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Release: Immediate

UI College of Education receives $250,000 grant to help Armenians develop civics curriculum

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A group of six scholars from Armenia will develop a new civics education course for seventh-graders during a three-month visit to the University of Iowa College of Education, where they will study education's role in the democratic process.

The educators will draft a curriculum designed to help students in the former Soviet republic learn about democracy as a governing principle and how to participate effectively in a democratic society.

The project is supported by a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) to Greg Hamot, assistant professor, and Peter Hlebowitsh, associate professor, both in the Division of Curriculum and Instruction.

Hamot says that since communist states began to collapse in 1989, the former communist countries have been looking for ways to revitalize their political cultures with democratic principles and have turned to American educators for suggestions and examples.

"You can't expect that two generations of Soviet-style educational methods and cultural ideas are going to disappear overnight," Hamot says. "Making effective and appropriate changes in the school system and in the way subjects like civics, citizenship and political science are taught will go a long way toward transforming the political culture."

Armenian directors of the project are Manouk Mkrtchian and Gayaneh Zargarian of the Armenian Ministry of Education's Research Institute.

The Armenian delegation is the second group of educators from a former communist country to study with UI College of Education faculty in the past two years. Hamot and Hlebowitsh also directed a project in 1996 with a group from the Czech Republic who spent a semester at the college to draft a civics education curriculum for 12th-graders.

That curriculum, "Education for Citizenship," is in use in the Czech Republic.

The Armenians arrived Sept. 16 and will return to Armenia Dec. 11. While at the UI, they are paired with a member of the College of Education faculty and with a local school teacher. The two local partners serve as mentors for the Armenians, helping them understand and explore educational ideas and practices in the United States.

The project also includes several site visits to area schools as well as to historical and educational sites in Iowa and the Midwest.

The Armenians hope to complete a framework for the curriculum, including lessons, before they return to Armenia. Once there, the curriculum will be further developed and field tested.

The curriculum is scheduled to be ready for use for the 1999-2000 school year.