Since the fall of the Soviet Union, there has been a rapid transition from communist governments to more democratic governments in Central and Eastern Europe. In most of these situations, the changes and pretransition analyses have focused on the areas of political, economic, and legal transformation and have paid very little attention to the impact such adjustments will have on the people of these countries and their adaptation to the changes. Seldom did the policy makers of these countries take into consideration the impact such “changes” would have on the physical and psychological needs of its citizens.
The people that lived under totalitarian regimes had to survive within a “culture of fear.” Like the people of Cuba, they developed a set of values and attitudes shaped by the formal indoctrination that defined their daily behavior in order to align their own wants and needs to the restrictions imposed by the state. C.C. Hughes (1993) defines “culture” as: (1) a socially transmitted system of ideas, (2) that shapes and describes experiences, (3) gives names to surrounding reality, (4) is shared by members of a particular group, and (5) coordinates and determines behavior. Hughes further defines “cultural process” as a means of conveying values across the generations. Cultures, in turn, develop a system of “social values,” which are defined as the ideals, customs and institutions of a society. This paper will demonstrate how the role of education in the future of Cuba will be one of the leading factors in transforming the psychological values and attitudes of the population in order to develop a civil society and eventually sustain a democratic state.
THE POST-COMMUNIST CHALLENGE
During any transition, it will take some time for the “new changes” (see Figure 1) introduced to re-arrange themselves in patterns that seem appropriate to the changed environment. Of the institutions central to the perpetuation of the communist regime, education was the most jealously guarded because it represented the process of ideological transfer, without which the state had no claim on its citizenry. Communist societies such as Cuba consider ideas weapons in the class struggle. They stress the function of education in facilitating political indoctrination of the population and value education as a way to foster social equality. Without question, forty years of Soviet domination and central planning have inhibited the restructuring of the education systems in former Soviet nations. What is emerging from the efforts of politicians looking at the west and local leaders uncertain of their mandate are a disquieting mixture of radical progressivism on the one hand and historical nostalgia on the other.
The proliferation of old and new states now occupying the region of Central and Eastern Europe has created a tapestry of diversity in the provision of education, as in most other areas of civic life. Schopflin (1993) identifies three models of post-communist society that are worth mentioning. They are:
- Traditional Society—Defined by the area’s rural past, its ideas are strongly collectivist, negatively egalitarian or hierarchical, anti-intellectual, and distrustful of politics. Due to its lack of political sophistication, this type of society is vulnerable to manipulation by populist demagogues. Recurring revisionist trends in Russia and its former states seem to coincide with this definition.
- Socialist Society—Communist influence remains strong and the state is still considered the best guarantor of both individual and collective wellbeing. A sizeable intelligentsia and upper echelon have converted political power into economic power under post-communism. The phenomenon of Chauvino-Communism highly placed functionaries salvaging political power by a rapid conversion to nationalism while often embracing market principles—emerged in this context.
- Liberal Society—Characterized by its openness to new ideas, the market, new initiatives, technology, and a flexible political system based on compromise and willingness to change, this type of society is the most difficult to develop. It represents the total antithesis of previous systems. When it fails to deliver on its promises, the consequences are extreme.
As demonstrated in Figure 1, the goal for Cuba’s future is to create a “liberal society.” However, to create and sustain such a system it will take time for the necessary foundations, institutions, and ideals to be accepted and become part of the new system.
CHALLENGES FACING TRANSITION
Transition from a non-democratic regime via an agreement between distinct political actors is a rational game. If rulers are unable to maintain their unchallenged domination and the opposition lacks the power to impose its preferred regime alternative, two outcomes can result. The first is civil war, a confrontation wherein groups sustaining incompatible political alternatives fight to eliminate each other. Eventually, one of the sides may become a single, absolute winner in what is usually called a “revolution or counterrevolution.” Choosing a strategy of frontal conflict carries the risk of becoming an absolute loser, as well as the cost of significant destruction on both sides.
The second possible outcome is a compromise of national actors with different regime preferences in an intermediate formula between dictatorship and democracy. In order to be agreeable, parties must reach a compromise that includes calling a multiparty election, which does not secure an absolute winner. Rulers could rely upon their advantage as incumbents to turn the compromise into a lasting semi-democratic regime. Such a strategy would preclude them from being expelled from power and might allow them to recover some of their previously challenged positions. Democratic opposition, alternatively, might envision the agreement as a merely transitory stage, giving it some chance of gaining power and introducing further reforms that could lead to the eventual establishment of a democratic regime. None of these scenarios can take place without an educated and well-informed populace that can at least comprehend the purposes and principles behind the competing transition scenarios.
The phrases “nations in transition” and “countries in transition,” as currently used in the literature, usually refer to former communist countries (Birzea 1994). However, the concept of educational transition discussed in this paper is not confined to transformations in the education system of communist countries since 1989. It is equally applicable to other countries that have experienced a transformation in their education system following a political transition from an authoritarian regime to a democratic government.
In order to fully understand the processes of educational transition, it is necessary first to establish exactly what is meant by educational transition. The concept of education transition will be defined and the process described in broad terms with the help of the model depicted in Figure 1. This model is offered as a tool to assist in the description and explanation of the educational transition processes that have occurred following recent political transitions from authoritarian rule to democratic government.
This model was created by Oxford Studies in Comparative Education, a small group of research scholars in Oxford, England, in 1995. The group’s intention was to create a model that could undergo considerable modification according to the context of each country.
The initial stage of the model intends to contrast certain states or conditions of education systems as they move from authoritarianism to democracy. This contrast led the group to develop a list of descriptors and their opposites as reflected in Table 1.
The term “transition” is used in common discourse to refer to changes in such areas as age, occupation, and social status. The tendency to equate changes and transition in this way and to view life as “but a constant succession of changes in transition” (Birzea 1994) has prompted certain scholars to define transition as a “permanent state of discontinuity in personal and communal life.” However, the concept of transition with which this paper is concerned is a far more complex phenomenon. It cannot simply be equated with change that is defined as no more than a variation, an alteration, or the substitution of one thing for another.
Similarly, the standard use of the word “reform” fails to capture the essence of the transition processes addressed later in this paper, and thus the use of “change” and “reform” interchangeably with “transition” in this context would distort the essence of political, social, and economic transformations that have occurred in many of the former Soviet countries since 1989. The educational transition processes in these countries following the collapse of the incumbent totalitarian regimes transpired not because of a simple change in government, but because of the wholesale transformation or transition of the prevailing political system (see Table 2).
The passage from one class to the next within a school, or even the graduation from one level to another within the education system as a whole, does not exemplify the transition in the educational system. It is a far more complex concept, which Badat has explained as being related to the broader political arena (1995). That is not to argue that every political change is accompanied by a change in the education system.
Unlike political transition, educational transition is not easy to delimit. It may be relatively straightforward to identify the process of political transition as the primary catalyst, but to determine a finite start and end to the educational transition process is somewhat more difficult. With respect to its beginning, it can be argued that this coincides with the ideological collapse and that the process of educational transition, though passive at first, becomes active with the start of Phase I or the interim phase. Its end point is more of a challenge to define.
The model clearly represents that wholesale educational transition has its roots in the prevailing political climate rather than legislative reforms pertaining to education (Birzea 1994). Like the political transformation from authoritarianism to democracy, educational transition does not occur instantaneously; instead, it involves a lengthy passage from a starting point that is certain to an end point that is initially uncertain.
THE CASE OF CUBA
As we have learned from some of the transitions of the post-communist states of Central and Eastern Europe, it is not easy to demolish more than forty years of totalitarian regimes without addressing the issue of reconstruction. The civil society that must emerge has to establish new social norms as it breaks down an ideological system that has had total social control of its citizens.
Cuba is an excellent case study of a political system that has exercised effective government social control over ideology and political culture and has maintained a centrally planned society. The prevailing system has successfully reduced conceptual sophistication about ideologies of resistance by emphasizing the importance of “collective well-being of the state, not of the individual” (Aguirre 2002). Additionally, the system has broken down the ability of individuals to claim ownership of central historical experiences, beliefs, values, and myths that a new education system would have to restore during transition.
Any totalitarian government that has been in power as long as that of Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro has had the opportunity to create institutions, collective memories, and facts or explanations of how the world operates as part of a cogent national cultural policy. Countries such as Cuba have had total command of education and have used it to indoctrinate children in schools. The system also controls mass media by creating a monopoly on the information and interpretations Cubans use to make sense of their social world. In other words, Castro’s government provides explanations that become the “officially imagined worlds” that give the government political legitimacy (Berger 1990). This type of control legitimizes the ideology of the government and creates a system of symbols and meanings that employ rhetorical devices to “establish and sustain relations of domination” (Thompson 1990) that bring about political stability.
The ability of Cuban social control systems to neutralize social movement organizations has pushed dissidence and the development of civil society into less organized and less institutionalized forms, such as mass behavior rather than individual behavior patterns.
It will be up to the new education system to attempt to create and sustain a system of social change that will bring about the development of a new civil society and a concept of the individual. However, the implementation of these new norms and values will have to be established slowly and with a great deal of flexibility. Otherwise, Cuba will replicate what has occurred in some post-communist states, where the new system confuses citizens who have subsequently become nostalgic for the old ways.
TEACHING CIVIC EDUCATION FOR A DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION
The ideas of liberty, democracy, and constitutionalism have risen in the world as the bastions of totalitarian communism have continued to crumble and collapse. Meanwhile, the newly empowered citizens of postcommunist countries have tried to build democratic foundations for their evolving nation-states. They have understood that new curricula for their schools are as important as new constitutions for their governments. Among other educational goals, they have recognized that schools must teach young citizens the theory and practices of constitutional democracy if they are to develop and sustain free societies and free governments.
An effective curriculum for teaching constitutional democracy must address civic knowledge, civic skills, civic virtues, and the role of the teacher. Educators of different countries may treat these themes differently according to their specific needs, but certain themes are universal.
The first objective of civic education is to teach the most basic civic idea: what a constitutional democracy is and what is not. If students are to be prepared to act as citizens of a constitutional democracy, they must know how to distinguish this type of government from other types. The label constitutional democracy, has often been employed by regimes with showcase constitutions that proclaim popular governments and individual rights but have meant little or nothing to the regime’s victims of tyranny. The so-called people’s democracies of former communist countries are tragic twentieth-century examples of the bogus use of political labels.
Through civic education in schools, students should develop defensible criteria by which to think critically and to evaluate the extent to which their government and other governments of the world do or do not function authentically as constitutional democracies. Curricula must include key concepts necessary to an understanding of constitutional democracy. These are:
• Rule of law
• Limited government
• Representative government
• Individual rights
• Popular sovereignty
• Political participation
• Civil society
Students must learn how these key concepts of democratic political theory are institutionalized and practiced in their own country in comparison to other nation- states of the world. Finally, students must pursue inquires about the transitional, generic, and perennial problems of any constitutional democracy, including how to combine: (1) liberty with order; (2) majority rule with minority rights; and (3) private rights with the public good. Everyone must understand that a constitutional democracy will fail if: (1) the government has too much power or too little power; or (2) the government overemphasizes majority rule at the expense of minority rights or vice versa. How to address these dilemmas practically and effectively is the ultimate challenge of citizenship in a constitutional democracy and the determiner of the political system’s destiny.
Citizens must effectively apply core knowledge to civic life if it is going to serve them well. Thus, a central facet of civic education for constitutional democracy is the development of intellectual and participatory skills, which enable citizens to think and act on behalf of their individual rights and the common good. Intellectual skills empower citizens to identify, describe, and explain information and ideas pertinent to public issues and to make and defend decisions on these issues. Participatory skills empower citizens to influence public policy decisions and to hold their government representatives accountable. The development of civic skills requires active learning by students both inside and outside the classroom. Students are continually challenged to use information and ideas, individually and collectively, to analyze case studies, respond to public issues, and resolve political problems.
A third generic category of democratic civic education pertains to virtues. These character traits are necessary to sustain and improve constitutional democracy. If citizens are to enjoy the privileges and rights of their polity, they must take responsibility for them. This requires a certain measure of civic virtue.
Civic virtues such as self-discipline, civility, compassion, tolerance, and respect of the worth and dignity of all individuals are indispensable to the proper functioning of civil society and constitutional government. These characteristics must be nurtured through social agencies, including school, to ensure a healthy constitutional democracy.
The Democratic Teacher
As educational reformers in post-communist countries have begun to build new education programs for transition that will support democratic values, they have turned to the Western World for assistance in overcoming an imposing array of obstacles left by their former system. These obstacles include the lack of classroom instructional materials and teachers with meager understanding of democracy and no formal training in appropriate pedagogical techniques. There are three general components of democratic civic education, which transcend political boundaries and cultures. They are: (1) core concepts that denote essential knowledge; (2) intellectual and participatory skills that enable practical application of civic knowledge; and (3) virtues that dispose citizens to act for the good of their community.
The effective democratic teacher, for example, develops lessons and learning activities for students that emphasize and intertwine the three generic components of civic education in a classroom environment compatible with the theory and practices of constitutional democracy and liberty.
The democratic teacher emphasizes interactive learning tasks in which students are challenged to take responsibility for the achievement of educational objectives. The democratic teacher encourages and protects free and open expression of ideas in an atmosphere of academic freedom.
Further, the democratic teacher establishes and applies rules fairly, according to principles of equal protection and due process for each individual. This signals recognition that true liberty is inextricably bound to just rules and that individual freedom depends upon an equitable rule of law for all members of the community. Finally, the democratic teacher creates a classroom environment in which the worth and dignity of each person is respected.
Three countries in particular are worth mentioning in terms of their success in developing and implementing their respective education transition projects. As we will see, their projects focused on providing training and skills for their citizens in the development of a democratic system. These countries are the Czech Republic, Latvia and Poland.
The establishment of separate Czech and Slovak Republics on January 1, 1993 marked the start of separate democratic reform movements. After more than forty years with Soviet communist ideology as the central theme in teacher education and curriculum development, Czech educational reformers turned to various western sources for assistance in reforming civic education. The Center for Civic Education in California has worked closely with Czech reformers to establish national educational standards for the teaching and learning of civics and government. This project was funded by the U.S. Department of Education.
Briefly, the intent of the project is to revise the existing social studies curricular framework for secondary schools (ages 17 to 18) by taking particular aim at overarching objectives for civic education reform started in 1989. These objectives include the elimination of Marxist-Leninist perspectives in the historical, philosophical, and social science content of the curriculum; the re-introduction of the study of religion into the curriculum; a renewed study of Czech history, culture, heritage, and geography; and a pedagogical shift from transmitting information to passive students to promoting inquiry and active learning. Accompanying each lesson is a teacher’s manual that presents a rationale and suggestions for further use of the teaching methods employed in the new lessons.
As originally designed, the project included as a core component the Curriculum Development Workshop. The workshop provided training and practice for teachers in how to incorporate the project’s objectives into the curriculum. The other two components were a partnership program between U.S. teachers and Czech teachers and the evaluation of the product by both parties. The evaluation provided the opportunity to access the effectiveness of the program in a timely manner that allowed for any necessary changes to be developed and implemented.
The Curriculum Development Workshop met weekly on the University of Iowa campus. A selected group of Czech teachers took part in a twelve-week workshop that focused on developing a set of lessons based on active learning strategies that foster democratic skills and attitudes. The content of the lessons centered on five key concepts derived from the existing social sciences curriculum. These were:
• state and government policy
• constitutional and local law
• citizenship and human rights
• free-market economics
• the Czech Republic in the global community.
By the end of the workshop, the Czech teachers had written 61 lessons on 20 topics related to both the civic education reform objectives and the five key concepts of the social studies curriculum noted earlier. These lessons introduced teaching strategies rarely practiced before in the Czech Republic—role playing, simulations, educational games, decision trees, civic writing, and cooperative learning. Additionally, some lessons highlighted content areas new to Czech social studies courses, including AIDS awareness, industrial pollution, and civic activism.
Four years later, the same teachers involved in the development of the new curriculum conducted a workshop in the Czech Republic and invited educators from the United States to participate. The aim of the workshop was to review, evaluate, and prepare new material for schools. At the same time, the Czech teachers conducted a workshop with Czech researchers on the methods of data collection and analysis required for a systematic evaluation of the new lessons. This component of the project focused on an evaluation of knowledge, skill, and attitude outcomes commonly associated with life in a democracy.
Given 43 years of totalitarian communism, it is unreasonable to expect complete educational reform to result from one curriculum development project. However, the new education reform represents the kind of project that combines the educational expertise of a developed democracy with the contextual understanding of a transitional democracy in an effort to reform civic education through classroom practice. As Czech teachers continue to implement new curricula for democratic citizenship education, greater hope for a democratic citizenry becomes a reality in the Czech Republic.
Understanding the connection between well-educated citizens and democratic well-being, many Latvians decided to reform the existing curriculum and teaching methods of their schools. They replaced the Soviet-era courses on citizenship with new teaching materials and methods suitable for citizenship in a “true” constitutional democracy. They also looked to the West for assistance. It came initially from the World Federation of Free Latvians, an international organization that had nurtured the spirit of national independence and liberty during Soviet occupation.
The American Latvian Association, a component of the World Federation of Free Latvians started a civic education project. Financial support for the project was provided by the National Endowment for Democracy, an agency of the Federal government of the United States. The project started in 1993 with the intention of designing and developing materials for new courses in civic education at the upper-primary levels of school (8th and 9th grades). The introductory courses emphasized the interaction of citizens with their new constitutional government. Courses were also developed on the institution of government and the rights and responsibilities of citizens in an institutional democracy. The teaching methods emphasized active learning instead of passive reception of information. The lessons required students to acquire and apply information and ideas rather than merely receive and repeat them. The teachers also required the use of higher- level cognitive operations in the organization, interpretation, and evaluation of the subject matter.
Work groups taught the skills of democratic participation and decision-making through role playing, simulations, and political problem solving skills. Accompanying materials included a teacher handbook on civics, a student handbook on civics, and testing materials.
From the beginning, the staff of the project considered the education of teachers a critical component of their work. Unless teachers understood the content and pedagogy of civic education for democracy, the core mission of the project would go unfulfilled. Therefore, starting in 1994, the project staff conducted more than 100 seminars and workshops for teachers in schools throughout Latvia. More than 800 teachers participated in workshops were based on lessons and teaching methods developed in the teacher and student handbooks during the first year alone. By 1996, civic education had become part of the teacher education at three major universities in Latvia.
Already, the project has productively promoted civic education for democracy in Latvia. Its mission, however, it’s far from complete. Present and future challenges include further promotion and development throughout Latvian society of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for effective and responsible citizenship in the constitutional democracy of the country.
One of the largest, most comprehensive projects of transition is the Education for Democratic Citizenship in Poland, a cooperative effort of the Polish Ministry of National Education in locally controlled schools in Warsaw. The project is often cited as a model of how to construct a long-term multi-dimensional approach to civic education reform.
The project started in 1991, and its plan called for a set of distinct but related activities that would respond to specific, urgent problems identified by the Poles, such as the desperate need for new teaching materials. The overall goals of the project were to institutionalize civic education in all schools in Poland for the next decade and to build, with American educators, a national dialogue among Polish teachers on the meaning of democratic citizenship and civic education.
The National Endowment for Democracy first funded a smaller project, which enlisted 25 Polish educators in developing curriculum guides and support materials. The guides presented the rationale, goals, objectives, and content outlines for primary and secondary school civic curriculum. For example, one supporting book presents 16 sample lesson plans illustrating topics and goals set forth in the curriculum guide. A second book consists of 36 readings on political life, citizenship, and Human Rights by prominent Polish scholars and political activists.
Another project was the Primary School Civics Course, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. In this case, Polish university professors prepared a detailed syllabus for a two-semester course on the principles of democracy as they applied to the organization and operations of schools. The syllabus included goals, detailed explanations, suggested readings, and sample teaching strategies for the following topics: (1) student rights and responsibilities; (2) schools and the local community; and (3) the role of schools in a democratic society.
In December of 1993, a group of prominent educators and scholars across Poland met in Warsaw to discuss and critique the materials developed for these projects. The meetings were productive in the sense that new ideas were introduced, and the curriculum and teaching methods were adopted according to the needs of the rapidly changing Polish society. This program has been successful from the point of view of integrating individuals and organizations into a democratic society. However, like the other cases, the program was reformed several times to address the rapidly changing needs of the Polish citizens and their governmental institutions.
Neither the Czech Republic, Latvia, nor Poland will replicate itself in Cuba principally because Castro has no intentions of retiring, sharing power, or even passing his authority to anyone including his brother Raúl while he is still alive. In the last several years, Castro and his brother Raúl have taken steps to plan for the day Castro will no longer be around to govern Cuba.
The initial plan includes measures that would centralize the authority of the regime under Raúl’s direction, though he lacks his older brother’s charisma and leadership qualities. The Castro brothers hope to preserve the ideological values of the revolution. Their plan can be defined as a succession of power rather than a transition in the vein of those that took place in Eastern Europe.
There are a number of lessons that can be learned from post-soviet countries throughout Central and Eastern Europe; however, the education system of the Czech Republic has been a frontrunner in playing an active role in government transition. In 2001, the government of the Czech Republic approved The National Program of Development Education, a document that is part of their strategy to further expand social and economic development in the country. The focus of the plan is to develop human and social capital by focusing on the creation of a new value system that emphasizes democratic citizenship and the quality of everyday life for Czech citizens. This was the first project adopted by the new government after the political changes of 1989 to focus on systematic reform.
The strategy aimed to upgrade the level of education and human resource development across society with the sole purpose of creating a strong civil society that could sustain a democratic society for years to come. The creation of political and economic conditions for perpetual change in attitudes towards investment in education drove the plan. Each strategic concept was characterized by the following aims and provisions:
• The implementation of a flexible system of lifelong learning aimed to educate children, youth, and adults in order to develop a civil society that could support a democratic form of government and a free economic system.
• The adaptation of an educational system that takes into consideration the everyday needs of society. The goal was to increase the quality and practical function of the education system in preparation for the demands a new system of government would place on its citizens. At the same time, it needed to provide professional and technical training to create individuals with employable skills who would sustain a developing economy.
• The development of a system that would monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the plan. The idea was to monitor the input and output of the education system to assure that it was meeting the needs of new citizens.
• The promotion of internal reforms and openness of the educational institutions called for an autonomous system that would allow institutions to experiment with new educational techniques. The system also encouraged collaboration between the public and private sectors along the lines of training, research, and development.
• The adaptation of the role and professional standards of the academic community was geared toward financially supporting the academic community to design academic programs that met the needs of society and that would be coordinated with the business sector. At the same time, the plan called for strengthening the social and professional status of teachers and academics.
• The transition from a centralized system of educational management to a decentralized and flexible system that could react to the needs of its citizens more quickly would be accomplished by enlisting the active participation of the public and private sectors of civil society in the process of planning, organizing, implementing, and evaluating. The plan also called for specific accountability measures.
In summary, education reconstruction in a post-Communist country will continue to face many obstacles including: (1) physical reconstruction; (2) ideological reconstruction; (3) psychological reconstruction; (4) provision of materials and curricular reconstruction; and (5) human resources.
The educational rehabilitation and reconstruction unit of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) speaks of reconstruction as a relatively protected process with short, medium, and long-term goals. Emergency programs fulfill basic requirements needed to get the education system working again. They respond to the most urgent human and material needs and manage human components. Post-communist countries must work with western counselors to determine priorities, as efforts will be directed toward basic needs. UNESCO argues that states must not carry out reconstruction piecemeal, but must carefully plan and implement it. Agencies concerned with reconstruction should be formulating plans for intervention in education long before it is possible to put such programs in place.
In terms of medium and longer-term reconstruction, UNESCO speaks of an educational system master plan that will emerge from needs analysis based on the following dimensions and components: (1) environmental; (2) organizational; (3) infrastructural; (4) material and financial; (5) human; (6) institutional; (7) pedagogical; and (8) curricular.
Effective planning for all aspects of educational reconstruction and capacity building will depend on the creation of organizational frameworks at the national, local, and institutional levels. The toughest challenges facing any post-communist country in its transition will be: (1) physical reconstruction; and (2) psychological/ ideological reconstruction.
Ideological reconstruction in democratization is seen as a major factor in reforming authoritarian, totalitarian, and autocratic systems. It adjusts the attitudes of individuals and encourages the replacement of previous structures and values. Vital to democratizing education is the encouragement of critical, independent, and creative thinking. UNESCO strongly believes that to accomplish this task, the “new” education system in a transition has two fundamental duties. The first is to educate children and adults with a sense of openness and comprehension toward other people, their diverse cultures and histories, and their fundamental shared humanity. The second task is to teach them the importance of refusing violence and adopting peaceful means for resolving disagreements and conflicts.
A common feature of any post-conflict situation is the presence of various psychological problems ranging from demoralization to severe trauma. The need for urgent psychological reconstruction has been recognized by a number of international agencies, as a key to any form of a successful transition that is accompanied by conflict. In the confusion and deprivation that often characterizes post-crisis situations, it is not uncommon for those affected to experience lack of confidence, low morale, and, frequently, nostalgia. The reestablishment of morale and restoration of confidence is an arduous process that often creates a feeling of nostalgia for past practices and lifestyles. In many post- Soviet bloc countries teachers and student continued to find the implementation of unfamiliar new policies, practices, and teaching and learning styles difficult to cope with.
The uncertainty, insecurity, and instability that follow periods of crisis inevitably result in stress, anxiety, and depression, conditions which often lead to physical illness in both adults and children.
A widespread need exists for special rehabilitation programs designed to assist children traumatized by crises, especially those following violence or the loss of a family member as a result of conflict. Numerous examples of programs used by countries going through transition to help identify and treat trauma sufferers are available. However, it is important to recognize that psychological reconstruction, especially in the case of trauma, is a long-term process. Trauma also represents a serious obstacle to the education processes. Regular schooling is important in the establishment of the secure, caring environment deemed by psychologists to be the most effective means of relieving psychological repercussions for children. Psychological support for teachers is also vital.
It is important in any transition to listen to individual needs and develop plans of action that are flexible and can be adapted to various ideological and psychological conditions. If this is not done from the beginning, then the transition process will be superficial and will eventually fail.