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Benő Csapó : High schools students perceptions of social transition and reforms

As a consequence of the peaceful social transition in Central and Eastern Europe, a historically unique situation had emerged. After the sudden collapse of the past political system, students have to acquire the values of the market economy and political pluralism; but in the same schools and social environment and from the same adults and teachers, who represented the old values as well. The value crisis and the economic problems accompanying the transition may alienate the young from the new social framework. To examine students' attitudes towards the social and school changes in 1990, 250 17-year-old high school students were administered a questionnaire. The same questionnaire was administered to the mothers and teachers of the students. The data collection was repeated in 1993 in the same schools with students of the same age (N=400). In 1990, students were pessimistic about the short-term effects of changes (e.g., difficulties in finding a job, growing constraints on everyday life), but they envisioned long-term economic improvements, and they were very supportive of planned changes in educational system (e.g., the decreasing role of the state, more local freedom in choosing teaching materials, establishing private schools, the growing role of the churches). The mothers were even more pessimistic about the short-term economic outlook, but they supported the school changes and agreed with the long-term economic improvements. Teachers were the most supportive of the growing administrative freedom of schools, but they were divided on the issue of decentralizing curriculum planning. In 1993, when students had more real-life experience with the effects of transition, they felt more painfully the short-term outcomes of the changes. They supported the school changes less strongly, and they particularly disapproved of the growing role of churches. Students can be classified into two well-defined groups: those (the majority) who believed in good long-term economic prospects and those who did not. The two groups have different opinions on other issues as well. The 'optimists' mostly supported the changes whereas the 'pessimists' judged almost everything very negatively. Nevertheless, both groups believed in the growing importance of schooling and they anticipated that as a consequence of social changes people will be better motivated to learn. In general, students were very much aware of the negative tendencies, but they differed in their views more than has been described in the recent value-crisis literature.

MAGYAR PEDAGÓGIA 94. Number 3-4. 207-229. (1994)

Levelezési cím / Address for correspondence: Benő Csapó, Department of Education, Attila József University, H–6722 Szeged, Petőfi sgt. 30–34.


Magyar Tudományos Akadémia