Only 4% of the Bulgarian schools report both high grades and high student wellbeing

13 September 2018
Only 4% of the Bulgarian schools report both high grades and high student wellbeing
Only 4% of Bulgarian schools succeed in attaining both high grades and high student wellbeing. This is what the findings of a nationally representative survey show; it was carried out by the Centre for Inclusive Education (CIE), G Consulting research agency and BAS experts.

The survey covered 100 schools and over 3200 seven-graders all over the country and examined the level of students’ mental and social wellbeing, their satisfaction with school and the extent to which they feel comfortable there.

The research team compared the findings with the performance of the students during the National External Assessment (NEA) and created a Successful School Index. It makes it possible to identify the components that make a school really good, i.e. a school that takes care simultaneously of children’s academic success and their wellbeing.

“It is often the case that by ‘good school’ we only mean that students there have high grades. However, schools have other tasks too; they should have children prepared for a full life as adults”, explained CIE Executive Director Iva Boneva who then added: “One of the ways to know this for sure is to study student wellbeing – truly successful schools pursue high grades but they also think of how their students feel”.   

The Index developed by the CIE includes three components, each having different weight: 50% of the score is made up of the NEA results, 30% of children’s personal wellbeing (their emotions, mental health and social wellbeing) and 20% accounts for their satisfaction with the school itself (with their teachers, schoolmates and the environment).

Given that the maximum Index score is 100 points, just 10% of the surveyed schools obtained 60 points. These are schools where teachers are well-meaning and supportive, many extracurricular activities take place, the level of acts of aggression is low, and a school community exists.

38.4% of Bulgarian seven-graders are at very low to moderate level of school wellbeing. The lowest wellbeing scores are reported with the so-called elite schools. Researchers believe the reasons for this are diverse but the main ones include excessive tension and competition among students to get high grades, teachers showing favoritism, lack of feeling that a community exists.

“The survey reveals beyond any doubt that at an individual level there is a strong correlation between personal wellbeing and academic success”, said research manager Zhivko Georgiev who then added: “Regretfully, this correlation is broken in many of the schools: either wellbeing is sacrificed to high academic performance, or much effort is put in making children feel well but at the expense of educational function”.

CIE experts believe that there are ways to improve children wellbeing without putting academic grades at risk. Some of their recommendations include partnering with families and communities, establishing a sense of school community that includes all children, working intensively to develop children’s social and emotional skills, and striving to reduce aggression.

This presentation is part of the One School for All Programme which aims at contributing to quality education for all children thus allowing every child to unlock their potential to the fullest. The Programme is implemented with the support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation.

Attached documents

Survey Summary

One School for All

One School for All is our most encompassing and wide-reaching cause, our raison d’etre. Our ultimate goal is comprehensive introduction and application of the principles of inclusive education.

Inclusive education is a process of changing the school environment based on respect and acceptance of other people. It implies wise management of school processes in a way which makes children feel supported to develop their capacity and to overcome hardships; which makes teachers feel encouraged and confident that they are able to cope with the growing challenges, while parents are able to assume their responsibility and role in partnership with schools.