In relation to the Ministry of Education's public discussion of the Draft Concept for building a school STEM environment through the implementation of investment project C1.I1 "STEM centers and innovations in education" under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) of the Republic of Bulgaria, pillar 1 "Innovative Bulgaria" component 1 "Education and Skills" the Association for Innovation, Business Excellence, Services and Technology (AIBEST) expresses the following objections and proposals:
- Considering the need for investments in the material base of schools, we object to the government's proposal to direct the funds of the NRRP under the measure only for construction and repair activities and the purchase of equipment and machinery. STEM education does not consist only of construction and assembly work and renovation of the material base, building laboratories, or buying 3D printers. Furthermore, by the time of the equipment's purchase, it will be practically obsolete.
- We urge you to address the need to develop a methodology for teachers to educate in a STEM environment. The chosen approach in no way corresponds to the essence and philosophy of STEM education to create the initial ecosystem for innovation through new content and teaching models such as skills, methodology, and subjects taught in a way that resembles real life.
At the moment, the concept does not make clear who will support the teachers; who will guide them on how to teach in a STEM environment, and what "validated" resources should be used with a perspective to build the skills needed by the students.
Moreover, there should be a general methodology for developing resources used in STEM teaching. Correspondingly, a team of STEM experts in schools across the country should revise and standardize the resources before their distribution among teachers, trainers, principals, students in pedagogical specialties, lecturers, and other experts with access to the portal and e-library.
- We insist that all interested parties - the academic sector, the business sector, the non-governmental sector, the educational institutions and the professional organizations - are involved in the building of the teaching principles and the support of teachers. We believe that the participation of these experienced stakeholders can ensure that STEM learning methodologies and content will integrate the continuous advancement of technology, the development of science, and creative thinking applicable in everyday life.
- The construction of STEM centers is a great opportunity for students across the country to access modern and technological environments. However, we consider the development of teaching methods and curricula to be incorrect and short-sighted. Furthermore, this becomes the burden and responsibility of the individual teacher rather than the educational institutions and experts. This does not bear the characteristics of a systematic approach and does not lead to sustainability and a guaranteed level of quality.
- We object to the introduction of new teaching methods, the development of methodologies and curricula, and the raising of the qualifications of pedagogical specialists, in the direction of improving digital skills and innovative teaching skills, to be planned with the additional support under the Education Program 2021-2027. This approach calls into question the synchronization of the elements in the STEM education system.
Last but not least, the measure structured in this way and the lack of synchronization of the functioning of the elements of the STEM education system in advance sets a huge inefficiency in terms of STEM results of schools and low practical value for students and indirectly for businesses working to generate high added value for the economy and society in Bulgaria.