3rd Annual Conference of the
Observatory on History Teaching in Europe (OHTE)
Teaching history, teaching peace?
30 November - 1 December 2023, room 9, Palais de l'Europe
The European Cultural Convention of 1954 aimed to develop mutual understanding between the peoples of Europe and guarantee peace while respecting the fundamental values of the Council of Europe, in particular through the avenue of history teaching. Therefore, the establishment of the Convention marked the first important step in the Council of Europe’s work in history teaching, which was continuously developed and led to the creation of the Observatory on History Teaching in Europe (OHTE) in 2020. Furthermore, the Reykjavik Declaration at the 4th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe (16-17 May 2023) reiterated the significance of history teaching.
2023 is also a decisive year for the OHTE in that its first General Report on the State of History Teaching in Europe, will be presented at its 3rd Annual Conference. The Report aims to explore the different methods and practices implemented in the field of history education in the OHTE member states. The presentation of the Report is all the more important and symbolic given that history and the teaching of history are currently subject to numerous controversies, attempts at manipulation, and abuses orchestrated by anti-democratic forces or motivated by political agendas – phenomena which threaten frameworks of critical thinking and the preservation of democratic and humanist values. The most striking example of these abuses is the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation, which has justified its aggression by denying Ukraine’s own history and existence as an independent nation.
These trends can be observed to varying degrees throughout the European continent, but they are not universal and fortunately, we are not fighting a losing battle. To guarantee peace and ensure that these practices do not spread or become commonplace, we need to question and observe the ways in which history is taught and learn from past mistakes to avoid repeating them.
- How many hours should be allocated to teaching history?
- What tools are available to history teachers?
- What content is being taught to the future generations?
- Are they sufficiently trained to develop their critical thinking skills and understand the challenges of democracy and peace?
The OHTE's member states are united in their desire to provide their students with appropriate educational content that fosters in them the universal values defended by the Council of Europe. However, it is also interesting to see how states are guarding against abuses of history, particularly in cases where history courses are entirely dedicated to the pursuit of political agendas or where multi-perspectivity is disregarded. These questions are intended to prompt reflection on the need to integrate history teaching into processes of reconciliation and understanding between peoples, thereby guaranteeing a peaceful future for generations to come.
The 3rd OHTE Annual Conference will therefore be an opportunity for each participant and speaker to consider the place of history teaching in their country and in Europe as a whole, and discuss the link between history teaching and the teaching of peace in light of our past experiences - particularly at a time when peace is under threat.
Conference landing page: www.ohte2023.com
The Annual Conference is organised by the Council of Europe with the financial support from France and Andorra and in partnership with the City of Strasbourg, the Grand-Est Region, the European Collectivity of Alsace and the French Government. The three-year "Strasbourg, European Capital" 2021-2023 contract signed by these local authorities on 9 May 2021 confirms their support for the Observatory for History Teaching in Europe.
29 November 2023
“Alsace, a land of remembrance”
Seminar - Struthof-Natzweiler site and Alsace-Moselle Memorial in Schirmeck* - with the support of the Collectivité européenne d'Alsace and in co-operation with the Council of Europe's intergovernmental programme on history education
*For members of OHTE's statutory bodies and expert network only
30 November 2023
09:00 – 10:30 Opening session: "Teaching history, teaching peace?”
The Observatory on History Teaching in Europe is an intrinsic part of the framework of priorities and values defended by the Council of Europe (and the conclusions of the Reykjavík Summit), which it supports by drafting and publishing reports on the way in which history is taught in its member states. History enables us to understand the world around us, to learn about our identities and to open up to others through the knowledge we acquire – but does teaching history really guarantee peace?
Annette GERLACH, Journalist and TV host, ARTE, France
Bjørn BERGE, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe - Video message
Helen LOREZ-SCHWEIG, Deputy Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein to the Council of Europe, on behalf of the Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe of Liechtenstein
Holly CASE, Professor of History, Brown University, Rhode Island, United States of America
Josep DALLERÈS CODINA, Member of the Council of Europe High-Level Reflection Group, Andorra
Alain LAMASSOURE, Chair of the Governing Board of the Observatory on History Teaching in Europe (OHTE), France
Pap NDIAYE, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of France to the Council of Europe
Aleksandra ROMANTSOVA, Executive Director of the Centre for Civil Liberties (Nobel Peace Prize 2022), Ukraine - Online
11:00 - 12:30 OHTE Talk: “Can young Europeans learn from the history of their ‘Homelands’?”
by Timothy GARTON ASH: Professor of European Studies, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Followed by a debate with participants moderated by Matjaž GRUDEN, Director of Democratic Participation, Council of Europe
12:45 - 13:45 Press conference: the OHTE General report on the state of history teaching in Europe
The Observatory on History Teaching in Europe (OHTE) will present its first General Report on the state of history teaching in Europe, at a press conference on Thursday, 30 November, at 12.45 pm CET held in a hybrid format. The press conference will take place on the margins of the OHTE Annual Conference “Teaching History, Teaching Peace?” (video)
Alain Lamassoure, Chair of the Governing Board will present the content and purpose of the report in the presence of renowned historian Timothy Garton Ash.
The General Report provides a snapshot of how history is generally taught in 16 European countries, members of the OHTE (Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Cyprus, France, Georgia, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, North Macedonia, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Türkiye) and in Ukraine as observer state. The report discusses the place of history in education systems, explores textbooks and other educational resources in terms of design, dives into dynamics of teaching but also into learning outcomes and assessment of students. Country-specific information sheets are part of the OHTE General Report (Volume 2).
Copies of the report under embargo are available in English upon request.
The press conference will take place on Thursday, 30 November, at 12.45 pm in the Room 8 of the Palais de l’Europe, Strasbourg.
Language regime: English and French
If you wish to participate in the briefing in person, to receive the link to the online press conference, and/or to receive the report under embargo, please send your request to [email protected].
14:00 - 15:30 Plenary Session 1: "The state of history teaching in Europe: what can we learn from it?"
The Observatory on History Teaching in Europe presents its first General Report on the state of history teaching in Europe, the result of a long and comprehensive process overseen by the OHTE's Scientific Advisory Council to guarantee its quality. Taking as its starting point the place of history in education systems, the Report also covers a wide range of aspects, such as the structure, content and teaching methods used in the member states. It therefore aims to present in detail the ways in which history is taught in the member states and encourage stakeholders to take an interest in the practices employed. This panel is an opportunity to take stock of the work carried out throughout the creation of the report, its scientific and methodological approach, and its main conclusions.
Raul CÂRSTOCEA, Vice-Chair of the OHTE Scientific Advisory Council, Lecturer in European History, Maynooth University, Ireland
Stéphane LÉVESQUE, Vice-Dean for Research and Professional Development, Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa, Canada
Olena PALKO, Historian, Professor of History, University of Basel, Switzerland
Marko ŠUICA, Historian, teacher and textbook author, University of Belgrade (Serbia), member of the OHTE Scientific Advisory Council
Marie Claire TUITE, Vice-President of the History Teachers’ Association of Ireland, Assistant Principal, Dominican College Muckross Park, Ireland
15:30 – 16:45 Plenary session 2: "History teachers, teachers of peace?”
Being a history teacher is often a vocation because the subject has an important social dimension, with the demands of education authorities and the reality of the classroom constantly having to be balanced. Moreover, this mission must ensure that the history taught allows all students to find themselves represented and included in the learning process. Finally, since the end of the Second World War in Europe, history teaching has been closely linked to remembrance and the promotion of peace on the continent. What is the reality of this? How do teachers see themselves and their mission? Do they teach history to teach peace, or is this merely an unattainable dream?
Chara MAKRIYIANNI, Educator (Cyprus), Chair of the OHTE Scientific Advisory Council
Alan McCULLY, Member of the OHTE Scientific Advisory Council, teacher trainer and researcher, University of Ulster, United Kingdom
Jolan REMCSAK, History teacher at the Lycée Gustave Eiffel, Mayotte, France
Ana RADAKOVIĆ, Vice-President of Education for the 21st Century, PhD student in History didactics, University of Belgrade, Serbia
Steven STEGERS, Executive Director of European Association of History Educators (EuroClio), co-ordinator of the expert group in charge of drafting the OHTE General report, Netherlands
17:15 – 18:30 Plenary Session 3: "History on the page: what future for history textbooks?”
It is never easy to come to terms with one's own history, whether personal, regional or national – especially if it carries with it immense ramifications that extend over several centuries and beyond national or European borders. Even in spite of increased access to information in the digital age, history teaching can remain a response to this daunting situation, with textbooks and other educational resources serving to reflect these stories. How are textbooks written? What choices and dilemmas do we face? How do we ensure that we tell the 'right' story? This panel of history, didactics and education professionals will offer their views on the subject.
Steffen SAMMLER, Historian, Georg-Eckert-Institut (Leibniz Institute for Educational Media) and lecturer at the Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany
François DA ROCHA CARNEIRO, Vice-President of the Association of French History and Geography Teachers and history teacher at the Lycée Jean-Moulin, Roubaix, France
Igor KĄKOLEWSKI, Professor of History at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Poland
Dilek LATİF, Member of the OHTE Expert Group, member of the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research, Cyprus
1 December 2023
9:00 - 10:15 OHTE Talk: “Why history education matters?"
by Arthur CHAPMAN, Professor in History in Education at the UCL Institute of Education, University College London, United Kingdom.
Followed by a debate with the participants moderated by Villano QIRIAZI, Head of the Education Department, Council of Europe
10:45 - 12:15 Plenary Session 4: "Young people are not interested in history: deconstructing a myth”
How many times have we heard that young people are not interested in history, or, on the contrary, that young people themselves claim that history is not their favourite school subject? Despite these stereotypical narratives and preconceived ideas, it is in fact understood that history is an important subject for young people, at a time when national and cultural reference points are being disrupted, and when each person, in their quest for identity, is looking for answers in (or through?) history. New technologies and social networks are also becoming platforms for learning, where even the most advanced forms of teaching come up against malicious manipulations. Who better to talk about these subjects than young people themselves?
Aurora AILINCĂI, Executive Director of the Observatory on History Teaching in Europe, Council of Europe
Anastasiia BRUCHA, Winner of the HISTOLAB 2023 Award, Ukraine
Sara COSTA FEIO, Student, NOVA School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Portugal
Isabelle PRELIPCEANU, Graduate of the BA International Relations and Global Development Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), United Kingdom
Marius SCHLAGETER, Board Member of the European Movement Germany, Graduate of the MA International Studies: Peace and Conflict Studies, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
Lauren PRAY, Human Rights and Solidarity Coordinator, European Students’ Union, Czech Republic
12:15 - 13:00 Closing session
Annette GERLACH, Journalist and TV host, ARTE, France
Justine VIZIER, Student in International Relations, Sciences Po Strasbourg
Joseph PEYRELONGUE, Student in International Relations, Sciences Po Strasbourg
Vesna BATISTIĆ KOS, Ambassador, Head of the European Union Delegation to the Council of Europe
Tobias FLESSENKEMPER, Head of the Youth Department, Council of Europe
Irena KRASNICKÁ, Head of the OSCE Documentation Centre in Prague
Alain LAMASSOURE, Chair of the Governing Board of the Observatory on History Teaching in Europe
Lydia RUPRECHT, Global Citizenship Education team leader and programme specialist, UNESCO
Tamar TALIASHVILI, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Georgia to the Council of Europe, Chair of the Rapporteur Group on Education, Culture, Sport, Youth and Environment (GR-C), Council of Europe
1 December 2023
13:30 - 14:30 BeSafeNet Olympiad Awards
In order to promote knowledge on hazards and the associated preventive measures among secondary school students, an Olympiad on natural and technological hazards has organized on 10 March 2023 under the auspices of the European and Mediterranean Major Hazards Agreement (EUR-OPA) of the Council of Europe, a platform for co-operation between countries of Europe and the South of the Mediterranean in the field of disaster prevention and preparedness since 1987. This theme is linked to the first OHTE thematic report on “Pandemics and natural disasters as reflected in history teaching”.
Opening by Krysztof ZYMAN, Executive Secretary EUR-OPA, in the presence of
Gül SARIGÜL, Deputy Permanent Representative of Türkiye to the Council of Europe
15:00 - 16:30 Screening and debate of the documentary "Las Mamás belgas" by Sven TUYTENS
In partnership with the Permanent Representation of Spain to the Council of Europe and the Lycée international des Pontonniers de Strasbourg
In April 1937 a group of young women left Belgium to join the fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). The volunteers were from East-European Jewish families who migrated to Belgium after the First World War.
In an old convent in Ontinyent (Valencia), the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and the International Solidary Fund (ISF) organized an international military hospital. With a capacity of 800 beds and four operating theaters, it was one of the biggest and best-equipped hospitals in Spain. The socialists were short of personnel and mainly communist volunteers answered the call to work at Ontinyent. The group of 21 Belgian volunteers were popularly called les mamàs belgues in the Valencian language.
The award-winning documentary tells the forgotten story of these women, based on research in Spain, Belgium, Russia and the interview with the last remaining war nurse from the hospital. The documentary laid the basis for the Mamás belgas book, edited in Dutch, Spanish and foreseen in French in 2024.
Director: Sven Tuytens
Production: Spain, 2016
Length: 26 min.
Opening by Alberto DE LOS RIOS SANCHEZ, Adviser at the Spanish Embassy in France
Juan Rámon MORENO-VERA, Researcher in Social Sciences Education, University of Murcia, Spain
Sven TUYTENS, Journalist and director of the documentary "Las Mamás belgas”, Belgium