Country information for Bulgaria - Systems of support and specialist provision
National plan for integration of children with SEN
The Bulgarian Council of Ministers adopted a national plan for integration of children with SEN (2004–2007) in December 2003. A department within the Ministry of Education and Science (Department for Educational Environment and Cultural Integration) deals with learners with SEN and minorities (Turkish and Roma). A Consultative Council on Education of Ethnic Minorities was also created. In January 2004, the Ministry adopted a ‘Strategy for Educational Integration of Children from Ethnic Minorities’. This ‘gives Roma parents the right to choose their child’s school, and the schools the duty to accept and assist them, with special assistants’ (source: OECD, 2007, p. 32).
Two separate National Plans existed in 2007. Their formulation was accelerated by Bulgaria’s EU accession. The first one concerns the inclusion of learners with SEN and was adopted by the Council of Ministers. The second one was made for ethnic minorities and approved by the Minister of Education and Science. The Department for Educational Environment and Cultural Integration within the Ministry of Education and Science implemented both plans. Several barriers to inclusive education existed in 2007:
- physical conditions in general schools;
- limited teacher training;
- lack of funding resources to ensure the quality of special needs education in mainstream and special schools;
- public attitudes towards children with SEN (source: OECD, 2007, pp. 34–35).
In 2014, resource centres were created to support the inclusion of children with SEN. They are state units with additional curricula and activities like ‘corrective’ therapies and include consultation with parents and teachers. They function in each region and receive state funding, but can also have their own incomes (source: Eurydice, 2014a).
In 2014, the Ministry of Education and Science carried out a project on inclusive education at pre-primary level. It was funded by the Human Resources Development Operational Programme and co-financed by the EU’s European Social Fund. The project included 25 pilot pre-schools from all over the country. It aimed for early identification of children at risk of learning difficulties and to ensure their inclusion in mainstream schools. It also aimed to provide support to various specialised professionals, such as psychologists, resource teachers and speech therapists (source: Eurydice, 2014a).
Separate SEN provision
Education in special schools is conducted through typical syllabuses and a special curriculum approved by the Minister of Education and Science. For instance, curricula on specialised subjects for learners with hearing impairment include:
- individual formulation and development of verbal speech;
- development of speech, musical stimulations, phonetic rhythmic and motorics;
- speech and object activity (source: Eurydice, 2013b).
In 2014, the Child Protection State Department was working to prevent misbehaviour among minors and juveniles. Special advisory centres are also available. The professionals working in these centres are called public educators, but they are psychologists, pedagogues, social workers, etc.
In pre-primary education and training, psychologists give psychological support and counselling to children and their parents, and to educators or parents outside school. Their support concerns the ‘correction of deviations and serious problems in the mental development of children’. Teachers with pedagogical training offer support on problems related to education and children’s general social development. Career guidance is also defined through the public policy in order to stimulate the child’s personal potential from an early age (source: Eurydice, 2014b).
In 2007, mainstream schools did not receive additional funding for learners with SEN. Nonetheless, they had additional (trained) resource staff, such as psychologists and speech therapists. Municipalities paid them on the same scale as any other teachers working in the school. About 1,000 such specialists existed in the whole country. Each special teacher looked after five to seven children. The Ministry paid ‘itinerant’ teachers and those in resource centres (source: OECD, 2007, p. 34).
In 2014, there were various structures for rehabilitation and diagnosis of pre-primary children’s communication disorders. These structures are expected to implement the state policies on the training of learners with SEN. They have programmes on counselling, training and parents’ active involvement in therapy. Diverse types of therapy are used, such as psycho-motor perception therapy, puppet therapy and fairy tale therapy. The employed specialists are speech therapists, psychologists, special educators and music teachers (source: Eurydice, 2014c).
According to public policy, learners with SEN have access to individual education programmes. These include special assignments within the framework of the curriculum on one or more syllabus subjects. The individual education programmes are also intended to ‘develop social skills for independent life in view of successful social integration and professional realization’ (source: Eurydice, 2013b).
Last updated 14/02/2018