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Dear fellow participants of the 'Education' working group!
I am glad to welcome you to Moscow. It is my strong desire that these two days over which we will be working together should be not only pleasant for all participants, but also effective and useful. Please allow me to share my vision of what we can aim to achieve here.
I believe that the main goal of our meeting is to determine what civil society demands of the G8 leaders in the field of education.
Russia was the initiator of discussion of issues connected to education at the G8 leaders' meeting in Saint Petersburg. The Russian President V. V. Putin several times pointed out that "The problem of education affects all countries in the world, without exception. It is even independent of levels of economic development. Of course, there are countries which are in need of particular support with regard to development of education. But, I repeat, it affects all countries, as even in developed countries we often encounter illiteracy or reading difficulties. And this is a huge problem, which is due not only to education issues. Without education, both economic and social progress is impossible.
The governments of all the G8 countries, Russia included, make their own proposals for discussion with regard to this theme, and ratify projects aimed at finding solutions. However, if the voice of the society which these governments serve is heard and taken into consideration, there is a very real possibility of accomplishing something extremely important and meaningful.
The first roundtable was held on 16 February, in which around 30 leading experts from civil organisations of the G8 countries took part. A range of issues were identified, and it is these issues that we plan to discuss and propose solutions to at our forum. It was a very interesting and constructive discussion, a result of which was the document which you have already seen above. We were practically unanimous in the opinion that the fundamental themes of our discussion should be: "Civil society and education" and "Education as a means of integration". Both of these topics are large-scale and multi-faceted, therefore we will be discussing them in two sub-groups. Here I'd just like to draw your attention to to the desired result of our work.
I am certain that drawing on the experience of each participant will be the basis on which we can work together to develop clear proposals to the leaders of the eight global powers, proposals which will form a base for real actions and will enable resolution of the problems we raise. Part of our work will be a meeting with the Sherpas Ð summit-preparation assistants to the G8 leaders. At this meeting we have the opportunity to make our proposals heard, listen to opposing points of view, and attempt to find common ground and understanding with representatives of the official point of view of the eight great powers.
Allow me once more to wish you an interesting and productive two days.
In order to instill the necessary impulse for development of civil education, a clearly stated position and political will are required on the part of government participants, in order to push through the measures proposed by them. Civil education for the purposes of developing an active sense of civic duty and foundation of a democratic culture must become a high-priority goal in development of education policy and carrying-out of long-term reforms at all levels of the education system.
To attract attention to the important role played throughout life by formal and informal education aimed at rearing a sense of democratic citizenship, as well as education in the sphere of human rights.
To raise awareness of the contribution of formal and informal education to development of democratic citizenship, social and inter-cultural dialogue, respect for diversity, and human rights.
To strengthen the commitment and duty of the G8 countries to treat this sphere as a priority task in developing education policy and to make long-term reforms at all levels of the education system.
To provide the competent executive bodies of the G8 member states with a framework of actions and instruments for advancing the role of education in development and enablement of democratic citizenship and defence of human rights, in order to resolve certain problems in stimulating civil participation and involving young people.
Key issues on the agenda
How to reconcile the policy and practice of civil education?
Examples of actions for consideration:
Preparing recommendations on development of education programmes, implementation of measures for ensuring quality, control and evaluation of standards in the field of civil education.
Training and retraining teachers of 'traditional' subjects in a civil education system.
Supporting informal education, including NGOs, in school, in university and in adult education.
How can civil education contribute to resolution of social problems and enable society-wide dialogue?
Examples of actions for consideration:
Endorsing innovation in approaches, methods and strategy in the field of civil education.
Development of proposals for establishing citizens' centres, which will function as centres of democratic development, allowing citizens to be directly involved in the decision-making process.
Development of recommendations on cooperation networks and civil structures around education, in order to develop democratic citizenship, and develop projects and state programmes of civil education.
Development of a new framework for future cooperation in studying democracy, which will take into account all international documents in the field of education, and which will aim to develop democratic citizenship and knowledge of human rights.
The position established by international documents with regard to civil education issues is based on the principle that the ability to take a reasonable and responsible part in life and society requires certain knowledge. It also acknowledges that although much in this regard can be obtained in an informal family setting, the nature of modern life is such that this will never be sufficient to form informed and active citizens, which is necessary for the continued existence of a democratic society.
So, active state interference is required, although this should be limited to development of a holistic approach to rights and freedoms, and should not contradict constitutional and international law.
Civil participation in governance and development of education
This is a historically based issue, as before the Middle Ages, education, primarily at school level, took place within local communities, before moving to the level of churches, and subsequently to the level of government, practically without subdivision. Society has become more and more alienated from school education, which is especially clearly demonstrated in the 'continental' model (France, Germany, Russia). In the Anglo-Saxon model (UK, USA, Canada), the role of society in education has been slightly larger. Specifically, the Anglo-Saxon model comprised a degree of self-management in schools through such groups as governing bodies and school boards, which are now becoming more common all over the world.
Significantly more public participation and governance is also required by traditional models of university education.
Issues of widening civil participation in education have recently been actively pushed forward by the Russian president (Government instruction of 10.12.2005, etc.)
To promote society-wide discussion by proposing themes for mass media attention with regard to the necessity of widening civil participation (parents, professionals, business, etc) in education and policy-making.
For the Ministers of Education of the G8 countries Ð To expand forms of civil participation at all levels of the national education system.
School education (to stimulate formation of governing bodies and school boards, to extend governing rights to parent representatives)
- University education (Expand the authorities of student governing committees, encourage development of self-governance by academics)
For the Ministers of Finance of the G8 countries Ð to expand tax breaks for investment in and donation to education by introducing the most effective models.
The role of self-governing student bodies in administration and development of education and establishment of civil society
Civil participation in administration and development of education and the opportunity for civil society to influence education processes is one of the most crucial democratic values.
Civil society is, on one side, a consumer of the educational system in that it demands educational services, and on the other side, the educational system's greatest resource. Discussion of wider civil participation in education has recently become more common, due to the growing non-conformance between society's demands and the educational and instructional techniques offered. The inability of local communities to influence educational institutions, the absence of feedback processes and direct contact with citizens often leads to conflicts and social tension.
For protracted growth of democratic society, the availability of locally governed institutions is extremely important. These institutions can only function effectively when young people, from school-age onward, understand the concept of self-governance and learn to use it properly in practice.
In this connection, widening of civil participation, particularly among the young, in governance and development of education, and in self-governance and the local community, must become a key instrument for future strengthening of democratic values.
Successful resolution of this problem will depend largely on the younger generation's formation and development of democratic consciousness, its preparation for real life. Young people must master actions that allow them to interact socially and to naturally enter the system of open civil relations. And a significant role here is played by formation and development of student governance bodies, which function not only as a school of democracy for the young, but can also make a real contribution to development of education.
Self-governance is not so much a special action as it is a search for humanist democratic relations between children and adults in joint activities.
Priority topics and issues for discussion:
Foundation of real self-governance bodies from below, i.e., at the initiative of and with the direct participation of students themselves.
Active use of democratic methods and procedures in foundation, administration and development of school and student councils elections, division of duties, consensus-based decision-making procedures, secret ballots, accountability, etc.
Cooperation between student governing bodies and various social groups from the local community; social and community activities.
Education of young leaders of local society through the student governing bodies.
Partnership models of relations between school administrations and the the student community.
Education for children and young people with special needs
Mechanisms for implementation of inclusive education
Education of children with special educational needs
Issues of standards and testing of children with special needs
Training specialists (teachers, class assistants, helpers) for children with special needs, including foundation and development of special resource centres.
Provision of access and 'technical' conditions (ramps etc) for education of children and young people with special needs.
Initiatives on perfecting the normative-legal base for integrated education and an early-intervention system based on international experience and completion of the federal law "On Education in the Russian Federation".
Involvement of civil organisations, parent groups, experts on development of inclusive education and provision of access. This includes development of of support systems (material, information, legal) for the educational demands of students with special needs.
Support for inclusive education through development of a system of competitions (grants) among schools and NGOs, the funds for which are primarily attracted FROM `en_en_en_funds` allocated to national projects.
Necessary measures for positive change
Practical results in realisation of the right to education of children with special needs and development of definite proposals for civil/state joint initiatives in this sphere. Mechanisms for international/intergovernmental cooperation in resolving the problems of providing access to education for people with special needs.
Hold an international conference for representatives of the ministries of education of the G8 countries, NGOs, and schools on the problems of realising inclusive education.
Found an international (experts, NGOs, G8 education departments) expert group for inclusive education.
Found a coalition of universities of G8 countries on issues of training personnel (officials and teachers) for inclusive education.
Participation of NGOs in decision-making and implementation of state programmes, as well as provision of education to those with special educational needs.
Education for all
Learning methods encouraging participation and character development
Reevaluation of practice in streaming and selection
A fair examination system, allowing every child to demonstrate his/her learning.
A return on schools' part to strengthened support outside class.
Expansion of parent and civil participation in education.
Research into child labour and its connection with school attendance and study.
Increased attention on accessibility and quality of education for children from deprived families.
Integration of disabled children in general schools.
Bearing in mind the requirements of children from ethnic minorities.
Encouragement, in the widest sense, of different development paths from an early age.
Proper control by the centre for school administration, including over study programmes.
Allocation of required funds to local governing bodies with inadequate financial bases.
Tasks and forms of integration for children of migrants through education
Intensive training in the language, basic history, culture and law of the country of residence, accelerated propaedutic preparation in basic school subjects.
Continued development of ethnoculturally leaning schools.
Provision of opportunities to learn native language and culture through a system of additional education.
Expansion of centres of additional education based on language-learning and other forms of learning about other cultures.
Access for migrant graduates to free professional education.
Arrangement of work for students from foriegn countries as part of their studies through business and other non-state structures.
Systematic work on bringing foreign students together with the local youth and population through international camps and gatherings, clubs of integration and friendship, joint professional training.
Source: Civil G8
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