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Citizenship Education in Georgia

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Citizenship Education in Georgia

Maka Bibileishvili Sulkhan Chargeishvili

/ 15 Minuten zu lesen

Many successful steps have recently been taken to improve the teaching of citizenship education in Georgia, of which the greatest contributors are non-governmental organisations and international donors. Yet citizenship education still faces significant challenges. You can learn here more about the situation of Citizenship Education in Georgia.

Georgia (© bpb)

1. Background Information

To ensure the implementation of a unified state policy in the fields of education and science -based on the Constitution, the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia, in 2004, approved the 'National Goals of General Education' , which clearly defines the skills and competencies - learning outcomes to develop the adolescent so that she/he can fulfil the order of the modern Georgian society and, at the same time, be able to master the principles of world citizenship.

The content analysis of the document shows that the government of Georgia, in addition to developing basic skills, recognizes as social functions/obligations of education the development of civic skills for adolescents in society, such as: promoting democracy and civil society; the understanding and realization of human rights and their protection mechanisms; the formation of competencies necessary for democracy and active citizenship; the formation of civic consciousness; the understanding and protection of the concept of sustainable development, and so on; finally, modern human lives in international space.

Today, the teaching of democratic citizenship in Georgia is a common task of the general education institutions. Particularly important in this regard is citizenship education, which, as an educational discipline, aims to promote the education of an informed, active and responsible citizen at all levels of general education.

2. Definition of Citizenship Education

2.1. Defining Citizenship Education in the formal education setting

In the formal educational system of Georgia, citizenship education is one of the compulsory subjects in the general secondary and higher education cycles. Citizenship education, sometimes referred to as civic education, is considered a subject that provides the knowledge needed to form a student's civic consciousness and that develops appropriate competencies for students to participate broadly in democratic processes. The national standard of teaching in secondary and higher education cycles defines specific competencies that citizenship education develops in students. However, there is no universal definition of citizenship education as a concept.

2.2. Defining Citizenship Education in the Non-formal Education Setting

In Georgia, the primary document that defines citizenship education in a non-formal education setting is the Georgian National Youth Policy . The document presents citizenship education as a means for promoting youth participation in local and regional life and states that the government's priority is to raise young people's awareness of their civil rights and responsibilities. There is no overall definition of citizenship education in the National Youth Policy paper; however, the paper shows that citizenship education activities in the youth sector are provided as part of a general youth work provision in this country. Specifically, the Georgian Framework of Key Youth Work Competencies acts as a support standard for the National Youth Policy, which presents the competencies which youth work activities intend to develop in young people in Georgia. One of the nine key competencies in this framework is citizenship competence, which is defined as a competence enabling young people to promote and protect the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms. Citizenship education as a priority of the youth sector is also evidenced in the Concept Paper on the Implementation of National Youth Policy in 2020/2030 . The Parliament of Georgia adopted the concept paper in 2020.

The national definition of citizenship competence is in line with the Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education and the European Union Competence Framework for Life-Long Learning . The Charter defines the democratic citizenship and human rights education to which the Georgian National Youth Policy Document refers. The Georgian framework of key youth work competencies also acknowledges the international relevance of citizenship competence by referring to the European Union Life-Long Learning Competence Framework, specifically Competence 6 on Citizenship.

Overall policy documents in non-formal education adopted at the national level present citizenship education as part of general youth work activities that can be developed through non-formal education and training targeting young people, in most cases those aged 14-29.

3. Ecosystem of Non-formal Citizenship Education

In Georgia, non-formal citizenship education is predominantly provided by civil society organisations and funded by international donor organisations. However, in recent years government entities also have played a role in supporting the implementation of local citizenship education initiatives. The following actors create an ecosystem of non-formal citizenship education in Georgia:

  • International non-governmental organisations, having representation in at least one local community in Georgia.

  • National and local non-governmental organisations, including youth-run organisations as well as organisations primarily working with youth.

  • Government organisations, primarily LEPL Youth Agency of Georgia (Ministry of Education, Culture and Youth) and public schools.

  • European youth foundations and funding programmes.

  • International donors, including international development agencies from the Global North (USA, European Union, the Netherlands, etc.).

  • Local initiative groups voluntarily implementing citizenship education activities in local communities.

  • Business organisations, implementing citizenship education projects within the framework of Corporate Social Responsibility.

There is some level of interaction between the various stakeholder represented in the local ecology of non-formal education. To illustrate, international non-governmental organisations often partner up with local youth-led organisations to propose a joint project to international donors. Examples of such joint projects include the recently finalised 'Promoting Integration, Tolerance and Awareness Project', which the UN Association of Georgia implemented in cooperation with local grassroots organisations with the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development. Another example is the 'The Skills and Knowledge for Youth Economic Empowerment Project' implemented by the World Vision Georgia in cooperation with the local non-governmental organisations. This project was co-funded by the European Union.

Smaller local youth-led organisations implement citizenship education activities to support international and national organisations providing seed-funding for their community projects. Most of the funding comes through the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe and the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union . To illustrate, the youth organisation Human Rights Association, in partnership with the European Wergeland Centre, developed a long-term training course for school teachers and youth workers on human rights and citizenship education. This project was funded by the European Youth Foundation and shortlisted as one of the good practice examples in the Review of the Council of Europe Charter for Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education . In recent years, the Youth Agency of Georgia also has funded a few youth projects focusing on developing citizenship competence in young people targeted by local projects.

Recently local initiative groups also have become active in providing basic citizenship education opportunities for young people living in rural and disadvantaged neighbourhoods. The group members are often young people themselves who act as peer educators to circulate their knowledge of citizenship in their local communities. For example, the youth association 'Umbrella' supported four local rural youth centres where youth volunteers organised non-formal education workshops with their peers focused on human rights, democratic participation and other related topics. In addition, there are a very few examples of businesses which implemented citizenship education activities in a non-formal setting in close cooperation with schools. One such example is an enterprise initiative 'Crystal' , which empowers vulnerable young people to become actively engaged, in community life through citizenship and entrepreneurship. Overall, the ecosystem of non-formal citizenship education involves a wide range of stakeholders with different capacities, size, history and culture of functioning. However, there is a lack of coordination and cooperation between the stakeholders, which sometimes becomes apparent when different organisations work in the same community on the same topic using different tools without knowing about each other.

Citizenship education for adults is predominantly part of an effort of civil society organisations to support the empowerment of citizens in order to building a more democratic society in Georgia. Although there are no governmental programmes that aim at building citizenship competencies of adults in Georgia, the non-governmental organisations cover various aspects of citizenship education through their project targeting the adult population. These projects are often implemented in cooperation with the local authorities and national ministries. However, it should be noted that a complex approach towards adult citizenship education is lacking. Various projects tackle issues that are part of citizenship education. These issues include: women's rights, children's rights and welfare, domestic violence, anti-discrimination, general human rights and the right to vote. The target group for the thematic projects are community members (adult citizens) or adult professionals who get involved in citizenship education initiatives as part of their professional capacity (public servants, police officers, teachers, prosecutors, etc).

One of the major contributors for empowering adult community members through citizenship education across Georgia is (1) the Georgian Adult Education Network , which gets financial and institutional support from the DVV International and (2) the Network of Centers of Civic Engagement , which was founded by the United States Agency for International Development and which operates in all major cities of Georgia. Other examples of initiatives include the Participation Academy implemented by the Solidarity Fund PL . Participation Academy aims to train professionals in facilitating dialogue between the citizens and the authorities. The Center for Training and Consultancy (CTC) also runs programmes for community members for learning about self-governance and their rights in participating in local and regional life. An example of citizenship education for professionals is the work done by the Council of Europe Office in Georgia , which trains prosecutors in Georgia in human rights standards related to anti-discrimination.

4. Legal Environment

Teaching Civic Education, with this title, in Georgian schools dates back to the 2006/2007 school year when the process of reforming the education system was one of the main documents of the secondary school 'National Curriculum' (2004). The response to the condition given in the dual document was: 'Education system: Students form a civic consciousness based on liberal and democratic values, and their family, society, and state are rooted in their sense of duty.'

According to the National Goals of General Education of Georgia, the prime goal of education is to rear a full-fledged citizen. Based on this document, teaching citizenship education in basic and secondary grades, IX and X, was made compulsory in the 2011-2016 National Curriculum. In grade VIII, it was integrated with other social programmes. In addition, in grades X-XII students were offered some elective citizenship education subjects: Economics and the State, Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship, State and Law, etc.

In addition, the National Curriculum identifies nine high-priority interdisciplinary competencies crucial to self-realization in the modern world. These include social and civic competence, which includes the development of skills and values necessary for integration into civic life, such as constructive cooperation, problem-solving, critical and effective thinking, decision-making, tolerance, respect for the rights of others, and recognition of democratic principles.

The signing of the Association Agreement with the EU on 27 June 2014 also imposed certain obligations on the education sector. The document devotes a separate chapter to education issues and envisages the obligation of the state to integrate and implement the quality of European education in the Georgian educational space. The challenges in terms of citizenship education are important because European education is based on the idea of developing a citizen. According to the Association Agreement, an education system should be created that will be focused on youth and citizenship, to strengthen the community.

Since the adoption of this document, reforms have been implemented in the field of education, which apply to both general education and higher and vocational schools. Within the framework of the General Education Reform Support Programme, in 2019, constructivist principles of teaching-learning have been introduced in more than 100 schools in Georgia (and gradually will be in introduced in all public schools of Georgia by 2023) with a focus on student development and teamwork based on cooperation and responsibility.

The goal of the programme is to promote the introduction of a new, third-generation national curriculum. The introduction of the new National Curriculum began in 2018.

According to the new National Curriculum, citizenship education, as a part of public awareness, is compulsory at all three levels of primary education (primary, basic and secondary). This subject group includes related citizenship education subjects - Me and Society, Our Georgia, History, Geography, and Citizenship. The learning process is built upon the principle of continuity and takes into account the age characteristics of the students.

At the elementary level, social sciences are taught in grades III-VI:
In grades III-IV: Me and Society, the hourly load is 1 hour per week, the subject can be taught by both elementary and citizenship education teachers.
In grades V-VI: Our Georgia, the hourly load is 1 hour a week. The subject can be taught by all teachers in the social sciences group, including a citizenship education teacher.

Basic level:

The subject Citizenship, grades VII-X: Weekly workload grade VII - 2 hours; VIII - 1 hour; IX - 2 hours; The subject can be taught by a teacher who has been granted the status of at least a senior teacher of citizenship education (according to the current legislation, there are three categories of teachers of a general education institution: Senior, Lead, and Mentor Teachers).

The subject Me and Society prepares students to study the disciplines of social sciences - history, geography, and civics. Me and Society in grades III-IV aims to develop students' responsibility and caring attitude towards themselves, family, community, natural environment, and their cultural heritage.

The subject Our Georgia comprises integrated teaching of the basics of social sciences; the direction of citizenship education in this subject is aimed at students: to motivate them to contribute to the solution of public problems and to assist in perceiving themselves as members of society and the state.

Citizenship education, at the basic level, is taught in the subject Citizenship, grades VII-IX, within which the student will get acquainted with the community in which s/he lives and will examine ongoing socio-political processes at the local, state, and global levels. While learning the subject, the student will be involved in civic activities that will enable him/her to apply the acquired knowledge in practice. By working on goals, Citizenship will contribute to the development and formation of the skills and values envisaged in the mission and goals of the National Curriculum.

At the current stage X-XI class, the Ministry of Education and Science, together with public involvement, is developing a secondary level standard, in which citizenship education will be taught in different versions.

Higher Education Institutions:

In 2011, IFES initiated the USAID programme in Georgia. The course Democracy and Citizenship was introduced by the six higher education institutions. The programme was later joined by 31 other universities. There was a demand for creating a course of citizenship education in the curriculum of higher education institutions in Georgia . The course aims to help university students to prepare themselves for citizenship in a democratic state and for making a contribution to the implementation or introduction of democratic principles in Georgian society - For the enjoyment both on the societal and individual level of all the goodness that comes with the system.

Vocational Education and Training:

Citizenship education is a compulsory subject in public and private vocational education and training entities. The standard on which the module of citizenship education is taught was based on the 'key competencies for lifelong learning' adopted by the Council of the European Union in 2018. After completing the module, a student is expected to understand the democratic political system, the role of political actors, and the importance of human relationships in society. The thematic areas of fundamental human rights and their protection and the understanding of mechanisms in implementing group activities and solving community issues is also covered by the citizenship education modules of vocational education institutions . The vocational education programmes in Georgia are open to all age groups. Therefore, young people and adults are both involved in respective citizenship education modules which are offered at the specific vocational education programmes in Georgia.

5. Stakeholders

There are no bachelor's and master's degrees in Georgian higher education institution programmes that train citizenship education teachers. Under the general education act, teachers are required to take care of students' personal development and civic awareness. As for the formal education of teachers (including citizenship education): 'Teachers Professional Development National Center' takes care of teachers' professional development. This institution is a public centre of the Ministry of Education and Science and a legal entity under the law. It aims to improve the quality of teaching and learning, promoting improvements in the teachers' professional knowledge and high performance in schools by establishing a standard that raises the status of the teaching profession.

By the decision of the Ministry Education and Science, another public entity, the Assessment and the National Examination Centre has been conducting the citizenship education teacher exam since 2011. The citizenship education examination tests the knowledge required for teaching the subject skills defined by the examination programme.

Apart from the government institutions, non-governmental organisations are also extensively involved in advocating the recognition of citizenship education as well as in supporting citizenship education teachers' qualification development. These non-governmental organisations include Civic Education Teachers' Forum of Georgia (largest membership-based umbrella organisation of citizenship education teachers) and Civic Education Lecturers Association (largest membership-based umbrella organisation of citizenship education lectures in Georgia).

6. Challenges

Many successful steps have recently been taken to improve the teaching of citizenship education, of which the greatest contributors are non-governmental organisations and international donors. Yet citizenship education still faces significant challenges and most of the school administrations and the school community perceives citizenship education as a subject of lesser importance. They are incapable of realizing the significance of the subject, and the importance of a free, responsible, active citizen for the process of democratizing the country. An important problem is the qualification of teachers and the hourly workload redistribution. In many cases, the hours which are allotted to the subject are distributed to teachers just to fill the load and their respective competence is not considered. Also, an important problem is the need for the transformation of teachers' values. The subject is often taught by teachers for whom democratic values are not natural, who teach without conviction. The Soviet influence on teachers' mentality can still be observed. An important challenge is the attitude of higher education institutions towards teaching the subject as well. The teaching of the course Democratic Citizenship is non-governmental. It is a result of the efforts of the Civic Education Lectures Association. It is not taught based on an established approach to the state. Pupils and students' self-government are not directed toward strengthening the character and values of civics. Young people do not know the significance and function of these structural units. Consequently, they do not exercise the powers granted to them by the law.

In the non-formal citizenship education setting, the challenges are around a lack of evidence identifying the distinctive role of each stakeholder in the local ecology of non-formal citizenship education. More research should be done in order to understand how civil society organisations and the international development sector contribute to the implementation and sustainability of citizenship education for young people. Another challenge is the lack of the government's willingness to acknowledge its role in the implementation of non-formal citizenship education, its responsibility and accountability in ensuring access to rights, including access to human rights education and education for democratic citizenship. This challenge is also illustrated in the 2020 Parliamentary Report of the Public Defender of Georgia which mentions that while in its legislations the Georgian government states the willingness to promote access to non-formal citizenship education for its citizens, there is no indicator or measurement on how this will be implemented in practice. Therefore, the Public Defender is calling for the creation of action plans that will incorporate relevant indicators and responsible government entities to monitor and sustain non-formal citizenship education for both young people and the adult population in Georgia.

Weitere Inhalte

Mrs. Maka Bibileishvili, Executive Director of the Civic Education Teachers' Forum of Georgia

Mr. Sulkhan Chargeishvili, Expert-Consultant in Citizenship Education, BSW, M. Ed, MSW