The CDRSEE was represented at the first panel of the conference, organized by the European Fund for the Balkans. The discussions, themed “Western Balkans and Europe”, were divided into 2 sessions, and counted prominent participants, making for a productive session. The CDRSEE’s Executive Director, Mr. Nenad Sebek, took part in the days first session, named “Administrative Reform in the Western Balkans”. The CDRSEE was further represented during the second session, entitled “Reconciliation in the Western Balkans – Progress since the wars, where are we today?”, by Prof. Zarko Puhovski, member of the CDRSEE Board of Directors. Want to know more about the discussions and the EFB? Click here!
09-10 April 2011: Local Teacher Training in Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina
The CDRSEE implemented this 2 day local workshop in Banja Luka, closing the first phase of the JHP in Bosnia. This will allow new activities to take place all over the country, as soon as this year! The first day of the workshop was led by Mr. Enes Milak, Editor of the Bosnian Language Edition of the JHP workbooks, Mr. Munib Efendic and Mr. Nijazija Maslak, two of the teachers trained by the JHP in the Training of Trainers workshops previously implemented.
Mr. Milak presented the project goals, background and principles, and introduced the 21 participants to the workshop agenda. Mr. Efendic led a fruitful workshop based on model lessons, after which Mr. Maslak went on to initiating participants to the notions of fact and opinion, in history. This was followed by a productive workshop, where participants were brought to see the contradictory nature of historical sources, and present new statements based on several sources, rather than only one.
The highlight of the day was the representative presence of the Ministry for Education, which showed further endorsement of the JHP, proving the continuing success of the project.
On day 2, Mr. Goran Miloradovic, the President of the Association for Teaching History in Belgrade, also the supervising guest trainer for this seminar, led a presentation of the use of historical sources in class, and implemented a very productive workshop, where participating practitioners were expected to create and present model lessons.
The response to the seminar by participants was extremely positive, and each left with their set of books and certificates, content with their newly acquired skills.
4 April 2011: CDRSEE holds press conference in Sarajevo.
On April 4, Enes Milak, editor of the Bosnian edition of the history books, and Nenad Šebek, CDRSEE's Executive Director, moderated by Dzevdet Tuzlic, the JHP coordinator in BiH, presented the principles and materials of the JHP to a highly present and interested Press, after taking part in 2 live television interviews.
During the following press conference, the journalists proved to be very interested in the JHP and their questions focused on its beneficial impact on history education in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
No controversial questions or negative judgements on the JHP were expressed, reflecting the continued and promising advancement of people's acceptance of, and support to, the JHP in the region.
2-3 April 2011: JHP Regional Teacher Training in Sarajevo
For the first time, the CDRSEE – reacting to the conclusions of the Thessaloniki International conference organised in November 2010 – invited teachers from throughout Southeast Europe to take part in common training activities related to the JHP workbooks’ methodology. Accordingly, teachers from Belgrade, Skopje and Zagreb joined Bosnian participants from the Canton of Sarajevo for a 2-day workshop in Sarajevo.
An equally international trainer team supervised the 20 participating teachers and led the workshop activities according to a programme created by Goran Miloradovic, Bozo Repe, Vesna Janevski and Nijazija Maslak, and finalised by Dzevdet Tuzlic, journalist in Sarajevo, coordinator of the BiH phase of the JHP.
Dr. Bozo Repe, historian at the University of Ljubjana, opened the workshop with a presentation of the Slovenian-Croatian and Slovenian-Serbian relationship throughout modern history. Vezna Janevski, senior expert for teaching methodology in Skopje, introduced the attending teachers to participative teaching and learning methods aiming to foster free expression and active participation of students in class. Lastly, Nijazija Maslak, professor of history in Bihac, also trained trainer of the JHP, and Goran Miloradovic, historian and President of the Association for Social History in Belgrade, trained the teachers in concrete use of the JHP workbooks.
Nijazija Maslak proposed a teaching methodology based on the comparison of historical sources about the devshirme system in the period of the Ottoman Empire. The teachers were to answer questions about this system, according to the historical sources they were provided with. As the historical sources presented the devshirme in different perspectives and expressed different opinions, the participants’ answers to the questions turned out to be highly divergent. Through this concrete exercise, the teachers were to understand that history is also a personal and subjective interpretation of facts that should be presented and explained as such to children in class, through similar exercises, so as to foster their ability to critically think vis-à-vis partial presentations of their region’s history.
Goran Miloradovic further pursued the training with activities aimed at producing model lessons around the topic of children’s life during the war. Using historical texts and pictures, the teachers developed model lessons based on a multi-perspective analysis of historical sources, keeping in mind the main goal of the JHP training: making history teaching more than a simple matter of memorising dates and facts, by encouraging the students to participate actively in class and to discuss and argue their views, so as to help them understand that, regardless of what their own opinions and beliefs are, history is made of a multiplicity of perspectives and interpretations.
During this first regional workshop, the diversity of the participants’ ethnic, geographical and religious backgrounds represented a new and challenging feature, which was, however, successfully handled by both the trainers and the participating teachers. Even during discussions about highly sensitive topics, such as the interpretation of the devshirme system, teachers and trainers remained focused on the training’s methodological issues, putting their respective points of view aside, thus allowing for a very fruitful discussion about the use of the JHP workbooks in class.
This first regional workshop also proved that people-to-people contact and cooperation work and help people from very different backgrounds get along with each other. Seeing past their differences, the participating teachers exchanged experiences about common difficulties in class, gave advice to one another about teaching strategies, enjoyed the same very friendly atmosphere, and shared the same pride of having been part of this first JHP regional workshop together.
01 March 2011: CDRSEE attends Conference "Shared Social Responsibility" in Brussels
The conference, organised jointly by the European Commission and the Council of Europe in Brussels on 01 March 2011, revolved around discussing the need of shared social responsibility in the current context of multiple transitions and related subjects. The event counted amongst its participants speakers from the fields of European Politics, science and civil society, and meant to confirm social cohesion as an objective for Europe.
18-20 February 2011: History Teacher Training in Zlatibor
The Joint History Project (JHP) seminar series of 2011 started in Western Serbia with a workshop in Uzice (Zlatibor). 28 teachers from Uzice and 11 surrounding municipalities gathered to discuss attitudes towards history teaching and current methodology. During the workshop the last copies of the 2nd edition (2010) of the JHP workbooks were distributed which closes the rapid dissemination of 1500 copies within 7 months. More copies will be produced in 2011 as a response to the accelerating demand in Serbian schools.
In Zlatibor amongst other discussions participants also argued about the readiness of each of the participating countries to address and face the past from a multi-perspective way, and to which extend responsibility for crimes is admitted in public. The seminar thus reconfirmed the lack of trust that is still prevailing and at the same time validated the need for more regional teacher training activities were cross border exchange of perspectives and views takes place not only theoretical, but also on a people to people basis.
The workshop was headed by the historian and president of the Association for Social History Dr. Goran Miloradovic and the sessions are moderated by history teachers for their peers. The teachers, who acted as trainers beforehand received an intensive training by the CDRSEE in modern methodologies and use of multi-perspective materials.
The seminars reinforce the aims of the project mainly by giving practical guidance for steering history teaching away from simply memorising dates and facts, but instead offering students the possibility to participate, research and argue their views. Original historical sources in the JHP work books serve as the basis for the methodology and they are structured around four prominent topics “Ottoman Empire, Nation and States, The Balkan Wars and World War II”; the sources provide first hand unbiased material for teachers to spark discussions and inspiration in class rooms. In the seminar, teachers team up in four groups and prepare a total of 16 model lessons which are then presented and discussed with all participants.
The CDRSEE in 2011In the year 2011 Active Citizenship is at the forefront in Europe, citizens driving social transformation and cohesion, strengthening our common European values and building a strong alliance to counteract the ongoing economic crisis and subsequent nationalistic trends. The CDRSEE contributes with a busy workplan for 2011 that puts a strong focus on working towards a better understanding of history and societal developments, and thus contributing to the current debate around diversity.
The solid results already achieved with the Joint History Project in Southeast Europe will be further strengthened, including training more teachers throughout the region, especially in rural areas; developing more multi-perspective history teaching materials; applying the project methodology to educational subjects other than history; and replicating the project in other regions of the world.
The goal is to convey to our youth the competences required to become tolerant citizens who are empowered to defend and promote democratic values. The CDRSEE also offers meaningful opportunities for volunteerism and alternatives forms of learning to motivated youth, on average 8 internships per year were completed and places are available for 2011.
20/21 November 2010: CDRSEE Hosts International Conference, Thessaloniki
On 20/21 November the CDRSEE hosted an international conference in Thessaloniki, bringing together 18 academics, 11 educators and 12 representatives of National and Regional institutions to assess, re-enforce and further develop tools for History Education fostering European Integration.
Participants from 15 countries gathered, offering creative ideas for new innovative educational products made in Southeast Europe. Products that will have the capacity to follow the already well established and acknowledged Joint History Project that started off 10 years ago on the initiative of Thessaloniki Citizens.
The conference not only featured key note contributions from distinguished Southeast European experts, notably from Costa Carras and Halil Berktay, but also the views of international academia, teachers from throughout the region and members of the offices of the European Commission and the Regional Cooperation Council. The aim was to include a multitude of committed individuals in the process of bringing history education up to current requirements.
Discussions revealed various challenges in reforming the existing curricula that often are reduced to simply teaching the national storyline, offer little space for discussion in classrooms, but instead still rely on an approach of memorising data. This is not necessarily only rooted in nationalistic political agendas, but also in the fear of politicians to step into the very sensitive topic of history teaching that bears a lot of pitfalls for publicly discrediting yourself, but little opportunity for distinguishing yourself positively. Public opinion, however, is heavily influenced by the media which consequently can play a decisive constructive or destructive role in the reform process.
The conference was a logical step following up on the achievements of the Joint History Project, an initiative that aims at ongoing, informed, significant and realistic change in historical research and education in Southeast Europe.
The JHP has offered to the region an innovative joint approach of comparative and multi-perspective history teaching with four workbooks, which are a compilation of original historical sources around four topics prominent in all South East European Curricula. The materials were created by a diverse team of experts, teachers and scholars from across the region: a writing team of 20 people (a general editor, 5 Workbook editors and 14 contributors) and an evaluation team of 40 teachers. To date, the Workbooks have been produced in 8 languages and almost 1000 teachers were trained in 35 workshops in the whole of Southeast Europe.
This unique education tool was acknowledged in the European Parliament as a valuable contribution to stability in the region and has, according to our assessment, far more capacities, one of them being, fostering the European Integration Process.
The European Integration, process, indeed, is one of the most ambitious tasks on the European agenda, with multifaceted dimensions ranging from the creation of a possible European Identity to defining borders in which the European Union can function. In this aspect it is a central task and our duty to encourage policy makers on a regional level to discuss education concepts that foster acceptance for cultural diversity and tolerance within their societies. Especially in times of crisis which are feeding nationalistic sentiments it is academia and courageous citizens that can defend the societal achievements that stood at the very beginning of the vision to a united Europe.
The conference revealed that while reforms are ongoing in all of the countries, there is much more to be done if we want to catch up with European standards and requirements for modern skills. Memorising knowledge is an outdated methodology, which needs to be replaced by didactics that foster the ability for critical thinking and for multidisciplinary and multi-perspective analysis, while at the same time encourage our students to develop social skills that have the capacity to build bridges and open opportunities.
Given the central geographical position of Thessaloniki, the city is more committed than any other city within the European Union, to the development of the Balkans. It is a place that shares so much history and for the region to truly prosper, the future should be a shared one as well.