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Bulgaria - Government must reform the educational system in order to produce staff needed by the economy

ReferNet Bulgaria

A drastic reduction in the number of qualified staff and specialists is a key problem in Bulgaria, hindering the development and functioning of entire sectors of the economy and social life spheres. These are the main conclusions of the project "Development and implementation of an information system for assessing the competence of the workforce in sectors and regions", funded by the Operational Programme "Human Resources Development".

In the education sector, the project draws attention to the high number of early school leavers and the number of children not attending schools. The subsidization of higher education in specialties that are not relevant to the labour market is continuing. Also implementation of interactive forms of education is still limited. There is a growing imbalance between the demand for skilled labor and the relevance of the learning outcomes of graduates. Other worrying factors are the feminisation of the teaching profession, the aging of specialists in the education system, and the lack of motivation in young people for becoming teachers.

The Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA) has warned that there is a real danger that whole branches may be "stripped" of their experts, which will create further problems for the Bulgarian economy. The lack of sufficiently qualified staff leads to low utilization of investments (incl. the funds from European programmes) associated both with existing high technology as well as the introduction of new technology.

BIA offers some measures, the effect of which might result in improving the quality of education in our country. In the first place, public financing of the system for pre-school, primary and secondary education should be based on the number of children in the respective schools. BIA also finds that additional funding of education is required via statutorily regulated tax and other financial incentives. In order to limit early severance and dropout so-called financial bars must be implemented, to restrict families with children not attending school obtaining certain social benefits and payments.

Another proposal of the BIA is the improvement of initial and continuing training of teachers, trainers, coaches and advisors by offering flexible training. To fully exploit the potential of the nation it is necessary, by new combinations of subjects and teaching materials in schools, to create a supportive environment for the integration of all children with special educational needs and/or chronic diseases.

In order to make STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) more attractive to young people the expansion of scientific studies into the curricula for primary and secondary education is needed, as well as enhancing the relationship between education and business. As a whole, the threat to the industry in the country is significant, especially in technical fields, as well as in research and innovation, where there is a serious shortage of engineers and other qualified professionals.