Monday, December 04, 2017

Ukraine Focuses on Civic Education

In October, Street Law Executive Director Lee Arbetman and Global Program Manager Ben Perdue, along with Tufts University’s Dr. Peter Levine (who is also a Street Law board member), traveled to Ukraine to kick off a civic education initiative coordinated by Pact International under a grant from USAID.

The team is helping to take advantage of fresh momentum around civic education in the country. The 2014 “Revolution of Dignity,” which resulted in the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych, sparked a new focus on building citizen involvement in the democratic process in Ukraine. This new democratic energy has reverberated throughout Ukrainian institutions and organizations, and the public education system is no exception.

While the country’s focus on civic education is relatively recent, Street Law’s involvement in Ukraine began long before the Revolution of Dignity. Back in 1998, two Street Law staff members—Elizabeth “Bebs” Chorak and Gabriela Eaglesome—traveled to the country and introduced the Ministry of Education and Science (MOES) to the value of civic education and to democratic pedagogy. That work planted the seeds of civic education. In fact, Raisa Evtushenko, lead specialist on civic education for the MOES, considers Bebs and Gabi the parents of civic education in Ukraine.

Under the current project, Street Law is helping the MOES develop a new civic education curriculum. The MOES and a consortium of five Ukrainian NGOs—a.k.a. the Civic Education Cohort—are collaborating to develop civics curricula and a structure for implementing them at the elementary school, middle school, high school, and college levels. The NGOs, which hail from all over the country, are:

  • The Institute for Leadership, Innovations and Development
  • The Integration and Development Center
  • Nova Doba
  • Step by Step Foundation
  • The Ukrainian Association of Teachers of Civic Education and Socio-Political Disciplines

One NGO is pursuing the cornerstone project: a compulsory civic education course for 10th grade students that will incorporate civic competencies relevant to Ukrainian society. Two others are working on elementary curricula, inserting civic education themes into existing classes at the first and second grade levels. The fourth NGO is designing a middle school program, and the fifth is developing training for future teachers at pedagogical institutes.

Street Law’s contributions are multi-faceted and include

  • leading workshops on best practices and international trends in civic education;
  • teaching Street Law’s distinctive student-centered, interactive educational techniques and sharing content through lesson demonstrations;
  • assisting with the development of a competency map and curricular framework that will unify efforts across grade levels, from primary school to teacher training
  • helping design pilot programs; and
  • developing assessment tools for the pilot programs.

Pilot programs are slated to begin in February, at which time Street Law staff will return to Ukraine to present the progress of the project to the MOES, lead workshops on teacher training, and consult with the NGOs on the design and implementation of classroom assessment tools. In July 2018, Street Law staff will again return to Ukraine and will conclude their role in the project by analyzing collected assessment data and using it to help the NGOs revise curricula and think through what changes may be needed in training programs for teachers.

One challenge identified thus far is stylistic is nature. Ukraine traditionally uses a very didactic style of education, where the teacher is an authoritarian figure and lecture is the main format for instruction. Street Law’s approach is democratic, student-centered, and highly participatory. Executive Director Lee Arbetman is fond of saying, “You can’t lecture people into democracy.” Bringing about such a major shift in thinking will be a challenge that requires support for teachers over a period of time.

Despite this cultural difference, the project is off to a strong start and is bringing together individuals and organizations that have not worked together before, in pursuit of making their country better.

For more images from Street Law's trip, visit this album.