Educational reform and formation of civic competence: discussion in Kramatorsk
On March 29, in Kramatorsk, in the Anti-Crisis Media Center 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, representatives of public associations and the media participated in discussing the specifics of the implementation of educational reform at the national and regional levels (on the example of the Donetsk region).
Educational reform: opportunities and limitations
Expert of the Center for Political Analysis “Observatory of Democracy” Svetlana Topalova within her report focused attention on three key issues:
- tools and opportunities for the formation of civic competence, which contains the Law of Ukraine “On Education”;
- tasks and needs of civic education for the front-line region;
- dynamics of educational reform introduction at the level of Donetsk region.
The Law of Ukraine “On Education”, according to Svetlana Topalova, provides only certain theoretical principles necessary for the formation of civic competence. In particular, it contains a list of competencies that pupils must possess: first of all, understanding of the content of civil rights, principles of democracy, justice, equality. Meanwhile, the process of formation of civic competencies presupposes the presence of two interrelated components: disciplines, the purpose of which is to provide the necessary theoretical knowledge and, not least, the environment for their practical application.
It is the lack of an appropriate environment and relevant conditions for the formation and acquirement of civic competence skills that is one of the main obstacles to the effective implementation of the tools of civic education provided for by the Law of Ukraine “On Education”, the expert concluded.
For the front-line region, underlined Svetlana Topalova, the problem of civic education is particularly crucial, considering the following factors:
- “Post-Soviet” state of regional political consciousness of the inhabitants of the front-line region, which, certainly, is transformed, but mostly remains “archaic”.
- Donetsk region has the largest number of internally displaced people – about 530 thousand people. And exactly those internally displaced people, according to the expert, are an important resource for reintegration, since they can become the bearers of democratic values in the liberated territories.
- At present, the number of pupils who want to receive Ukrainian education increases in uncontrolled territories. There are already 5 basic schools (in Kramatorsk, Mariupol, Slavyansk, Bakhmut, Pokrovsk), where separate distance education classes for students from uncontrolled territories have been created. This, according to Svetlana Topalova, is also an important resource for reintegration, which can and should be used now.
At the Donetsk region level, the expert noted, the main components of the educational reform implementation are the Draft Regional Program “Education of the Donetsk region in European Dimension for 2017-2020”. The main steps of its first stage are the performing of an educational experiment on the training of first-graders in a new methodology, the creation of an inclusive educational environment and the creation of pivotal schools.
The sphere of the educational institution functioning, where the reform has not started yet at all, according to the expert’s conclusions is the introduction of students’ self-government. According to Svetlana Topalova, not only in Ukrainian schools, but also in universities the traditions of self-government and an adequate idea of its essence are absent.
The analysis of information on self-government on the websites of schools, Svetlana Topalova said, demonstrated that its represented model is the executive bodies subordinate to the administration, which in most cases are called ministries. However, at the same time, it is precisely this set of executive bodies that, in addition to ensuring the implementation of plans, are given “powers” to petition the administration, is called a “system of self-government bodies”.
Resuming her report, Svetlana Topalova highlighted the following specific problems of the Donetsk region in the process of implementing the educational reform:
- The riskiness of establishing and investing pivotal schools in populated areas near the line of demarcation (in the “gray zone”);
- Separation of some cities and towns into parts by a line of demarcation (this creates the problem of forming an educational district, ensuring the territorial accessibility of the pivotal school);
- The need for strengthened ideological work, concentration of attention on Ukrainian studies subjects and civic education in the front-line region, in order to reduce the influence of the ideology of the “Russian world”;
- The need for creation of distance learning centers for pupils from uncontrolled territories, willing to take the External Independent Testing in Ukraine, and enter Ukrainian universities. These centers are being already created, including on the basis of pivotal schools, but still they require the allocation of additional finances.
Formation of civic competence: what should be the practical steps?
The questions and comments of the participants of the discussion centered primarily on practical steps aimed at building civic competence. Alena Kucheruk, a representative of coworking “FreeUA – creative space”, spoke about her own experience and an attempt to change the approach to education as a whole through the development of school entrepreneurship. However, she added, the main problem is that at present this process is carried out “blindly”. Therefore, in her opinion, there is a big demand for analytical materials that would study similar experience of other countries and, based on this, offer the most effective tools for Ukraine.
Alain Kucheruk also noted that one of the difficulties she faced in the process of introducing school entrepreneurship is the “closedness” of schools. In most cases, she specified, in order to conduct at least mini-training at school, it is necessary to collect an abundance of different permits.
Marina Nedoruba, the head of the non-governmental organization “Anti-Crisis Media Center” drew attention to an equally important problem. According to her, there is a significant demand for a civic education for teachers either, who, she added, lack the creative potential, even despite the increase in wages. On the other hand, Marina Nedoruba emphasized, in part the parents themselves, who perceive the teacher as an employee “who must” (teach their child to read, count, etc.), and not as a bearer of certain values, are also responsible for the present state of affairs.
Commenting on this issue, Viktoria Shevchuk, Director of the Analytical Center “Observatory of Democracy”, defined the basic institutional and value principles of civic education. According to her, the main features of the citizen, on the one hand are freedom and the ability to defend it, and on the other – the willingness to take responsibility. The modern Western educational system and the system of state institutions, on the whole, are focused precisely on maintaining this balance of freedom and responsibility.
Svetlana Topalova, answering to the question of Marina Nedoruba, noted that indeed, we can state the presence of a certain “tacit consent” between teachers and parents to resist the formation of civic skills and competencies among schoolchildren. However, in her opinion, it is important to appeal specifically to an active, critically thinking parental minority. This active parental community must become the main initiator of change and a source of pressure on teachers and school administrators.
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