ERIC Identifier: ED411172
Publication Date: 1996-08-00
Author: Catlaks, Guntars - Sarma, Valts
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 close connection between well-educated citizens and democratic well being,
many Latvians decided to reform the curricula and teaching methods of their
schools. They quickly acted to replace Soviet-era courses on citizenship with
new teaching materials and methods suitable for citizenship in a genuine
constitutional democracy. And they looked to the West for help, which came
initially from the World Federation of Free Latvians, an international
organization that nurtured the spirit of national independence and liberty
during the long and harsh Soviet occupation of their homeland.
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
Advancement Center has designed and developed materials for a new course in
civic education at the upper-primary levels of school--the eighth or ninth
grades. Key ideas about the subject matter, teaching methods, and intended
learners of the new civic education program are discussed below.
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
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
From the beginning,
the DAC staff members considered the education of teachers to be a critical
component of their work. Unless teachers understand the content and pedagogy of
civic education for democracy, the mission of the DAC will be unfulfilled. Thus,
since 1994, the DAC has conducted more than 100 seminars and workshops for
teachers in schools throughout Latvia. More than 800 teachers have participated
in these programs, which are based on the lessons and teaching methods of the
teacher handbook and student workbook published by the DAC.
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
From the beginning, the
DAC benefited from relationships with colleagues in other countries. Staff of
the DAC have traveled to the United States to work with civic educators at the
Social Studies Development Center of Indiana University directed by John J.
Patrick, the Center for Civic Education directed by Charles N. Quigley, and the
Council for Citizenship Education of Russell Sage College directed by Stephen
Schechter. These civic education experiences for Latvians in the United States
have been supported by the USIA and the United States Department of Education.
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
The following list includes
references used to prepare this Digest. The items followed by an ED number are
available in microfiche and/or paper copies from the ERIC Document Reproduction
Service (EDRS). For information about prices, contact EDRS, 7420 Fullerton Road,
Suite 110, Springfield, Virginia, 22153-2852; telephone numbers are (703)
440-1400 and (800) 443-3742. Entries followed by an EJ number, announced monthly
in the CURRENT INDEX TO JOURNALS IN EDUCATION (CIJE), are not available through
EDRS. However, they can be located in the journal section of most larger
libraries by using the bibliographic information provided, requested through
Interlibrary Loan, or ordered from the UMI reprint service.
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SYLLABUS FOR POLAND'S FUTURE TEACHERS. Columbus, OH: The Mershon Center, 1992.
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EASTERN EUROPE. Bloomington, IN: Social Studies Development Center (Occasional
Paper), 1994. ED 374 056.
Ravitch, Diane. DEMOCRACY: WHAT IT IS, HOW TO TEACH IT. Washington, DC:
Educational Excellence Network, 1990. ED 319 650.
Remy, Richard C. TEACHING DEMOCRACY IN EAST CENTRAL EUROPE: THE CASE OF POLAND. ERIC Digest. Bloomington, IN: ERIC Clearinghouse
for Social Studies/Social Science Education, 1994. ED 377 120.
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
Richardson, Scott. "Active Civic Learning for Secondary School Students."
SOCIAL STUDIES 84 (September-October 1993): 196-201. EJ 476 702.
Valdmaa, Sulev. CIVIC EDUCATION CURRICULA FOR THE FORMS IX AND XII. Tallinn,
Estonia: Jaan Tonisson Institute, 1994. ED 374 054.
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