Tuesday, April 5, 2016

TRANSATLANTIC EDUCATOR'S DIALOGUE (TED) SERIES – Week Seven

From January to May, the European Union Center invites educators from throughout the world to come together in an online setting and discuss important topics in modern educational practice and politics. As part of this discussion, students from the University of Illinois are invited to follow the discussion and write short posts about related topics on a country of interest. Lindsay Ozburn, a student in the EU Center’s Masters of Arts in European Union Studies program, will be contributing to this series through a multi-week study of Bulgarian politics and government. Her research will provide a thoughtful and helpful case study that will give TED participants a chance to see how their discussion topics are expressed in real life. 

Week Seven Prompt: How does your country handle issues of bullying and youth violence. Who makes the decisions regarding what is or is not acceptable? Are they done at the school level, school district level, state/provincial or national level? Has there been national attention or top-level efforts to stop bullying and youth violence? Have they been successful? In the last ten years, has there been a stand-out case or cases that brought media attention to this topic? Is bullying more common in a particular level of education (elementary, secondary, post-secondary) or is it widespread?

“I am not scared” – Combating Violence and Bullying in Bulgarian Schools
Lindsay Ozburn, MAEUS Student

As technological advancements have crept into many corners of the world, so, too, has cyberbullying amongst young children and teenagers. The European Commission and several member states have recognized this increase in bullying amongst its youth over the past decade. In response, several countries, including Bulgaria, have participated in the “I am not scared” project, supported by the European Commission under the Lifelong Learning Program. Bulgaria has participated in this program since 2010, aiming to “identify the best European strategies to prevent bullying”, with a bottom-up approach (Staneva, 2011:79, 87). In Bulgaria, it is supported specifically by Zinev Art Technologies.

Figure 1: uclacommons.com
According to a poll conducted in 2006, almost 70% of Bulgarian students admitted there were cases of aggression in their school, with three-quarters of parental responders citing poor family environment and lack of discipline at school as the main proponents of this aggression (Dimitriova, 2006). Polling performed by UNICEF in 2007 showed the 25% of children believed they were bullied once a week or more (Staneva, 2011:83). In regards to cyberbullying, again, 25% of teenagers 10-14 believed they were bullied at least once a week, through a variety of electronic mediums. Adding to this issue is the unlikelihood of a child reporting the bullying, according to Staneva.

While Bulgaria does participate in the “I am not scared” program, it does not currently have state policy to reduce or prevent violence and bullying in schools. There are resources, however, for children in situations of domestic abuse or bullying outside of the family. One in particular, the National Programme for Child Protection, offers support “for the better coordination and implementation of sectoral policies to achieve more effective protection of fundamental rights of children in Bulgaria” (Staneva, 2011:86).

For more information and statistics on violence and bullying in Bulgaria, including the “I am not scared” project, see Zornitsa Staneva’s article.

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