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History teaching in conflict and post-conflict areas

Report | Doc. 11919 | 25 May 2009

Committee
(Former) Committee on Culture, Science and Education
Rapporteur :
Ms Cecilia KEAVENEY, Ireland, ALDE
Origin
Reference to committee: Doc. 11338, Reference 3400 of 21January 2008. 2009 - Third part-session

Summary

History teaching can be a tool to support peace and reconciliation in conflict and post-conflict areas as well as tolerance and understanding when dealing with such phenomena as migration, immigration and changing demographics. A multiple perspective approach, instead of a single interpretation of events, will encourage students to respect diversity and cultural difference.

The Parliamentary Assembly points out several measures to be taken by countries signatory to the European Cultural Convention, related to “what”, “how” and “when” to teach controversial historical issues. It recommends that the Committee of Ministers continue to support the work of the Council of Europe in conflict and post-conflict areas on textbooks, manuals and teacher training.

A Draft recommendation

1. The Parliamentary Assembly recalls its Recommendation 1283 (1996) on history and the learning of history in Europe and reaffirms that “history also has a key political role to play in today’s Europe. It can contribute to greater understanding, tolerance and confidence between individuals and between the peoples of Europe or it can become a force for division, violence and intolerance.” Therefore history teaching can be a tool to support peace and reconciliation in conflict and post-conflict areas as well as tolerance and understanding when dealing with such phenomena as migration, immigration and changing demographics.
2. Conflict Resolution is a process at a political level, from peace keeping, to peace making and finally onto peace building. History teaching is a process too in terms of teachers being consulted, trained, retrained, supported, resourced, encouraged and protected in the delivery of new approaches to controversial and sensitive issues. Both elements must be addressed if the political process is to attain long-term success with the new generations growing up. The Assembly therefore welcomes the work being done by the Council of Europe and other agencies in locations such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus and the Black Sea and supports those and other governments as they strive towards mutual understanding and tolerance.
3. “What” is taught; “how” it is taught and “when” controversial issues can be addressed rely on a process of building new skills and confidence within both the teaching and student cohort. These need to be underlined by new political attitudes and policies towards history in its role of reconciling difference and developing tolerance.
4. Conventional history teaching stressed a single interpretation of events as being “the Truth”, which was politically expedient. It is now internationally accepted that there can be many views and interpretations, which are based on evidence. There is validity in a multiple perspective approach that assists and encourages students to respect diversity and cultural difference, in this increasingly globalised world, rather than teaching, which can reinforce the more negative aspects of nationalism.
5. The Assembly values the work of the Council of Europe in countries evolving from conflict to support a change in how “the other” is presented in the history class. This involves interventions relating to both what is taught and how it is taught. Considerable investment in skill building within the teaching cohort, both existing and emerging, to support them to move to a new style of curriculum and curriculum delivery, must continue. This process is evolutionary and therefore has ongoing teacher training and in-service implications.
6. Recent reviews in some post-conflict countries have led to a reduction in course content. While this allows better skill development and helps student motivation to further evaluate and explore topics themselves, it must enhance, not reduce, the cross-community and cross-regional focus of the curriculum.
7. Teachers, student teachers and students are essential resources when they want to support the process of change. Teachers should be at the core of curriculum development and resource designing to assist in those materials being age appropriate as well as interesting for the students.
8. Multiple perspective teaching relies on primary and secondary material availability and involves interactive teaching. Project-based research and work, class debates, visits to museums, more utilisation of primary sources and also the use of guest speakers to make modern history more relevant, works best with small classes. Education policies must reflect this change of teaching style.
9. Easy communication between both students and teachers from different backgrounds and cultures opens up new potentials for history projects with multiple country involvement. Students “solving” each other’s problems opens up new insights as “outsiders” will often see situations differently to those closest to the problem.
10. Cross-border and cross-community activity is happening in some locations. Assembly Recommendation 1283 (1996) called on governments to provide adequate and ongoing finance for history research, particularly on multilateral and bilateral commissions on contemporary history. There is a political onus to strengthen these opportunities and encourage those who could gain most from teaming with each other, to move in that direction without fear of reprisal from any quarter. This activity should be for both teachers and students. It should have a capacity to be a long-term process, working towards tangible results, as trust is only built over time.
11. History teaching must reflect and relate topics to the international situation of the time period that is being taught. Events explored in isolation do not depict the full context and so do not always give a true or full picture. However, the use of local history can hold particular relevance for young students, thereby capturing their interest and many things at local level can then be related to bigger events and topics.
12. Both “Education for Mutual Understanding” and “Cultural Heritage” should be central in education policies, as is the case in the North of Ireland. History support services should help teachers co-ordinate cross curricular themes during staff planning days. Internationally such support services should have a mechanism to share concepts and practices.
13. Exploring the medium of gentle humour for engaging student interest in elements of history is an inroad to capturing student attention equal to the use of films and other technologies. When we can laugh at humour directed at “us” as well as “them” we will have achieved some success in peace and reconciliation.
14. History teaching in a multiple perspective manner will give students analytical skills (as well as subject knowledge), that will assist them to have more critical minds. It is therefore a subject that can assist in a very vital part of a child’s development in this era of changing dynamics and, if supported, will yield potential employers and employees for those countries who most need economic development post conflict.
15. Recommendation 1283 (1996) underscored that people have a right to access their history whether they then embrace or reject it. The right for students to be given the opportunity to examine critically, both what they see and hear around them in the various media available, through schools sources, has only become more vital with the passage of time and the development of new technologies. Understanding complexity can help them appreciate diversity and, in being objective they recognise the distortions that stereotypes can offer.
16. The Assembly acknowledges that in curricula reviews there has been recognition of the need for controversial, sensitive and tragic events to be balanced with more positive and inclusive topics that are not exclusively political in nature and which extend beyond national boundaries. The move towards the inclusion of cultural, philosophical, economic elements and the role of women and minorities is to be welcomed and encouraged.
17. The Assembly draws the attention of the Committee of Ministers to recent research which indicates that there needs to be special prioritisation of schools that have been at the interfaces of conflict, in terms of confidence-building measures for both teachers and students, in terms of primary and secondary resources and internet access and in terms of student exchanges. Coming out of conflict is a slow and individual challenge faced by every teacher, student, school and community that the school serves in an interface area.
18. Dissemination of information has increased through the globalisation of various media forms which are all instantaneous conveyors of current events or “history”. The education system in each member state should support students to develop analytical skills which critically explore media studies and thereby understand that messages can be contained both overtly and subliminally.
19. In moving towards peace, or out of conflict, there may be a role within communities to be played by religious leaders to create the atmosphere to support or undermine the process. Positive direction on a cross religious basis provides an important signal to those who look to embrace “the image of the other” for the first time in education. The Assembly encourages the positive role religious leaders have played in some countries and call on all religious leaders to embrace new initiatives that aspire to a peaceful co-existence of citizens now and in the future, thus supporting new initiatives in the classroom.
20. The Assembly calls on all states signatories to the European Cultural Convention to:
20.1 ensure that necessary technologies and opportunities to support both teacher and student interactions within and between states are put in place, including access to written resources and sources in their own language for minority communities;
20.2 provide adequate and ongoing finance for history research, particularly on multilateral and bilateral commissions on contemporary history;
20.3 as a subject, focus history more on socio-economic, cultural, artistic and heritage elements and less on politics;
20.4 pursue a ten-year project that would encourage primary school children to keep a diary which would track their own reaction to contemporary events that could be examined and exchanged with other member states at the end of the project;
20.5 ensure that teacher-training programmes have a balance of two distinct elements: the development of the expertise within the subject area (the “what” to teach) and the skill building for motivating students to engage with the subject (the “how” to teach);
20.6 address resistance to a new curriculum or curriculum delivery change where it exists as a result of deeper political issues;
20.7 research, on a regular basis, teachers’ and students’ views on new concepts in, challenges of and approaches to history, pertaining to curriculum size, content, relevance, delivery and how it is examined;
20.8 facilitate teachers in curriculum timing terms to allow them to disseminate new ideas outside the classroom and to encourage them to try out new practices;
20.9 reduce the size of classes whenever possible;
20.10 support teachers joining associations of History Teachers and attending events such as those run by EUROCLIO (European Standing Conference of History Teachers Associations) in order to help develop confidence, experience and expertise;
20.11 support teachers in the use of personal development opportunities to keep updated on practices and priorities abroad and vice versa;
20.12 consider a reward system within the pay scale structure to encourage the commitment, in a meaningful manner, of all history teaching sectors to keep filtering both up and down the system, fresh pedagogical approaches;
20.13 give all schools the capacity to access primary and secondary source information, including broadband for internet accessibility.
21. The Assembly calls for the full implementation of the White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue “Living together as Equals in Dignity” (launched May 2008), to assist the development of guidelines for teachers on issues concerning tolerance and intercultural dialogue.
22. The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
22.1 continue to support the work of the Council of Europe, in co-operation with other institutions, such as the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research, in conflict and post-conflict areas on text book revision, text book development, teacher manuals, teacher seminars and source material identification;
22.2 research on best practices and share them between countries that experienced conflict in the past and to assist all those engaged in such processes, whatever stage they are at currently themselves;
22.3 continue to provide support for the implementation of the Council of Europe Project “The Image of the Other in History Teaching”.

B Explanatory Memorandum by Ms Keaveney, rapporteur

1 Introduction

History is like a knife – It can kill or cut meat (Marc Bloch)

1. At its meeting on 1 October 2007 the Assembly Bureau decided to consult the Committee on Culture, Science and Education on a motion for a recommendation on “a study of history teaching in Bosnia and Herzegovina”. The committee held a thorough exchange of views at its meeting on 14 November and agreed that the issue of multiple perspectives in teaching history in areas of recent conflict in general was topical and worth of an Assembly debate. Following this advice the Bureau referred the motion to the committee on 21 January 2008. I was appointed rapporteur on 22 January 2008.
2. In order to prepare this report I took part in the Sarajevo Council of Europe seminar on “Training of history teachers and pedagogical advisors/mentors on the new methodologies in history teaching” relating to the new teaching manual (March 2008); the Mitchell Conference in Belfast on the Irish peace process (2008); the visit with the UK Parliament delegation to Hazelwood College, Belfast, concerning integrated education (May 2008); the Bristol conference of the European Association of History Educators (EUROCLIO) (2008); the 8th European Conference of Ministers responsible for Youth on “The future of the Council of Europe youth policy: Agenda 2020” (Kyiv, Ukraine, October 2008); and the Council of Europe conference in Istanbul on the “Globalisation and images of the other: challenges and new perspectives for history teaching in Europe” (November/December 2008).
3. I also met with the Education Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Executive, in Stormont (May 2008), and took part in the following activities of the Committee on Culture, Science and Education: member of the delegation to meet the Committee on Culture and Education of the European Parliament, where the subject of this report was discussed (Brussels, September 2008); the visit to the Warsaw Uprising Museum (September 2008); and the ad hoc sub-committee meeting in Cape Verde (October/November 2008). At Assembly plenary sessions in Strasbourg I was able to question the presidents of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Cyprus on this matter, as well as the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community.
4. I wish to thank the experts Louisa Black and Alan McCully, and staff members Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Christopher Grayson, João Ary, Jean-Pierre Titz, Tatiana Minkina-Milko and Emir Adzovic, from the Council of Europe Sarajevo Office.

2 Executive summary

5. Throughout the world there are changing dynamics with migration, emigration and immigration. This challenges our sense of identity as nations. There are also religious or territorial disputes that contribute to long-standing conflicts in a number of specific countries. To assist in minimising the impact of these factors in the future and to maximise the potential for peace, there are major roles for everyone, be they politicians, community groups, educationalists or individual students. There are lessons to learn and lessons to exchange. The fundamental message at the core of education and community work is the need to develop a sense of understanding of oneself, which will assist, through the development of self-confidence, having respect both for oneself and for difference.
6. The Council of Europe has been central to reaching that aim in that it has been accumulating the experience of various countries. It has then sought to disseminate best practice within and between member states. They provide the continuity so badly needed when undertaking such sensitive work: putting all participants on an equal footing; providing transparency to the co-operation; providing wide forums for discussion; and helping create the climate of confidence and trust, so important to the process. This must be recognised and supported by politicians and their policies, as was underscored by the Assembly back in 1996. The 3rd Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe in 1997 underlined co-operation at regional level as being important to European stability and security.
7. Countries are at various stages of conflict. Some are still in the active violence phase while others have moved to begin peace negotiations or conclude peace processes. Conflict resolution is a process. Each country and sections of the societies within any country will be prepared to progress at various speeds. At times the communities are ahead of the political sphere, sometimes behind. The first decision within any country is that there is a wish to see peace. It is through looking at a variety of these countries and their particular point on the conflict index that we can reaffirm the need for measures that will build peace, mutual respect and understanding. By dealing with bigotry and sectarianism rather than ignoring it, the potential for renewing hostilities in future generations is minimised. It is to the education of these newer generations that this report relates: “If we are to have real peace in the world we will have to begin with the children” (Mahatma Gandhi).
8. The “what can be taught” also evolves through a process. Experience internationally shows that bringing politicians together involves confidence building and this must begin at a very “safe” point and evolve with time. This is no different for teachers. They need to be allowed by the political system that guides educational policy to “think” in a different manner. They need the support, training, resources and protection at the political level to evolve into new roles with confidence.
9. Once a peace process begins at the political level it must filter down to educational policy level, to facilitate teachers and those whom they teach. Existing political and teaching spheres may not have the expertise to drive the seismic change needed from the current to a new dispensation. Therefore the ability to reach out to work with international organisations and gain from their experience is vital.
10. The first lesson is the acceptance that there is no “single truth” – that there is validity in seeing things from many perspectives. This challenges the preconceived notions that we have built up from our family and community roots, whether consciously or sub-consciously. If given the opportunity, students can gain respect for difference through seeing a variety of historically significant events from more than one source and perspective. Learning through interactive teaching methods that espouse evidence-based multiple perspectives, helps develop critical thinking. The student cohort emerges from the education system with independent, creative and inquiring minds which is an important added by-product they learn from “examining the evidence”. The ability to analyse sensitive issues is a core future need for employers in many fields.
11. The report Making Peace with the PastNote states that : “…it is precisely the capacity to distinguish between the truth and the lies of the past that is required to build the trust required for a stable political future”. This is a “win/win” situation for politician and general public alike, and should therefore be embraced.
12. There must be a conscious decision to pursue that agenda, however, and the lead must be seen to come from political policies and from willing teachers. To put oneself in another’s shoes is not to “sell out” one’s own beliefs, to rewrite history or belittle the traumas experienced by any one community. This is a fundamental blockage that some people have demonstrated through the course of the investigation of this report and reflects the need for discussion of multi-perspectivity and for this report to be both written and acted upon.
13. As words painted on the wall of the Garrick Bar in Belfast state: “A nation that keeps one eye on the past is wise; a nation that keeps both eyes on the past is blind”.
14. Political leaders must therefore look to history as having a positive societal role and facilitate that change in attitude at all levels.

3 Previous Assembly work on the issue

15. In its Recommendation 1283 (1996) on history and the learning of history in Europe, the Assembly pointed out that “history has a key political role to play in Europe; it can contribute to greater understanding, tolerance and confidence between individuals and between the peoples of Europe or it can become a force for division, violence and intolerance. Therefore history teaching can be a tool to support peace and reconciliation in conflict and post-conflict areas as well as tolerance and understanding when dealing with such phenomena as migration, immigration and changing demographics.”
16. “Historical awareness should be an essential part in the education of young people. The teaching of history should enable pupils to acquire critical thinking skills to analyse and interpret information effectively and responsibly, to recognise the complexity of issues and to appreciate cultural diversity.”
17. “Schools should recognise the different ways in which the same subjects are handled in different countries and this could be developed as a basis for interschool exchanges.”
18. In its information report on education in Bosnia and Herzegovina (see Doc. 8385 (1999)), the Assembly notes that “the most acute problems relate to the recent conflict but all history teaching concerning the Balkans raises issues. The most difficult areas concern the competing versions of the ‘truth’ and of the responsibility for historic events, with the obvious danger that history teaching will be used as a tool of nationalist propaganda.” It recommended “a five year moratorium on how the recent conflict is taught”.
19. One year later, in its Recommendation 1454 (2000), the Assembly regretted the lack of progress. Despite noting the negative from the different communities concerned it continued to press for the “acceptance of a moratorium on teaching about the most recent conflict so as to enable historians from all the communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the help of international experts, to develop a common approach”.

4 History teaching

20. History offers a key subject that, if resourced and supported, can start to address the challenge of “who we are”, and indeed who “the others” are. “What” to teach and “how” to teach it are separate but inter-related questions. Indeed, the definition of history is a study in itself. The thirty-year rule in relation to the release of government records ensures that the full picture is not possible in many countries for many events until this time has passed and it can be argued that the raw emotion of some events can be militated against with the passage of time. Through looking to our collective pasts, using a number of narratives, we can examine how that past has influenced what we have become. It can also help us appreciate our interdependence in this increasingly globalised world. In short it can prove that we have more in common than that which divides us.
21. Understanding of, and respect for diversity, relates strongly to the teaching of history in these countries and both “what” is taught and “how”. In the course of researching this report I have found that in many respects there has been an avoidance of dealing with difficult national historical topics to date (in Cape Verde, for example, only history from the declaration of the Republic in 1975 is taught, but they realise they will have to deal with the colonial past soon). It can be argued that this “Irish solution to an Irish problem” is not necessarily healthy, whichever country it applies to. For many post-Soviet and other countries, very sectarian text books have been employed in schools, which do take on sensitive issues but demonise the “others”, which is even more pronounced where there is a legacy of conflict. Teachers have colluded in ensuring that where there is a “single truth” approach to history for political reasons; they have not helped the students to challenge that precept.
22. Ignoring the past, or focusing on partisan versions of it, is equally dangerous as can be seen in many conflict zones around the world. Therefore the concept of a multiple perspective that is evidence based has gained credence as we struggle to strike a balance between a past that we cannot change; a present that we exist in and a future we wish to see for ourselves and others. The use of more than one source in teaching history aims to get students to see sensitive issues with a broader, more inquiring mind. It is a mechanism to drive creative and critical thinking.
23. If multi-perspectivity, meaning employing multiple primary and secondary sources, is “how” history should be taught, then the other question remains as to “what” should be taught and when. The “what history to teach when” question also relates to “who” we are teaching. As was seen when researching this report, the people who most need an intervention that bridges the deep divides, are those closest to the heart of the realities of the conflict. For many social classes, conflict does not interfere with their daily living; for others violence and fear are part of day-to-day life. The latter group are the ones who are surrounded by family and community interpretations of the situation that they are in – that is, the most partisan views.
24. Lessons must be drawn from the fact that the genders differ in what they relate to. When students were asked what events they saw as significant in history, it was seen that “the extent of death and hardship involved (regardless of the community affected)” was a key factor and this was linked to a “need for remembrance”. Girls focused on themes of “remembrance, co-operation and inequality” while boys were more aware of “community conflict or the political and demographic origins of the state”.Note
25. When schools ignore the world just outside the classroom rather than taking the community into the classroom they negate the most vital need of their most vulnerable students, which is to help put a wider context to the small picture that is painted within individual communities. While they have created “safe havens” for the children for the duration of a school day they are also guilty of “…the surrender of the field to the abusers of history”Note.
26. Modern history did not take place in a vacuum, no history does. Therefore it must be placed in the wider context, so that the identity issues of here and now relate to life outside the home country. This approach enables upcoming generations to see events from another persons’ perspective. In so doing, they begin to chip away at the remaining bigotry and sectarianism. Being confident about one’s own identity and developing this from the introspective view which is the most comfortable location for teacher and student alike, is a challenge worth taking, but it must be backed by a political will that is reflected in educational and general government policies.
27. According to recent research, and contrary to teachers’ beliefs, students are crying out for the “bigger picture” to be drawn for them in class. By reaching into the community where the child lives for the point of departure for the history class, the teacher captures the imagination of students and, perhaps, negative attention from their families. Gradually moving from the uncontroversial to newer topics would stretch boundaries that need to be challenged. In too many cases, however, because it is not a history that we are comfortable with, we avoid it. In so doing we exhibit a sense of intolerance or sectarianism that we must question in ourselves.
28. We must challenge ourselves as politicians or teachers to look to real change, real tolerance and real progress in respecting diversity and embracing difference. This is the only path to peace in the generations to come. Indeed, given the statistics in relation to the age profile of European history teachers (60% will be retiring in the next decade) this may prove to be a very opportune time to reach out to new methods of subject delivery with the new cohort of student teachers, in changing political times.

5 The example of Ireland

29. “The conflict in Northern Ireland from 1969 until the beginning of the twenty-first century was by far the worst seen in Western Europe since the Second World War” (3 665 deaths up to 2002).Note
30. “Many western observers had concluded that the intractable nature of Northern Irish conflict and the obsession with religion and seventeenth century history proved it to be a region which had been left behind in a time warp”.Note
31. Now Northern Ireland’s two communities, who identify themselves as British or Irish, exist in a peace process often held up as an example for other areas of conflict to look to.
32. “The strength of the Agreement is that it provides us with a truly comprehensive framework that tackles the big issues of identity and allegiance. It provides us with institutional arrangements that can support the key relationships on these islands and new institutions that address the historic legacy of alienation from the State”.Note
33. Their devolved government is a power-sharing executive based on the D’Hondt system. This ensures that all parties, no matter how diverse their background, must work together and agree methods of moving policy forward.
34. Just how far things have moved on is seen by recent events: in early 2008, the Unionist Minister for Culture, Edmond Poots, attended a Gaelic football match in Northern Ireland; Minister Eamon O Cuiv provided a quarter of a million euros for Orange Halls in the border areas of the Republic of Ireland; Republican Minister Conor Murphy did a question-and-answer session in Ballymena Academy (a Protestant grammar school where the first question asked was: “I’m very interested in being involved in politics but can you confirm that I really must be a terrorist first?”); and 200 students from six schools in Ballymena toured the Irish Parliament on a cross-community basis. It would have been impossible even to conceive of these actions and reactions a few years earlier.
35. The ethnic diversity of the communities that make up the island has also changed but, while the pertinent question in the past was whether you were Protestant or Catholic, this has evolved with humour into whether some of our newer citizens are “Catholic Muslims/Hindus/Jews” or Protestant Muslims/Hindus/Jews”. As political resolutions bed down we still see that there is a distance to go in relation to overcoming old and new bigotry and sectarianism. Many people in the Republic of Ireland think this is confined to the North; however, the mutual understanding of those with whom we share the island, and our collective place in the history of Europe and the world, is not always as good as we would like to think. There is great expertise in the area of conflict but there are still many lessons for the island of Ireland to learn before there will be any level of self-congratulating.
36. How we got this far is not straightforward. The fact that “here” is not a finishing line yet either is still obvious when we see the continuation of sectarianism and bigotry and the building of “peace walls” (83 exist now while in the 1990s there were only 18). The key fact is that – like any other move from conflict – it is a process that has taken and continues to take time. “How will those who write history be able to make sense of what happened when we, who lived through it still cannot work it out?” is an important refrain, as it cuts to the core difference between living through events and looking at those events once, with the benefit of time, they have become history.
37. From the “here and now” perspective, it is easy to say that any one interpretation presented will have to be given by someone who has been exposed to very many sources and resources with which to write that text. Those who have lived to see the two “extreme no” political parties sharing power in an executive while the two opposing but traditionally “yes to peace” parties are minor players in that devolved administration, will strongly support the concept of multi-perspectivity in approaches to history teaching. It enables real analysis and it enables people to deal with a future together in an even more diverse society.
38. The work of breaking down the barriers is a political imperative. In some cases interactions at community level have been stronger than political ones. European peace and reconciliation monies (largely focused in the border counties) have facilitated cross-border and cross-community projects, both capital and non-capital, since the beginning of the peace process. However, many communities do not know, and therefore do not trust, each other. Political and religious leadership to strongly signal that we should be striving towards tolerance is as vital in the classroom as in the community.
39. This aim of having people from varied backgrounds given the opportunity to meet each other is gradually involving schools and students. A recent novel proposal by a group of diverse schools to share a campus in Omagh may be another rejection of full integration but the reality of the economic situation has forced a positive move which would enable students to meet more easily. The Republican minister visiting the Unionist school may well have been the first chance for some of these students to meet a Catholic, never mind a Republican. I trust that such a novel occurrence will become commonplace and will help to de-demonise the “other side”. It is by talking to each other that people can explore each others’ beliefs and values. In tolerating difference we can identify with the bigger percentage of what we have in common. History lessons need this element of primary contact that pushes the bounds of what is comfortable.
40. In the North of Ireland, as the political situation has advanced there have been substantial curriculum changes. The virtually totally segregated school system was reflected in the history topic choice that a student pursued. The curriculum followed related heavily to whether a pupil attended a Catholic or a Protestant school. Not only have they sought to widen the political topics that segregated students are exposed to, but there is a move to introduce non-political topics such as the Nobel poet Seamus Heaney. The fact that topics that were traditionally not taught are now appearing in “the other” schools shows progress.
41. Simple things like the significance of Protestant personalities that were involved in the Irish independence movement is often lost in the current religiously defined identity of Nationalist/Republican as Catholic and Unionist/Loyalist as Protestant. Similarly the 1916 Rising is seen by some sections as a small group of Irish being unpatriotic to Britain at a time when they were busy at war. In fact the Irish were rebelling against colonialism in a manner that mirrored events in the rest of the world from 1914 to 1918. In those examples we have opportunities to link Ireland into the wider European and world history and challenge the segregated notion of our past history. These issues of identity and tolerance are a core issue for all the people of the island to tackle, particularly those upcoming generations that are currently in the school system, if peace is to reign.
42. Recent attempts to have records from the War of Independence (1920/21) internment camp at Ballykinlar, County Down, collated and displayed has drawn some negative reaction. It displays the real need for our politicians not to fear getting to grips with our past. To “live and let live” and propagate a sense of tolerance we need political leadership not just curriculum change or decrees to teachers.
43. Research clearly shows that for many students they were turned off history because of what they saw as an irrelevant focus solely on political dimensions of our past to the exclusion of culture, social, economic and other elements. This disengagement is being tackled by many countries.
44. My report on the Irish context,Note shows that change is occurring that is welcomed by teachers. The changes made, and the reaction to those changes, are to be seen in detail in the specific report I have completed on this topic. It encompasses responses to the in-service activity carried out and evaluated by the Department of Education in the Republic and indicates new efforts even at departmental inspectorate level, being made to work on common themes across the island of Ireland and the United Kingdom, which also teaches Irish history modules.
45. A significant element of the change in the Republic of Ireland is the reduction in size of the Second Level Senior Cycle syllabus for history teaching and the introduction of non-political elements to it. The smaller course will facilitate a deeper exploration of the topics. Those topics cross the community divide. More change is sought but there is the beginning of an understanding at Department of Education level, of the importance of multiple perspective teaching.
46. The recognition that people want peace is an established fact. The role of history teaching on the island can assist in that long-term goal but the political process must continue to feed down to the educational policy process. The style of governing in Northern Ireland will be a great challenge in this process but it also has great potential.

6 Bosnia and Herzegovina

47. Despite the 1989 Education Reform Act that introduced integrated education into the North of Ireland, as I have said, there has been a very low uptake of it. In recent times there has been a mooted project where a number of schools from a variety of backgrounds have sought to share a potential campus. Each school would retain its own identity but share facilities. This has been one of only a few signals of movement in what has been a largely segregated society. On the contrary, the segregation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is much newer. In Ireland some feel that the solution to our conflict lies in breaking down that segregation that so much of the executives’ budget is spent maintaining. It was interesting to hear President Silajdzic regret the fact that some people are openly saying that segregation is the way forward in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He aspires to the implementation of Annex 4 of the Dayton Agreements and recognises that more needs to be done to overcome what has become akin to apartheid. In his response to my question at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe session in September 2008, he called for assistance: “I urge institutions such as this one and the bodies within it to help us to end this practice, which is probably the wish of the majority of people in Bosnia and Herzegovina”.
48. A process to address the issue of teaching history in Bosnia and Herzegovina began in 1999. By 2001 the focus was on Recommendation Rec(2001)15 of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers on history teaching in 21st century Europe which states that history teaching “…occupies a vital place in the training of responsible and active citizens and in the developing of respect for all kinds of differences, based on an understanding of national identity and on principles of tolerance” and should “…enable European citizens to enhance their own individual and collective identity through knowledge of their common historical heritage in its local, regional, national, European and global dimension”.
49. In 2002 there was an agreement that 70% of the curricula would be a common content. The cantons built “national interest materials” into the remaining 30% but there was not really an attempt at that time to modernise the curricula. It really was only attempting to make the curricula more ethnically acceptable. This gap between aspiration and the reality of achieving a goal is not unique to any one post-conflict country, either in the political or education process. However, a process will develop steadily if nurtured. This was the key in Bosnia and Herzegovina too.
50. By 2006, the common process guidelines, co-ordinated by the Council of Europe, led to the drafting of new history and geography textbooks. This led to both the textbooks and the handbook which began the implementation of the reform. Of the contributions to the manual, 50% were from local sources. The process involving the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina (which assists and encourages the local authorities to develop a genuinely inclusive education system within its post-conflict rehabilitation mandate); the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research (Germany); the Government of Canada (Local Initiatives Programme (LIP) funds from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) office in Sarajevo); and above all the experts in Bosnia and throughout Europe, is seen as an example to other countries of how progress can be made.
51. By 2007 there were actually new textbooks in use. They are genuinely supporting an innovative approach to the implementation of the curriculum. These are beyond the initial “blackening out of offensive material” and now include new content and methodology. The regional seminars (the first round of which ended in June 2008) on the teachers’ manual are now helping teachers to maximise the potential of the new textbooks. At the seminar I attended (March 2008) there were some 50 teachers from a variety of backgrounds. The teachers were very positive and engaged in the process of learning about multi-perspectivity and the seminar was an example in itself of interactive teaching, as teachers came to grips with a totally new concept in teaching style compared to what they were used to (full details of the teachers response to their in-service training is available).
52. Teachers and teacher associations are becoming more and more vocal in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The country is fragmented by nature and, with at least 11 associations, this curtails the strength of their input to decision making in real terms, for the moment. However, all the training seminars that have taken place have had the full and unanimous support of all ministries of education and pedagogical institutions.
53. In 2007, with the financial help of the Netherlands, EUROCLIO published a resource book in the local languages for assisting teachers with sources. The sense at the seminar in Sarajevo was that six or seven years ago this process would have been impossible – that teachers would have felt a need to protect their “positions”. Right up to fairly recently there would have been some level of rebellion against any “new” approach. In March 2008 there were three groups in the one room with no visible resistance. This is the same now, I am told, for the students. There are school exchanges and cross-community activities that would not have been possible a few years ago.
54. While I would strong concerns that the multiplicity of ministers of education in the country will be a huge challenge in driving forward any single vision of the future for history teaching, there has been very significant work completed to date and this must continue. The importance of that focus is underlined in the words of Claude Kieffer, Director of Education, OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina:
In a post-conflict, multi-confessional, multinational state undergoing a difficult political, social and economic transition process, perhaps no issue is more important to the stability, security and reconciliation process than education. Education reform is needed to ensure that the ideological issues that fuelled the war – identity, history, culture, language, sovereignty, self-determination, individual and group rights – give way to a new phase of post-war confidence-building and reconciliation wherein an education system is gradually developed that is accessible, acceptable and effective for all citizens, irrespective of their ethnic origin or status.

7 Black Sea

55. In 1993 the Council of Europe heads of state and government pledged to strengthen programmes seeking to combat prejudice in history teaching and to encourage positive mutual attitudes to religious and cultural differences. The Committee of Ministers 2001 recommendation on teaching history in 21st century Europe recognised the changes taking place in Europe and focused on ensuring history was free from political and ideological influences, that politicians would not manipulate history and that it would be used not only to give knowledge of national identity but also to reach out to the richness of the past of other cultures. The recommendation revolved around the understanding of difference; valuing diversity; respecting others; developing intercultural dialogue; and building relationships on the basis of mutual understanding and tolerance.
56. Out of this recommendation, and alongside it, there were projects initiated in various locations to try to progress this thinking in practical ways. Events began to be viewed beyond national borders, beyond neat boundaries, as cultural and social realities were faced. One project, the “Black Sea Initiative on History” began in 1999. Romanian authorities initiated it but Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Ukraine were all partners in ensuring a teaching pack could be developed that would give each country teaching materials on their own and neighbouring countries which would assist in what is personified in the 2001 recommendation. Such a pack was published in 2004.
57. History had been confined to nation states and there was no incentive to reach out beyond that. New strategies, it was recognised, were needed to help us look to our past and so to determine our future; to value other peoples’ histories and how varied religions live together. This project was new and evolutionary rather than static. It gave the teachers involved in it a unique learning curve as they had to work with very limited information and stories on the region. The sources were sparse, difficult to locate and they encompassed 12 languages. The process itself assisted the evolution of a very useful educational tool beyond the pack itself. Inter-disciplinary teams of specialists are now more regularly researching in the area and the material is now, as a result, much more accessible to all countries.
58. There is now the genesis of a project involving the Mediterranean Sea which is hoping to get the support of the European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity (North-South Centre) but is very much at an early stage.

8 History education in Europe (ten years of co-operation between the Russian Federation and the Council of Europe, 1996-2006)

59. The Russian Federation has had representatives of the Council of Europe, UNESCO, the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research and EUROCLIO at events since 1996, with the regional ministers of education also getting involved. The ten years of work with the federation has enabled a large picture to be built up of its cultural diversity, which feeds into the Council of Europe “The Image of the Other in History Teaching” intergovernmental project, currently underway and involving all 49 states party to the European Cultural Convention.
60. Andrey Fursenko, Minister of Education and Science of the Russian Federation saw the role of the ten years’ co-operation with the Council of Europe as, “a preparation of standards in the area of history education and the assessment of knowledge and skills acquired by pupils when learning history”. He welcomed international programmes which helped countries acquire an unbiased view of the past and present through a reform of the history education in schools. The minister had high praise for the teachers, methodologists, scholars, textbook authors, publishers and national and international experts who all co-operated together. There were bilateral and multilateral interactions that included the “Black Sea Initiative on History”, the “Tbilisi Initiative” and the programme of co-operation with Japan.
61. The Russian experience covered three periods and topic areas:
  • 1996-99 – This concerned the goals of history teaching; the role of standards in the process; how regional national and international elements can be integrated; the role of the textbook; and the role of in-service training.
  • 2000-03 – Here there was an in-service focus where workshops embraced all parts of Russia. It informed teachers (for example, from the Chechen Republic, including those from refugee camps) about new methods and gave a platform for the exchange of views between educators from both the Russian Federation and the rest of Europe.
  • 2004-06 – This was about intercultural dialogue and how to integrate it into the resource preparation and in-service training process so that diversity is presented as an enriching factor. The activity was pursued after 2006 with the main focus on teaching about cultural diversity through history aiming at strengthening social cohesion and co-operation in present-day society.

9 Cyprus

62. Like other countries mentioned earlier, Cyprus has been a country where, with the co-operation between the Council of Europe, many teacher trade unions and especially the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR), the goals of Recommendation Rec(2001)15 on teaching history in 21st century Europe have been taken up and driven forward at the level of teachers and teacher trainers.
63. In 2004 the initial programme of six activities was launched by the Council of Europe (the first in co-operation with the Cyprus J.W. Fulbright Commission and the aforementioned AHDR). Six hundred participants (teacher trainers, non-governmental organisation representatives, specialists in initial training and history teachers from different communities) attended seminars, workshops and expert meetings that took place. The overall goal was to provide a wide forum for looking at new approaches to teaching history and to work with the overall multicultural Cypriot teaching community towards building confidence and trust. It led to the identification of the need for supplementary teaching materials that could be used in all communities and the lack of methodological information on new interactive methods. All activities from the start were led by Cypriot teachers and were allied to their own teaching needs. Therefore it was practical and focused and the identified needs drove the subsequent seminar topics.
64. The first result was that in 2004 “Multiperspectivity in teaching and learning history” was published in English, Greek and Turkish.NoteNote Teachers throughout Cyprus responded to it positively. Through co-operation, it brought together innovative history teaching approaches and dispersed that experience nationally and internationally.
65. In 2005, the Cypriot teachers sought a similar resource to that of the “Black Sea Initiative on History” teaching pack. They saw the potential for having a supplementary teaching tool that had both source material and guidelines on how to use those materials. The sources were not to overlap with information in the national history textbooks and the pack should focus on the cultural, social and economic history of Cyprus. The goal was to see the multicultural Cyprus from its rural to urban lifestyles, fashions, customs, housing conditions and also the foreign visitor’s impression of the island.
66. Throughout 2006 work continued on practical ways of promoting intercultural dialogue. Teacher training seminars and workshops were held and history educators from Austria, Germany, Portugal, Serbia and the UK were present to exchange views and experiences.
67. An important element of this was the evaluation of the activities as they happened, which showed a strong positive reaction, as what was being learned directly helped them in the classroom in terms of identifying sources, developing teaching skills and lesson planning, amongst other things. This was not specific to any particular community but crossed the divides. Indeed the need for themes of common interest drove one workshop in the direction of cross-community source exchange. This type of practicality shows that the desired trust was certainly developing and this expanded into workshops that were led by teams of trainers that were mixed communities of both local and European educators. The success was also seen in numbers as the December 2006 seminar had 500 applications for places.
68. Students representing the Doves Olympic Movement participated in the last workshop. Often this direct feedback from the main players in a classroom is a perspective that is left out and is yet central to any debate.
69. In January 2009 this work resulted in the second trilingual (English, Greek and Turkish) publication on “The Use of Sources in Teaching and Learning History”.Note As its project manager, Tatiana Minkina-Milko sums it up: “This publication reflects the main philosophy and structure which in the future could be used as a basis for a supplementary pedagogical set of materials”.
70. It is important that the political systems recognise the value of the work already underway. In the more positive climate that is evolving in Cyprus between the current heads of the communities, the structures for advancement need not be reinvented but simply expanded and supported. Indeed the comments by both Mr Christofias and Mr Talat at the plenary session in September 2008 did acknowledge the role of history teaching in building on peace and reconciliation, even if there was a political angle to the “hand of friendship”.
71. “Some people say there are two ‘peoples’ in Cyprus – no, there is only one unique people consisting of two communities … this year the government committed itself to implementing education reform. This reform included the teaching of reconciliation. We won’t keep silent about external interference and the occupation – these are matters of fact … we are going step by step to change the books of history in order to teach the young in an objective way and avoid any hatred – avoid the teaching of hatred towards the Turkish Cypriots. To clarify, we don’t hate the Turkish people – the people are always innocent – only leaderships are guilty of many crimes... but it is a matter of fact that we are taking concrete measures towards what you have asked”.Note
72. “We have spent our childhood and adolescence on a volcano ready to erupt at any minute. Now, we are concerned with rendering secure the future of our children. And for this, we regard the establishment of a lasting peace in Cyprus as an urgent humanitarian issue … Reaching a comprehensive solution in Cyprus and rendering that solution sustainable are related to how the young generations on both sides of the island view one another. I can tell you with pleasure that our Minister of Education has reviewed the textbooks being used in schools in accordance with the principles and recommendations of the Council of Europe. We are expecting the Greek Cypriot side to take action at once and to eliminate language in their own textbooks that incites enmity and hatred against the Turkish Cypriots. We expect the Council of Europe to encourage and embolden the Greek Cypriot side in that regard.”Note
73. A point made by Mr Talat that is echoed in most countries is the need for education and educational resources to be in one’s own mother tongue: “As the Turkish Cypriot side, we have provided the Greek Cypriot children living in Northern Cyprus with the opportunity to receive uninterrupted elementary and secondary school education in their mother tongues, from Greek Cypriot teachers and in line with the Greek Cypriot curriculum. You should encourage the Greek Cypriot side to remain true to its written and oral promises to the United Nations that it will establish a separate school for Turkish Cypriot students and provide those children with education in their mother tongue which is a basic human right”.
74. However, this is yet another process begun both in the political sphere and at pedagogical level. The work of the Council of Europe has been and should remain central to history teaching developments.

10 Other initiatives

75. In 1997, the Ministry of Education of Georgia started a supplementary textbook on “A History of the Caucasus”, supported by Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation.
76. In 1998, the Russian-Japanese project began, whereby the core question explored was how Russia teaches about Japan and vice versa. A supplementary teaching tool on the “History and Culture of Japan in Documents and in Illustrations” was completed in 2003.
77. In 2006, the “European Dimension in History Teaching” yielded a CD-ROM of historical sources, which includes recently accessed archived materials from eastern Europe.
78. In 2007, a three-year Council of Europe project “The Image of the Other in History Teaching” began. The goals here are to bring forward a recommendation by the Committee of Ministers; to prepare a teachers’ manual; and to produce general guidelines for the development of history teaching in a multicultural context.
79. History teaching should be aimed, first and foremost, at strengthening the reconciliation process, promoting principles of mutual respect and opening additional doors for co-operation. History must also go beyond political history to the cultural, economic, social and everyday history that will then present the full picture for the student and open up the idea of peace and engagement with others. Psychologists confirmed that by concentrating mainly on political issues, particularly on conflicts, one could provoke hostility and violence in pupils.
80. The main issue that has been central to debate is that of standards in history – who should be considered “in” and who is “out” as a personality, an event or an interpretation. A newer phenomenon is looking at the teaching requirements that relate to the students ability to “process information and apply it in the new social environment”. The standards issue needs to involve both those who set the standards and the practising teacher and should “determine, above all, the character and level of reasoning, modelling and creative activity of students rather than the actual content of history curricula”.
81. There has just been the conclusion of a joint commission (November 2008) between Russia and the Ukraine led by Academician Alexander Chubarayan. Each country completed a comprehensive history of their country and each book has been translated into the language of the other country. There has already been some negative media comment which is evidence that some in our communities need to be convinced of the need for movement towards understanding rather than continuing hostilities.

11 Conclusion

82. Conflict resolution remains a process. Building confidence at political level is a process to which the importance of patience is central, as Senator George Mitchell said after the Irish peace process began. The confidence to deal with sensitive political issues, be they in a political sphere or at a school level, is a process too. All of these processes are vital if peace, understanding and tolerance are to triumph at every level of our society. While the process cannot be rushed, it also cannot be allowed to remain static. The various media forms of television, radio, papers, books and magazines are not static. They are all instantaneous conveyors of current events or “history”. Peace processes at political level cannot ignore the need to pass new skills and opportunities to our forthcoming generations through the education system so that they can critically view that type of information and understand that there are often messages contained both overtly and subliminally. The lead in education must come from the political sphere.
83. As politicians “shadow box” and get to know their political opponents, teachers and students too must also be helped to get to know each other in person, as un-demonised people. It is harder to hate someone you can put a face to than someone you never meet. We can meet each other through history teaching. History teachers will teach what is contained in the curriculum. The wider the choice available the more certain that “sides” will choose their favoured topics and avoid the difficult ones, as has been proven to date. Keeping a curriculum to a manageable size will maximise the impact on the student cohort.
84. What is contained in the curriculum must be decided in collaboration with teachers as well as other professionals. Who writes history is also vital in these times as we watch the instant television reportage of current events. It is essential that historians write history and students then gain the insights from primary and secondary sources, including historical novels, films, Internet sites, engagement through technology with students of other countries, visiting high quality facilities such as the Warsaw Uprising Museum, and engaging with the humour of text messages. Indeed I was recently introduced to the fact that there is a Canadian television programme called “Little Mosque on the Prairie” which dismantles old prejudices and is humorous. The role for humour based on knowledge of other cultures, as well as on mutual respect in “getting to know the other”, is not fully exploited as yet.
85. It will need more resources and continual evaluation and review, but when we have a will to progress, it has been seen that there has been a way to proceed. The goal is a worthy one and, while not underestimating the significant challenges which remain for everyone involved, I commend the great work being undertaken to date – volumes are being written but many experiences are being had in real terms “on the ground”. There would be no capacity in a study such as this to define all of those activities but just to indicate a few of them, as has been done to a small sample of those projects aimed at assisting in the new challenges of teaching history in conflict and post-conflict areas. I leave the final words, which echo those written on the Garrick Bar in Belfast, to Luisa Black who has gained significant experience in this field: “Looking at the past with the eyes of the future can lead us to false conclusions unless we really see when we look”.

Reporting Committee: Committee on Culture, Science and Education

Reference to committee: Doc. 11338, Reference 3400 of 21 January 2008

Draft recommendation unanimously adopted by the committee on 28 April 2009

Members of the committee: Mrs Anne Brasseur, (Chairperson), Mr Detlef Dzembritzki (1st Vice-Chairperson), Mr Mehmet Tekelioğlu (2nd Vice-Chairperson), Mrs Miroslava Němcová, (3rd Vice-Chairperson) Mr Vicenç Alay Ferrer, Mr Florin Serghei Anghel, Mrs Aneliya Atanasova, Mr Lokman Ayva, Mr Walter Bartoš (alternate: Mrs Alena Gajdůšková), Mrs Deborah Bergamini, Mrs Oksana Bilozir (alternate: Mrs Olha Herasym’yuk), Mrs Guðfinna S. Bjarnadóttir, Mrs Rossana Boldi, Mr Ivan Brajović, Mr Petru Călian, Mr Miklós Csapody, Mr Vlad Cubreacov, Mrs Lena Dąbkowska-Cichocka, Mr Joseph Debono Grech, Mr Ferdinand Devínsky, Mr Daniel Ducarme, Ms Åse Gunhild Woie Duesund, Mrs Anke Eymer, Mr Gianni Farina, Mr Relu Fenechiu, Mrs Blanca Fernández-Capel Baños, Mr Axel Fischer, Mr Gvozden Srećko Flego, Mr Dario Franceschini, Mr José Freire Antunes (alternate: Mr José Luis Arnaut), Mrs Gisèle Gautier, Mr Ioannis Giannellis-Theodosiadis, Mr Martin Graf, Mr Oliver Heald, Mr Rafael Huseynov, Mr Fazail İbrahimli, Mr Mogens Jensen, Mr Morgan Johansson, Mrs Francine John-Calame, Ms Flora Kadriu, Mrs Liana Kanelli, Mr Jan Kaźmierczak, Miss Cecilia Keaveney, Mrs Svetlana Khorkina (alternate: Mr Igor Chernyshenko), Mr Serhii Kivalov, Mr Anatoliy Korobeynikov, Ms Elvira Kovács, Mr József Kozma, Mr Jean-Pierre Kucheida, Mr Ertuğrul Kumcuoğlu, Ms Dalia Kuodytė, Mr Markku Laukkanen, Mr René van der Linden, Mrs Milica Marković, Mrs Muriel Marland-Militello, Mr Andrew McIntosh, Mrs Maria Manuela de Melo, Mrs Assunta Meloni (alternate: Mr Pier Marino Mularoni), Mr Paskal Milo, Ms Christine Muttonen (alternate: Mr Albrecht Konecny), Mr Tomislav Nikolić, Mr Edward O’Hara, Mr Kent Olsson, Mr Andrey Pantev, Mrs Antigoni Papadopoulos, Mrs Zatuhi Postanjyan, Mrs Adoración Quesada Bravo, Mr Frédéric Reiss, Mrs Mailis Reps, Mrs Andreja Rihter, Mr Nicolae Robu, Mr Paul Rowen, Mrs Anta Rugāte, Mrs Ana Sánchez Hernández, Mr Leander Schädler, Mr Yury Solonin, Mr Christophe Steiner, Mrs Doris Stump, Mr Valeriy Sudarenkov, Mr Petro Symonenko, Mr Guiorgui Targamadzé, Mr Hugo Vandenberghe, Mr Klaas De Vries, Mr Piotr Wach, Mr Wolfgang Wodarg.

NB: The names of the members who took part in the meeting are printed in bold

Secretariat of the committee: Mr Ary, Mr Dossow

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