th grade students in two consecutive school years, in two partner schools in Brezovo and Teteven and serves as a basis for developing a model that links schools with local entrepreneurs and professionals.