Teaching Children about Parliament

Speeches Shim

Tuesday, July 20, 2021
School kids are learning the specifics of the work of the Ukrainian Parliament
Courtesy of USAID’s Responsible Accountable Democratic Assembly (RADA) activity

Trust in government institutions traditionally remains low among Ukrainians, and the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is no exception. Many voters are insufficiently aware of the specifics of the work of the Ukrainian Parliament, the responsibilities before its Members, the legislative process, etc. They do not fully understand the role that the Verkhovna Rada plays in overseeing and maintaining a democratic system.

The Parliamentary Education Center, created in 2018 with support from USAID’s Responsible Accountable Democratic Assembly (RADA) activity, and located within the Parliament building, is making Ukrainians more aware of the work of the country’s central legislative body. One of the Educational Center’s main functions is teaching school children about the Rada’s constitutionally-authorized responsibilities, and how it functions to fulfill them. The center conducts tours of the Parliament building and provides online courses to this end.

In May 2020, Yaryna Kholod, an eighth-grade student from the town of Ukrainka, attended an online lesson delivered by the Educational Center. “I heard about the Educational Center and realized that it is a wonderful bridge between school children and parliamentarians,” Yaryna explained.

Keenly interested in gender equality and civic activities, Yaryna engaged Member of Parliament (MP) Inna Sovsun in a conversation during the lesson, questioning how gender is addressed in standard textbooks. It was the foundation for what turned into a lively discussion on the way in which certain issues are presented in educational materials provided to school children. It also was the starting point for new legislation that MP Sovsun would introduce.

After the lesson, Yaryna felt empowered to send MP Sovsun her analysis of five eighth-grade textbooks, expressing her views on how gender equality is presented in them. For example, her analysis noted that the textbook definition of “victim behavior” was incorrectly explained as behavior that justifies violence, usually against girls. MP Savsun used Yaryna’s compelling arguments to persuade her fellow legislators to amend Draft Law No. 3990, which addresses the quality of educational materials.

Since its opening in 2018, the Educational Center has engaged more than 9,000 students from 17 oblasts of Ukraine in interactive, in person (at the Rada) or online lessons.  They have not only learned about the daily operations of the Verkhovna Rada, but also about their responsibilities to be active citizens and question what they don’t understand or don’t agree with.

After the introduction of quarantine in Ukraine, the Educational Center went fully online. Yet, its curriculum developers quickly adapted to retain interactive components to their outreach. The Center adjusted to the novel circumstances and continued to engage students,  at times to groups of 500 or more pupils. 

Adults have expressed considerable interest in joining similar activities, and the Center is working to expand to older audiences. Eventually, the Center’s activities will become part of Ukraine’s system of civil parliamentary education, which is currently in development.

In May 2020, the Educational Center conducted a video contest among school age kids as part of the Verkhovna Rada’s 30th anniversary commemoration. School kids across Ukraine were asked to provide videos addressing the topic: “The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine – it’s where my country is being created.” One of the winners was Yaryna Kholod. She recorded a video voicing her wish that the representation of  women in Ukraine’s Parliament would soon mirror their representation  in the population, as a whole.

Last updated: August 03, 2021

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