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.
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.