As you know, I don’t talk about work a lot on this blog nor do I talk Bulgarian politics much, if ever. Today is the day that this changes.
Because there are potential changes afoot to the education system in Bulgaria. On the surface this is a good thing as much of the current system is outdated and antiquated but there is at least one major proposed change that has the potential to drastically alter the landscape of foreign language instruction throughout the country.
Here’s the deal, I’m a foreign teacher and have been living and working in Sofia, Bulgaria now for almost four years. I’m what’s called a native speaker and I’ve taught in two different schools–one public and one private. I teach my whole class each and every day in English. I interact each day only in English with my Bulgarian students.
It’s been quite an experience for me and for the students. One, for the record, I wouldn’t change for the world.
I’ve met lots of students who are hungry to learn English but I’ve also met with plenty of bureaucracy. These things happen. This said, I’ve liked it so much so that I signed another year long contract in February and this week I learned that my work permit has been approved for the next year. Hip-hip-horay.
Thus, I was surprised to learn last week about a new Education Act which was written by the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and has been submitted to the Bulgarian National Assembly for its first read which among other things if approved would only allow for foreign teachers from European Union countries to teach in Bulgarian schools.
Think about that for a minute.
That shit is crazy.
I can’t for the life of me imagine why Bulgaria as a country would do this to herself and to her students. It makes no sense. Native speakers are a huge resource for a school. They provide an excellent opportunity for students to learn, practice and hone a foreign language.
Moreover, Bulgaria has a long standing tradition of language schools.
In fact, the American College of Sofia (ACS), where I work, is one of these schools. And, yes. We’re an American school. One which was founded in Bulgaria over 150 years ago. That makes us one of the oldest (if not the oldest) American educational institutions outside of the United States. Not bad Bulgaria, not bad.
Thus it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that Americans teach at this school. Lots of us. And surprise, surprise, America’s not part of the EU. At this point I probably don’t need to connect the dots for you but I will any way. This means that if this law were to pass as it currently written there’d be no place for foreign American teachers in Bulgaria and by extension at ACS.
Of course as soon as our school administration learned about the proposed Education Act, they began to explore and to address this problem (and others created by the proposed act) through every possible avenue. At this point, I’m not worried about ACS or my job here as neither of these things actually seem to be in jeopardy but this seems to be because the school was proactive in addressing these problems and very likely we will receive an exemption of some sort.
What’s more concerning is what this means for the state of education in Bulgaria.
This new law would prohibit not only Americans from teaching English but anyone outside of the EU from teaching in a Bulgarian school. Sure this allows for the classics to be taught by native speakers like French, Spanish, German and British English but what about languages like Russian, Chinese or even Japanese?
I don’t know any other way to say this: a law that prohibits native speakers from teaching in Bulgarian schools is short sighted.
International schools had a place in Bulgaria’s past and they should clearly have a place in Bulgaria’s future as well. The importance of international schools in Bulgaria should not be overlooked. Limiting schools in such a way hurts everyone.