Presentation of methodological recommendations for high school teachers on holding classes on topics such as “Election process”, “Political System in Ukraine: Citizen Engagement”, “Legislature for Youth” and “Youth in Government Programs”

On November 23, 2017, the Panorama conference hall hosted the presentation of methodological recommendations for high school teachers on holding classes on topics such as “Election process”, “Political System in Ukraine: Citizen Engagement”, “Legislature for Youth” and “Youth in Government Programs” as components of civic education.

The event was organized by the Agency of Legislative Initiatives with the support of USAID RADA Program: Responsible Accountable Democratic Assembly, implemented by East Europe Foundation.

Oleksandr ZASLAVSKYI, Deputy Chairman of the Board of the Agency for Legislative Initiatives, addressed the participants with words of welcome, noting that the RADA Program was fostering a number of initiatives, including promotion of civic education for a wider citizen engagement in the legislative process. The initiative is aimed at introducing elements of civic education into compulsory social studies for high school students, as envisaged by the Concept of the New Ukrainian School, the National Strategy for Promoting the Development of Civil Society in Ukraine for 2016-2020 and in pursuance of the provisions of the Law of Ukraine “On Education”, which establish the priority of civic education. These are topics such as “Election process”, “Political System in Ukraine: Citizen Engagement”, “Legislature for Youth” and “Youth in Government Programs”. According to Mr. Zaslavskyi, in 2016 the USAID RADA Program signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Institute of Educational Content Modernization and were jointly holding the event. In addition, the Institute reviewed the Methodological Recommendations, which helped improve them considerably. Mr. Zaslavskyi informed that since October 2016 the Agency for Legislative Initiatives had conducted 5 colloquiums for teachers in four Ukrainian cities: Sumy, Poltava, Brovary, and Chernihiv. The speaker emphasized that in general more than 200 educators were acquainted with the Methodological Recommendations and the role-playing game AGORA that simulates the democratic legislative process in parliament.

“The Agency for Legislative Initiatives has been cooperating with parliament for more than 17 years, trying to improve its work, internal procedures, and transparency of MPs’ and committees’ work. We have reached the conclusion that many problems associated with the parliament’s work are external. When it comes to factional discipline, a democratic process of decision-making within factions, and parliamentary ethics, these are issues of the party system rather than anything else. Meanwhile, the lack of public awareness of the parliament’s work or the lack of public confidence in Parliament is down to faults in the work of the media.”

Mr. Zaslavskyi noted that the Agency for Legislative Initiatives was already implementing several projects aimed at educating adults, such as the Ukrainian School of Political Studies and the School of Community Leaders, and had already completed the project of the School of Professional Journalism ‘New Ukraine’. Working with adults is needed and important, but it is more important to start working with young people. Hence the Agency came up with the idea to draw up Methodological Recommendations for high school teachers of social studies in order to raise awareness of political processes and the ways of the parliament’s work so that citizens could consciously and knowingly engage in its work.

Oleksandr YAREMA, Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports of Ukraine, noted that the answers to many young people’s questions about the political and electoral processes could have been found at school. Therefore, the Methodological Recommendations prepared by the Agency for Legislative Initiatives will help raise students’ awareness of political processes and how they could become responsible citizens. The combination of theoretical and practical elements contributes to increasing the platform of civil society, helping the country to develop as a democratic one since no country can exist without strong civil society institutions. According to Mr. Yarema, it is very important that young people, students should be aware of the opportunities of civic education, opportunities to engage in decision-making through various instruments, from student self-government or participation in youth civic organizations. This may be the first step towards responsible citizenship.

Serhiy HORBACHOV, Director of I. Bahrianyi Specialized School No. 148 where the role-playing game AGORA was tested. Mr. Horbachov, who joined the discussion via Skype, emphasized the importance of forming civic education competencies. Thanks to AGORA students can feel how the government works, how the work of the Verkhovna Rada is arranged; understand what interest and conflict of interest are; see the conduct of actors in the political arena. Also, Mr. Horbachov drew attention to the fact that children find AGORA very interesting because it makes it possible to feel the atmosphere of making socially important decisions.

“The fact that the Agency for Legislative Initiatives offers this project and develops it – it is a major contribution to the development of civil competencies as part of the general competencies envisaged by the Law “On Education” and the Concept of the New Ukrainian School.”

Volodymyr KOVTUNETS, First Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine, pointed out to the high calibre of the Methodological Recommendations and drew attention to the fact that the methodology was not instruction-based, when the teacher has a monopoly on truth and the student has to reproduce that gospel truth, instead it was about practical training. Mr. Kovtunets emphasized the importance of encouraging students to actively contribute to shaping responsibility for all processes taking place in our country.

Lesia KORETSKA, Head of the Department of Scientific, Educational and Methodological Support for Out-of-School Training and Mentoring of the State Academic Institution ‘Institute of Educational Content Modernization’, emphasized the importance of the work of the Agency for Legislative Initiatives, which prepared the Methodological Recommendations and role-playing game AGORA and contributed to the development of the Concept of the New Ukrainian School. Ms. Koretska pointed out the importance of involving the students through classes as well as through the entire educational process, both formal and informal.

According to Natalia AMELCHENKO, Ph.D., Associate Professor of the Department of Political Science of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, currently Ukrainian schools have no established course in civic education, therefore, modules have been developed with a view to including them in certain subject areas of the already existing courses in jurisprudence, “Human Being and the World”, and History. Ms. Amelchenko noted that prior to drawing up the Methodological recommendations, she had analyzed the syllabuses of the above disciplines, textbooks, and state documents regulating the educational process. Based on the analysis, she identified the components of civic education, which is not limited to patriotic education. Civic education, including its informal component, molds democratic citizenship. Civic education fosters moral responsibility for the living space of other people and sensitivity to violations of the rights and freedoms of citizens, that is, it forms civic consciousness.

Civics is not just about passive affiliation to a certain state, and not only about knowledge of the rights and freedoms of the individual, the principles of construction of democratic political institutions, etc. First of all, it is about the ability to act in accordance with democratic laws, to defend the rights and freedoms of citizens, to build social relations on the basis of democratic rights and freedoms in the context of the development of a civil society, that is, about being an active citizen.

Civic education should form students’ awareness of their belonging to a certain nation, national history, and state but, above all, it should develop an active democratic civic identity, that is, involvement in the development of civil society and democratic institutions.

Only interactive methods of teaching civics can help not only acquire knowledge but also provide students with an understanding of their competencies in a particular social role, and their functions in a particular democratic process. At this stage, children can resolve conflicts and learn to be tolerant.

In addition, the discussion involved the students of I. Bahrianyi Specialized School No. 148 who took part the interactive role-playing game AGORA and adopted the draft law “On the Election of the President of the School”. The students joined in the discussion via Skype to share their impressions of the game and placed special emphasis on how informative and engaging it was.

The second part of the presentation was devoted to the testing of the interactive role-playing game AGORA, which gave teachers the opportunity to try their hand at approving the Law “On Education”.

By drawing lots, “MPs” were divided into three groups: liberals, conservatives, and MPs elected in first-past-the-post constituencies. The positions of each of the parties were clearly spelled out in the script. Apart from the three parliamentary groups, the game also included the roles of the Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine, counting commission, and the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada. The law passed three readings, voting and approval procedures. After the game, its results were summed up and the participants expressed their ideas and impressions.

For additional information, please contact Iryna Cherpak at tel.: +38067 242 80 91.

Photo-gallery of the event

Photos by Oleksandr Kovalenko