BULGARIA 2006 BULGARIA I was fortunate to be invited to join a group of eight other head teachers from around England. The visit was organised by the British Council and the National College of School Leadership, and aimed to understand and compare the Bulgarian system of education with our own. In particular we were interested in the very successful way in which modern foreign languages are taught. This is an informal, pictorial account of a wonderful visit with a warm, hospitable people. Elizabeth L. Giltinan (Headteacher) Corpus Christi Catholic Primary School, Portsmouth Bulgaria plans to join the European Union in 2007, and languages are seen as an important aspect of the curriculum, in particular English, Russian, and German • The capital,Sofia 32 Secondary School St. Kliment Ohridski With a colleague, I spent three days in this large school in the centre of Sophia with 1500 students, aged 7 -19. The building has 5 floors, and the day is arranged around two shifts, 7.30 – 1.15, and 1.30 – 7.15. St. Kliment’s is a language specialist school, and the children are introduced to English or Russian as soon as they start in the 1st grade, with oral lessons, but quickly progress to written grammar and vocabulary work. Progress is checked by regular tests. Arrivals Snow arrived the night before our first visit, but made no difference to the usual routine of Sophia. We were welcomed by the head and deputy, Nelly and Danielle, who gave up three entire days to show us around the school. Their pride in their school shone through, as did their determination to offer the very best possible learning opportunities to their students. English throughout the school The standard of English was extremely high, and all the children took an enthusiastic part in the lesson. Their conversation was fluent, extremely accurate grammatically, and with a wide vocabulary. Maths 4th grade This wonderful Maths lesson was taught by a truly inspirational Russian teacher, entirely in Bulgarian. The children were learning to multiply and divide decimals – it took us a while to realise that Bulgarians do not use the same function signs as we do! We found the content was approximately the same as in the UK. Homework This eleven year old pupil had prepared a piece of writing about her holiday. It was carefully planned, with perfect grammar and spelling, and beautifully presented. She and the rest of her class were delighted to allow me to bring their work back to Corpus Christi to share with our Y5 pupils. Discussion in Grade 11 These students have been discussing integrity this term, and their conversations were filmed by a Bulgarian television team. The quality of vocabulary was amazingly high, with terms such as ‘purposefulness’, ‘resourcefulness’ and ‘loyalty’ being discussed thoughtfully and naturally. Learning through the medium of English • In 8th grade, students may study other curriculum subjects through English. This Biology lesson for 16 year olds took place entirely in English, including all scientific terms. Colleagues who observed other Science lessons noted the same high standard of content. Parents A very enthusiastic hardworking group of parents take an active role in fund raising in the school. They have financed a doctor on site, and added to the basic gym provision (above) by funding the fitting out and equipping of the room below. One parent also produces a monthly newsletter. They have high expectations for their children, and education is given a high status. Celebrations We quickly realised that Bulgarians never miss the chance to party! There was a special event on all three days we spent in the school. On Women’s Day, the children all brought flowers for their mothers and female teachers. Flowers are given A deep red-pink rose is a frequently, and are national symbol of Bulgaria, beautifully presented. which is called the country of roses. Our hosts told us that in May the countryside is covered in flowers. End of winter… This is Maslenitsa, a popular Russian festival, which celebrates the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Figures made of paper, representing winter, were burned on a bonfire in the playground. Then, the children took it in turns to enthusiastically jump over the flames, to symbolise the triumph of spring over winter. … celebrating spring… And of course, that meant a party! The Russian teachers made us Russian tea, with a real samovar and traditional teapot. The children made pancakes at home, spread them with chocolate and brought them in to school. …with chocolate! Here pupils are selling pancakes in the corridor between classes. Russian singing As part of the winter celebrations, the teachers held a party and the children entertained us with a beautiful, very moving, Russian song. Afterwards, we all danced around the staff room. Records and assessments As teachers, we were interested in the systems which were used to record lessons and test results. The above book was a complete record of every lesson taught in the school by all teachers. Marks are entered into other books and stored on a shelf in the staff room. Parents are free to come in and look at these records whenever they wish. Discussions between the heads On the final day the English and Bulgarian heads met together for the final time at the British Council. We had spent three days learning about the Bulgarian system of education, and now it was our turn to give a presentation on our own system, and answer questions. We all agreed that this had been a wonderful opportunity for professional discussion and reflection, and everyone in the room took away new ideas and insights. The friendliness and hospitality of our hosts made this an unforgettable experience. Whilst our schools were completely different, we nevertheless had much in common, and much to learn from each other. We would like to thank our hosts, and of course, most importantly….. … the children!
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