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Dealing with Croatia’s Difficult Past in History Education – Part II

EUROCLIO Secretariat

This is the second part of a report made by Clara Ramírez Barat and Olesya Skrypnyk on their study visit to Croatia. It is the ninth article in a series of blogposts and reports on all study visits made for the project “Dealing with the Past in History Education”. In this project civil society actors from different backgrounds, visit schools and institutions in countries that are struggling with a difficult past. The first part of this blogpost can be found here. 

Continuation of the report

Day 2: Tuesday 31 January

After the conversation in the University the DwP team visited the City Museum of Split. Opened to the public in 1992, in a palace that was built in the15th century. The Museum exhibits the cultural and historical heritage of the city through a stunning collection of artwork (including fragments of monuments and statues that were once parts of buildings in Split) together with numerous documents, photographs, maps and manuscripts that tell the story of the city. After the visit, the DwP team met with one of the museum educators and another educator from the Maritime Museum to learn about their perspectives on the challenges of conveying to young people the recent and difficult history of the country.

As a historical museum, the City Museum of Split, however, does not cover the most recent period of the country’s history. As a matter of fact, from the different museums in Split, it is only the Maritime Museum that includes the history of the 20th Century in its exhibition. According to the Maritime Museum educator, a historian by training, it is difficult to explain the history of World War II and the Independence War to the kids that come to visit the museum. This is even more the case when it comes to students coming from Slavonia, a region from the Eastern part of the country near the border with Serbia, not only because the war was especially felt in that area, but also because the classes are mixed, with both Croatian and Serbian students. Indeed, she had sometimes been warned by teachers to be careful on how she explained this period to them, and to limit her introduction to the basics—the terrible consequences of the war—without entering into details about the causes and the way the war unfolded. She noted that while often students are surprised when they hear about the war, it is important that students today learn about the recent history of the country. Having worked in the museum for five years, she commented that the memory of the war is fading, becoming less important with each generation that passes, and she worries that students today don’t get much exposure to it in the school curricula. She mentioned that while the war is briefly touched upon in primary school, students don’t really learn about it until they are 15 years old. However, this is only if they go to high school, as those who attend technical schools won’t learn more about it in school.

After the visit to the Museum, in the afternoon, the DwP team went to visit Visoka, a primary school in the city of Split, to discuss with the students why for them it is important to learn history, and to find out what they learn about the difficult history of Croatia in school and what more would they like to know about it. In general the kids agreed that studying history was important to understand the present time, to know more about their country and the society in which they live today.

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Dealing with Croatia’s Difficult Past in History Education – Part I

EUROCLIO Secretariat

This is the first part of a report made by Carla Ramírez Barat and Olesya Skrypnyk on their study visit to Croatia. It is the eighth article in a series of blogposts and reports on all study visits made for the project “Dealing with the Past in History Education”. In this project civil society actors from different backgrounds, visit schools and institutions in countries that are struggling with a difficult past. The previous article in this series of Ineke Veldhuis-Meesters’ visit to Calcutta, India, can be found here. 

Report of the international study visit Croatia

As members of EUROCLIO’s Dealing with the Past Project (DwP) team, Olesya Skrypnyk (Nova Doba, Ukraine) and Clara Ramírez Barat (AIPR, Brazil office) travelled to Croatia from January 30th to February 1st 2017. In three days, one in Zagreb and two in Split, they met with several civil society actors, state institutions representatives, teachers, and students to learn about how the difficult past is taught in schools, and to discuss the practical challenges involved in dealing with conflicting memories and emotional histories in the classroom. This report briefly summarizes the discussions they held during those days and outlines the main findings of the study visit.

Day 1: Monday 30 January

On the morning of January 30th, the DwP team had a combined meeting with Documenta and Youth Initiative for Human Rights, two NGOs that work with different aspects of dealing with the past in the country, especially in regards to the adoption of transitional justice measures and the promotion of non recurrence. After a brief introduction to the work of both organizations, the discussion centered on the question of how, in their views, history education could help better deal with the difficult past in Croatia. As organizations trying to advance human rights issues in Croatia in relation to the war, however, they found it was very challenging to pursue their mission in the country today and that most of their perspectives were not widely shared by the society.

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Understanding Your Own History Through Education – Part II

EUROCLIO Secretariat

This is the second installment of a blogpost on Ineke Veldhuis-Meesters study visit to Calcutta, India, which took place from 6 – 13 November 2016.  It is the seventh article in a series of reports and blogposts related to the project “Dealing with the Past in History Education”. The preceding blogpost of Ineke’s visit can be found here. 

Part II. School visits and workshop

Context on Calcutta and the Education System in India

Located in the eastern part of India, Calcutta is the capital and administrative center of the state of West Bengal. The former capital of British India, Calcutta is a veritable melting pot of cultures. The diverse nature of the city is reflected in the education system. As with every state in India, there are schools in the city that are affiliated to the State Board and offer a syllabus designed for the state, by the state. The other boards of education are the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE). These three main boards of education differ from one another in terms of content, modes of examination and assessment. The city of Calcutta also has around 300 state-recognized madrassas, or Islamic religious schools. To add to this already fascinating mix, the language of instruction differs too. In some, it is Bengali, which is the predominant language spoken in West Bengal, in some it is English and in some it is Urdu or Hindi. There is also a large non-formal school system that runs in tandem with the formal private and public schools.

(Drawn from M. Malhorta, 2016 study visit folder)

Visit to Akshar Inclusive School
 Akshar (‘Alphabet’ in Sanskrit) is the first inclusive school in Calcutta. It was started in 1998 by the Rajpal Khullar Trust to fulfill the need to establish an institute that benefits children with borderline special needs. As a rule, the school admits five special needs students on an average per class, who are seated between the other children. While there are teachers trained in special education to give individualized care to the students who need it, each class also has teachers who assist students with special needs, helping them out with whatever they require during a regular class. The school offers the Indian Certificate for Secondary Education (ICSE) board for the mainstream classes, and the Open Basic Education (OBE) and the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) curricula for those with special needs. The academic level is the O-level (like in the British system). The government recognizes the School Leaving Certificates. There are 17.000 of these schools in India, as per the information from the principal Mrs Noni Khular. Before I witnessed classes with Grade eight and Grade seven, I was shown around the school and introduced to educators—both special educators as well as those teaching the regular classes.

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A Complex Story of an English Female Benefactor

Joke Van der Leeuw-Roord

Introduction In the early years of EUROCLIO we organized two conferences in Glasgow together with Strathclyde University about competence based learning in history. The onsite learning programme brought the participants to New Lanark, the big factory complex owned by Robert Owen.  It was at that time not long ago that […]

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Issues and challenges of History Education in the Republic of Korea – Part II

EUROCLIO Secretariat

Educating the children of North Korean defectors which have moved to South Korea either directly or through third counties, mainly China, is also an issue related with the understanding of the past. In this case, there is no dispute or attempted dialogue with North Korean authorities. Rather, there are efforts to educate the people who chose to come to South Korea in ways that will help them integrate in society. Apart from issues related to language (for the children who spend many years in China on the way to South Korea) there is a need for a new understanding of the recent past. Teacher Hyeonjin Chae working in Hangyeore High School which welcomes North Korean defector children said that this particular school offers both the regular curriculum and a specialized one to help defector students adapt and be transferred eventually to regular South Korean schools. During their history class, they tackle particular issues which are presented in different ways in North and South Korea. Methodologically, the school adopts group work and dialogue. Content wise, there is still dialogue; nevertheless the South Korean narrative should eventually prevail. For example, regarding the very crucial issue of Korean war, about which in North Korea it is taught that South Korea invaded first, teacher Chae explained that “I provided students with some documents that supported the argument that the Korean war started when North Korea invaded South Korea” (p.125).

What educational programmes exist which deal with the past?
South Korea’s education is divided in three levels: Elementary School six years, Middle School three years and high School three years. According to Sun Joo Kang, Professor at Gyeogin National University of Education (p. 61-62) the Korean national syllabus has changed several times since its first release in 1948. A crucial change occurred in 2011 when a nine year common basic and three year selection based curriculum was adopted. According to this curriculum, students study Korean History at the primary school, middle and high school levels each with different themes, depth and standards. World history is compulsory in Middle school, whereas in High School students choose from a variety of social science courses which include Korean History, East Asian History and World History. This entailed that Korean History was not compulsory in High School. However, historiographical and territorial disputes with Japan and China sparked reactions among the public and the politicians which disagreed with the fact that the subject of Korean History was only optional.

“As a result, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) just before implementing the 2011 curriculum, in which all courses in High School were to be electives strongly recommended that High School should teach Korean history as if it were a compulsory subject.

Korean history has always been more prominent in school curricula than world history because History Education has been viewed as a means for establishing national consciousness and cultural transmission” (Sun Joo Kang, p. 62).

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Issues and challenges of History Education in the Republic of Korea – Part I

EUROCLIO Secretariat

The study visit took place within the framework of the Northeastern Asian History Foundation (NAHF)-EUROCLIO joint Conference entitled “Multiperspectivity and Tolerance in History Teaching”. This gave opportunities for interaction with a variety of actors who are working or cooperating with the Foundation. These included members of the Board and the staff of the Foundation, researchers and history teachers. At the same time, the structure of the programme, which was very tight and demanding, limited the possibilities for meetings with individuals who were not part of the activities prepared by the Foundation. In addition to the information gathered from the activities prepared by the Foundation, the available, unstructured time was used for visits to Museums. This provided a broader understanding of the social mechanisms of memorialization in the South Korean Society.

A brief calendar of activities can be helpful for establishing the context within which data for the compilation of the Report were gathered.The EUROCLIO delegates had their first meeting at Seoul on Sunday the 23rd of July 2017. We got to know each other and the representatives of the host organization and we established a common code of contact. On Monday 24th five Parallel Teaching Workshops were held by EUROCLIO delegates at Choong-Ang High School for students 15-17 years old. In the afternoon a round table discussion on “Issues and Challenges of History Education in Europe and South Korea” was held. On Tuesday 25th the main body of the NAHF-EUROCLIO International Conference “Multiperspectivity and Tolerance in History Teaching” was held. It included three sessions: 1. Conflicts over History and History Education 2: Citizenship and History Education, 3: One History, Multiple Perspectives.

On Wednesday 26th and Thursday 27th we had the opportunity to be acquainted with the history and the culture of Korea in a more hands-on way. On the 26th a field trip with a tour guide was organized to the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) separating South and North Korea. At the morning of the 27th we had the chance to participate in a Tea Ceremony reflecting traditional Korean modes of social interaction which are, to a large extend, not practiced by new generations of Koreans. The day was concluded with the participation to a teacher training seminar with Korean history teachers hosted by Dokdo Training Institute. The session had two lectures from EUROCLIO delegates followed by a fruitful discussion with Korean teachers about issues and challenges in History Education in Korea and Europe.

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How can History Education Help with Dealing with a Difficult Past? – Part II

Michael Robinson

Working with Dylan Wray from Shikaya, a “non-profit civil society organization that recognises the crucial role that teacher can play in deepening and strengthening South Africa’s democracy,” the IJR produced a series of case studies (written by Wray) entitled “Classrooms of Hope: Case studies of South African teachers nurturing respect for all.”

Case Study 3 on Discrimination and Racism is a good example of the tools given to teachers on how to deal with a possibly uncomfortable situation in their classroom. In this example the black students felt that the coloured students did not want to interact with them because they believed the coloured students saw them as “lower class.” The next part of the curriculum goes through what the school and teacher did to rectify this problem, how the students responded to the teacher’s actions, and ends with reflections on the overall issue.

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How can History Education Help with Dealing with a Difficult Past? – Part I

Michael Robinson

It is after 9 PM, and I have just arrived in Cape Town, South Africa, for the first time. I am met at the airport by a driver that was arranged by my hotel, Frank Mountanda, a smiling, lively, funny, man who also happens to be an immigrant from Congo. As he took my luggage and was putting it in the trunk of the car, I walked up to get into the car, and he started to laugh and said, “You are welcome to drive it you want.” Without thinking I had walked up to the driver’s side of the car, which is on the opposite side of where it is in the United States. I had just done what was normal for me to do, proving that we humans definitely are creatures of habit.

The word “habit” is an interesting word. Its meaning is simple enough: it is something you regularly do that is often times hard to give up or change. It is needing to brush one’s teeth every morning before work, biting one’s finger nails, smoking cigarettes, or benignly walking to the wrong side of the car. Habits are not inherently bad; many are good, but they are most certainly difficult to change. We get used to doing a thing, and it becomes common practice. It is just what we do.

What if you grow up in a society where the social norms dictate that you separate yourself from people who look different than you, perhaps a place where white people don’t use the same public buses or bathrooms as black or colored (mixed-race) people? It is just normal life. How does a society go from changing the mindset of its people so that one group is not superior to all other groups? This has been the challenge of South Africa since ending apartheid— institutionalized racial segregation laws and practices— in the early 1990’s.

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Dealing with the Past in History Education: A Study Visit to Cape Town, South Africa

Khaled El Masri

On March 1st, 2017, Michael Robinson and I arrived at one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Cape Town, South Africa. This visit was meant to start our study about peace making in one of the model countries, “Dealing with the Past in History Education”.

My first day wasn’t very fruitful. Our contact, Mr. Cecyl Esau, and I were shocked because our first interview was canceled by a voice note after we had waited two and a half hours for the representative of Robben Island to attend the meeting, which was prescheduled by Mr. Cecyl. This limited the study visit to one interview, and we missed important information about how Robben Island was transformed from a prison to a peace figure.

On our second day, March 2nd, my colleague Michael and I conducted our first interview with Mr. Ceycl, Senior Project Leader for Building Inclusive Societies at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR). We had a beautiful and detailed introduction from him about South African history and the huge shift from the apartheid to democracy. He talked about the efforts given to ensure that these changes were made. One of the most beautiful examples of Mr. Cecyl’s interview is detailed in Michael’s blog report, which talks about a lady who told her daughter to make way for the uncle.

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