At the beginning of the new school year, UNICEF, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Science (MES) and the Regional Center for Support of the Inclusive Education Process - Sofia City, is launching the online training platform "Support Me", which provides a library with free educational and therapeutic resources to support children with special educational needs (SEN), available to all children, parents, teachers and specialists at:
The online platform will expand the opportunities of children with SEN for additional support across the country, especially in pandemic conditions, as well as help teachers, parents and professionals to have free access to a variety of support resources. The platform is integrated into the overall resource base of the Ministry of Education and Culture to be accessible to all participants in the education system, through unified access.
“Much has been achieved in terms of inclusive education, but special attention must still be paid to the most vulnerable children, in particular children with disabilities and children with special educational needs. We need to make sure that we reduce the inequalities created by social exclusion and that no child is left behind, said the UNICEF representative in Bulgaria, Christina de Bruyn.
“There are over 26,000 children and students with special educational needs in the preschool and school education system. 17,268 study in general education schools, 5,889 in kindergartens, 2,861 in centers for special educational support, and 662 children and students are educated in special schools. They all need personalized training tailored to their individual needs, as well as appropriate and well-planned support for their personal development. The platform, in addition to providing an opportunity to create and use educational and therapeutic resources, will provide a space for specialists, in cooperation with parents, to plan and implement work with each child and student based on an individual and differentiated approach. This is extremely important in view of the ever-widening digitization of education and the ever-increasing role of the electronic environment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this sense, the Ministry of Education and Science is actively partnering for the creation and successful implementation of this online platform," said Greta Gancheva, director of the "Inclusive Education" Directorate at the Ministry of Education and Culture. One in five children does not receive additional support, according to the assessment of the regional centers for support of the process of inclusive education (RCPPPO). Thus, in practice, these children risk being excluded from the educational process.
“Covid-19 has changed the way we live, work and learn. The new reality made us change the way we provide support and knowledge to children," said Maria Yankova, Director of Education at UNICEF Bulgaria, and added: "Pedagogical specialists working with children with special needs clearly identified the need for additional online support both for the children and for the professionals and parents themselves. In order to respond to this need, UNICEF, together with our partners from the Ministry of Education and Culture and the RCPPPO - Sofia-city, initiated the creation of relevant and accessible resources, united on an online interactive platform "Support me". The creation of the platform is the result of the campaign of UNICEF "Education for Every Child" was held in the spring of 2020, which received the support of many individual and corporate donors, as well as media partners.
Anyone who wants to support the development of the platform and its enrichment with content has the opportunity to donate funds on the UNICEF Bulgaria website. Thanks to the funds raised, work began in the summer of 2020 on securing partnerships, identifying needs and building the platform. The first stage of the construction was completed in the spring of 2021 and included meetings and preliminary tests with resource teachers, other specialists and parents to check how they navigate the functionalities of the platform, what information and support they need. The second stage included the development and collection of interactive educational and therapeutic materials, as well as the integration of the platform with the overall resource base of the MES. At the third stage, at the beginning of 2022, an additional module will be added, which will facilitate the work and communication between parent, child and specialist, will enable the creation of an individual development program, and each specialist will be able to select resources to support the individual needs of children with special educational needs.
Additional information: As content, the platform provides video training materials and resources for children with special educational needs, developed by specialists and teachers. At this stage, within the framework of the pilot project, the main focus is on materials from pre-school education to the junior high school stage of basic education. They are located in the Resources section and are structured in two sections - educational and therapeutic resources, some of which are publicly available, and others, which are more specialized, require a request from the parent. All resources on the platform are completely free. A parent whose child needs such an additional resource will be able, in early 2022, to apply for a Development Program that will complement the support they receive at kindergarten or school. The development program will be tailored to the individual needs of the child and will include a package of resources from the platform - selected by a specialist based on the needs of each child. The goal is a more effective collaboration between the family and the pedagogical specialists supporting the child, and the platform enables them all to be connected and to track together the progress of the child on his development program. The platform enables specialists, teachers and parents to improve their knowledge and skills on topics related to child development and inclusive education by getting acquainted with free webinars and other training and methodical resources in the Training section. In the section Get inspired! videos are selected, filled with a lot of strength, motivation, talent and potential of disabled youth, parents and other ordinary people - champions of positive change.