With the aim of cooperating on planning for history education approaches which empower young people to engage critically in today’s complex society, teachers, civil society groups, academics, diplomats and international organisations met in Belgrade on Friday 23 March, 2018 within the framework of Euroclio and the CDRSEE’s ePACT project.
The event not only launched the ePACT research report ‘Teachers on Learning’ and the report ‘Making Sense of the Past that Refuses to Pass’, but also brought together the relevant stakeholder to reflect on the various initiatives and achievements in the field of responsible history education in the Western Balkans and to suggest a regional strategy for future work on regional cooperation.
The roundtable of stakeholders was organised by Euroclio within the framework of ePACT, an education partnership for advocacy, capacity-building and transformation in the formal schooling system of the countries of Western Balkans, implemented by the CDRSEE in partnership with Euroclio.
Representatives from more than 20 associations, NGOs, diplomatic missions and educational institutions attended the dialogue on the achievements, challenges and opportunities of regional cooperation of civil society initiatives, moderated by Jonathan Even-Zohar, Director of Euroclio.
Ms Snjezana Koren, Professor of the University of Zagreb and Member of the JHP History Education Committee, presented her report on ‘Making Sense of the Past that Refuses to Pass’. She highlighted in her presentation that "the role of history teachers is not just to teach about the past and its topics. It is vital for fostering social engagement for the present".
The CDRSEE, represented by Development Officer Ms Ruth Sutton, contributed to the discussion by presenting the achievements of the long-standing, multi-national initiative, the Joint History Project, a successful programme that has been fostering the emergence of critically thinking, socially active citizens through multi-perspective history education. Ms Sutton discussed the need to support teachers in utilising multi-perspective, participative and critical thinking methodologies. Echoing Professor Koren’s sentiments, she further emphasised that the JHP is a vital ‘tool’ in not only understanding the past, but also in building abilities in students that will effectively assist them in recognising fake news, media manipulation, propaganda and in democratic, respectful discussion; all essential skills in today’s complex social environment.
The stakeholders all agreed that despite significant progress in the field of education, history teachers in the area of Southeast Europe, to a large extent, lack the proper tools, resources and support to respond to the challenges raised by the dominant one-dimensional historical narratives, designed to indoctrinate and manipulate rather than promote a student-centred, democratic, multi-perspectival approach to historical knowledge.
Moreover, they all discussed ideas and made recommendations on how civil society organisations can work together and with the EU delegations to improve the quality and raise the impact of the projects implemented in their areas of action.