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Release: June 15, 2000

UI wins $770,000 in U.S. grants to aid educators in former USSR

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa education professor Paul Retish has secured two U.S. grants totaling almost $770,000 to help establish civics education programs in the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Moldova.

The larger of the grants, $471,401 from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, will be used to plan, develop and field test a curriculum and instructional materials on democracy and civic education for use by Georgian fifth- through ninth-grade teachers and students. A group of experts from Georgia, Bulgaria and the United States will review the educational products. And a team of secondary school teachers from Georgia -- one of 11 former republics of the Soviet Union that now make up the Commonwealth of Independent States -- will field test the new curriculum and materials.

The other grant, $296,807 from the U.S. Information Agency, will be used for similar purposes to help Moldovan secondary school teachers and students develop and field test new curriculum and materials on democracy and civics. Moldova, also part of the former Soviet Union, is not a member of the Commonwealth.

The grant period for the Georgian project is February 2000 through January 2003. The grant period for the Moldovan project is January 2000 through December 2001. Retish will administer both grants and make visits to the participating countries.

"These teachers will come here for two weeks for an orientation on developing and implementing materials on democracy and civics," Retish said. "They have no knowledge of their own histories, of their heroes or of democracy. So we really are going to open up doors that they are going to walk through and without infringement learn about their own history.

"Although there are a lot of ethnic differences and dislikes among citizens in these countries, ultimately our plan is to bring all of these groups together to determine how they work with each other and learn together," Retish added. "That's what democracy is all about."