Research Network: Education and the post-soviet space

A group of education researchers met in November 2018 for the first time to exchange research topics and cooperations in post-soviet countries.

Network meeting Education and post-Soviet Area

If you are interested in joining the network, please e-mail your contact data to Y29vcGVyYXRpb25AZGlwZi5kZS4= New participants are welcome!
The network was initiated by Prof Dr Katja Koch from the University of Rostock, Professor for Pedagogy with a focus on mental development, and Dr Stephan Kehl from PH Ludwigsburg as well as Dr Sieglinde Jornitz from the service unit "international cooperation in education" at DIPF | Leibniz Institute for Research and Information in education.

Position Paper

As researchers from various disciplines we have gathered as educational scientists sharing an interest in the post-Soviet area. The network is principally open. Our current thematic areas of research span comparative educational research, special education as well as education science and political cooperation , the history of education, school and vocational education(see below).
Our motivation for researching this region is triggered by the gap in educational research activities noticeable since transformation processes in the region in the 1990s. By consequence, the post-Socialist area has played only a marginal role across our disciplines. On the other hand, education science is likewise little established in area sciences. Our initiative opens up a space ranging from research cooperation activities to an investigation of important historical figures in education science and special myths or narratives in the post-Soviet region.
On the one hand, our initiative aims at raising the visibility of the post-Soviet region in German education science, while on the other hand, we intend to strengthen the role of education science in area studies.
Network meetings are held at regular intervals for exchange purposes and in order to prepare thematic workshops.

Special education and care in the post-Soviet area

This field offers a lot of potential for research projects. In the context of special needs, we are currently focusing on:

  • Transformation of the Soviet style, segregated education system for children and adolescents with disabilities. Particular attention is paid to the change from post-Soviet specialised institutions and boarding schools to integrating and inclusive practices and their particular challenges.
  • A descriptive analysis of barriers to implementing global disability policy concepts: e.g. role models for de-institutionalisation, inclusive education, which need to be adapted to prevailing conditions given different political and economic settings.
  • Influence of cultural values on the (self): construction of disability. Differences and commonalities in the construction of disability as is currently discussed in disability studies in terms of a cultural model.

Finally, we would like to point out the possibility of the post-Soviet area to open up new paths to cooperation beyond established international cooperation agreements, allowing students and lecturers to develop new perspectives and research ideas.

Responsible scientists: Prof. Dr Katja Koch (University of Rostock) & Dr Stephan Kehl (PH Ludwigsburg)

Vocational education and Training

The field of Vocational Education and Training investigates vocational education systems and qualification processes in the post-Soviet area, which have so far hardly been considered in German-speaking research literature.
Given a shared history in the Soviet Union, diverse vocational education systems have emerged and been implemented in the diverse successor states since the end of the Soviet Union. The centralised, state-run vocational education system of the USSR based on request and demand for labour was highly regulated, working comparatively well. Altogether, the vocational education and training system was well established and networked. According to official statistics, the system was well frequented especially compared to higher education at universities. Youth unemployment figures were low.
Since the Soviet Union came to an end in 1991, the new governments have faced structural inequalities. Given new economic, cultural, social and political contexts, vocational education systems still have to be adapted to conditions that are subject to continuing change. Therefore, vocational education reforms have been put in place to meet labour market needs in terms of qualifying the population and serving demands.
Despite an original unification and very similar starting conditions, tendencies in development and success potentials of educational reform processes can be viewed as highly distinctive in each state. Therefore, the question of necessary historical and cultural conditions for a successful vocational education - thus the reform potential of these vocational education systems is focused.
The working group pursues the overarching objective of tapping into reform processes and factors that are currently impeding vocational education systems in states of the post-Soviet Union respectively how they can be promoted in future. The current state of vocational education and associated problems and possible solutions will be analysed. Moreover, a comparative perspective on western-style systems and post-Soviet states seems fruitful.

Responsible Scientist: Prof Dr D. h.c Thomas Deißinger & Vera Braun & Oksana Melnyk (University of Constance)

School education

History of Education

History of Education inn the post-socialist and post-Soviet area

The 20th century is characterised by diverse communist/socialist experiments That have also extended to pedagogy. Socialist concepts did not arise anew, however, but they linked up to pedagogical approaches from former centuries – and not only socialist positions. Other than the term “Eastern block” might suggest, very distinct „socialisms were developed across the world. Terms like “the Socialist pedagogy” are by no means apt to grasp the diversity of concepts which, for instance, span Sstalinist methods as well as African approaches (Nyerere). A rather compound view of socialist pedagogy is not least due to a one-sided, state-socialist reception according to which alternative concepts were either ignored or defamed as being “bourgeoise”. Independent research was usually bound to fail because of denied access to archival sources. Although the archives have meanwhile in most cases been opened, only isolated research of the matter has been carried out after 1989. It is thus not possible to confront state socialist positions with opponent approaches. Therefore, the research into the history of education needs to critically re-analyze the diversity of pedagogical concepts that were developed in the socialist states. The working group targets the following issues:

  • Which lines of tradition and reference points can be found in socialist pedagogy? How were they modified and spelled out?
  • How can a „socialist pedagogy be grasped in terms of its concept and history?
  • Which pedagogical developments and stages can be found in the development of the education systems in different socialist countries at different points in time?
  • How did ideas of a socialist pedagogy spread across the world (e.g. Latin America, Africa). How were the countries connected? How do concepts change with regard to local conditions? Which new traditions were adopted? What was the role of the Soviet Union in these worldwide processes?
  • How do claims and reality of socialist ideas and pedagogical concepts work? In how far can social inequalities be reduced? In how far did pedagogy serve the self-postulated goal of shaping socialist characters/ a new human being?
  • What relation between education (system) and affirmation of rule can be found? In how far and how was pedagogy (ab)used for ideological purposes?
  • Which transformations happened after 1989? Where cann continuities and rifts be observed?

Respponsible scientists: Prof Dr Ingrid Miethe (University of Gießen)

Educational Policy

This working group focuses on:

  • Which institutional changes can be seen in the education systems of post-Soviet states from 1990 to today?
  • What influence was exercised by educational politics / stakeholders (particularly parties, teacher associations and other interest groups, international organisations)
  • Which path dependencies can be observed in post-Soviet states resulting from the period of the Soviet Union?

Members of the working group pursue these research themes in case studies but also comparisons of countries. The research group has an open mind regarding different research methods and also theoretical perspectives. Investigations on all areas of the education systems are welcome – early education, schools, vocational education, higher education and also continuing education.

Responsible scientists: Prof Dr Michael Dobbins (University of Constance) and Prof Dr Rita Nikolai (Humboldt University Berlin)

Archives and Libraries