South-East Europe Textbook Network



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Magdalena Najbar-Agičić

Europe in the 20th Century - Learning and teaching about Contemporary History

Uppsala, Sweden, June 9th - 14th 2002


The seminar took place in Uppsala (Sweden) since 9th till 14th of June 2002 year. It was organised by In-Service Training Department of the University of Uppsala in co-operation with the Council of Europe as a part of Council of Europe In-Service Training Programme for Educational Staff.

History teachers, teacher trainers and textbook authors from sixteen different European nations participated in the course. They came mostly from Western European countries, but also from same transitional countries of the Central and Eastern Europe.

During the seminar the participants had the possibility to listen to the lectures by Falk Pingel about the representation of 20th century history of Europe in the textbooks from different European countries, by Robert Stradling: “Teaching 20th Century History”, by Ruth Tudor about Women’s History of the 20th Century, and Gender History. Each lecturer presented the book written in the framework of the Council of Europe project “Learning and teaching about the history of Europe in the 20th century”. Those are the books: F. Pingel, European home: representations of 20th century Europe in the history textbooks; R. Stradling, Teaching 20th-century European history; R. Tudor, Teaching 20th century women’s history: a classroom approach.

Moreover, the participants of the course have listened to the lectures organised in co-operation with the Centre for Multiethnic Research of the Uppsala University, that is Harald Runblom’s lecture devoted to the “European Identities”, and Masoud Kamali’s lecture titled “Europe and Islam”. There was also a lecture presented by Franck Chalk about the “Genocide and the Collective Memory” which gave a good historical perspective on the genocide with the special attention paid to the Holocaust.

The lectures that were given during the course consisted very useful theoretical information about each particular topic as well as practical examples. During the workshops held after the lectures the participants from different countries had the possibility to work together on particular topics to prepare them as the lesson plans to be used in classroom.

The participant had an opportunity to exchange experiences with other participants during the group work and during the informal conversations. However, not all European countries were represented. Generally the conclusion came that there is a lot of common problems in history teaching all around Europe. One of the examples could be teaching about sensitive issues, but also initial and in-service teacher training. Teachers’ training, both initial and in-service is not satisfactory in many, especially transitional countries. It seems to me that state authorities understand their role in that process as controlling the teachers’ work in very formalistic way. So far, teachers feel themselves left without any support and advice from state institutions and local authorities. Even if they have new textbooks with many source materials to use, teachers do not know how to use them and sometimes are afraid of using them because they are not trained to work with them.

So far, there is a lot of work which should be done in order to improve teaching practice in schools all over Europe but especially in the South Eastern Europe. One of the ways we can deal with the problem is to publish translations of the books like those presented during the Uppsala seminar into the languages of the South East European countries and to encourage teachers to participate in the seminars organised by the Council of Europe.