A tri-unions' journey: Green Education for Primary School Teachers


At the recent ETUCE Central Eastern European Roundtable in Prague (9-11 October 2023), education trade union representatives emphasised the need for enhanced skills and competences in environmental sustainability education. The collaborative project,  "Green Education for Primary School Teachers ", has recognised these needs and has assembled best practices from three distinct countries: Bulgaria, Serbia, and Romania. This project addresses environmental educational gaps and foster a more environmentally conscious and sustainable future and has ended with a theoretical-practical model, available in English, Bulgarian, Serbian, and Romanian.

Today, we had the chance to find out more about the project from the people who made it all possible. Yanka Takeva, president of the Teacher Union of Bulgaria (SEB), the project’s coordinating organisation, Alexandra Cornea, Director of International Relationship, Training & European Projects Department representing the secondary school teacher union of Romania (FSLI) and Borka Visnic, International Cooperation, Project, and Training Coordinator at the Teacher Union of Serbia (TUS), have provided us with more details on the implementation and plans of the “Green Schools” project.

1. What were the reasons for designing and introducing this project in your country? Why was it important for your union?

The project was born out of a history of successful cooperation and a shared need for a cohesive national-level training method for ecological and green education. Starting from the similar organisational structures and educational experiences, representatives from the three countries recognised the importance of integrating environmental sustainability into education, broadening the role of education trade unions to address societal issues. Borka Visnic highlighted the necessity for new competences among teachers in the Balkan region, despite the initial reluctance among the TUS affiliates. The project showcased the union's broader societal engagement, addressing the competences lacking in light of EU priorities on "green topics." Yanka Takeva emphasised the active role of SEB in environmental education, aligning with a commitment to effective policies and supporting teachers. The project was crucial for fostering skills among educational leaders, motivating staff toward environmental protection, and envisioning long-term positive social change. Additionally, Alexandra Cornea viewed the project as a significant opportunity to recognise the efforts of teachers who, despite the absence of a national training method, strive to deliver green education.

2. What were the activities that your members found the most attractive?

Teachers in primary education across Romania, Bulgaria, and Serbia actively participated through their respective Board for Elementary and Secondary schools. Seeking equal representation, the unions extended invitations to teachers from both urban and rural schools, prioritising inclusivity. The project's start was marked by a day-long training session, providing teachers with a platform to assess their knowledge and attitudes towards green topics. This session was particularly appreciated by teachers in Serbia, as it allowed them to share valuable insights and to identify areas for improvement. The training component, including a methodological framework, played a crucial role in ensuring a holistic development of skills and competencies among trade union members. A pivotal focus of the project was the showcasing of good practices by primary teachers, appreciated especially by Bulgarian teachers who regarded it as the most interesting aspect.

The "Green Schools" initiative further offered individualised support; a facet particularly appreciated by Romanian teachers.

3. What are the key outcomes of this project for your union? How did the cross-border collaboration between the three countries contribute to the project's success?

 For the three countries, the project underscored the benefits of regional cooperation, emphasizing the value of sharing ideas, collaborative efforts, and mutual learning within the region. In Serbia, the project reaffirmed the union's capacity to participate in European projects and adhere to European standards. The developed theoretical-practical model for green education stood out as a notable success for SEB. This model facilitated effective interaction and the exchange of good practices among teachers and trade unions in the Balkan region, contributing significantly to the advancement of environmental education in the region. In Romania, the project elevated the competencies of FSLI staff in designing new projects focused on green education.

4. Are there any further plans for working on this topic and following up on the project?

The three unions are aligned in their future aspirations for environmental education, striving to elevate the importance of "green topics" in the Ministries of Education across Romania, Bulgaria, and Serbia, and continue collaborative projects in the future, including under the 2024 Erasmus+ Call for Proposals. Furthermore, Borka Visnic underscored the need for the inclusion of "green topics" in the upcoming cycle of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programmes, recognising the potential for their training programme and materials to play a vital role in enhancing teachers' competencies. Meanwhile, Bulgarian Union of Teachers envisions extending the successful "Green Schools" project to junior and high school stages. Their plan includes forming partnerships with government bodies, local authorities, and various organizations to promote environmental education across all educational institutions.