School districts in the Republic of Georgia (see description, below) are being prompted by the government to include principles of democracy, human rights, and global citizenship at all grade levels. I was invited to present workshops for teachers and high school students in June, 2018 in the capital city, Tbilisi, based on the the Words Into Deeds program. Sponsored by a Georgian NPO, Multinational Georgia for Strengthening Democratic Values, two-days were devoted to interactive workshops for each group, with 13 teachers and school administrators and 22 students participating.
Teachers’ workshops began with development of essential questions, followed by the study of key documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention of the Rights of Children, and the Georgian Constitution. Linking these to specific targets was done by examination of the Sustainable Development Goals, exploring the inter-connectedness among them and the many educational resources available on line. The afternoon focused on pedagogical practices, classroom activities that bring together students and issue-specific experts, promoting interdisciplinary teams, and assessment strategies. Applications suitable for students ranging from kindergarten through high school were identified.
The second day began with proactive approaches to addressing prejudices and promoting respect, using the metaphor of a Ladder of Prejudice. The teachers then designed a Words Into Deeds program suitable for their classrooms, using as a them, understanding and protecting the rights of people living with disabilities. This included defining objectives, identifying primary source documents and resources, and helping students design then implement outreach projects, always returning to the essential questions and key documents.
Students’ workshops followed a similar agenda, but with greater emphasis on practical applications and skills needed to understand the many challenges faced by persons with disabilities, both physical and emotional, and opportunities for young persons to take informed actions that improve the lives of these individuals and groups.
These workshops were a follow-up to a shorter series held in November, 2016, when a group of teachers and students participated in a professional development training program focusing on early childhood education, sponsored by Global Education Motivators and held at Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia. The training sessions were augmented by visits to several local schools as well as visits to historic sites in Philadelphia and Washington, DC.
BRIEF BACKGROUND ON THE REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA
The Republic of Georgia is located on the east side of the Black Sea and is bordered by Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey. It was re-established as independent from the former Soviet Union in 1991. After over a decade of internal civil conflicts, in 2003 it adopted a more pro-Western policy, which exacerbated tensions that in 2008 led to Russian military occupation of two provinces, South Ossetia in the east and Abkhazia in the north, with an estimated 195,000 residents forced to flee. Though not officially recognized by the United Nations, these provinces remain under Russian control. The constitution, originally drafted in 1995, was amended in 2005 and several times since to better guarantee democratic processes that ensure social justice and protect human rights. As often happens after decades under non-democratic rule, many aspects and challenges of practicing democracy and promoting human rights are not familiar to much of the population, especially older generations.