Education as a Factor Shaping Civil Society

Polina Y. Rushakova, School of Governance and Politics, MGIMO University


It is taken without consideration that a developed civil society is a positive phenomenon, which may give a strong impetus for modernization of a country. Since not every country copes with the goal of establishing civil society, the factors which influence civil society creation are worth considering. Many works are devoted to such factors of civil society creation as a rule of law, NGOs and a developed economy. However, relatively little research is devoted to education. There is no doubt that being one of the state functional systems an educational system is determined by the type of society and the level of its development, its traditions, way of thinking and culture as a whole. But is there an inverse correlation? What way can the educational system of Russia influence the level of development of civil society? The article is aimed at carrying out a deeper analysis of this actor of civil society creation.

Key words: civil society, education, type of educational system

At the moment a lot of hopes and expectations are pinned on a developed civil society, as it is civil society that is responsible for productive and based on equal rights communication between state, individuals and social groups. This institution is able to accelerate s process of modernization in Russia.

In order to understand, how civil society emerges and works, subjects of its creation are worth considering. There is a lot of research on such factors of civil society creation as a rule of law, NGOs and a developed economy. Relatively little research is devoted to other actors such as education. However, the role of education is highly likely to be underestimated. Only engaged citizenry provides both a check on government power and valuable feedback the government can use to become more responsive[1].

The most well-known and credible index, measuring civil society, worked out by CIVICUS, World Alliance For Citizen Participation, has a level of civil society values credibility as one of the criteria[2].

Undoubtedly, a system of education and an average level of education contribute to the perception of civil society values by citizens. 

The prevailing point of view is that the type of society determines the type and structure of educational system. «…At every time of historical development there is a predominant type of bringing up, which we cannot abandon…» these words belong to an eminent sociologist Emile Durkheim (Durkheim, 2007). Many scientists draw a parallel between the number of educated people, the average level of education in the country and the level of development of civil society. But the question of what should be the educational system itself through which the future of full-fledged members of civil society will be created, remains relatively unexplored.

In addition to «Sociology of education», a set of  works on the problem of sociology of education, by Durkheim the issue was examined in such works of European scientists as «Civil society, democracy and education» by Kiwan, D, «The role of education in the formation of civil society» by Kadagidze L. and «Making good citizens: education and civil society» by Ravitch D and Viteritti J.P.

The work has as aim of carrying out a deeper analysis of this actor of civil society creation based on structural-functional approach.

Main Body

In social system of any type the basis for formation of civil society are individuals with fundamental rights and freedoms, stated and protected by the legislation. It is important that any activity which takes place in society is free from direct governmental interference. There are non-interference "fields", which are necessary for self-development institutions and structures of civil society, such as the sphere of culture, mentality, society sport and others.

The formation of civil society is not a holistic social phenomenon, it has already begun to dominate a complex social system where activity cannot be driven exclusively by traditional methods such as economic coercion. To optimize the functioning of the social system we are to change individuals’ way of thinking. One of the leading social institutions that form the personality is education. The system of education influences the formation of both civil and legal culture and is able to broadcast the values and ideas of a civil society, if there are any.  

The modern system of education in Russia neither represents civil society values, nor contributes to formation of the civic qualities of the Individual. It is necessary to overcome these limitations and form a new educational practice in which the student would become both a personality and a citizen.

When it comes to current modern educational system in Russia, it consists of two models: traditional and innovative. The concept of "innovation" refers to significant changes in the pedagogical approach, which is accompanied by management of the educational process.

Elizabeth Cohen, a specialist in organization of collective work believes that a successful group activity should follow several requirements (Polat, 1999):

1. The problem should have several solutions;

2. Each participant should be engaged in activity;

3. Participants are to perform roles;

4. Good results must be rewarded.

Teacher and student at university are the main subjects of pedagogical activity. In the process of their interaction the pedagogical space is formed. It should be noted that it has significantly changed in recent years due to technical advances and the Internet (Polat, 1999).

However, the role of the teacher does not lose its significance in the learning process, which imposes on him a great responsibility and initiates him to work on his teaching skills a lot outside university. A teacher should bear in mind some characteristics of a student, he is teaching:

1. A student is to be an independent subject of scientific activity, who is able to set himself educational goals, work out ways of their achievement and reflex on the results of his educational process.

2. A student is to be proactive and perform as many tries to overcome difficulties, which take place during of the process of education, as possible;

3. A student is to be able to see scientific problems and perceive the difference between new knowledge and the one which have already exists.

There are also requirements for a teacher:

1. A teacher is to have a program of his own theoretical studies in the sphere of his scientific interests. He is to be an expert on the issue, not just a good lecturer;

2. A teacher is a person to organize and lead the process of education. His lessons are to follow a special plan with clearly identified gist of topic, goals and means.

3. A teacher is to establish formal relationships with students. At the same time, he is to be open to any questions and criticism, be ready to correct the educational goals set and change the ways of work. In general, it is important to make research public in order to ‘interrupt’ dominant educational discourses – in the media, academic and professional domains and in everyday life (Kiwan, 2009).

4. A teacher is to perform the role of "auditor" of educational activity of the student. He should be able to assess the individual program of a student and be ready to advice on the ways of improving it (Polat, 1999).

Does the system of education comply with the requirements in Russia? The answer is rooted in the research carried out. A study of the level of public satisfaction with the education system, conducted by the Levada Center, a public opinion research center, shows that 72% of Russians are not satisfied with the national education system[3]. According to another study, 33% of respondents believe that the Russian educational system does not meet international standards, 45% suppose that they were taught better and 72% claim that school curriculum cannot prepare a student for unified state exams[4].


To sum up, there is a link between the structure of educational system and emergence of a developed civil society. They believe that an effective civic position stems from developed cognitive skills, such as the ability to develop their own opinion, comprehend experience, build a chain of evidence, and express one’s point of view in a convincing way. What is more, it is necessary to stimulate the development of such citizens as they are the future of society. We must help a student to address his personal interests, to bring out his personal significance of what he is studying.  Modern scientists consider an educational environment based on the principles of democracy to be the most effective for the achievement of these goals. Unfortunately, Russian educational system is still far from meeting these requirements. However, People are aware of existing problem, which means they have a field of action which worth considering.

When it comes to current state of affairs, those who implement innovations in the process of education are to be supported. The government shares this position. The launching of the project called the University under The Public Chamber[5], an institution which deals with civil society establishment-related issues, is a sign of a significant role played by education as a subject of civil society creation in Russia.


  1. Durkheim E. (2007) Education and sociology. Direct Media. 115 р. (In Russ.);
  2. Kiwan, D. (2009) Civil society, democracy and education. Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, 4(2), P. 83–86.;
  3. Polat E. (1999) New pedagogical and information technologies in the education system. Moscow. Academy. 224 p.;
  4. Ravitch D., Viteritti J.P. (2001) Making good citizens: education and civil society / Ed. By– New Haven; London: Yale University Press. 358 p.

[1] Kadagidze L. (2016) The role of education in the formation of civil society, European Scientific Journal. [Internet resource]. – URL:

[2] CIVICUS Monitor: Tracking civic space. [Internet resource]. – URL:

[3] Levada Center. About the quality of education. [Internet resource]. – URL:

[4] VCIOM. School education: the assessment of Russians. [Internet resource]. – URL:

[5] The University under The Public Chamber [Internet resource]. – URL: