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Student essays: Elena Koleva, 16, Sofia, „an escalating thirst for change in our education system can be felt“

What is a problem in my community and what should be done about it?

In recent years an escalating thirst for change in our education system can be felt, particularly in secondary education. Undergoing a series of both physical and mental changes, students feel the need for balance and harmony on all levels. General education, however, concentrates on the development of just one aspect – the brain. Therefore, students are expected to understand and memorize a number of subjects before they have gained understanding of themselves. Teachers are directly influenced by the rebellious behavior of their confused students, unable to change their approach, obliged to follow the curriculum. Moreover, their work at state schools is significantly underpaid and the opportunities for development – limited.

For these reasons, as years pass, the sparkle within most of them is extinguished, a velvet of indifference becomes their most comfortable attire and not a small number of them eventually change their vocation. One way to deal with the situation would be to centralize education around the individual. Undoubtedly, the variety of subjects helps students understand the mechanism which keeps the world moving. Still, none of the compulsory ones gives them insight into their own mechanism. The focus is placed on the physical envelope as if it were a machine, with all its gears bearing mind-boggling names. A machine that they feel disconnected from. This could be changed by making young people’s needs for self-exploration a priority in formal education.

The introduction of subjects such as Emotional Intelligence, Healthy Lifestyle and Creative Thinking is sure to bring about a number of positive changes. For instance, teaching youngsters how to keep their emotions and physical health under control is highly likely to result in significantly more balanced and self-aware students. In the meantime, creativity of thinking would help them experience the world fully and find a unique approach to turn their dreams into reality. Consequently, teachers would be able to thrive and share their wisdom and knowledge in a harmonious environment, being appreciated and respected.

Once a solid foundation is established, we should make young people active participants in their own education instead of passive observers. This would mean giving them greater freedom of choice in terms of the knowledge they would like to accumulate. It might be a good idea to establish a certain compulsory level of general culture, without going into too much detail about each and every subject. By doing so, learners would be able to focus on what is truly important to remember and work on what they are passionate about simultaneously. In fact, such an approach would save a huge amount of energy to be channeled in the right direction. Moreover, it would put an end to the categorization of subjects and vocations. No longer will Mathematics and Informatics be more important than Art, neither an engineer better accepted in comparison to a musician. Giving young people freedom of expression can only make them lifetime learners whereas forced education, which fails to connect with them, will most likely result in either an increase in dropout rate or an antipathy to knowledge and growth.

Last but not least, given the fact that our education system is in dire necessity of quality teachers, no less attention should be paid to their needs. Currently, there is a widespread dissatisfaction with salaries and staff training among pedagogical specialists, resulting in a radical decrease in motivation. Therefore, as a first step, a reasonable investment for the State would be to ensure that teachers’ salaries suffice for a decent standard of living. This would release a heavy burden of financial worries from their shoulders and make them feel appreciated for their contribution to society.

Following on from this, it might be worthy of consideration for the government to abolish the current practice of obligatory qualification of pedagogical specialists, described as a mere formality by its own target group. Alternatively, the budget for qualifications could be equally divided among teachers so that each one of them receives a certain amount of money for personal development per year. This would be feasible as long as a restriction over the money provided is imposed, so that they can be spent only for the purpose intended. In this way, individuality of teachers would be acknowledged and they would be able to choose from a variety of seminars and courses, resonating with their own needs for growth. Such a measure might seem difficult to implement, but it certainly has the potential to stimulate devotion to the profession based on factors well beyond financial security.

In conclusion, the course of action suggested above will undoubtedly require a redefinition of the purpose of education and the place of the individual in it. Still, I strongly feel that this is an effort worth making since it will shine a positive light on our community as a whole, should it be adopted by the ones in power. Young people will no longer grow up unable to understand themselves and their purpose, guided on their way to maturity by bright teachers in constant self-actualization. This approach is sure to be the cradle of a considerably more open-minded, creative, optimistic and tolerant society where individuals are not measured by the same yardstick. After all, education is not for grades, degrees or fancy jobs, but understanding of the world, ourselves and others. With understanding comes responsibility. Are we willing to take it?

Describe yourself in 5 words *Reliable/Optimistic/Ambitious/Risk-taker/Empathetic

What are your top 5 values (principles or standards of behavior)? *1. Honesty 2. Optimism 3. Perseverance 4. Empathy 5. Transparency

What are you most proud of and why? I am most proud of having qualified for the National Round of the „National Original Oratory and Communication Skills Competition in English“ this school year. Since I entered high school, speaking in front of people has been my greatest challenge and to do it well – my biggest dream. For this reason, the moment I realized I actually had it within me turned into a source of great pride and nudged me to keep moving forward.

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