Group Discussion

Introduction: Agris Petermanis, Nica Secondary School, Latvia


One purpose of our workshop "Baltic teachers in a time of change" was to use the model being together - dialogue - cooperation, to see how it could be used when everybody is involved, when everybody expresses him/herself, listens to others, perhaps changes his/her mind and attitudes - because the hardest job is to change peoples´ way of thinking.

The other purpose was to try to understand what is better now, with many problems, even painful ones, in the new society, or what was better before, in the old system. One must remember that while democracy in itself is understandable for a large part of the world, we in the Baltic states had to start from the beginning. Now we must evaluate: where we are, what has been done, what could be saved and what could be improved.

During this period, when the Baltic states are moving towards democracy, it is a question of great importance what kind of personalities/individuals we are going to have. It seems that the word "democracy" is used more often than it is understood. It has been used mostly on a theoretical level, less in practical action.

As we, teachers of Nica Secondary School in Latvia, understand, it is very essential to get as many people as possible involved in the practical process of democracy, because the success of this process greatly depends on how deeply in the minds and hearts of people principles and institutions of democracy will take root. It will not happen by itself. Everybody must experience what democracy is, what it means to live in a democratic society, what models of individual action, what kind of institutions are necessary to create and keep alive a democratic society.

That's why schools have a really great impact on the process of democratisation of society, because schools must create an atmosphere and a model for the society of the future. This is the problem we as teachers have to face in our everyday work after abolishing the old totalitarian system. What do we replace it with? How?

It is very important that, while young peopie are at school, they

* take part in organising and leading social life at school
* notice existing problems and find their way of solving them
* feel safe to express their own opinions and views, enter into discussions, show their thoughts, to be not only demanding but also engaged and taking responsibility for the processes going on in the school and in society

At the same time this must not only be a slogan, but real practical action, supported and understood by all staff of the school, because there are still schools at least in Latvia, where "democracy" has been understood as "anarchy". Democracy does not mean that all is allowed, it means action with a certain order and rules. The only question is: do teachers know what to do and how to act, how to help their students acquire this knowledge? The problem is, that many teachers do not know how to act in new circumstances, with what to substitute traditional autocratic methods.

The way out of these problems we see is to prepare and change the behaviours and attitudes of teachers. How well prepared the staff and teachers are for democratic changes will decide how their students will acquire models of democratic experience. The same model we must use in cooperation with parents, involving them in their children's school work.

After the introduction the 32 participants formed 4 groups, 1 for each Baltic country and 1 for participants from other European countries (discussing changes after joining the EU)

Notes from the closing round table talk, relating to the Baltic countries:


1. Textbooks and other material were free of charge

2. Compulsory second education

3. All education was free of charge

4. Systematic teachers courses

5. Less social problems

6. Out-of-class and out-of-school activities were free of charge

7. Children s organisations summer camps and summerjobs arranged for all

8. More responsibility of parents all children always attended school

9. There was guaranteed Government care about schools

10. Guaranteed jobs after professional schools and studies


1. Possibility of choice of subjects to study (e.g.languages)

2. Possibility to study abroad and getting aquainted with the experiences of other countries

3. Possibility for creative work and for responsibility

4. A holistic approach to learning is being introduced

5. Allowing alternative education and alternative schools

6. School curriculum is undergoing positive changes, in correspondence with children's needs and abilities

7. Development of national consciousness

8. Freedom of choice, freedom of religion

9. Private schools are allowed

10. Handicapped children are beginning to be integrated

11. A democratic and humane school is beginning to emerge - more open

12. Communication and cooperation between schools from different countries - Latvian schools have started to take part in different global projects




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