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Democratic aspects of Post-communist schooling

Perry, L.B. (2002) Democratic aspects of Post-communist schooling. In: 46th Annual Comparative and International Education Society Conference, 6 - 9 March 2002, Orlando, FL.

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The fall of communism in 1989 brought a renewed interest in the educational systems of central and eastern Europe. Many foreign scholars claim that post-communist schooling is undemocratic, or at best transitionally democratic. For schools to democratize, they argue, teachers must become less authoritative; teaching methods should focus more on critical thinking skills, rather than memorization; schools should become warmer, more informal, and student-centered; and authorities should develop new civics textbooks and curricula. The belief that schooling in the post-communist region is less democratic than in the western school systems is based on two assumptions: (1) school atmosphere and relations, teaching methods, and curriculum are indeed anti-democratic in the post-communist countries; and (2) education's role in fostering democratization is limited to these in-school, micro-level mechanisms. The paper addresses these two assumptions and considers democratic aspects of post-communist schooling, such as the way schools are funded. It concludes that, rather than western educators feeling superior when they study education in post-communist countries, they should realize these post-communist countries can offer insights into some of the most pressing problems in education at the beginning of the 21st century.

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