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2015/04/22

Final project conference "The place of sustainable business in the Bulgarian educational system"

The final project event was held on April 16, 2015 – the conference “The place of sustainable business in the educational system”. The project was implemented by Junior Achievement Bulgaria in partnership with Ungt Entreprenorskap Sogn og Fjordane (Norway) with funding from the NGO Programme in Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area 2009-2014.

The conference initiated a debate regarding the essence of business and the need for every business to embrace the improvement of the natural and social environment as its heartfelt cause. Some of the important questions raised during the conference were: “What is the place of sustainable business in the Bulgarian educational system – should it be taught and in what form?”, “How would a good sustainable business curriculum look like?”, “What kind of teaching methods would be most effective in engaging the students so that they remember the concepts and develop skills to create and manage a sustainable business?”. The organizers presented a report with best practices and recommendations on how education for sustainable development and green entrepreneurship could be introduced in the Bulgarian schools. The recommendations are directed at state institutions and separate schools. The authors of the report believe that the Ministry of Education and Science needs to perform a thorough and complete analysis of the national educational standards, the curricula for all forms, and the textbooks for all subjects in order to find out the extent to which these topics are already covered – this would uncover the gaps, as well as the areas where integration needs to be improved. Since these topics are integrative in nature, what is necessary is a profound re-thinking of the way the information about environmental protection, the global environmental problems and humanity’s reaction is present currently in the curricula, textbooks and teacher preparation university-level programs. The report also recommends that some of the many existing materials that help teachers integrate specific sustainable development topics into their subjects be translated.

Here is what some of the conference participants shared:

“The best working educational system that is being given as an example so often in our public discourse is Finland. There they integrate the knowledge from different subjects and areas and achieve impressive results. In Bulgaria, in our school, thanks to the entrepreneurship education programs of Junior Achievement we already have the same results.” Violeta Mincheva, teacher at 95th High School in Sofia, whose 3-grade students presented their own project for an eco-village.

“The topic about sustainable development is nothing different from interdisciplinary. The course we created together with Junior Achievement does not give answers to questions, but asks those questions about sustainable development that make sense. Both the problems and the solutions are our own responsibility – each and every one of us, from the earliest age possible.” Apostol Dyankov, Denkstatt Bulgaria, leading expert in the creation of the online course curriculum.

“I have been teaching a university course on sustainable development for the last 15 years and I have always strived to engage my students to go out of the classroom and visit different specialized exhibitions and events. This is the only way for education to meet business and vice versa.” Vyara Gancheva, professor at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”.

“When it comes to sustainable development and entrepreneurship education we need to think not only about the students’ motivation, but about that of teachers as well. I can’t emphasize enough how important the teaching methods are. The teachers who encourage and really allow modern means of teaching and communication are very few, and the school principals who do it are even fewer.” Maya Gesheva, teacher at the National High School of Finance and Business in Sofia.

“Unfortunately, sometimes in order to teach in an engaging and exciting way, teachers have to break the legislative rules, and if they don’t do, then it is not interesting for the students, and therefore it is ineffective.” Plamena Foteva, project coordinator at the NationalNetwork for Children.

The project “Green Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Development” lasted more than a year and aimed at making young entrepreneurs in Bulgaria and Norway sensitive towards environmental problems and inspiring them to create sustainable business ideas. During the project, 80 ambitious youngsters received a solid ground as green entrepreneurs through participating in a three-month online educational course that introduced them to the global environmental challenges, the principles of sustainable development and the successful examples of young green entrepreneurs. The best performing 40 high school students from Bulgaria and Norway took part in a one-week Eco Camp in the Rhodopi mountains in October 2014. There they got to know the local community, cuisine and traditions, visited sustainable businesses in the region, worked in teams on their own ideas for an environmentally and socially-sustainable business, and presented the ideas in front of a jury.

The course with video lectures is already accessible for everyone for free after registration at the website http://green.jabulgaria.org.

The full text of the report presented at the conference is available only in Bulgarian.

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