Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

Political and Cultural Influences on Perceptions of Learning in Western Ukraine

Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

Political and Cultural Influences on Perceptions of Learning in Western Ukraine

Article excerpt

The curricula of schools are directly influenced by government directives, hut what are the impressions of ordinary students and citizens concerning literacy attainment and literacy practices during very different governmental agendas? The authors conducted informal ethnographic interviews, selecting participants via a snowballing effect, to gather the perceptions of individuals living in western Ukraine about their educational experiences spanning a time frame from prior to communism to after the fall of communism. Results supported the idea that a strong political dominance directly affected family participation in schooling, educational ideology, and political awareness.

Introduction

Studies of literacy, language acquisition, and learning have generally focused on how one acquires reading and writing skills and how this process is associated with print-based texts (Hagood, 2000). All people, regardless of culture, seem to learn and use literacy that is grounded in contextual settings (Baker & Luke, 1991; Egan-Robertson & Bloome, 1998; Hagood, 2000). Geertz's (1973) seminal work supported the theory that the learning of language and literacy acquisition should include the expanse of cultures, diversity of language, and the variety of print material one is exposed to in the process of daily activities.

Purves' (1991) philosophy generated an idea that learning and literacy development are tightly woven from peoples sociocultural contexts and from their self-conceptualizations within those contexts. Literacy is an integral part of peoples lives and can be understood within their cultural context, which depends on the geography, history, and traditions of various peoples. Vygotsky (Wertsch, 1985) viewed language as a psychological tool because it evolves through sociocultural interactions. Thus, culturally related observational evidences of the value and use of literacy in contextual settings may be observed even when the viewer speaks a different language (Raine, Linek, & Smith, 2002). This seminal information provided the theoretical framework for the study.

Purpose of the Study

When societies undergo major changes in governance, varied perspectives of education are expected. However, it is also important to listen to the voice of the ordinary citizen in reflection upon his or her own learning, literacy attainment, and views of school practices (Meredith & Steele, 2000). Ukrainian and American educators teamed together to investigate the perceptions of some ordinary Ukraine citizens schooled during various political periods.

School Framework

Emerging nations of central and eastern Europe are making continued efforts to improve their educational systems. The trend is to develop schools that are not built on the past but are broader based and decidedly more student centered (Sturtevant & Linek, 2007). This trend provides a framework for greater involvement of the students in the learning process, as reported in a study of seven formerly Soviet states (Greer, Robinson, & Sweetman, 2004). One of the obstacles for education leaders of these countries is the reality of providing curriculum for students and teachers who are currently in the schooling process even as a new curriculum is being developed and defined (Meredith & Steele, 2000).

"The right to education is a fundamental human right" (Dévidai, 2004, p. 1). Fulfillment of this right is the task of former communist countries as they make concerted efforts to improve their educational systems in order to produce well-rounded citizens. When the students who began their education under the new, transitioning system reach the university level, the effects of the educational changes upon the economy and society will become evident (Greer, Robinson, & Sweetman, 2004).

As central and eastern European educators have begun to evaluate their programs and move to more student- oriented learning, the experience and knowledge of their western counterparts are invaluable (Sturtevant & Linek, 2007). …

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