Center of Educational Technologies

Creation of Moral and Legal Space in the Activity of Additional Educational Institution (By the example of the International Children Computer Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Program System)

P. A. Ustyukov
Director, International Computer Center,
Russian Academy of Sciences,
Institute of Program System, UNESCO Association School,
Pereslavl-Zalessky, Yaroslavl Region

The International Computer Center (MCC) at the Russian Academy of Sciences the Institute of Program Systems in Pereslavl-Zalessky was set up in 1986 on the initiative of Academician Ye. P. Velikhov and Professor A.K. Ailamzyau, director of the Institute of Program Systems. The idea was to raise and teach children in a new environment contribution to their self-organization, self-esteem, self-respect and respect to their mates, and like-minded teachers; and develop of children’s scientific potentials by involving them in research, conferences and seminars.

For successful fulfillment of educational-upbringing and health-improvement tasks, the teachers body of the Center aims, above all, at creation of favorable moral and legal space of life activity for everyone, both adults and teenagers.

We understand moral and legal space as an extremely delicate and complicated phenomenon. It has its outward and inward factors. The outward factors are the general appearance of the Center presented for all people around it The inward ones are the content of activity of adults and children who comprise a unified collective, and the humane, democratic atmosphere of their relationship. This relationship is daily manifested in the life of the Center ft in behavior, speech, gestures, mimics, manners, and attitude towards another person.

The moral and legal space in the MCC is not only a style of relationship. It is also daily dynamic, absorbing, creative activity organized by teachers (curators). It is designed in such a way that the respect to a young personality is really displayed, his or her or her interests or opinions are taken into consideration, and free choice of activity and independence are given. It is the space where the priority of knowledge, interests of a child, love and respect for him are the main mover of the dialogue between a teacher and a student.

Moral and legal space in our Center is not only formation of conditions for schoolchildren protection but also a purposeful organization of conditions enabling the creation of the 'situation of personal success* with each teenager, constant support of his or her own efforts in making independent decisions, in determining the ways of their implementation, giving the opportunity for organization of their own activity for this implementation. It is also the awareness of responsibility for one is own choice, activity, deeds and their consequences, conscious understanding of the unity of one is rights and duties and responsibility for them.

The implementation of this task is what the whole activity of the Center collective is aimed at. It is the basis for the educational-upbringing and health- improving activity. All the teachers and attending personnel are not only familiarized with the content of the Convention on Children’s Rights and other documents on the right of children but each teacher thought over in what way they would realize the ideas of these humane documents in their daily educational-upbringing activity. The teachers do not set themselves. A task to familiarize their pupils with the Convention on Children’s Rights in the same way as school should do it. We have shifted the center of gravity to the involvement of kids into the moral and legal space of our institute, the aim and mission of which is to create conditions in which the main ideas of the Convention on Children’s Rights would be implemented, including doing so through the position of the teachers, curators and the whole personnel, through the style of communication cultivated in the Center.

We understand that just involving children into the moral and legal space, the Center is atmosphere is not sufficient, it is necessary to organize also teenager’s own activity which contributes to the formation of their personal moral and legal experience, habits of behavior that corresponds to certain norms. These two interrelated directions find their reflection in all spheres of our work.

The leading form of organization of activity in the Center is the participation of children in the work of the institute’s departments. They are given the opportunity of tree choice of departments depending on their interests. Schoolchildren are not assigned, as is usual in schools, to a certain class, or in camps to a group. They are granted free choice within the Center. Proceeding from their interests, they can participate in the work of different departments and directions and, with the account of the schedule of work of the departments (sections, circles), they can arrange their daily timetable independently but under the supervision of adults. For some teen-agers, this presents a certain difficulty. They are used to getting commends from adults. Being not accustomed to self-organization, to attending classes on voluntary basis, some schoolchildren cannot self-dependently make their choice of departments and directions of their own activity. The teachers assist them in self- determination, choice of departments, in arranging their timetables. The curators and teachers prepare teenagers to realize that in future life similar situations will be encountered all the time.

In the diversified activity of the Center, many of the ideas of the Convention on Children’s Rights find their reflection. At the departments, twelve of which have access to Internet, children 'have the opportunity to receive information and materials, contributing to conscious, spiritual and moral welfare3 (article 17 of the Convention). There is also support of international cooperation in the field of preparing, exchange and dissemination of such information and materials from different cultural, national and international sources (article 17). The children have the right and, most important, the opportunity to freely express their opinion, look for and receive information and introduce ideas of any kind in oral, written or printed form, in the form of art works (for instance, in drawings) (article 13).

Our educational activity is aimed 'in full measure at the development of children is personality, intellectual and physical faculties3 (article 29). At the departments of biology and zoology, children are brought up to respect the environment of nature and environmental activity (article 29). As far as discipline is concerned, it is maintained 'by methods reflecting the respect for human dignity of a child’ (article 28). The center performs al possible educational activities aimed at non-admission of physical and psychological violence and offence of a child (article 19).

As in any other collective, among children can naturally arise disputes and disagreements. Considering that children that come to us are, as a rule, intellectually developed, potential leaders, many of them try to self-realize, self-assert, and, naturally, sometimes-arguable situations take place. Here it is important not to admit their development and the more so, the transition of an argument into a fight, into opponents! long-term dislike of each other. An enormous role here belongs to the teachers! body. Selection of high moral, qualified pedagogical team, curators (educators, tutors), attending personnel for work with children is extraordinary substantial. Very important are the teachers authority, his or her moral cleanliness. It is exclusively owing to these people and proper understanding of the tasks assigned for them, the work accurately planned we have not had for the last five years such unpleasant facts as fights, drinking alcohol, dings taking. Children who have been in the Center more than once, explain when needed, conduct of behavior to the new-comers, thus maintaining adherence at normal relationship among children. The MCC makes it possible for children to unfold themselves in many directions. I can state with satisfaction that children like to stay with us, parents trust us (and many of them have been sending children to us for already several times and for some years) who are confident that their children are protected. And as a result, for the last three years, there has been a very great demand for the MCC, and there are no vacancies.

Taking part in 1999 in the international telecommunication project 'Virtual classroom3 (with headquarters in Hong Kong), where 300 schools from 41 countries were involved, our Center was among 12 finalists, it was awarded a certificate and a valuable present. One of the themes considered at this conference was children’s rights. Our children, communicating with their partners from India, the USA and other countries, were searching and finding ways to bar and prevent violence among young people.

Already A.S. Makarenko pointed out that school and other child institutions should since the first day 'equip a child with norms of behavior, so that he or she knows what is allowed and what is not, what is commendable and what is punish able. Moral and legal norms, cultivated in the collective, including those developed by the students themselves (in school, additional educational institution, etc.) and subsequent organization of life activity contributes not only to formation of steady interest to moral and legal norms but also to awareness of the role of them in the life of people, society, to creation of personal experience of observance of the unity of rights and duties.

An important place in the activity of the MCC is allotted to the children is newspaper published by children themselves. It is pertinent to recall that an eminent pedagogue S. Frenaie as far back as the early 1920s actively developed die idea of school newspaper which, in his or her opinion, helps in free expression and dissemination of thoughts and feelings of children, teenagers, prepares children to life in society, helps social education. The diversity of opinions in the process of a newspaper creation helps to organize collective activity in a democratic form, to develop an active civic position.

Teenagers are members of the editorial board, correspondents and, performing publishing activity; they not only elucidate children is life, activity of departments, but also raise actual and exciting them questions. The articles of this newspaper reflect the problems of the Convention on child is rights and its importance in the life of schoolchildren. In the newspaper is columns there are materials on press conferences, 'round table discussions" that are regularly arranged in the Center, and answers to the questions arising with children (how to assert their rights if they encounter rudeness, and so on). Children keep these children is newspaper and bring them home to their schools in order to tell about the atmosphere of democracy, humane attitude towards every child, respect of his or her rights and freedom of choice that are found at the MCC.

One can continue to exemplify in what way the ideas of the Convention on child is rights are realized, but that what has been already outlined testifies, in my opinion, the solidity of educational-upbringing and health-improving activity of the Center in creation moral and legal space for all participants in his or her work.

The rule-of-law state begins in school, and the strive for self-affirmation, formation of individuality characteristic of the adolescent age, can be realized already during school years.

Formation of such experience of democratic, moral and legal lifestyle already the conditions of school, institutions of additional education have important meaning not only for the pupils of an individual school bat also for the transformation of all our society. V.A. Sukhomlinsky rightly pointed out, 'People who were to bound to act according to the rules of high moral in their adolescence and early youth are remarkably more conscientious and more emotionally active in their maturity’.

Source: Молодежь России перед лицом глобальных вызовов на рубеже веков (Как противостоять агрессивному экстремизму, ксенофобии и насилию среди молодежи) : Материалы Международной конференции, 18–19 ноября 2000 г., Москва, Россия / под научной и общей редакцией И. М. Ильинского. Перевод на англ. яз. М., 2001. С. 245–256. ISBN 5-85085-643-9.