Volume:7, Issue: 2

Aug. 1, 2015

Supplementary education and its role in creating a character-building environment in the social community
Alieva, Lyudmilla V. [about]

KEY WORDS: social education, values, a character-building environment, supplementary education, school students.

ABSTRACT: The paper discusses different approaches to building a socially appropriate and educationally efficient environment that is based on the specific character of the prevailing social reality, values of supplementary education for children and other key agents. The system of supplementary education is described as an open environment of governmental and public social education entities (supplementary education institutions and extracurricular school programs), public associations and organizations for adults and children, as well as adults and children participating in collaborative voluntary educational and community-based activities.


Current importance of the issue

Today, Russian system of education is characterized by an increased importance of social education that can provide an individual with a core set of values while enhancing the process of his/her development as a personality. The priority of social education in the currently reforming system of education is stipulated in the new Federal Law "On Education in the Russian Federation" (2012).

In general, the system of supplementary education plays a special role in our country. This role could be explained by the national history as well as by a social and educational necessity to develop, by means of expanding an educational environment, young people’s civil and cultural formation. The system of supplementary education is based on specific activities (individual and collective, labor and intellectual, culturally and socially important), which consolidates teaching, self-education, social education, and purposeful character building. This environment is aimed at shaping a genuine human being with new qualities, competencies, subjective statuses, roles, and positions while involving him/her in educational and community-based activities.

The specific nature of supplementary education for children (understood as the afterschool education rather than additional teaching after regular classes) implies a special subsystem of a life-long, open, state and public education and character building of children and youth.

Russian system of supplementary education is unique, primarily due to its specific social education experience. Social education manifests itself in the system of supplementary education as a part of global and Russian culture and an integral element of education that adds a character building component to the general education; a natural function of social education, an interrelationship of generations in their activities, communication, and interaction, and finally, as a positively structured process of a child’s socialization in the society.

The prospects of supplementary education development and an increase of its role as a separate area of education for children and adults could be better understood through its specific character-building potential. It will also help us in defining ways and conditions of its success in creating and maintaining an efficient social education environment – a value-oriented foundation of open, continuous, government and public education for children and adults.

A theoretical and methodological approach to the problem

We use a theoretical and methodological approach that is based on the research in the field of social education and social education environment fulfilled by Lyudmilla Novikova’s research team from The Center of the Strategy and Theory of Education, “Strategy of the Education Development Institute of The Russian Academy of Education”  (Natalia L. Selivanova as its head) within the Institute of Education Strategy and Theory of the Russian Academy of Education (11; 12).

Social education environment is an innovative concept in the social education theory. It is a social, educational and cultural reality, an educationally structured environment for empowering human development and the formation of a creative personality and individuality, and it is also a value-based indicator of the system of education.

The social education environment of the society is defined as a result of key values shared by the main participants of the system of education and character-building: students’ age-related and individual opportunities and demands; purposefulness of the mainstream educational programs; a democratic nature of the social education process; certain attitudes of teachers and students; an integral relationship with the social reality, demands of the society, family and children. Indeed, it is the humanistic, democratic and global human values which constitute the foundation of the social education environment – the space for the development of the human being, his/her individuality, personality, and creative abilities (11).

We identify a few methods that allow estimating and realizing the potential of supplementary education in developing the social education environment in the most effective way. They include a study and analysis of research results in the field of social education provided by supplementary education institutions, as well as their experience on a large scale (5; 8), and also experimental work of The Center carried out in a number of supplementary education institutions in Moscow (3, 6).

A specific social education potential of supplementary education

Supplementary education institutions (SEIs) serving as the main bodies of the supplementary education system for children constitute a modern innovative social education reality in the system of life-long education as well as partners of comprehensive schools. Social education is the number one priority and the main value in educational and public activity of SEIs (1, 5).

In terms of social education, SEIs are unique because their activities happen in a wide out-of-school environment since no formal plans and programs can limit children’s free time. SEIs are involved with arranging activities during the “least peaceful time” – teenagers’ leisure (weekends and vacations) – which makes it necessary for the SEIs not only to attract teenagers to moat positive activities but also to provide a positive influence on their behavior, choice of life values as well as expand their socialization with peers and adults.

Each SEI creates a certain environment, an environment for learning, character building, socialization, personal development, spiritual and cultural enrichment, and new life experience as a source of self-education.

The goals of SEIs differ from those of the comprehensive school and are more in line with the objectives formulated in a humanistic theory of education and character building. More specifically, such objectives include the following: children’s social and individual self-development (rather than teaching mandatory basic academic knowledge and skills stipulated by the school curriculum) in the process of some particular career-oriented activity chosen by an individual student. Career-oriented activity and arts (often combined) are the means of children’s social education/self-education and development/self-development. A child becomes both the goal and the subject of education and character building.

The social education potential of SEI educational activity has a specific nature. Education for children is based mostly on professionally offered and practically oriented services. These activities are not only personally attractive for children but also usually chosen by children themselves (or with their parents’ advice), and their learning outcomes are also rewarding. It could be participation in exhibitions, contests and concerts, use of newly acquired skills in their everyday lives, in assisting adults and younger friends. These are the results of the child’s voluntary creative activity, both individual and collaborative. A combination of positive individual and collective results presents a significant social education effect. These results serve as an encouragement for children’s activity and mobilization of their inner potential for higher achievements.

The core element of the educational activity within any SEI is different types of professional activities (arts, music, theatre, engineering, sports, environment, etc.) by means of establishing child-adult collaboration aimed at meeting individual demands and opportunities as well as contributing to the future career choice. Vocational basics are acquired at both – practical and theoretical levels in individual and team activities.

Education and character building at any SEI is always individualized and child-centered as opposed to academic school programs as the latter have to meet unified educational standards. This difference presents a special value of the SEI social education environment for both – a child and the society.

Unlike schools, SEIs can provide for more natural relationships that are informal, interactive and interdependent, and not limited by time, positions or responsibilities; they are practiced in the atmosphere of mixed age groups and collaboration. The participants here are genuine partners, which significantly increases the value of the SEI social education environment.

Primary values of such institutions are based on the integration of Russian fundamental educational traditions and innovations. Social and educational innovations (SEI programs, psychological and sociological methods and monitoring) add to the dynamic nature and modernity of SEIs. At the same time, their stability is achieved due to the traditions of Russian afterschool, mostly community-based social education (Houses and Palaces of Pioneers and Young Communists, large-scale public events and campaigns, traditions of career orientation activities and vocational training in afterschool clubs and associations of young sailors, engineers, naturalists, etc.). Traditions and innovations interact within SEIs in such a way that they allow to bring a certain degree of order to “chaos” or “randomness” of self-regulation and self-determination processes. As a result, traditions receive an impulse for a creative renewal while innovations prove to be vitally important.

Attempts of district and regional School Committees to speed up the “implementation” of innovations as a way to “unify” SEIs and make them comply to certain standards (recommendations on “main educational areas”; standardized programs in supplementary education; unified attestation procedures of SEIs and their educational staff; an imposed obligation to produce fixed age-related results) might have a negative influence on the unique nature of SEIs.

Social education is an integral part of the supplementary education system. Its specific nature within SEIs is determined by the close connection established between the SEI activities and the everyday children’s life in the local community. In fact, the immediate social, cultural and natural environment usually presents key objects for children’s exploration and serves as the foundation of their socialization and new life experience. Various socially significant activities (e.g., labor, cultural) for children create a positive basement and value for social education.

Large-scale public events, cultural and sport activities, national campaigns, contests, competitions, festivals and celebrations organized by SEIs where students can apply their new knowledge and vocational skills, and demonstrate their attitude to significant national and local events and personalities largely enrich the social education environment bringing there positive values and young people’s energy and creativity. Another important factor to mention is that all such activities are voluntary, carried out during students’ free time, producing positive emotions in them and serving as tools for personal success. The latter demands using young people’s inner efforts, strong will, creativity, individual abilities and capacities. In our opinion, these activities and high results at both individual and collective levels become crucial in shaping children’s civil positions in the social environment.

A character building potential of SEIs

A SEI is fundamentally different from a group of students at a school level. In SEIs, children’s groups are voluntary, united by shared interests and a shared positive attitude to the suggested activities. SEI children’s groups focus on various activities, e.g., learning, collaborative and creative work, interaction and relationships in mixed age groups that help to build a character. As a rule, SEIs manage to combine individual and team creative activities. Each individual contribution is appreciated by peers and adults. Our observations show that the role of SEIs becomes more prominent when they utilize more elements of self-management and self-governance in their activities, when the results of such activities have a social value and are creative and interesting for their participants.

An emphasis on a certain vocational orientation distinguishes SEIs as a leading collective subject of educational activities (a children’s choir, a theater, tourist and engineering clubs, press center, interest groups and associations), an innovative network of social and vocational afterschool education.

A common feature that unites all SEIs is their orientation towards social education as a process of child-adult positive interaction in the collaborative activity which results in a personal growth and increased individual contributions to the better social environment (4, 7, 9). Social education services offered by SEIs are based on creativity of teachers and students, which, in turn, forms a certain individual position of each participant and presents a special value of the social education environment.

The SEI is also a special environment of professional activities for adults, a place where they can utilize their educational competences and additional vocational skills, and in this way increase their positive influence on the children. A special status of a SEI teacher lies, primarily, in this combination of his/her vocational qualifications and a creative application of individual skills in providing social education and character building.

The supplementary education teacher is a new type of an educator. Being a professional in some area of vocational activity, s/he also acts as a teacher and a mentor, a developer of new methods and a manager of educational and social services, a researcher and creator of useful projects, programs and modules. S/he mostly acts as a volunteer. This kind of work radically differs from the necessity to execute formal duties. Instead, a SE teacher is personally interested in sharing his/her vocational and life experiences with children. A wide range of SE teachers’ activities (freedom to select and modify educational programs, absence of rigid federal standards) define their special subjective position in teaching and social work. Primary functions of the SE teacher as an active and creative provider of teaching and social education include pedagogical, vocational, social (meeting the demands and requirements of the society and family), interpersonal, scientific and methodological (developing original innovative programs, projects, technologies, methods and teaching aids, which are based on science and latest research data, and are sensitive to children’s age and individualities). The SE teacher’s personal and professional attitude determines the efficiency of his/her functions in teaching and social education. This attitude of the SEI professional-teacher-mentor-manager constitutes a crucial value of social education environment (2, 3).

A student as a subject and object of social education

Within SEIs any individual student can hold a position of both – a subject and an object of numerous activities. This is one of the strongest points of supplementary education. Any SEI provides students with the environment where they can realize themselves in various forms and kinds of activities (not limited to an academic instruction) where a student again can be both – an active participant and collaborator in the activity based on different and numerous interrelations. This is the space for growth, maturity, and interaction with people (adults) of various occupations and ages.

The individuality of the child reveals itself in a free choice of an available club, activity or a teacher. It is also clearly shown through the results of his/her activity within the selected area. Finally, the assessment of a creative individual contribution is not based on grades (like in a traditional school setting) but on specially created individual parameters.

It is at the SEI where children reveal their first signs of individuality (activity, independence, creativity, personal views and opinions, relationships, etc). The SEI offers a child an opportunity to change his/her social role, test personal capabilities and strengths, use their small life experience, and get to know themselves. Some students grow into wonderful team leaders, others create original works, win prizes, and still others become mentors and instructors for their younger friends.

The SEI experience proves that it is the student’s individual attitude that serves as the main result, social education indicator, and a value of the social education environment.

This positive experience may be used to improve conditions for the development of teenagers’ individuality by means of:

a) creation and development of a close-knit children’s collective in a specially organized social education environment;

b) special individualized programs of personality growth through vocational and socially-oriented activities (with regards to students’ experience, age and other individual characteristics);

c) active (gradual) students’ involvement into various activities (learning, social education, collective and individual, public events, contests and competitions);

d) a regular qualitative assessment of students’ results using the following age-related parameters: their steady interest, creativity, initiative, independence, business/interpersonal/mixed-age relationships, manifestation of new life values, practical application of acquired knowledge and skills.

The SEI’s specific social education potential enables the realization of educational child-adult environments or the combination of such environments.

Ways and conditions of efficient value realization in the SEI educational activity aimed at the development of the social education environment

One of the promising trends leads to the development of the supplementary education system as an integrated government and public formation which will serve as a subject in the development of a democratic civil society in Russia – a humanistic environment for the development of personality, individuality and creator; an object of integrated government and public administration (self-governance, co-governance, networking management) consisting (as subjects) of adults (teachers, parents, social partners) and creative professional associations (participated by children or/and adults). All these give birth to positive, value-based and businesslike relationships of children and adults based on cooperation and personal interest in acquiring best results.

Among other ways and conditions we can also name the following:

  • Initiation and stimulation of children’s public associations within SEIs. Such associations can enhance teachers’ efforts to realize primary educational goals, increase a number of SEI activities, and raise the prestige of a certain SEI among governmental bodies, society, and families.
  • Collaboration among SEIs and public agencies will widen the social education environment by consolidating the social and pedagogical potential of each subject and, consequently, making it possible for children with disabilities to find their own niche of positive self-realization; it will also contribute to democratization and humanization of the social environment. 
  • A theoretical and methodological substantiation of SEI innovative educational programs with the priority given to specific social education.
  • Orientation of the SEI teaching faculty towards the most efficient usage of unique regional opportunities, cultural, historical and scientific legacy in social education as well as development and realization of integrated programs that will enable teenagers to explore their hometown as a value-based element of the social education environment.

Conclusion

A positive social education environment of the local community is usually a result of the priority social education values of supplementary education: age-related and individual opportunities and necessities of students; a practical, vocational orientation of key educational programs; democratization of education and character building; a specific status of the teacher; balanced interrelationships of SEI and the current social life, and social demands of the society, family and children. The realization of specific values of supplementary education makes it possible to develop the social education environment as an immediate environment of personal growth, students’ and teachers’ development in their collaborative activities.

Socially important goals to shape individuals for the life in the 21st century should place the system of supplementary education into the center of the education system, providing it with a leading rather than “supplementary” position in the development and functioning of the humanistic, democratic social education environment in the Russian society today.

References

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1 This publication was supported by the grant from the Russian Humanitarian Science Foundation, Project # 14-06-00088.

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