Civic Education at Universities: Ukraine’s Experience
During the 2019-2020 academic year, students in 22 Ukrainian universities will participate in an innovative and interactive civic education course titled, “Democracy: From Theory to Practice,“
Students will learn about democratic governance, human rights, civil society and civic initiatives as well as design action projects to address specific challenges in their communities.
The “Democracy: From Theory to Practice” course was developed by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) with support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and UK aid. It was piloted in eight Ukrainian universities in 2018, based on a civic education course introduced by IFES in Georgia that is currently offered at a majority of accredited universities.
The course aims to inspire and prepare students to be active and responsible citizens capable of contributing to healthy democratic development in Ukraine. Students acquire new knowledge as well as foster skills and attitudes which enhance their participation in decision-making, holding leaders accountable, and civic activism. Global experience demonstrates civic education is particularly effective when interactive teaching methods are used.
To ensure teachers of the course master instructional techniques, IFES organized two compulsory trainings on the interactive civic education teaching methodology as well as additional trainings related to course curriculum content for 58 educators prior to the 2019-2020 academic year.
In the lead-up to the new academic year in Ukraine, IFES asked five teachers who taught the university-level course last year to share tips on how to motivate student interest in the course and ensure that the process is truly interactive. Here’s what they told us:
Iryna Kuzina, V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University
“I can name a few highlights for successful teaching of this course:
- Teacher’s interest: Working with students from different faculties, with different backgrounds is fascinating. This course is able to change and inspire people.
- Motivated students: Students choose to study this discipline, so this course is attended by those who are interested in it from the beginning.
- Qualitative teaching materials and support from IFES and teachers from other universities.
- Working in a team with teachers of V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University.”
Mariia Kolokolova, V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University
“Students come to the first class of ‘Democracy: From Theory to Practice’ without any special expectations. They think they will attend standard lectures and perform individual writing tasks. You should see how surprised they are when we tell them at the first meeting, ‘Don’t write anything. Let’s discuss.’ They are from different faculties and initially they are very shy and do not speak to each other. Then we ask them to create groups and work on social issues that really bother them. Their curiosity and commitment are increasing with each new class, the sparks in their eyes shine brighter and discussions become deeper and more fruitful. They feel the importance of their opinions, they understand there is nothing wrong in disagreeing with the whole group or to change their mind at the conclusion of class, and they see there are no prohibited and forbidden topics.
And I think this is the most important point: If you take them out of the traditional education system, you must follow this path until the end of the course. Don’t let them lose their belief in change – if education can be different, then a society can be different as well. Combine critical thinking with freedom of expression and you will get the most ambitious ideas that can make our society better.”
Iryna Lyaschenko, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv
“Here is my secret: Do not lose the content in interaction – this is the main task in teaching this course. For its implementation, you need thorough, careful and qualitative preparation. Therefore, the secret is in careful preparation. At first, it may seem that the course is quite simple, even if someone calls it a game or fun. This is a false first impression. Therefore, preparation, preparation and once again preparation is a key. Only after this, you will have a passion for the course!”
Zoryana Zazuliak, Lviv Polytechnic National University
“… the recipe for success is in faith and love. My belief in the success of the ‘Democracy: from Theory to Practice’ course is boundless. And this belief is reinforced by the love of students. I am sincerely convinced that you do not educate active citizens; they can only be raised. It is possible to raise conscious youth when they themselves have an overwhelming desire to acquire new knowledge, find it appropriate to participate in civil society development and tirelessly strive for self-seeking and development.”
IFES’ activities in Ukraine are made possible with support from the United States Agency for International Development, Global Affairs Canada and UK aid. Since 1994, IFES has played a key role in the emergence of democratic electoral processes and institutions in Ukraine. Through this period, IFES has developed a reputation as a reliable source for impartial analysis and high-quality technical assistance in the fields of electoral and political finance law reform, election administration, civil society capacity building, civic education and public opinion research. Learn more about IFES Ukraine activities at www.ifesukraine.org.