CENTER FOR DEMOCRACY AND RECONCILIATION IN SOUTHEAST EUROPE

News

04Apr

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.

02Mar

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.

22Feb

18-20 February 2011: History Teacher Training in Zlatibor

Highslide JS
History Teacher Training in Zlatibor
 
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.

10Jan

The CDRSEE in 2011

In 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.
25Nov

20/21 November 2010: CDRSEE Hosts International Conference, Thessaloniki


“The Interface between Multi-Perspective History Teaching and Politics”
by Costa Carras, CDRSEE Board Member, Rapporteur for the JHP
download pdf file, 85 kb
 
"History education and enlargement" by Ana Yturriaga Saldanha, DG Enlargement, European Commission
download the pdf file, 23 kb
 
To review the press clippings of the event, please click here.

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.

20Nov

12-14 November 2010: History Teacher Training in Subotica

With the seminar in Subotica the CDRSEE reached out to Vojvodina and closed the cycle of seminars for 2010. Following the positive experiences and large interest in the project, however, the series of seminars will continue next year with the first seminar in 2011 planned to be held in Uzice. In 2010, the CDRSEE was able to spark enthusiasm amongst teachers and also amongst the general public. In Subotica 34 teachers from the city and surrounding municipalities participated in the training and the event was covered by the local media.

The training sessions are guided by history teachers that were trained by the CDRSEE in modern methodologies and use of multi-perspective materials, and are supervised by historians. In Subotica, the academic head of the seminar was Prof. Dr. Dubravka Stojanovic, a renown historian, who has been with the project from day one.

The seminars rely on the original historical sources in the four Joint History workbooks (The Ottoman Empire, Nation and States, The Balkan Wars and World War II), that provide the material to teachers for preparing model lessons that steer history teaching away from simply memorising dates and facts, and towards offering students the possibility to participate, research and argue their views.

The most popular topic in workshops has proven to be discussions around how national identities are formed and expressed in various ways such as symbols, hymns and flags. Defining your own national identity was especially interesting for participants in Vojvodina, the most diverse part of Serbia, characterised by a long experience in co-exsistence of various minorities.