New Educational Values

There are two Russian journals dedicated to moral educational theory and practice: New Educational Values and The Democratic School. Both are non-state and non-profit publications.

New Educational Values could easily be called a series of thematic essays on different topics of a methodological and analytical nature. Its original  Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Nata Krylova, a research fellow of the Russian Academy of Education, began the publication shortly after Russian scholars were formally allowed to write and publish independently. Since then, thirty issues have been published with contributions from numerous authors, theorists and practitioners. Their articles have contributed greatly to the development of new educational theories and practices across the world.

When New Educational Values started in 1995, many educators and researchers were full of enthusiasm and hoped for rapid changes in the educational system. There were heated discussions in the media; the Pedagogy of Cooperation was initiated and new priorities of humanistic and personality-oriented (child-centred) education became firmly established. A community of free-thinking and famous figures in education, such as Edward Dneprov, Simon Soloveichik, Oleg Gazman, Alexander Tubelsky reacted energetically to these new methods and ideas. They all united around the Russian research project known as “School”.

As teachers began to incorporate new educational concepts and methods into their schools, they also began to develop new and progressive instructional materials. This required not only a rethinking of the role of the “teacher”, a restructuring of the educational system and establishment of new models for school life, but also a solid foundation of new theoretical approaches and methodologies towards teaching itself. Thus, the idea of developing new educational values was born. At the Institute of Pedagogic Innovations, Dr. Nata Krylova organised a seminar for postgraduate students. The central question discussed at the seminar was, “Why are educational values considered new if each generation of parents and educators has the same eternal goal: helping the children of tomorrow to become decent people?” The goal had remained the same but now the meanings were different. Did it mean that our seemingly new ideas were, instead, those which we had simply forgotten long ago and now seemed new again?

The topics covered in the journal are, of course, manifold. Three, however, have been very challenging and deserve to be mentioned. The first is the analysis of problems related to culture, such as cultural models of schools, cultural and multicultural school environments, culturology of education and culture-centred schools. The second introduces the activity of the International Network of Productive Schools (INEPS). This school developmental trend has a bright future in education as it connects organically each student’s personal and productive learning to real working situations in workplaces. The third reflects a humanistic educational experience of a free and open education.

The second journal — The Democratic School — first appeared in 2002 and is now published twice a year as a supplement to New Educational Values. Its content reflects the practice and problems of educational liberalisation in Russia and the experience at the Democratic Schools Association. Roughly thirty schools from a number of different regions participate in this programme, including the famous Tubelsky’s School of Self-Determination in Moscow.

In 2005 the following issues were published, describing in detail the process of creating and providing a democratic lifestyle at school: Democratic Schools: Life and Norms; Democratic School: Lifestyle and Expert Opinion; Democratic School: Democratisation of Learning Processes. One of the issues is J. Korczak’s Ideas Today. Russian and foreign authors have expressed a growing interest in the educational ideas of the educator, paediatrician and writer Janusz Korczak, who sacrificed his own life to be with Jewish children — his pupils — who were sent to an extermination camp in 1942.

I believe Theo Cappon, Gert Biesta and Joop Berding (all in the second issue of the 2006 volume of The Democratic School) expressed the reasoning behind this when they wrote that Korczak was a practitioner, an experimentalist, always exploring new ways of living with children. However, as Berding emphasises, it would be very misleading to simply imitate his methods. “A wiser choice would be to ask ourselves the following questions: What was the original idea behind his practices? How just are our schools and after-school groups? How arbitrary are our actions as teachers and group leaders? To what extent are democratic principles institutionalised and practised?” (The Democratic School, 5(2), p.22).

A peculiarity of both these journals is the publication of original articles written by colleagues outside Russia. Some articles have been presentations given at international conferences and seminars, others are prepared exclusively for the journals. Each journal is proud of the many famous educators from around the world who have contributed. Authors in New Educational Values include James Noddings, Jacques Carpay, Jens Schneider and Angelika Kruger. Bringing together public figures in education from many countries in one thematic collection of articles not only assists in mutual understanding, but it also helps Russian readers to imagine educational development as a single indivisible international process applied similarly in different educational systems.

Of course, these journals, with their small circulation, cannot compete with the larger and more famous publishing houses, but competition is not what they seek. They seek to increase the quality of modern education across Russia by constantly improving theories, democratic methods and models.

© 2008, Tatiana L. Kiknadze