Community schools concept spreads across Central and Eastern Europe

Barely a decade has passed since the community school concept was introduced in Central/Eastern Europe (CEE) and Russia, yet it has spread rapidly through a number of former communist countries.

This week, the community schools message was proclaimed in town hall meetings and on radio and television in recognition of International Community Schools Day on Tuesday, March 1.

“Here in Russia, many people are saying they were pleased to learn that they are not alone in their efforts to develop local communities through the schools,” said Elena Fomina, executive director of the Krasnoyarsk Center for Community Partnerships, a Charles Stewart Mott Foundation grantee in Russia’s Siberia region.

While many schools in the Krasnoyarsk region of Russia officially recognized the occasion, so did those in other areas of Russia and CEE.

Celebrations varied from country to country: A village school in Kazakhstan hosted a concert for veterans, schools in a large Russian city sponsored a televised roundtable discussion, and a small town school in Serbia and Montenegro provided beekeeper training for residents.

Schools in Ukraine and Hungary also recognized International Community Schools Day with special events.

Csaba Lorenczi

Csaba Lorenczi

In late February, the Ukrainian city of Kapitanivka, located near the nation’s capital city of Kyiv, was the site of a national community schools conference. Participants from seven operating community schools shared experiences with representatives from 35 schools that this year will enter a major community schools program directed by Ukrainian Step by Step Foundation, a Mott grantee.

Meanwhile, in Hungary there are currently 30 members of the Hungarian Federation of Community Schools, also a Mott grantee. However, many more schools throughout the country have adopted the concept, said Csaba Lorinczi, a Mott consultant who has been sharing the philosophy and characteristics of community schools throughout the region for more than a decade.

“… many people (in Russia) are saying they were pleased to learn that they are not alone in their efforts to develop local communities through the schools.”

Elena Fomina

These characteristics include:

  • Everyone is a teacher and everyone is a learner.
  • There is parental and community involvement.
  • The school has a collegial atmosphere in which educators, parents and community members are regarded as partners.
  • Educational activities for people of all ages are supported by school personnel.
  • School staff and students are active in interagency cooperative activities.
  • School facilities are adapted for community education purposes and open for community use.
  • School staff encourages students to study community issues and problems.
  • School personnel and students work together to foster a sense of community.

The type of national community school networks that exist in Ukraine and Hungary also could prove beneficial elsewhere, Lorinczi said.

“We are interested in expanding this type of networking to other areas such as Russia, Mongolia and through the region. Eventually, we would like to reach all around the globe. We are going to promote International Community Schools Day in the future so that it becomes a traditional day of celebration in all these places.”

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