History Teaching

    DGIV/EDU/HISDTIM (2006) 07rev2

    Strasbourg, 9 September 2008


    "The Image of the Other in History Teaching"

    Directorate General IV
    Directorate of School, out-of-school and Higher Education

    The image of the other in History Teaching

      1. Background of the Project

    While history and history teaching have been a focus for the Council of Europe’s work on education since its inception – being mentioned specifically in the European Cultural Convention of 1954 – the political context today (with globalisation, human migration, the development of information technologies and the existence of both dialogue and tension between different cultures and different religions) makes it more significant than ever.

    The Action Plan adopted at the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government (in Warsaw on 16 and 17 May 2005) stated that: “The Council of Europe will enhance all opportunities for the training of educators, in the fields of education for democratic citizenship, human rights, history and intercultural education” (III.3)
    and added the following: “Convinced that dialogue between cultures is also fostered by accurate understanding of history, we endorse the Council of Europe’s work in history teaching and related projects, and decide to intensify our efforts in this direction. We encourage more active involvement of civil society in this work.” (III.6)

    The Declaration on the Council of Europe’s Strategy for Developing Intercultural Dialogue, adopted at the closing conference for the 50th anniversary of the European Cultural Convention (in Faro, Portugal, in October 2005), stresses the need to further develop knowledge and awareness of history, cultures, arts and religions, and to highlight elements illustrating both the historical and the contemporary influence of cultures and civilisations on each other, as well as cultural cross-fertilisation. It also advocates the launch of a Council of Europe “White paper on integrated policies for the management of cultural diversity through intercultural dialogue and conflict prevention”.

    The current project is thus part of a cohesive overall effort involving all the Council’s activities in the field of intercultural dialogue.

    The increasing multicultural nature of European societies lends new significance to history teaching and requires, at the same time, a thoroughgoing review of its aims and methods, focusing in particular on ways of developing multiperspectivity.

    Bearing also in mind the Committee of Ministers Recommendation (2001) 15 to Member States on history teaching in 21st-century Europe, the project on "The Image of the Other in History Teaching" has the following aims:

      i) to promote, by means of educational policy measures and proposed strategies and methods, an approach to teaching and learning history that reflects the increasing cultural and religious diversity of European societies;
      ii) to contribute to reconciliation, acknowledgement, understanding and mutual trust between different cultures and outlooks and to overcome stereotypes and prejudices by promoting the values of tolerance, openness to and respect for others, human rights and democracy.

      The project will therefore seek to:

      i) produce proposed general guidelines for the development of history teaching with a view to integrating it into the overall work of the Council of Europe on intercultural and inter-faith dialogue;

      ii) make available to governments – and to other partners including in civil society – proposed strategies, methods and tools for translating the general guidelines into practice in an educational context, both in the classroom and in out-of-school activities with a history-learning component;

      iii) produce proposals, based on the above, concerning the training of history teachers and others whose work involves the learning of history.

      2. Project outcomes

    The expected outcomes of the project will be:

    the drafting of a proposed Committee of Ministers Recommendation on the image of the other in history teaching and history learning in a multicultural society;

    publication of a synoptic study of the project’s themes and areas of work (see below);

    preparation of a manual for teachers and other professionals on the image of the other in history teaching in a multicultural society;

    creation of a website showcasing examples of innovative practice;

    networking of institutions that train history teachers and of resource centres.

      3. Project themes

    Three working themes and areas of work have been identified.

    i) "Multiple images, shared destinies? – Learning about history in a multicultural society"; ii) "Images of others and ourselves in the context of globalisation"; and iii) "The image of the other in conflict situations: learning different histories as a means of rebuilding trust".

      i) Multiple images, shared destinies? – Learning about history in a multicultural society

      Cultural diversity is nothing new in European societies. Nonetheless, a combination of sociological developments and increased awareness of the need to respect difference have radically changed both the context and the way that religious, linguistic and sociological differences are perceived.

      The new context presents a challenge with regard to the way that we learn history. The task is to reflect the multiperspectivity and pluralism of historical perception and memory within a given society in the practice of history teaching, while avoiding a high degree of polarisation between particular differences and specificities.

      In multicultural and democratic societies, history teaching could thus help to demonstrate that, far from there being a conflict between, on the one hand, people freely consenting to building a shared future and, on the other, ensuring that the histories of different groups are recognised, respected and generally made known, the one actually depends upon the other.

      Clearly, many factors can constitute a basis for difference, for particular perceptions and thus for discrimination. In the current context it may be useful to look in particular at the two aspects described below.

        History teaching and images associated with different religions or world views

        The Warsaw Action Plan, the Faro Declaration and the recent Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation on education and religion (Recommendation 1720 (2005)) have all stressed the need for what the Action Plan (in paragraph III, 6) called "intercultural and inter-faith dialogue, based on universal human rights, as a means of promoting awareness, understanding, reconciliation and tolerance, as well as preventing conflicts and ensuring integration and the cohesion of society".

        Approaching the different images from a historical perspective, with particular emphasis on the ways in which they have influenced one another positively, is critically important for a clear understanding of contemporary situations.

        A particular, though not exclusive, focus of attention should be the history of interaction between the different European cultures and religious traditions and the Muslim world, and the contemporary consequences of that interaction.

        Pluralism of origins and memory

        The diversity of origins – European and non-European – and the plurality of memory found among the social groups that give European societies their cultural diversity extend beyond the religious dimension (while not necessarily excluding it) and are based on a range of factors including geographical and ethnic origin, historical events of special significance to particular groups, and lifestyle.

        A specific function of the project will be to identify means whereby the practice of history teaching can reconcile shared (or supposedly shared) history with the particular histories of the social groups that comprise a multicultural society.


        ii) Images of others and ourselves in the context of globalisation

      By enabling not only products, services and people but also information and data to circulate more quickly, globalisation has turned reciprocal image-building into a multi-layered phenomenon: "images of the other" are formed at every level from the local community to the state, the continent and the world.

      These images are also changing more rapidly as a result of both globalisation and the development of information technology. While our perceptions of one another may never have been static, they evolve today at a steady pace that has no precedent.

      Activities in this area will therefore explore the implications for history teaching of the following:

        recent changes in the way that Europeans see themselves, particularly since the end of the Cold War and the internal re-opening of Europe;
        reciprocal images of Europe and other parts of the world.

          Activities here will form part of the "new dialogue between Europe and its neighbouring regions – the southern Mediterranean, the Middle East and Central Asia" which both the Warsaw Action Plan (paragraph III, 6) and the Faro Declaration seek to promote.


        iii) The image of the other in conflict situations: learning different histories as a means of rebuilding trust

      The image of the other in conflict and post-conflict situations is crucially important to the processes of reconciliation and establishing trust-based relationships.

      This is a field in which the Council of Europe already has a substantial body of achievement that reflects, in particular, recent bilateral and regional co-operation. It should be remembered that as long ago as 1950 the Council’s first co-operation activity in the field of education was the analysing of history textbooks with a view to avoiding stereotyping.

      This part of the project will seek to consolidate the conclusions of recent activities by exploring earlier examples of reconciliation processes which involved developing new perceptions of the conflicting parties’ histories. The lessons to be learned from these experiences will receive special attention, with a view to the potential role of history teaching in preventing crimes against humanity.


            Preparing a compendium of Council of Europe achievements in this field, 2007

            March 2008, preparatory seminar
            "The image of the other in conflict and post-conflict situations"

          November/December 2009 symposium on "The image of the other in conflict and post-conflict situations"

            Preparing teaching materials 2009

      4. Project method and management structure

      Establishment of a project group

      A select project group, comprising eleven experts has been established.

      The group members are : a member of the CD-ED, historians with particular experience in the field, professionals involved in training history teachers and related disciplines, representatives of bodies other than schools (eg museums, resource centres or media organisations), a ministerial administrator with relevant experience and representatives from the two main INGO’s active in this context (Euroclio and the European Teachers Association).

      Other partners (other parts of the Organisation, International Organisations and International Non-Governmental Organisations) will also be invited to send a representative to meetings when issues to which they are related will be on the agenda.

      Emphasis on practice

      In each of the work areas suggested above, the CD-ED proposed that the issues should be addressed on the basis of examples of innovation or good practice. These examples would be identified not just in traditional teaching materials for use exclusively in the classroom but also in the full range of activities, projects and other initiatives, both in school and outside it, through which people learn about history.

      Cross-disciplinary approach

      As explained above, the project forms part of the Council of Europe’s overall effort to promote intercultural dialogue and will contribute to the drafting of the White Paper on the intercultural dialogue. Rather than simply being tacked on to other initiatives, however, it will be fully integrated, the various project activities being carried out in conjunction with activities under the headings of education for citizenship, culture and heritage, youth, social affairs or human rights, as appropriate.


      By establishing at the outset a network of institutions that train history or related disciplines teachers, the project will have a means of accurately identifying demand (particularly for teaching materials). As the work progresses, the network could gradually begin to function as a professional distribution system for the publications produced.


      Alongside internal evaluation procedures, detailed activity reports will be submitted to the Steering Committee for education (CD-ED) so that it can carry out in-depth evaluation of the project’s progress each time it meets.



    19-20 June - Informal Consultation with Experts

    9-10 October - Experts’ seminar

    4-5 April - First meeting of the project group

    18-19 June - Experts’ seminar

    20 June - Preparatory Meeting for the Symposium

    January - 2nd meeting of project group

    February - 3rd meeting of project group

    January - Launching of the new project

      May/June - Final conference of the Project “The Image of the Other in History Teaching”

1 The recommendations prepared in each area of work will form the basis for the draft Committee of Ministers Recommendation referred to in section 3 above.

2 Certain teaching materials will cover all three areas of work; other teaching materials will be subject-specific.

3 The recommendations prepared in each area of work will form the basis for the draft Committee of Ministers Recommendation referred to in section 3 above.