2012-05-29 09:00:00

Speech of President Rosen Plevneliev Council on Education and Science on "Bulgaria 2020 - national priorities in education and science"

Honorable ministers
Regional governors
Representatives of various political forces
Members of Parliament
Representatives of employers' organizations,
Of trade union organizations
Of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Welcome again to the Presidency. Today's topic, simply put, is “Bulgaria 2020 - national priorities in education and science”. If Bulgaria wants to develop, it must position itself on the path of ideas. In the 21st century, the most powerful tool of production is human knowledge. The theme of this task, namely – “Bulgaria 2020 Vision - national priorities in science and education” is a logical continuation of the debate that started in the past few months in the Presidential institution. The focus there has been on issues of economic development and competitiveness and priority targeting of investment.

Through the vision of “Bulgaria 2020” we want to redirect, to transform the economy into one that focuses on industries with high added value and to take our place on the road of high technology. We want a competitive and dynamic economy, we want industries with high added value to “bloom” on our territory. Innovation, of course, is one of the key tools for value creation in the economy.

Just think, in the world of the 21st century, it is possible for some young people with a good idea to work for a few years to produce a product that can create an entire country. Whether it is a question of Skype, where dozens of people within a couple of years created more than their country Estonia’s gross national product, whether Facebook or many others, there are enough examples. One thing is clear, there is no limit to human knowledge and the highest value is precisely where we manage human knowledge and ideas to turn them into products.

You can see that the gross domestic product of Bulgaria, produced by 7.4 million Bulgarians, is 40 billion euro. One Facebook, created eight years ago by some young people, is creating more than $100 billion. Ten people - $100 billion, 7.4 million Bulgarians - 40 billion euro. This does not personally make me jealous of any of these countries, whether they are Singapore, Taiwan, the United States, Ireland, Estonia, Germany, which are on the path of value-added industries and earn well. No, we do not envy them. But, of course, I very much want that in Bulgaria human knowledge and innovation will produce tangible results.

That is why we are here today, so that together we can talk both about the environment for innovation and how we can achieve implementation, the sources of funding and, of course, how higher education can prepare researchers, implementation both in the public and private sectors. And of course, the country must provide the necessary legal framework, financial support, including through various mechanisms, funding research, and many other ways.

In the educational system of the 21st century that we are discussing today, what is important is not the knowledge poured into the minds of students, but also their skills and competencies. We must provide opportunities for a new adaptable middle class that can achieve their full potential. At the same time, education is the process of creating a workforce that corresponds to the national economy, not only in the short term but also in the long run. So, in what we plan today, we must think about the perspectives and priorities that we set for the economy in the long term. That is why the development of human capital is an important topic for us. The realization of the individual must become a national cause.

In society there is consensus on the issue. Bulgarians have always invested in the education of their children. The new middle class - as we want it to be, adaptable, flexible, tech-savvy - will surely be on the agenda not only in Bulgaria but also in the debate within all societies. During the meeting in Chicago, half of the presidents who spoke, spoke about exactly that – a new adaptable middle class. Technology is changing very quickly. Today it is no longer possible simply to learn how one machine works and to work with it for 30 years. Every 10 years they change dramatically. Therefore, the middle class, those who will henceforth manage and create the economy, should be flexible and adaptable to technology and capable of learning throughout their lifetimes. The education system, of course, is the mechanism by which we will shape these skills.

Currently in Bulgaria we have some adverse data and results that we have to address. This will be part of the debate today. For example, young people in Bulgaria emerge on to the labour market later than in any other country in Europe, that is, on average in Bulgaria, a young person comes on the labour market at the age of 22. However, in Europe, the age is 20 years. Of course, the main reason for this is that they do not have enough practical experience. Very often we find out that even at 25, students do not have a single day’s experience in the real economy.

Another fact that we also shall address today, to which a solution should be sought and which is not beneficial to the country, is that the share of young entrepreneurs aged between 15 and 24 is 3.4 per cent, well below the European average, much lower than in Greece, where the figure is 7.8 per cent of young people, and Romania, 11.3 per cent. Young entrepreneurs in Romania 11.3 per cent, in Bulgaria 3.4 per cent.

The situation regarding self-employed people in Bulgaria is similar. Here, the proportion of people aged between 25 and 29 who are self-employed is 5.7 per cent, much lower than the average. In Europe the figure is 8.7 per cent and in Romania, self-employed people aged between 25 and 29 make up 11.4 per cent. Bulgaria has 5.7 per cent.

That is why our education is so important, because it not only meets socio-economic needs, but also it regulates, it adapts, it creates a dynamic environment, and today we precisely want to see, in addressing “Bulgaria 2020”, what the challenges are but also the solutions that we shall provide in this regard.

The knowledge triangle is very important. The knowledge triangle is the triangle between science, business and government. To work effectively, to have a network of effective interaction and functionality between all three of these important institutions, of course, the state must play its role, because it ensures the sustainability of this triangle of knowledge - science, business and government in a continuous process of creation.

Investments in human capital have long proved to be the most profitable and the ones with high returns and high added value. Of course, this means that we must consider many parameters, many solutions. We need to build adequate educational infrastructure, we must have a sufficient number of professionals, good teachers and trainers. The material to be taught must be constantly updated, of course, as well adapting the methodologies and the way in which we value and encourage progress in the system.

Another key element in education and science is research potential, which Bulgaria has and wants to develop. Our scientists have been honoured with many prestigious awards for research. They occupy many places of honour in the international rankings. The question for us is how we take that number of names, of which we are so proud today, and double or triple it tomorrow.

A key point, of course, is to find opportunities for active interaction and co-operation between businesses, research centres and universities and, of course, for the state mainly to co-ordinate and set the direction.

We are looking, in Bulgaria 2020, for new strategic decisions. We have the first steps, that are very well defined. Bulgaria has a national qualifications framework, Bulgaria has a national strategy for research and this is a good basis on which we can build together with the efforts of all stakeholders and, of course, around a common purpose. And that is the prosperity of Bulgaria.

Once again, welcome. Thank you that we are together.