8.3.3 Intercultural education
Efforts to set up intercultural education programmes in the system of secondary schools are the prerogative of each individual educational institution. In 2005, the Ministry of Education and Science (MES) set up a specialised department entitled "Intellectual Development and Cultural Integration" under the Secondary Education Directorate. This new Department, which has three sectors - "Cultural Integration", "Religion" and "Talents" - - is directly involved in facilitating the integration of ethnic minorities in Bulgaria. The MES has also set up a Consultancy Council on the education of ethnic minorities, as a state-public body for consultation, cooperation and coordination between MES, NCEDI (National Council on Ethnic and Demographic Issues within the Council of Ministers), other ministries and institutions and NGOs, working in the field of education. The objective of the Council is to support the formation and implementation of a national policy related to the integration of pupils from ethnic communities in Bulgaria, as well as the development of strategies and specific measures for educational policy in this regard. Difficulties arising for children from minority groups are addressed by the Bulgarian National Programme for Child Protection, designed by the Department for "Intellectual Development and Cultural Integration".
The Ministry of Education and Science organises training courses for academic personnel covering information about Roma history and culture, problem solving and management of the class.
The creation of dictionaries, grammar books and training materials on the history and culture of minorities in Bulgaria commenced with the active support of NGOs and lecturers in the field of minorities' history and culture. The Inter-ethnic Initiative for Human Rights Foundation has prepared materials for pupils, from first up to eleventh grade, in the form of 11 addendums to the text books in language, literature, history and music, with information about the Roma history and culture, as well as 5 methodical instruction manuals for the teachers in the respective subjects. The publications were endorsed by the Ministry of Education and Science and have become regularly used training manuals. The Foundation has trained teachers from 35 schools, to work with these manuals, and has implemented a pilot project for their approbation in schools where Bulgarian and Roma children study.
The Human Rights Foundation has also initiated the creation of an educational programme for intercultural understanding, entitled the "Development of Intercultural Experience", intended for work with younger pupils. It is a training programme to promote understanding through shared children's experience, through intercultural dialogue in the class and through defense of mutual rights. It is intended for work in classes and groups, regardless of their ethnic composition and it is easy adaptable to different ethno-cultural environments.
The Balkan Foundation, Diversity, publishes trainee manuals for studying the Roma language, as well as pedagogic manuals to assist the teachers who work in the Bulgarian language, but who also teach children from Roma and Turkish ethnic communities. Diversity also organises annual international seminars on ethno-linguistics, directed mainly to explore the linguistic problems of the Roma and Turkish children when studying the Bulgarian language.
The Public Council on Cultural Diversity, within the Ministry of Culture, has been operating since 2002. International student exchanges are being organised in art schools, which are under the management of the Ministry of Culture, e.g. since 1989, an exchange programme has been organised between the students from the National School of Fine Arts "Ilia Petrov", in Sofia, and the students of art and design from the City College, in Bath, England. Participants on the programme have meetings in Bulgaria and England, have become acquainted with the local cultures and traditions and, in parallel, are working on common projects. Results from their creative activities are being shown in exhibitions organised in the town of Bath and at the British Council in Sofia.
Regional Councils on Ethnic and Demographic issues are functioning under the regional administrations (28 in number) and are working on programmes approved by these authorities. The Councils involve experts from the regional administrations, mayors of municipalities, representatives of the territorial units of the central executives, and public minorities' organisations working in the respective regions. Such experts are nominated in almost half of the 263 Bulgarian municipalities.
The year 2005 was proclaimed by the Council of Europe as The European Year of Citizenship through Education. The Bulgarian government was one of the initiators and most active participants of this programme. Representatives of key institutions and NGOs were involved in the implementation of the National Programme for the "Year", and the leader in the process was the Ministry of Education and Science.
The European Year of Citizenship through Education took place in the context of the 50th anniversary of the European Cultural Convention. For more information see: http://www.citizenship-bg.org/en/index.html. One of the main questions addressed was: How can education on democracy contribute to solving societal problems and promote social cohesion?
Examples of actions undertaken within the elaborated National Programme on the "Year of Citizenship" are:
During the Year, a special Education Pack was developed for training teachers and introducing the topics about citizenship education throughout schools in Bulgaria.
Special training, workshops and summer academies took place, in 2005, focusing on tolerance and intercultural communication.
For more information, see our Intercultural Dialogue section.