ERIC Identifier: ED411172
Publication Date: 1996-08-00
Author: Catlaks, Guntars - Sarma, Valts
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education Bloomington IN.
Civic Education for Democracy in Latvia: The Program of the Democracy Advancement Center. ERIC Digest.
In May 1990, the Republic of Latvia declared the restoration of its independence and sovereignty. During and after World War II, the Soviet military occupied Latvia and forced the country into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). With the decline and demise of the Soviet Union, Latvians seized the chance to be free and restored their Constitution of 1922 as the frame of government for their democratic republic.
ORIGINS OF THE DEMOCRATIC ADVANCEMENT CENTER (DAC)
The American Latvian Association, a component of the World Federation of Free Latvians and the largest organization of Latvians in the West, started a civic education project led by Rusins Albertins of the United States, which founded the Democracy Advancement Center (DAC) in Riga, Latvia. Financial support for the DAC was provided by the National Endowment for Democracy, an agency of the federal government of the United States of America. The DAC began its work in May 1993 under the leadership of Rusins Albertins and Anita Usacka, Professor of Law at the University of Latvia, who was the DAC's first Deputy Director. She was succeeded as Director by Guntars Catlaks, a researcher at the Latvian Institute of History and a teacher at N. Draudzina Gymnasia in Riga. Guntars Catlaks currently is President of the DAC, which in April 1995 became an officially registered independent NGO (non-governmental organization). His main assistant at the DAC is Valts Sarma, principal and teacher at Sala Primary School near Riga.
CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT AT THE DAC
First, course content emphasizes the interactions of citizens with their constitutional government. There are lessons on the Constitution of Latvia, institutions of government, and rights and responsibilities of citizens. But civic education also involves the society in which government functions. So, there are lessons on the family, educational institutions, social groups, and the economy. In particular, the relationship of civil society to democratic governance is stressed, because there is no democratic governance if the society in general is not democratic. Finally, there are lessons on international relations, so that Latvian citizens will understand how they are connected to various regions and peoples of the world.
Second, the method of teaching emphasizes active learning instead of passive reception of information. Lessons require students to acquire and apply information and ideas rather than merely to receive and repeat them. They are challenged to use higher-level cognitive operations involved in the organization, interpretation, and evaluation of subject matter. Various kinds of group work are used to teach skills of democratic participation and decision making, such as role-playing exercises, simulations, and political problem solving tasks. These active teaching methods are most compatible with the educational goal of developing knowledge and skills necessary to effective and responsible citizenship in a constitutional democracy.
Third, it is fundamentally important to emphasize civic education in the primary schools. Ideally, teaching and learning of civics begins in the earliest grades so that the child acquires a firm foundation of knowledge about democracy and citizenship. And the staff of the DAC has been involved in promoting democratic civic education in the in the lower-primary grades of schools. Given limited resources, however, the DAC decided that the greatest impact could be achieved by concentrating its efforts at the upper-primary level grades eight and nine. This is the point at which a formal course in civic education could be required of all 15- and 16-year-old students and thereby expose them to the knowledge and skills of democratic citizenship before they finish compulsory schooling.
The three categories of ideas, described above, have guided the development of all curricular materials of the DAC. These materials include a (1) teacher handbook on civics, (2) student workbook on civics, and (3) textbook for ninth-grade students of civics. These materials have been used throughout Latvia in teacher education workshops and classrooms. In 1996, the civics textbook was made available to all ninth-grade students in Latvia. Developers of this civics textbook include Guntars Catlaks, Valts Sarma, Aija Tuna, Gints Apals, and Vija Rudina. An American civic educator, Professor John J. Patrick of Indiana University, served as a consultant to this textbook project with support from the United States Information Agency (USIA).
TEACHER TRAINING FOR CIVIC EDUCATION
A complementary component of teacher training for civic education has been directed to pre-service education at colleges and universities. In 1994, a special one-semester course in civics was developed by a member of the DAC, Professor Arijs Orlovskis, for students at Liepaja Pedagogical University. In 1995, Professor Liesma Lapina of the Riga Academy of Pedagogy instituted the one-semester course in civics for students preparing to be teachers. In 1996, this course in civics for the education of teachers is being offered for the first time at Daugavpils Pedagogical College under the direction of Professor Irena Saleniece. Thus, as of 1996, civic education has become part of teacher education at three major pedagogical institutions in Latvia. The DAC will attempt to influence other teacher education institutions in Latvia to include civic education in the curriculum.
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS OF THE DAC
The DAC is a member of CIVITAS: An International Civic Education Exchange Program coordinated by the Center for Civic Education and funded by the United States Department of Education, with cooperation by the USIA. In particular, the American Public Affairs Officer in Riga, Phillip Ives, has been very supportive of the DAC and has facilitated its work in many valuable ways.
Since 1995, the DAC has cooperated with the Institute of Curriculum Development at Enschede, Netherlands. Using Dutch examples, teaching materials in social studies have been developed and tried out in 20 schools. Civic educators of other European countries have also cooperated with the DAC, such as Poland, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Lithuania, and Russia. Finally, the DAC has participated in the PHARE Democracy Program of the Council of Europe.
In its short life, since 1993, the DAC has been very productive in promoting civic education for democracy in Latvia. Its mission, though well begun, is far from finished. Challenges of the present and future include further promotion and development throughout Latvian society of knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for effective and responsible citizenship in the constitutional democracy of the Republic of Latvia.
History of Latvia - Offers a good overview of the history of Latvia.
REFERENCES AND ERIC RESOURCES
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Education for Democracy Project. EDUCATION FOR DEMOCRACY: A STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES. Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers, 1987. ED 313 271.
Janowski, Andrzej. ETHICAL AND MORAL EDUCATION: A NATIONAL CASE STUDY OF POLAND. Paper presented at the International Conference on Education (Geneva, Switzerland, October 3-8, 1994). ED 379 204.
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Remy, Richard C., and others. BUILDING A FOUNDATION FOR CIVIC EDUCATION IN POLAND'S SCHOOLS: FINAL REPORT. Columbus, OH: The Mershon Center, 1993. ED 370 833.
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Valdmaa, Sulev. CIVIC EDUCATION CURRICULA FOR THE FORMS IX AND XII. Tallinn, Estonia: Jaan Tonisson Institute, 1994. ED 374 054.
Wade, Rahima C. "Developing Active Citizens: Community Service Learning in Social Studies Teacher Education." SOCIAL STUDIES 86 (May-June 1995): 122-28. EJ 510 829.