REYN Bulgaria in cooperation with the Ministry of Education organizes an advocacy conference for educational mediators in the country


REYN Bulgaria – coordinated by the “Trust for Social Achievement” Foundation, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Bulgaria successfully organized a conference on “Practices and Directions: the Educational Mediator in the Kindergarten” on November 3, at the Ramada Hotel, Sofia.

The event attracted the interest of over 120 participants from all over Bulgaria – including principals, mediators, teachers, PTAs, experts, academics, directorates and institutions.

The conference began with opening remarks by Evgenia Volen, Director of the TSA’s Early Learning and Care Programme, and Vanya Georgieva, Head of the Department of Pre-School Content and the Ministry of Education. The event included a series of presentations and discussions that highlighted the importance of educational mediation for the integration of children and students from ethnic minorities, as well as for policies targeting vulnerable groups.

The conference presented experiences with the institutionalization of similar professions in the Republic of Serbia, the Republic of Romania, as well as three successful practices of kindergarten mediators in Bulgaria. Vanya Georgieva, Lalo Kamenov and Deyan Kolev presented on the importance and the important role of the mediator in the country.

For us at TCA, educational mediators are not only about access to kindergarten, but also about the quality of interactions with children and their families.

Smooth adaptation from home to the educational institution is a key prerequisite for accelerating the progress of children from the Roma community, for 2/3 of whom Bulgarian is a second language.

Educational mediators in kindergartens play an important role in these two areas – adaptation of children and parents – and especially in sparsely populated, hard to reach and extremely vulnerable communities.

At the conference we had the opportunity to hear:

* Three different inspiring examples of educational mediators from the cities of Sliven, Plovdiv and Burgas and the ways they support the development of children and families.

*Focusing on the need for support of educational mediators, Professor Maria Baeva, PhD with significant academic experience in the field of intercultural and inclusive early education, presented current research and methodologies concerning the work of educational mediators in kindergartens. She shed light on the theoretical underpinnings of and the effects of mediators’ expertise.

Educational mediation in the process of educational integration of children and students from ethnic minorities and in policies for vulnerable groups was the topic of the presentation by Lalo Kamenov, Director of the Center for Educational Integration of Children and Students from Ethnic Minorities. He stressed the need to recognize the profession of educational mediator and to include it in the national classification of positions and professions accordingly.

We had the pleasure to learn about the development of the profession of educational mediator in two neighbouring countries.

* Marian Daragiu, Undersecretary of State of the Ministry of Education and Research, Republic of Romania, introduced us through direct involvement from Bucharest to the experience of our northern neighbour, where some mediators are already working in regional education offices. He revealed interesting details about the Romanian educational mediation system. A particularly interesting aspect was the process by which each educational institution is assessed individually on the basis of specific criteria before being granted state funding. Daragiu also emphasized the mandatory requirement that educational mediators be an integral part of the communities they serve, and shed light on the overall approach implemented in Romania, where mediators are actively involved in both schools and kindergartens, due to the interconnection between the two educational structures.

* Our guest was Bozidar Nikolic, President of the Association of Teaching Assistants of Serbia. He told us how teaching assistants have acquired an official profession in their country and how this profession has developed over time. Pedagogical assistants, although having a very similar role, differ from educational mediation in our country in their direct interaction with children. Additionally, Mr. Nikolic stressed the stability that the profession of teaching assistants enjoys, despite their limited number.

The current year 2023 is a milestone in the development of educational mediation for both kindergartens and schools, as for the first time educational institutions can rely on a dedicated resource for educational mediators through their delegated budgets.

*The Center for Educational Integration of Children and Students from Ethnic Minorities – Amalipe Center introduced us to aspects of the development of educational mediation policies in Bulgaria, with a focus on kindergartens.

For years, the Trust for Social Achievement has been committed to the issue of access to early education for children from vulnerable communities. As a continuation of these efforts, in 2022 we began to advocate through the REYN Network for Early Childhood Development in the Roma Community in Bulgaria, which TSA coordinates in Bulgaria, for equal treatment of kindergartens in terms of funding for educational mediators. Many participants and collaborators have joined in these efforts and success has not been delayed. In July of this year, the Funding Ordinance for institutions in the ESL system was amended to include kindergartens on equal footing with schools.

However, kindergartens remain underprivileged in relation to schools. With 1,100 mediators in schools, kindergartens were served by 150 mediators last school year. Even with the budgetary funding provided, kindergartens cannot always take full advantage of it, as they often have lower numbers of children, as well as affiliates that are too far away to be served by one mediator.

These important details have not been taken into account in recent amendments to the Funding Ordinance allocating funding according to the number of children/students enrolled and the number of institutions.

* We had the opportunity to hear directly about the Ministry of Education’s position on these and other challenges during the last module. In it, we sought answers to questions posed by conference participants.







The event also included an exhibition presenting good practices from eight kindergartens, encouraging discussions and knowledge sharing among participants.

The aim of the past conference was to raise awareness about the benefits of educational mediation in kindergartens, the ways of financing it and the current prospects for its development in the country.

The Kindergarten Educational Mediation Conference proved to be extremely successful, fostering collaboration, sharing innovative practices, and advocating for the recognition and support of educational mediators in early childhood education. As the conference came to a close, participants left inspired and equipped with valuable ideas to further improve the educational experience of the very young.

Materials from the conference can be found below:

* Educational mediation in the process of educational integration of children and students from ethnic minorities, and in policies for vulnerable groups – Lalo Kamenov, Director of the Center for Educational Integration of Children and Students from Ethnic Minorities

*Profession “Teaching Assistant” in the Republic of Serbia – Bozidar Nikolic, President of the Association of Teaching Assistants of Serbia, Republic of Serbia

*Educational Mediator Profession in the Republic of Romania – Marian Daragiu, Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Research, Republic of Romania

*Science in support of educational mediation in kindergarten – prof. dr. Maria Baeva, Professor at the University of St. Kliment Ohridski

*Best practices of educational mediators

Katya Valeva, Kindergarten “Nadezhda”, Educational mediator.

Evgenia Popivanova, “Shtastlivo detstvo” Kindergarten, Sofia Plovdiv – The mediator’s role in raising parental competences

Rositsa Nikolova, Kindergarten “Kalinka”, Plovdiv. Burgas – Kindergarten for parents

*How to develop a network of educational mediators? – Deyan Kolev, President of the Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance “Amalipe”

*Video of the conversation with Vanya Georgieva, Head of the Department “Organization, Planning and Reporting” at the Ministry of Education and Science, and Deyan Kolev – President of “Amalipe”, from the Q&A module, can be found here.

*The video of Bozidar Nikolic for the Profession “Teaching Assistant” in Serbia, translated from Serbian to Bulgarian with subtitles here.

Keep an eye on the REYN website for further advocacy activities for education mediators in the country, and we will further inform all REYN Network members by email.

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