65% of today’s first graders will have professions that do not yet exist

Sixty-five per cent of today’s first-graders across the world will one day work in professions that do not yet exist. This emerged at a conference entitled “Education for the Professions of the Future”, organized by Capital and the America for Bulgaria Foundation, which brought together leading world experts in education and Bulgarian education professionals.

More than 500 teachers, heads of schools and other professionals in the educational field took part in the conference. They discussed good practices from Bulgaria, Finland and the United States and took part in three practical workshops; teaching financial literacy, shaping pupils’ vital skills for success in the 21st century, and project-based learning.

“We believe the most sensible investment Bulgarian society should be making is in education,” said Galya Prokopieva, editor-in-chief of Capital, adding, “It is education alone that gives birth to free people, and it is only they that can make informed choices and create value that they can share with others. The absence of investment in this particular sector is the reason that society now is worried and concerned about the future of their children.”

The conference was one of the largest education forums for the year and both presenters and participants were firm about the major challenges facing Bulgarian education. The PISA study placed Bulgaria 45th out of 70 countries, which in practice means the country is three years behind those with the best results. Bulgaria remains the only country in the survey where the number of poor ratings in all three components of PISA (29.6 per cent) significantly exceeds those of the excellent grades (6.9 per cent). As to the practical skills that pupils acquire in school, the indicators are even lower. For example, in problem-solving skills, Bulgaria is in second-to-last place (41st out of 42 participants).

“The main value of our education system remains the learning materials and that’s a big problem. No attention is paid to skills, all the tasks given to the children are theoretical, and no effort is made to get the children interested,” Assen Kyuldzhiev of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences said. He went on: “We cannot claim to be in the 21st century with education that doesn’t give pupils basic skills such as how to present their ideas, the ability to work in a team, and critical thinking. The Bulgarian educational system needs radical change to meet the challenges of the future.”

Representatives of the private sector emphasized that the development of specific skills that can help the children of today to become fully-fledged participants in the labor market was the main task facing education. Nikolai Vulchanov, technical director of Programista Ltd, told the conference: “Especially vital are proactivity, problem-solving ability, teamwork, communication and presentation of ideas – these things determine whether someone will succeed at his work or not.”

Mark Prensky, executive director of the Global Future Education Foundation and Institute presented “The world needs a new curriculum” throwing down the gauntlet to educational institutions in Bulgaria and across the world.
Gary Stager, consultant, teacher, school administrator and advocate for computer programming, outlined the importance of the proper use of technology in education.

One of the best teachers in the world, Maarit Rossi, a Finnish math teacher who was a finalist in the Global Teacher Prize 2016, explained how mathematics can be entertaining. Dr. Ward van de Vijver, a Dutch expert on educational innovations, demonstrated the role of innovation in teaching the skills of the future.

“The mission of the America for Bulgaria Foundation is to support Bulgaria on its path to being a successful and modern European nation, and this is possible only through investment in education, Foundation executive director Desislava Taliokova said. “For this reason, in the past nine years we have invested more than $100 million in educational projects aimed at raising the prestige of the teaching profession, the significance of education as a value, and about the significance of the learning environment and meaningful use of educational technology. And precisely because of forums like this one, bringing together some of the greatest minds and leading educational specialists in the world with their Bulgarian counterparts, we remain optimistic about the potential and the future of Bulgarian education and of Bulgaria”.



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