Inclusive education helps set up connections between schools and their surrounding communities
The annual Conference of the Centre for Inclusive Education
which was held on December 9th, 2017, at Inter Expo Centre, Vitosha Hall, Sofia, gathered over 300 school headmasters, teachers, parents and specialists working with children, who shared the same understanding that schools are not alone in the process of inclusion. Any successful inclusion process means that schools need to be supported, both internally by their teams and by pupils’ parents and externally by their community partners such as local institutions, businesses, non-governmantal organisations. They all build up ongoing interrelations which, in order to be stable, require solid foundation and common vision of the final outcome, that is, quality education and conditions enabling every child to unlock their full potential at school.
The event was held with the support of VELUX
Foundations, America for Bulgaria Foundation
and UNICEF Bulgaria
The Conference was initially addressed by Denitsa Sacheva, Deputy Minister of Education and Science; H.E. Søren Jacobsen, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Denmark to Bulgaria; Marina Kirova, Economic Counsellor and European Semester Officer at the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria; and Natalia Miteva, Programme Director, Education and Libraries at the America for Bulgaria Foundation.
Iva Boneva, Executive Director of the Centre for Inclusive Education highlighted in her introductory presentation: “When walking the road of inclusive education, schools need the support of local communities, which is instrumental in creating active civil society that contributes to children’s better education and need-responsive education”.
Special guests of the Conference were Darrell Cole, Founder & CEO and Lasha Stordeur, Director of Programming of the Canadian organization Career Trek, who presented their long-year programme motivating youth in the Canadian Province of Manitoba to discover the relevance of school learning by meeting them with professionals from various fields. Every year Career Trek helps 800 children and youth to start their career development. The organisation’s programme offers a community service that connects children, their parents, businesses and industrial partners, schools, post-secondary institutions and representatives of local authorities, all of them guided by the common goal to create a stable link between learning and future professional development.
One of the forum’s key highlights was the presentation of the Centre for Inclusive Education’s programme “Looking Forward to my Future – School Makes Sense”. It aims to develop methodology and a tool to keep children at school by increasing their motivation for learning and by giving practical value of lessons learned in class, in partnership with Hristo Smirnenski Secondary School in Brezovo
and Georgi Benkovski Secondary School in Teteven
The programme involves voluntary and long-term work between 6th graders and professionals from the local communities. The children visit the professionals together with teachers in subjects from the relevant scientific field. The teacher's task is to show the connection between practical activities and teaching content.
This programme enhances the capacity of schools to involve local communities in joint activities; of teachers to enrich their teaching skills and demonstrate leadership skills; of parents to break their isolation and get more actively involved in their children’s training; of children to follow their dreams and take conscious and informed decisions.
The programme’s outcomes so far indicate opportunities for its scaling up. 70% of children participants stated that school appeared more interesting to them after programme’s completion; 27% changed their dreams; 50% increased their knowledge of school subjects involved in the programme; there was 20% decrease of children’s school absence compared to the previous year.
Professionals’ readiness to allocate their own funds to continue the programme as a result of their work with the children increased by 69%. The number of parents who favoured the idea of their children developing their life plans early grew by 20%, while the number of parents seeking individual contact with schools increased by 9%. In turn, teachers seeking individual contacts with parents grew by 13,5%.
Three panel discussions focused on how and why it is important for schools themselves to attract partners; why busineeses are key actors in increasing children’s motivation to continue their education and help build up vibrant and active local communities; how schools can promote meaningful partnerships with local instituions resulting in long-term well functioning practices.
Various organisations active in the field of education exhibited their materials and activities on the sidelines of the event.