Ukraine takes democracy class

April 17, 1998

A Canadian university is helping Ukraine establish its first national programme in the study of democracy.

Expected to begin in the autumn, Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, will set up a four-year project that will provide courses for 48 Ukrainian professors and see the country's universities, teacher training colleges and schools of journalism become more involved in teaching and researching democratic theory.

Since the collapse of the USSR, Ukraine has had to transform from a totalitarian state into a democracy, but with little idea of how.

After surveying post-secondary institutions and finding only 2 per cent teaching a general course on liberal democratic government, the Queen's centre for the study of public opinion and democratic development brought together government officials, senior journalists and policy analysts and held a workshop in Kiev on the role of public opinion in democratic development.

Head of the centre, George Perlin, found that the Ukrainians' recent exposure to democratic theory had come through media reports and economic initiatives.

Dr Perlin, an expert in political surveys, thinks that countries looking at liberal democratic models are often in pursuit of certainty and stability. "We want to try and also explain the limits of what can be achieved with a democratic system," he said.

The project will begin with a commissioning of papers on basic democracy issues that are to be translated into Ukrainian. Queen's will also introduce Ukrainian educators to computer and Internet-based teaching methods.

Funding for the Can$3.5 million (Pounds 2 million) project, which will see the first electronically distributed papers available by the end of the year, has come from the Canadian International Development Agency, under the government's policy of assisting democratisation in Central and Eastern Europe. The Ukrainian ministry of education, the Soros Foundation and Queen's have also contributed funds.

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