History Teaching

Beyond the textbook - Principles and values

Beyond the textbook, history teaching in schools (mid 60's to 80's)

As a result of the work (and discussions) done on the content of textbooks, there inevitably followed the necessity to go beyond the textbook and discuss the aims and content of history teaching, particularly in secondary schools, which became a focus specifically expressed in Recommendation (83) 4 on the "Promotion of an awareness of Europe in Secondary Schools".

Between 1965 and 1983, four intergovernmental symposia on history teaching were organised on secondary, lower secondary and upper secondary education. The fourth one, "Teaching about the Portuguese Discoveries in secondary schools in Western Europe" (Lisbon, 1983) was organised on the occasion of the 17th Council of Europe Art Exhibition.

In 1965, in the recommendations adopted at the Elsinor symposium on "History teaching in secondary education", the participants reiterated the points made in Calw but also suggested that:

  • history teaching must be "considered as a basis for the education of the citizen of Europe and the world", aiming at "creating the desire and the capacity to understand the problems of the world of today and to participate actively in the political, economic and social life of the community";
  • skills and competences to develop amongst learners are: the ability to understand scientific methods used in history, a critical attitude to historical problems and the desire for research;
  • links between history teaching and other areas of curriculum be established;
  • the European dimension be stressed when presenting events of national history;
  • "a wide selection of authentic visual material and of written source material" be used.

In this sense, the concerns expressed meet those contained in the 1964 Resolution (64) 11 about "Civics and European education".

The symposium proceedings also contain a non-exhaustive list of 25 elements that are common to the history of part, or all, of Europe and, thus, lend themselves to a European presentation.

On another important topic, the recommendations made provision for pre-service and in-service teacher training. This methodological aspect was the focus of more than 30 seminars organised in the framework of the In-Service Training Programme for Teachers – also known as Pestalozzi programme.

As a result, by the end of 80's, most member States of the Council of Europe were reforming their curricula, i.e. rethinking the place of history teaching at school and also revising the teaching methods.

Link to the list of conferences and available reports

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