ELECTRONIC TEXTBOOKS - YES, BUT SOME OTHER TIME
The Ministry of Education and Science had boldly promised that students would be using electronic textbooks as of September 15, 2006. But the first school day came and students found themselves in a popular situation from a Bulgarian movie - Minister Daniel Vulchev said we'll have electronic textbooks, but some other time!
The Ministry of Education had declared 2006 the Year of e-education. The aim was to introduce info a computer technologies in Bulgarian schools within 12 months. However, the result of the ministry's work so far is the existence of a single informational website with just 2 video lessons about how to look up information in INTERNET, 3 texts on general computer literacy, and 4 texts on informatics for the 9th class, at that sent by a polite, interested teacher. Electronic registers of the active and suspended students, of lecturers in universities, and of legalized diplomas for high education from foreign universities, were created. But just a few days later it became clear that most of the information in there was incomplete or wrong and they would have to be remade. All that explains why in the report on his first year of tenure minister Daniel Vulchev devoted about 20 lines only to the unique reform in secondary education. And he boasted to have trained 45,000 teachers to use computers! The picture is not funny, but really tragic considering the fact that in terms of info technologies students in secondary schools leave far behind not only their teachers, but also the Ministry of Education.
Online textbooks began to be talked about back in January when Daniel Vulchev announced that his ministry was preparing electronic training courses for 30 subjects in the secondary classes. Each of the textbooks would cost some BGN18,000-20,000 but according to preliminary calculations the expenses for using a textbook by a student would not exceed BGN0.14. The idea was welcomed with enthusiasm by students, parents and teachers mostly because of prospect of relieving the budget of families with students at the beginning of every school year when textbooks have to be purchased. Even mass media spoke in flattering terms of the ambitious undertaking as the modern online textbooks were expected to put an end to the struggle between various publishing houses. The greatest hope for everyone was that part of the education in Bulgaria could at last be called modern. However, it died away at the moment when the project was frozen.
The first versions of the textbooks on INTERNET had to be ready in mid-February but they never appeared. And mid-May was the deadline for working out the national educational portal where the modern textbooks had to be published. However, at the last moment it turned out that no server was available to load the portal on it. The issue regarding its maintenance was nor settled either. Nevertheless, in June Mr. Vulchev confidently and adamantly announced that everything would be ready for the first school day. But almost immediately afterwards it became clear that the two consortia which should provide INTERNET access in each school entered into a court battle. Thus, the chaos regarding e-textbooks became complete. In the end it even turned out that the great idea of the Ministry of Education was somewhat outdated, let's not say stolen, because for several years now the Sofia University of Mining and Geology has been publishing online textbooks on INTERNET.
Now is a time of a hush before the storm that will certainly burst forth very soon. The Ministry of Education stubbornly refuses information, probably hoping that everything will be suppressed and forgotten after September 15. But there is not much time left till January 1, 2007 and the fact that the Year of e-education will have elapsed then does not mean that the ministry can feel free of its commitment for modernisation of Bulgarian schools. The saddest thing now is that online textbooks currently remain offline. Аnd minister Vulchev has one more unfulfilled promise on his record.