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Citizenship Education in Ukraine

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Citizenship Education in Ukraine

Yurii Petrushenko, Andrei Krivonos

/ 19 Minuten zu lesen

The post-Soviet heritage, the military conflict in eastern Ukraine, reform for the decentralisation of powers, the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors create the current challenges for the development of Citizenship Education in Ukraine. Here you can learn more about the definition, legal framework and stakeholders of citizenship education in Ukraine.

Ukraine (© bpb)

1. General Situation regarding Citizenship Education in Ukraine

Citizenship education first appeared as a subject of study in Ukraine at the start of the 2000s. The development of the first Concept of citizenship education for individuals in the developmental conditions of the Ukrainian government took place with support from the west regarding the "mastery of the individual system of national and shared human values, formation of patriotism, responsibility for the fate of the nation, government, the development of psychological readiness and the practical ability of individuals to serve the interests of the government, to make an individual contribution to the realisation of the national idea" expressed in the national programme of patriotic education of the population, the formation of a healthy perspective on life, the development of spirituality and the strengthening of the moral bases of society, which was adopted in 1999. The Academy of Educational Sciences was responsible for developing the concept and presented the concept in 2000.

According to the concept, citizenship education was understood as education relating to the public and private spheres, i.e. a process of formation of citizenship with the integrational quality of the individual, which provides people with the opportunity to see themselves from a moral, social and political perspective and as having legal and defence capability. This is dedicated to educating people to have a sensitive approach to their environment and encourage them to participate in public life in which human rights are key.

The approach of the Academy of Educational Sciences divided views of citizenship education as upbringing and formal education oriented to the acquisition of knowledge and skills connected to laws and obligations of people/citizens: "Citizenship education is teaching people how to live in the conditions of the contemporary government, how to observe its laws whilst also not allowing powers to violate their rights, achieving the realisation of their lawful requirements, how to be a citizen in a democratic society" .

The further development of the concept and approaches in the field of citizenship education took place thanks to the first major projects in the field of citizenship education which were financed by international donors, such as "Democratic education", the Ukrainian/Canadian project by Queen’s University, Ontario; UCEN - the Ukrainian Citizenship Education Network, founded by IREX; "Education for democracy in Ukraine" within the framework of the transatlantic programme for supporting civil society in Ukraine.

From the start of the implementation of the systemic reforms, the focus on citizenship education strengthened. In connection with this, according to the results of sociological research as part of the Swiss/Ukrainian project "Development of Democracy Competence in Ukraine" (DOCCU), which was carried out in 2018, a third of teachers did not include citizenship education in their professional activities and believed this was the job of other teachers/subject specialists. At this time, 25% of teachers specified the widest knowledge in the field of citizenship education as being patriotism, 20% said morals and ethics and just 25% said citizenship as an awareness of each citizen of their rights and obligations with regard to the government and society.

From 2018, citizenship education was implemented centrally in general secondary education organisations, which made general secondary education a space for implementing quality changes in the field of civic education. At the same time, measures affecting different kinds and levels of education were primarily implemented on the initiative of or with the support of citizenship education institutions as providers of civic education.

As subjects of educational activities in the field of civic education, it is necessary to have an understanding of the physical and legal entities, including: a) educational institutions, enterprises, establishments, organisations, associations and other civil society institutes, mass media, directly or indirectly affecting the acquisition of citizenship skills; b) employees of these enterprises, establishments, organisations and associations; c) subjects of educational activities with an individual approach to educational activities.

From an information perspective, the meaning of "civic education", according to recommendations by the European Council covers knowledge, skills and relationships. Nowadays, in Ukrainian society, citizenship education is often associated with knowledge and sometimes with skills, but rarely with a value component. Among other things, these specificities remain at the level of teaching a corresponding course.

2. Definition of Citizenship Education

The challenges facing Ukraine after the Revolution of Dignity in 2013-2014, the annexation of Crimea and the military aggression of the Russian Federation in the eastern part of the country in 2014 requires a complex approach to the formation of active and responsible citizens with a high level of understanding of dignity, support for the position of citizens and readiness to comply with the obligations of citizens. This systemic approach suggests government support for the development of civic education, as was realised in the new law "On education" (2017) and the Concept for the development of citizenship education in Ukraine (approved by the decree by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on 3 October 2018) .

The Ukrainian law "On education" sets out that the government creates the conditions for the receipt of citizenship education aimed at the formation of skills associated with citizens’ realisation of their rights and obligations as members of society, an awareness of civic values (free democratic ones), the rule of law, human rights and freedoms for people and citizens.

In the Concept for the development of citizenship education in Ukraine (2018), citizenship education is seen as an aspect of learning and upbringing for citizens on the basis of national and shared human values. The goal of citizenship education is the formation and development of the civic skills of Ukrainian citizens, aimed at approval for and defence of citizenship and democracy, the ability to stand up for one’s own rights, to take responsibility for one’s civic obligations, to take responsibility for one’s own life, to establish harmonious relationships between members of one’s family and in the process of living in a community’s territory . In the government concept for the development of civic education, citizenship skills are defined which are intended to shape civic education:

  • understanding of your own civic (state), national and cultural identity, respect for other cultures and ethnicities;

  • ability to uphold Ukrainian traditions and spiritual values, maintain the corresponding knowledge, abilities and skills, ability to realise your potential in the conditions of contemporary society;

  • understanding of the meaning of national memory and its effect on social/political processes;

  • understanding of European values, in particular the principles of democracy, ability to apply them to everyday life; understanding and perception of the values of human rights and freedoms, ability to defend your rights and the rights of others; understanding and perception of the principles of equality and non-discrimination, respect for human dignity, tolerance, social equality, virtue, ability to represent these qualities in your own behaviour models, ability to prevent and resolve conflict;

  • knowledge and understanding of state organisations, state control in all spheres of public life throughout Ukraine and on a local level;

  • knowledge of the mechanisms of participation in public, public/political and government life and ability to apply this and make decisions on a Ukrainian and local level; responsible relationship with one’s citizenship rights and obligations connected to participation in public/political life;

  • ability to form and make an argument for defending one’s own position, respecting different opinions/positions if these do not affect the rights and dignity of others;

  • ability to critically analyse information, consider the question of various positions, make decisions with a solid basis;

  • ability to communicate socially and ability to work with others with the goal of solving problems in the community on a different level, including with regard to voluntary activity .

On the basis of the Concept for the development of citizenship education in 2020, the government developed the project relating to the strategy for the development of citizenship education up to 2030, which is in the general discussion phase in 2021. In this document, citizenship education is understood to be education aimed at shaping citizenship skills, an active position as a citizen, the ability to responsibly realise your rights and fulfil citizenship obligations, the ability to enter into partnerships and work to protect democracy and the rule of law .

3. Ecosystem of Non-formal Citizenship Education

With regard to the matter of civic education, today’s agenda for government organisations and international donors includes a number of organisations that carry out their work using specific approaches.

Preparing an exhaustive list of organisations and establishments which can be called providers, i.e. those who declare citizenship education as a direction for their activities, have their own programmes in the field of civic education, are stable in their distribution of international practices and carry out systematic activities aimed at the specified key groups, does not appear to be possible due to the large number of these subjects, the irregularity of their work and the terminological imprecision, which are factors that allow public organisations and establishments to describe their work. For this reason, we will quote some selected information.

Programmes and providers that work in the field of formal school education:

  • The project "Citizenship Education and Electronic Democracy in Schools", which is implemented by the Ukrainian Association of Students together with the Ministry of Education and Science and aimed at the implementation of electronic democracy in all its manifestations, media literacy, European values, anti-corruption events .

  • The Ministry of Education and Science is the primary partner in international projects in the field of citizenship education which have been financed by the European Council since 2008. The projects are also carried out with the participation of various public organisations. The active programme "Democratic school" is carried out by the European Wergeland Centre and is focused on the introduction of the European Council Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education. At the time of this publication going to print, the project website was in development .

  • The "Nova doba" association of teachers of history, citizenship and social disciplines hosts events for teachers who teach history, democratic citizenship and those who work in school leadership positions .

  • The association of educational institutions in Ukraine with private ownership is also part of the additional education processes and provides space for involving students, young people and teachers in new education formats .

  • The "Athens" school has not only transformed students’ and teachers’ preparation within its own organisation but is also happy to share its experience with other schools .

The aggregators of information on citizenship education include:

  • "Citizen initiatives in Ukraine" ;

  • "Space for citizens" ;

  • GURT Resource Centre ;

  • "Yednaniye" .

We note the following programmes and providers with a connection to non-formal education.

  • ОО Studena, which provides programmes in the field of social adaptation for veterans, as well as gender equality and cultural development, based on a non-discriminatory approach .

  • The Ukrainian Academy of Leadership is a 10-month study programme for young people in secondary education aimed at developing them as individuals and developing their social leadership and is carried out with the support of international and Ukrainian donors and public actors. The website is currently under reconstruction .

  • "Future school" is a voluntary organisation which provides educational programmes by means of motivational and informative meetings with experts from various sectors, public activists and outstanding Ukrainians .

  • OO "Alternative education" provides non-formal study programmes and seminars on matters of civic activism, critical thinking, dialogue, local history and the activation of rural young people .

  • The national programme "Young worker" is a study programme for young workers implemented by the Ministry of Youth and Sports together with the UNDP and sets itself the goal of providing a study basis for working with young people in accordance with the European competence framework .

  • The British council programme "Active Citizens" is a programme for creating social leaders which facilitates social development to shape society, hosts seminars and provides small grants for groups which initiate social change on a large scale .

  • The "Open Ukraine" educational initiative is directed at teaching and supporting social initiatives for young people in school years 7-11 who live in small towns. The project has a large group of partners and is financed by public fundraising .

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demand for and availability of online education and online courses have been pushed forward again in their development. These courses include the following:

  • The Open University of Maidan: an initiative by the "pod otkritim nebom" educational space which sprung up during the protests in Maidan in the course of the Revolution of Dignity in 2013-2014 ;

  • Prometheus, the free Ukrainian educational online platform .

In parallel with adult education, it provides new features and education for children:

  • "GrandExpo": on the initiative of Vladimir Spivakovsky, the owner of the "Grand" lyceum, created its own platform and developed a specialist study programme and structure of entertaining interactive classes. Provides pedagogical, psychological and technical support. It is a fully-fledged online school ].

  • NewGen: a school which adopted the motto of an old phrase "Know something you weren’t taught in school", provides broad knowledge of science, technology, languages and communication. The school has a franchise network in Ukraine under its trade mark and is opening divisions in other countries .

Lots of providers work at a local level on specific questions of civic education, relying upon pre-existing programmes or developing their own. The level of activity of local and regional public organisations often varies at a local level, including youth and student public organisations, which host open-air events, festivals, forums and seminars, and also use new co-working centres and/or libraries.

Libraries and co-working lost their potential to become contemporary public spaces against the backdrop of the pandemic but remain a place for communication between local organisations.

Youth centres, centres to support entrepreneurs, including DiYA offices, government centres as part of the Ministry of Digital Transformation, regional branches of political parties have different levels of activity and systematic work from region to region but continue to be significant participants in civic education.

There are practically no unified and cohesive networks or platforms for constant cooperation between providers of citizenship education in Ukraine, with the exception of the aggregators we mentioned. Organisations, individual specialists and teachers usually work directly with donors and often avoid communication within the framework of their professional areas. For this reason, existing projects are not interlinked but educational programmes and concepts can contradict each other.

4. Legal Environment of Formal Citizenship Education

The main aspect of the formation of standardisation of citizenship education in Ukraine is the Concept for the development of citizenship education in Ukraine on the order of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine in 2018 .

The legal bases for citizenship education in Ukraine are based in the Constitution of Ukraine, the law of Ukraine "On education", the national strategy of coordination on the development of citizenship education in Ukraine for 2016-2020 on the basis of the order of the President of Ukraine of 26 February 2016 No. 68, the strategy of national/patriotic education for children and young people from 2016-2020 on the order of the President of Ukraine of 13 October 2015 No. 580, the national strategy in the field of human rights on the order of the President of Ukraine of 25 August 2015 No. 501. With the adoption of the new Ukrainian law "On education" and on the order of the President of Ukraine of 1 December 2016 No. 534 "On priority measures for cooperation to strengthen national unity and consolidation for Ukrainian society, support for public initiatives in this field", the planning of events to strengthen national unity, the consolidation of Ukrainian society and support for the initiatives for society in this field, on the order of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine dated 21 March 2018 No. 179, the necessity to define concrete steps on the path to shaping citizenship education in Ukraine became clear.

However, the existing regulations do not allow the top-down regulation of this field or uniform means of organisation of citizenship education in Ukraine. Lots of organs of power, participants of institutionalised or situational public/government partnership take their own steps towards the implementation of independent solutions based on the specifics of participants of a particular project. One complication of this is the cooperation with newly created leadership organisations in joint territorial areas; additional difficulties are created by the process of the liquidation of power organisations of old regions according to the country’s administrative structures in connection with the creation of new regions.

In general, central and local organs of power come to their decisions based on event plans to strengthen national unity, consolidate Ukrainian society and support public initiatives from European practices for supporting civil society by civic educational initiatives.

Project documents for the development of areas consider the fact that citizenship skills and social skills are connected to eight main competences for lifelong learning in accordance with recommendations by the European Parliament and Council (EC) on key competences for lifelong learning No. 2006/962/EC dated 18 December 2006.

The Ukrainian law "On education" sets out that the government creates the conditions for the receipt of citizenship education aimed at the formation of skills associated with individuals’ realisation of their rights and obligations as members of society, an awareness of civic values (free democratic ones), the rule of law, human rights and freedoms for people and citizens.

It is worth noting that, in accordance with the Ukrainian law "On education", the education system should create 12 key competencies, in particular citizenship and social competencies connected to the ideas of democracy, fairness, equality, human rights, welfare and a healthy lifestyle with an awareness of equal rights and opportunities, corresponding to the goals and principles of education which create the foundation for citizens’ searches for new methods of citizenship education at any age.

In the present day, a reform is taking place at general education schools and the approved concept for the realisation of government policy in the field of the reform of general secondary education "New Ukrainian school" for the period up to 2029 is being introduced. The concept was approved according to the order of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine of 14 December 2016 No. 988 and is significantly developing the opportunities of secondary education in terms of the construction of individual programmes and comprehensive education aimed at activating the partnership between the "teacher and student" which, over time, should:

  • be transformed into the effective and constructive participation of citizens in public activities, in family life, at work;

  • the ability to work with others to achieve a result, prevent and resolve conflicts, reach compromises;

  • ensure respect for the law, compliance with human rights and support for socio-cultural diversity.

Such organs of power and educational questions pay attention to recommendations based on the national strategy on human rights which envisages an increase in the level of the awareness of citizens about human rights and also the European Council Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the European Council on 11 May 2010, which places emphasis on paying attention to the values of democracy and the rule of law.

The European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life adopted by the Standing Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe on 21 May 2003 contains recommendations for organs of power and local government on youth engagement in the decision-making process at a local and regional level.

2020 did not provide an opportunity to fully progress questions of citizenship education in strategic documents and regulatory acts. It is assumed that, up to 1 October 2020, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine should assess the project of the strategy for the development of citizenship education up to 2030 and the plan for events on the realisation thereof, which was defined with the corresponding order . The projects which have been developed at this point in time have not undergone all the stages of preparation for approval by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.

Based on the projects, the organs of power envisage activation to involve citizens in different forms of citizenship training initiated with the participation of organs of power at all levels and international partners.

5. Stakeholders in the Field of Formal and Non-Formal Citizenship Education

The contemporary stage of development of citizenship education systems is characterised by the establishment of formal citizenship education systems. The subject of "Civic education" has become mandatory for students at all general education schools in Ukraine and is included in the programme for older year groups. Associated textbooks have been developed for studying citizenship education in schools . The government offers courses to improve their qualifications for teachers who teach citizenship education courses.

From 2015, higher education organisations also actively started to provide citizenship education courses for students. In particular, in 2019, 22 universities in Ukraine offered the course "Democracy: from theory to practice" . In 2020, a few universities, in particular the Lutsk National Technical University, Sumy State University and others, introduced a citizenship education course as an optional choice for students called "Active Citizens" .

Non-formal citizenship education is continuing to develop in response to new educational necessities. This development provides for hundreds of public organisations which develop their own educational courses aimed at creating citizenship competencies. Support from these international donors and consultancy organisations, such as the US Agency for International Development (USAID), National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Federal Agency for Citizenship Education (bpb), British Council in Ukraine, "Vozrozhdeniya" international foundation, DVV International in Ukraine, Eastern European Network for Citizenship Education (EENCE) etc., play an important role in this process.

1469 new municipalities, which were created in Ukraine as the result of decentralisation reforms, became another important stakeholder in citizenship education and, after the end of the reforms in 2020, the government gave them resources to support the majority of social services for the population . The effective functioning of municipalities in contemporary conditions depends on the development of civil society in territorial communities; municipalities increasingly appear to be customers for the programmes in the field of citizenship education for local residents.

6. Challenges

The post-Soviet heritage, the military conflict in eastern Ukraine, the connection of the financing of education and economic downturn conditions, reform for the decentralisation of powers, the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors create the following current challenges for the development of citizenship education in Ukraine.

  1. Necessity to develop independent priorities for citizenship education which are important for the development of the country. This needs to appear on the current agenda for cooperation with international donor organisations which have their own priorities in the process of financing citizenship education programmes.

  2. Shaping critical thinking amongst the population in conditions of aggressive information propaganda and fake news, primarily from the Russian Federation.

  3. The search for real models of coordination between citizenship education and national/patriotic education. On the one hand, citizenship education is part of national/patriotic education and should impart values which are shared throughout the country and shape beliefs regarding the defence of the country from enemy aggression. And, at the same time, citizenship education should shape active and responsible citizens who participate in the social and economic life of their community.

  4. Necessity of contemporary and appealing citizenship education for adults who studied in the Soviet union as it is their voices which define the direction and topics of the country’s development in elections.

  5. Professional teachers/coaches for civic education. As shown in practice, successful teachers of citizenship education are people who personally play an active role in society’s activities, providing an example for students.

  6. Digitalisation of educational processes. In Ukraine, there are platforms for the distance study of civic education, in particular the platform by the Open University of Maidan (Externer Link: www.vumonline.ua) on which 75 courses on citizenship education are available and more than 110,000 users are registered .

  7. How can citizenship education courses be made appealing? Research on the requirements of Ukrainian citizens with regard to citizenship education demonstrates that these demands are predominantly not current and need to be shaped. At this point in time, successful citizenship education programmes use the appeal of famous coaches and/or opinion leaders, learning through fun activities, learning through action and other creative approaches to the education process.

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