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Moscow Conference Focuses on CEP Russia Program
 

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From the Civic Education Project Newsletter, Volume 1, Number 1, Winter 1994/95

Building on the success of its other programs in the region, CEP began its involvement in Russia this past fall, sending 12 lecturers to 8 universities in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Yaroslavl, Nizhny Novgorod, Ekaterinburg and Krasnodar. A meeting of lecturers and advisory board members took place December 2 - 4, 1994, in order to assess the first semester of CEP Russia, to identify major obstacles encountered in the first semester and to develop recommendations for improving CEP's effectiveness in Russia. The broad composition of participants -- CEP lecturers and senior staff; faculty representatives from Nizhny Novgorod State University, St. Petersburg State University, and Moscow State University; CEP Russia Advisory Board members; and representatives from the Eurasia Foundation, the Soros Foundation, ACTR, and USIS -- ensured a diversity of perspectives and a wider discussion on higher educational reform.

As with any first-year program, CEP's first semester in Russia has been hindered by three major impediments. First, since CEP is still new to its host universities, its courses have not been completely incorporated into the curricula. As a result, some CEP courses are offered in the evening or on weekends. Second, many of the students, particularly those outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg, have inadequate English skills. Thus, some CEP lecturers must rely on teaching through translators. Third, maintaining communication with lecturers has been problematic for CEP at times because of generally poor (or very expensive) e-mail service.

In spite of these difficulties, CEP has laid a solid foundation for a long-term program in Russia, particularly in universities located in Yaroslavl and Ekaterinburg-institutions which receive little attention from Western higher education programs. Some progress can be attributed to the "cross-fertilization" of ideas that has resulted from collaboration with CEP's more established programs in the Baltics and Ukraine. In addition to teaching a variety of courses as diverse as microeconomics, social stratification, and geopolitics, CEP Russia lecturers are engaged in a number of collaborative activities designed to strengthen their departments. For example, they are organizing a national student conference, assisting in the development of the International Relations Faculty library at St. Petersburg University, and preparing for curriculum development workshops in St. Petersburg and Ekaterinburg. CEP lecturers were also given opportunities to present lectures at higher education conferences and academies around the country.

In order to further improve CEP's effectiveness in Russia, participants in the meeting discussed ways to sustain the progress already achieved and deal with the impediments identified during the first year of the program. Specifically, CEP lecturers, working closely with their local colleagues, will pursue a number of goals: incorporating their courses into the existing curricula, securing academic credit for CEP courses, helping universities establish better language-training facilities, identifying and training graduate students in Western teaching and research methodologies, and compiling a list of social science literature which has been translated into Russian. Civic Education Project Russia will focus its efforts on strengthening existing ties with current host universities while continuing to explore possibilities for expansion in other areas of Russia and the NIS.