SCHOOL CIVIC EDUCATION IMPLEMENTATION: SLUGGISH PROCESS AND MINIMAL RESULTS | Center for Political Analysis “Observatory of Democracy”

SCHOOL CIVIC EDUCATION IMPLEMENTATION: SLUGGISH PROCESS AND MINIMAL RESULTS

School education in developed countries is undergoing a stage of significant transformations. The key benchmarks for determining the necessary changes are the needs of society’s sustainable development, in a broad sense, as well as the forecasts of specialists regarding the future needs of the labor market due to the rapid robots’ displacement of people from production and services spheres. The needs of sustainable development necessitate the creation of an adaptive system for the development and improvement of which responsibility passes from the state to the whole society. Accordingly, in such a system, attention is focused on the quality of management processes in all sectors carried out with wide public participation. Rapid technical progress evokes the demand for preparation of today’s students for those professions and activities that will not be ousted by machines, at least in the near future. Obviously, managerial work, civic participation and the exercise of civil rights are precisely such kinds of activities. Traces of modern democracy crisis inherent in both developed democracies and countries overcoming the first stretches along this path also increase attention to the preparation of a citizen capable of effective participation in democratic processes. Therefore, school education in developed countries on all continents is reoriented towards the formation of student competencies necessary for the creation and reproduction of an adaptive social system capable of self-improvement.

Changes in education systems, in addition to global and regional trends, are primarily influenced by state development strategies. If a country chooses a democratic model of the future, in the community of European democracies, and the government indeed aims to achieve this model, one of its priorities is to prepare current and future generations for life and effective fulfillment of social roles in society. That is, the components and the level of social and civic competence are meant. Since a school graduate coming of age is given the opportunity to exercise civil rights, he or she must be prepared to do so competently. Therefore, the school as a primary and basic institution of civic socialization should provide conditions for the formation of theoretical and practical components of social and civic competence at a level sufficient for the effective exercise of their rights and the conscious fulfillment of duties for rational civil participation. The highest, elite level implies the ability to create, organize, and reproduce democratic institutions in various areas of society. Accordingly, the formation of elite qualities is the mission of universities. Such logic works in developed and new European democracies.

Two Maidans, which in political science terminology can be called civil movements for democracy, did not entail the awareness of the government, which received its power status on their wave, the need for rapid transformation of the entire educational system towards the preparation of competent citizens for the development of democracy in Ukraine. Although in a deferred war of independence, the formation of a political nation based on values and principles of democracy is a matter of national security, the corresponding direction of educational reform at the school level is progressing very slowly, systemlessly, ineffectively.

The regulatory framework of school civic education: signs of being systemless

The first prerequisite for the introduction of a systemic and cross-cutting civic education is the existence of a regulatory framework, within which a clear strategic goal and objectives, components, stages of the formation of civic competences and the results of each stage are defined. Systematicity implies the presence of a number of interconnected components and a cross-cutting feature – the presence of these components at all stages of the process. Regarding school civic education, this means that graduates should form the basic civic competences necessary for the effective realization of civil rights, and the process of their formation occurs from the first to the graduate class inclusively. That is, firstly, a number of academic disciplines should be defined, within which a gradual accumulation of knowledge takes place, and secondly, the mechanisms for participation in self-government should be worked out – from deliberative democracy in the junior school to participation democracy in the senior one. Obviously, the crucial primary task in this case is to prepare a teacher who can change the school from the inside. In the search for these components, we will analyze the content of the main documents representing the current regulatory framework of school civic education.

 

  1. “Strategy of the national-patriotic education of children and youth for 2016-2020” became the first normative document in the field of education adopted by the “new” power after the Revolution of Dignity. Considering two essential circumstances – the actualization of European integration aspirations and the rise of a national-patriotic idea, this document should combine civic and national-patriotic education with the priority of the first one. This would correspond both to the modern European strategy and practices of civic education and upbringing, where patriotic upbringing is one of the directions of civic education, and the needs of the formation of the Ukrainian political nation. After all, when it comes to a political nation, political, in our case, democratic values are the basic ones for its formation. Accordingly, the ideas of ethnic priority are transformed into ideas of ethnic tolerance and unification on the basis of socially significant principles. Moreover, only a conscious citizen, not a dependant one, can become a true patriot.

However, the Strategy does not take into account neither the European experience, nor the logic of educating a citizen-patriot, nor the need to establish a political nation. Civic education is mentioned episodically, civil qualities, the democratic values and principles themselves are subject to ethnic ones. The content of the document testifies not only to the subordination of civic education to the national-patriotic one, but also to the actual removal of the patriot’s education from the citizen’s education. Therefore, the practical implementation of the Strategy at the school level has already become a tracing paper from the Soviet military-patriotic education.

  1. “The concept of the New Ukrainian school” provides for a competence-based approach to education. The list of competences is made up taking into account the Recommendation of the European Parliament and the Council of Europe “On the core competencies for lifelong learning” of December 18, 2006. Civic and social competences are defined as related to the ideas of democracy, justice, equality, human rights, well-being and a healthy lifestyle, with an awareness of equal rights and opportunities. According to the competence-based approach, civic education and upbringing should be indissoluble links of a single process of civic socialization. However, only current pupils of the first form will probably feel the introduction of the Concept. For pupils who will graduate in the next 10 years, the Concept changes little in terms of providing systemic civic education.

 

  1. One of the key documents laying the foundation for systemic civic education should be the “National strategy for the promotion of civil society for 2016–2020”. Since the development of civil society is impossible without raising and, in our case, acquiring civil competence. Therefore, in the part “Main problems of civil society development in Ukraine”, if not the first, then one of the first should be determined and the corresponding problem – an extremely low level of civic education among the whole society. Further, it would be necessary to determine strategic directions and tasks for raising the level of civic competence for various categories. Apparently, the key role should belong to the system of formal civic education. However, the actual absence of civic education is not mentioned in the list of problems. At the same time, the tasks indirectly include some measures to improve civic education, in particular, to protect the rights and express the interests of citizens through participative democracy. The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine is responsible for the synthesis of experience and the development of the concept and program of civic education.

 

  1. An important step in the legal provision of civic education was the adoption of a new Law of Ukraine “On Education”. Its main positive effect became the fact that the creation of conditions for civic education and the formation of social and civic competence was defined as a duty of the state. However, along with the necessary innovations, the law contains a number of imperfections.

 

  1. “The concept of civic education development in Ukraine” has gone a long way of development and discussion. Yet the final version, approved in October 2018, does not ensure the systematic character of civic education, its compliance with the content and components of social and civic competence, as defined in the Recommendation of the European Parliament and the Council of Europe “On the core competencies for lifelong learning”. The first and one of the key disadvantages is the subordination of civic education and upbringing to the national-patriotic education. The introduction notes: “Civic education in this Concept is understood as learning and civic education based on national and humanism values”. In the subsection “Value orientations of civic education”, only the Law of Ukraine “On Education” and “Strategy of national-patriotic education of children and youth for 2016–2020” are indicated. The mention of the Law is obviously expedient, taking into account the obligations of the state to provide conditions for the development of civic education and certain basic values defined in the Law. However, references to the Strategy as the only legal document, which is actually the basis of the Concept, continues the line of subordination of civic education to national-patriotic education. Further study of the Concept’s content points to its direct contradiction to the main European regulatory legal acts defining the goals, objectives and content of civic education. European civic education focuses on students’ learning such knowledge and developing such skills that will help them defend their democratic rights and fulfill their duties, thereby protecting democracy and the rule of law, play an active role in society, value diversity. In essence, the approved Concept places civic education in the framework of patriotic education.

 

  1. In 2017, the “Civic education program (integrated course) for the 10th grades of schools” was developed and approved. The logic of the introducing educational innovations process suggests that the relevant Concept and Strategy must first be developed. The Program already provides an opportunity to implement certain components of school civic education embedded in the system. However, the Program was approved before the Concept was submitted for public discussion. Therefore, the domestic regulatory framework on which the Program is based is more formal than real. The Program suggests a list of international legal acts underlying the course, indicating that it provides for a consensus between the national and European content of civic education. Yet an analysis of its content indicates ignoring some basic components of European civic education and social and civic competence, therefore, consensus looks more like cutting the foundation of civic education.

The structure of this program and the sequence of teaching educational topics raises many questions. Obviously, a civic education course should begin with an explanation of what civic education is and why a person needs it in everyday life, and then reveal the essence of the institution of citizenship and its significance in democratic societies. The Program’s developers start with an identity issue. Since citizenship is an institution of democracy, although in non-democratic regimes citizens are called patrials, it is logical perhaps to proceed to the study of democracy and the role of a citizen in a democratic system. The general conclusion based on the analysis of the content of the Program is as follows: it requires significant professional revision.

 

  1. In July 2018, “The concept of teacher education development” was approved. In the context of school reform, in general, and the introduction of civic education, in particular, we are interested in this document in two aspects. First, today there is no personnel provision for professional teaching of civic education at school. Previously, law school subject and now civic education is taught mainly by historians, for whom the necessary advanced training courses were not even conducted. The Concept probably should reflect this problem and identify ways to solve it. Secondly, the school will become truly new when a new teacher enters it. In order for it to be transformed from an institution for the reproduction of subordinate citizenship into an institution of civil society, it is necessary that the teacher’s social and civic competence be highly developed. Therefore, courses on civics, human and child rights, school government and others should be included in educational programs for all teachers.

The very first pages of the document indicate that the above-mentioned problems were not in the field of vision of the developers of the Concept. In the part “Global educational context”, it is mentioned the progress of technologies, new priorities in the requirements for the competence of workers, etc., but there is no mention of the role of civic knowledge in the modern world. In the characteristics of the pedagogical profession features, attention is focused on the importance of psychological, pedagogical and practical training, preparing teachers to work with people with special needs, which, of course, are necessary qualities, but again there is no a single mention of the civic component of pedagogical education. An insufficient level of social and civic competence of teachers and the need for its improvement is marked neither among the obstacles to the creation of a high-quality system for training and professional development of teachers, nor among the components of the problem that need to be addressed. The absence of a problem and more precisely the absence of this problem awareness do not stimulate the search for ways and means to solve the issue. Therefore, civic education and teacher competence remain outside the “The concept of teacher education development”, which should become an important component of the normative base of school civic education.

 

  1. The role of the basic document for systemic civic education and the definition of its components that are implemented at each educational level, certainly, is given to the Strategy for the Development of Civic Education. However, the prospects for the emergence of even the project “Strategies for the development of civic education for the period up to 2022 and the plan of measures for its implementation” are still uncertain. According to the Order of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine of October 3, 2018 № 710-p the Project must be submitted within six months, that is, at the beginning of May 2019. However, according to the Order of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine № 430 of April 25, 2018, it was supposed to be submitted before May 31, 2018 and go through public discussion before June 20, 2018.

The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine has identified 10 main priorities for 2019. Although this list cannot be attributed to the components of the regulatory framework of educational reform or the introduction of civic education, the content of some items clearly indicates a lack of awareness of the role and importance of civic education, including for solving specific problems identified in it. For example, paragraph two, “The dignity of every child: an accessible dressing room, antibuling and inclusion” states: “Quality education is impossible without protecting the dignity of each participant of the educational process”. Obviously, there can be no objection. Further the paragraph suggests: “However, if adults can protect themselves, children remain vulnerable. That is why, in 2019, the Ministry of Education and Science will work on the development of antibuling programs, improving the functioning of the inclusive education sphere, and is planning to re-equip all the toilets on the streets – to make them warm and more private”. Here, not only antibuling programs put together in one meaningful line with inclusive education and warm toilets seem a bit strange, but also inappropriate is the absence of mention of strengthening the work of educating schoolchildren based on those principles and values, the assimilation of which ensures the awareness of the honor and dignity of each person. For the successful implementation of antibuling programs and for effective inclusive education this is the necessary foundation.

The start of the educational ombudsman work is determined to be one of the priorities. To help the educational ombudsman, there will be a special service consisting of 15 people. Given the significant number of violations, public activists have repeatedly justified the need for the creation of regional offices of the educational ombudsman. However, the corresponding norm is left unchanged. Therefore, there is a high probability that the institute of educational ombudsman as the primary instance of protecting the participants’ of the educational process rights will not provide the expected positive results.

Conclusions

The introduction of systemic and cross-cutting civic education has become a top priority for solving the key problems of the modern stage of the Ukrainian statehood formation – the formation of a political nation and civil identity, the strengthening of civil society and the implementation of the European integration strategy. However, the process of preparing the regulatory framework and taking real steps towards creating conditions for obtaining civic knowledge and developing practical skills among participants of the educational process is extremely slow and ineffective.

The main factor in the ineffectiveness of civic education is an imperfect legal and regulatory framework that neither ensures compliance with European standards and experience, nor system approach, nor the basis for the formation of the main components of social and civic competence.

Analysis of the content of the main legal acts provides an opportunity to identify a number of positive developments and to identify the main disadvantages of the legal framework of civic education:

  • The most weighty basis for the introduction in the future of systematic school civic education are laid down by: “The concept of the New Ukrainian school”, according to which the education system should ensure the cross-cutting formation of social and civic competence; the Law of Ukraine “On Education”, according to which the concept of civic education already has a clear normative definition, and the provision of conditions for civic education becomes the responsibility of the state. However, some “weak links” are also evident, in particular, fragmentation in the implementation of civic education for schoolchildren who are now in 2-11 forms.
  • “Strategy of the national-patriotic education of children and youth for 2016-2020” and “National strategy for the promotion of civil society for 2016–2020” formally can be considered as components of the regulatory framework of civic education. However, their real significance in ensuring the systematic character of civic education should not be exaggerated. According to the first legal act, civic education is in fact subordinated to national-patriotic education. The content of the second legal act does not indicate an awareness of the key role of civic education and the transformation a subordinate citizen to democratic one in the process of the formation and strengthening of civil society.
  • The approved “The concept of civic education development in Ukraine” retained all the shortcomings of its project. The main ones among these shortcomings are: the dominance of the national-patriotic direction over the civil one; ignoring the content of the basic documents and recommendations of the EU concerning the formation of democratic citizenship; the absence of intentions to introduce civic education in the general education system at all levels from primary to higher school with the adoption of appropriate educational standards. Therefore, this Concept cannot be taken unchanged as the basis for the development of the Strategy for the Development of Civic Education.
  • The civic education program for the 10th grade provides not even a fragmentary, but only a point learning of some civic knowledge, the amount of which is very insufficient for the formation of social and civic competence according to the Recommendation of the European Parliament and the Council of Europe “On the core competencies for lifelong learning”.
  • “The concept of teacher education development” actually preserves the preparation of teachers with low levels of social and civic competence. If the state does not define as part of the pedagogical educational institutions’ mission the preparation of a teacher who is capable of introducing democratic principles in the life of the school, it is obvious that the educational institutions themselves will decide whether this is appropriate within the framework of autonomy. Therefore, the prospects for the development of a school as an institution of civil society look illusory.

Recommendations

The education system in Ukraine must be immediately and substantially transformed. The general direction of transformation is humanization, which in the socio-political context and in order to strengthen statehood is reflected in the introduction of systemic civic education according to European model. Key arguments are related both to global threats to democracy, arising, including due to the weakening of social ties and social atomization, and to the needs of the democracy’s establishment in Ukraine in the absence of democratic experience, extremely low level of political awareness and civic competence of the society, permanent external threat. The first link in systemic changes in this direction should be not only the New Ukrainian School, but also the one whose graduates in the next 10 years will receive the opportunity to exercise their civil rights.

The existing regulatory framework for civic education requires substantial improvement. Main directions are:

  • To ensure compliance with the European regulatory framework and recommendations of European institutions on the content and components of social and civic competence.
  • To eliminate the dominance of the national-patriotic education over the civic one.
  • To create the legal and regulatory prerequisites for systemic civic education at all levels of education with the definition of those components of cross-cutting social and civic competencies that should be formed at each school level, from primary to higher school.
  • To improve regulatory provision of civic education for teachers and professors.
  • For systematic civic education, it is necessary to revise and substantially improve the program of the humanitarian subjects for 2-11 grades with including a civic education component.

The program, respectively, and textbooks on the course “Civic education” for the 10th grades require thorough professional development, preferably with the participation of political scientists. The main directions are bringing the content in accordance with the components of social and civic competence in compliance with the recommendations of European institutions; building a logical course structure; strengthening the practical component and its focus on the task of establishing the school as an institution of civil society.

One of the main components of the system of school civic education should become a course of history. Therefore, it needs the most detailed refinement.

 

Svetlana Topalova

Center for Political Analysis “Observatory of Democracy”

Published in Svetlana Topalova’s blog on the social political website “LB.ua”

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