History Teaching

The “European Dimension in History Teaching” - framework

The deliberations of the Education Committee at its 24th meeting (1-3 October, 2001) provided a clear framework for the development of what was to be the new project. It should:

  • emphasise contemporary history and the history of recent conflicts;
  • analyse issues relating to migration and minorities;
  • set European history into a global context;
  • incorporate the "education for democratic citizenship" dimension.

But the project also had to incorporate lessons learnt from previous experience:

  • the need for concrete, tangible results

Over the previous decade the Council of Europe had acted as an important international catalyst in promoting new thinking about history teaching. However, while conferences, seminars and in-service training workshops can help to identify and further develop the skills and knowledge of vanguards of teachers and teacher trainers, much more needs to be done to ensure that these new ideas and approaches are effectively disseminated to all those teachers who cannot participate in these conferences and seminars. Any new project should, therefore, lead to the production of a series of practical and tangible end-products, making full use of new technologies but also realising the practical constraints within which many teachers still have to operate, particularly in eastern and south eastern Europe.

  • critically analysing the roots of events

Furthermore, whilst it was important that the new project emphasise contemporary events and conflicts, it was also essential that the project take a historical approach, that it seeks to help students to understand the 'roots' of these recent events, conflicts and developments, as they get most of their information from the mass media, which, in general, tends to restrict itself to the more immediate causal factors without the historical context that might help to explain the options and decisions which were chosen and those which were ignored. This was to be an important contribution by history to education for democratic citizenship, as would the emphasis on developing the students' skills in critically analysing and interpreting information from a wide range of sources (document-based, audio-visual, photographic and oral).

  • taking the wider context into account

It was also clear from research carried out by bodies such as the Georg Eckert Institute and EUROCLIO that many history educators and curriculum planners are concerned that modern European history should not just be portrayed as a series of international and national conflicts and political and economic crises. While history educators recognise that there are certain wars and regional and local conflicts and crises about which all children and young people in Europe should have some critical historical understanding, it is also increasingly recognised that such events and developments need to be examined within their wider social, cultural and economic contexts.