Educational reform and formation of civic competence: discussion in Izyum | Center for Political Analysis “Observatory of Democracy”

Educational reform and formation of civic competence: discussion in Izyum

On April 10, in Izyum, in Izyum Regional Center of Professional Education a discussion on the topic “Educational reform and formation of civic competence” took place, conducted by the Center for Political Analysis “Observatory of Democracy” with financial support of the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) and the Government of Canada. Experts, teachers, methodologists, representatives of public associations, government bodies and local self-government participated in the event to discuss the specifics of the process of the education system reforming and the formation of civic competence as one of the key tasks of the reform implementation.

Alexander Solovei, deputy director for teaching and production work at the Izyum Regional Center for Professional Education, in the opening remarks congratulated participants of the discussion and described the peculiarities of academic work as well as educational and professional opportunities offered by the institution represented.

During the discussion, experts of the Center for Political Analysis “Observatory of Democracy” Svetlana Topalova and Vitaly Nosachov presented the results of the analysis of the educational reform implementation at the levels of Kharkiv region and Izyum district.

The Law of Ukraine “On Education”: tools and opportunities for forming a citizen?

The report of Svetlana Topalova was devoted to the tools and opportunities for the formation of civic competence, provided by the new Law of Ukraine “On Education”. According to her, this law should launch a systemic education reform. Nevertheless, at present ideologists of the educational reform and experts mainly focus on the expected positive effects from the implementation of the concept of the “New Ukrainian School”, stated by the Law, for future first-graders, leaving out prospects for children who are already studying.

That is why, Svetlana Topalova stressed, it is important to understand what opportunities the law gives for changes in the educational process and in the life of the educational institutions currently, which ways for building the civic competence among today’s students are offered, and what are the possible ways to accelerate the implementation of educational reform.

The expert said that the Law of Ukraine “On Education” provides for the introduction of a competence approach, which includes not only the process of obtaining the necessary theoretical knowledge, but also acquiring practical skills important for modern life. Therefore, the special importance for the effective process of introducing educational reform gains the necessity to form an appropriate environment for the practical application of the acquired skills.

In this regard, Svetlana Topalova noted, the problem of the establishment of the pupils’ self-government institution arises, it should become a practical tool that provide pupils with the opportunity to apply civic competence skills, to feel the practical benefits of civic education “in action”. According to the expert, the Law of Ukraine “On Education” provides an opportunity for each institution to develop its own model of self-government, which, certainly, is a positive result. However, she added, the main problem is that now among pupils, parents and teachers there is even a lack of understanding of the true functions and purpose of the institution of self-government. The most common ideas about self-government are limited to executive functions – “to fulfill the instruction or orders of teachers/administration”.

In conclusion the expert noted that in the current state Ukrainian educational institutions do not fulfill the mission of forming civic competence, education of a literate citizen, voter, etc. Therefore, the tools and opportunities provided by the Law of Ukraine “On Education” only outline certain initial steps to “correct” this situation.

Educational reform in Kharkiv region: the leading direction – inclusive education

Analyzing the process of reforming the education system of Kharkov region, Svetlana Topalova first of all singled out the experiment of teaching first-graders according to the method of LEGO, which in 2017/18 academic year was started by the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine in 100 Ukrainian schools. In Kharkiv region, 4 school educational institutions joined the experiment of the teaching under the New Ukrainian School program, where pupils will study in accordance with the pedagogical system that uses models of the real world and simultaneously creates an object-playing environment for the learning and development of the child.

According to the expert, Kharkiv region has been quite actively connected to the development of inclusive school education. Svetlana Topalova noted, in the issue of ensuring conditions for the full-scale implementation of educational reform, this is the exact sphere, where the greatest progress is being made. The work on creating conditions for teaching children with disabilities is carried out in two directions: reconstruction in existing schools and construction of new schools, taking into account the conditions necessary for organizing an inclusive educational space.

The weakest place of educational reform introduction, the expert summarized, traditionally remains the sphere of pupils’ self-government. The results of the research of sites of 30 schools of Kharkiv and regional centers of the region, sites of lyceums and gymnasiums of Shevchenko district of Kharkov testify to the weakness and ineffectiveness of the existing bodies of pupils’ self-government, she added. In most cases, on the website the section “student self-government” contains only diagrams illustrating the structure of governments, photos and a list of projects involving “bodies of student self-government,” and not their work plans and reports on the work performed during the past academic years.

The education system of Izyum: state and possibilities for development

Vitaly Nosachov presented the main conclusions of the research on monitoring the current state of the education system in Izyum. To clarify the main directions of the schools’ activities in the implementation of the educational reform, he explained, information was analyzed on the websites of all general education schools in the Izyum district (16 schools in total).

The purpose of the study, according to Vitaly Nosachev, was to follow the changes in the sphere of forming the civic competence of pupils. The implementation of Article 30 of the Law of Ukraine “On Education” was also monitored, paragraph 3 of which provides for the need to publish estimates on the websites and a financial report on the receipt and use of all funds received.

Although democracy according to European principles should begin with the school, as was emphasized by Vitaly Nosachov, the results of the analysis demonstrated the following trends:

  • the purely formal approach of educational institutions to the issue of informing the public about their activities (for example, only 2 of the studied school sites contain information on self-government and provide financial reports);
  • the list of school subjects did not change in the direction of supplementing with civic disciplines; submitted plans for educational work do not actually reflect civic and legal topics;
  • educational institutions do not have a system of effective self-government bodies; according to the published information it can be concluded that the work on the development of the model of school self-government did not begin.

Realities of civic education in Ukraine: conservatism and lack of “driving force”

Commenting on the theses of experts, the deputy chairman of the Izyum district state administration, Vasily Lesik, expressed his vision of the problem. In his opinion, to argue that Ukrainian educational institutions do not contain methods for civic education and upbringing – it is not entirely appropriate, all of that is designed and written in programs. In this situation, Vasily Lesik underlined, it is worth considering that education is the most conservative system and this factor complicates the way of its reforming.

Dmitry Stukalenko, a deputy of the Izyum city council, agreed with this thesis, emphasizing that especially schools are not only conservative, but also dependent on the administration. Also, in his opinion, when we compare the Ukrainian realities with the European experience, it is worth regarding that in Western countries the principle “a person respects the law and the law respects a person” works. In addition, he highlighted the lack of a “driving force” that would actively promote changes in the educational system. Even the parents’ councils, he remarked, are an advisory body that does not have financial responsibility.

According to Alexei Polyak, a deputy of the Kharkiv regional council, the state as a whole has no general vision of the ultimate goals of education. This, in his opinion, leads to intellectual migration of Ukrainians abroad.

Alexander Solovei, deputy director for teaching and production work at the Izyum Regional Center for Professional Education, commented on the experts’ thesis about the lack of sufficient civic and legal subjects in the curricula and plans for educational work. According to him, another equally important problem arises here, namely, the effective use of those hours that are already allocated for this work. Alexander Solovei noted that now there is even a reserve of hours, but there is no opportunity to spend them profitably (one could conduct a “school of leaders”, “school of social activity”, etc.).

The teacher of the Izyum Regional Center for Professional Education Natalya Volodina added that special attention should be paid to out-of-school education, because now the young people have no alternatives for the useful spending of leisure time.

Agreeing with comments and remarks, in this context, Svetlana Topalova noted that an important aspect of this problem is that children do not see a connection between what they are studying and do not understand why they need it. That is why educational work should be aimed at explaining not only the basic principles, but also the benefits of civic education.

Published on the portal “Gromadsky Prostir”

The discussion was held within the framework of a project implemented with the financial support of the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) and the Government of Canada