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History Education

History Education in the Context of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and its Resolution and History Education in the Context of Georgian-South-Ossetian Relations

The “History Education in the Context of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and its Resolution” and “History Education in the Context of Georgian-South-Ossetian Relations” have been designed to contribute to an evolution of the ideological, exclusivist, and conflict-promoting approaches to history education and encourage the adoption of more modern conflict-sensitive and inclusive approaches among historians and history educators in the South Caucasus.

The Azerbaijani and Armenian historians, educators, and social scientists met with German and other historians, discussed current approaches to history education and historiography in conflict-affected areas and the corresponding European and American experience and started developing common principles to address the present problems. Following the workshop in Berlin, the Armenian and Azerbaijani Working Groups commenced parallel work on co-authoring a Methodological Manual on principles of historiography and history education – “Challenges and Prospects of History Education and Textbook Development in the South Caucasus”. The Manual was translated into all the relevant languages, followed by its publishing in all the languages and dissemination among professionals locally. Upon returning home the Armenian and Azerbaijani Working Groups held local meetings sharing the contents and results of the meeting with their colleagues as well as initiating discussions with other historians and educators with whom they come into contact in their professional settings. Next, the Working Groups started working on the approaches and methods of writing the Supplemental History Lessons. Keeping the Methodological Manual as the guiding instrument, the Working Groups authored each lesson with appropriate content and context, methods, activities, materials and assignments. The Working Groups also held small local workshops for history teachers. The lessons were piloted both in Armenian and Azerbaijani schools. An increased number of teachers have been reaching out to us requesting access to the Manual and the Lessons, to use them in their classrooms.

Georgian and South Ossetian educators went through joint professional development seminars in Tbilisi and in Kiev in October 2013, followed by coordination and agreement on Principles of Historiography and History Education. This was followed by co-authoring of a Methodological Manual on these principles – “Challenges and Prospects of History Education and Textbook Development in the South Caucasus”. The Manual was translated into all the relevant languages, followed by its publishing in all the languages and dissemination among professionals locally. After the second and third rounds of workshops held in March 2014 and June 2014 in Istanbul, the specialist involved in the program produced Pilot History Lessons through mutual feedback and editing followed by their piloting in schools.

In order to build a regional network of historians and history educators who are ready to support each other’s networks in advancing history education reform in the entire South Caucasus, the Imagine Center facilitated contacts and coordination between the Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian, and South Ossetian Working Groups of the two projects. This has allowed for the creation of a platform for exchange of experience, flow of ideas, an increased sense of professional solidarity, and prospects for future collaboration.

The project gave an opportunity for these specialists to meet and collaborate with colleagues from the “other” side. As one of the historians noted, “The meeting with our colleagues with whom we do not have many chances to meet has been really important. We communicate over email; but personal communication, reacting to the person’s words looking in the eyes is, of course, much better.” Apart from direct contacts, the project has also reached out to extended groups of historians and educators locally – through roundtables and workshops led by the project participants for colleagues at universities and schools, bringing into the conversation new and conflict sensitive approaches to history and history education. Finally, the project has impacted students with whom the History Lessons have been piloted and who have had lessons with alternative approaches and an opportunity to assess these lessons.

Politics of Memory and Forgetting in History Textbooks: Network Building for Historians and History Educators in the Context of Armenia-Turkey Relations

In 2017-2019 the Imagine Center joined forces with the History Foundation and the Imagine Center in cooperation with the Center for Sociology and Education Studies (SEÇBİR) of Istanbul Bilgi University and the Yerevan-based Association of Young Historians to implement a project titled: “Politics of Memory and Forgetting in History Textbooks: Network Building for Historians and History Educators in the Context of Armenia-Turkey Relations”. The project was supported by the European Union through the Program “Support to the Armenia-Turkey Normalization Process: Stage Two”.

In the framework of the project, the partner organizations created a network of history educators, historians as well as other social scientists, and conflict transformation practitioners from Turkey and Armenia. The network members collaborated on the production of two publications. The first is titled “History Education in Schools in Turkey and Armenia: A Critique and Alternatives” that can be found here.

The publication analyzed the history education in Armenia and Turkey including the legacy of the previous generations of textbooks, recent education and textbook reforms, the current history curricula and teaching methodologies, the politics of textbook development and the narratives of the history textbooks. It is argued that the narratives based on historicism, essentialism, nationalism, sexism, militarism with limited perspectives dominate the history textbooks in Armenia and Turkey. Based on this critique, the second part of the publication offered the following alternative principles for an inclusive and peace-oriented history education:

  • re-politicizing education empowering students to question the reproduction of the existing order and relations of power, acknowledge conflict and contestation, and allow room for dissent and the imagination of possibilities for change;
  • de-ideologizing education stripping it of ideologies;
  • overcoming the omniscient single voice in favor of multiple voices and perspectives both

in the textbooks and in the classrooms; increasing tolerance within educational communities towards incoherence, discontinuities, contradiction, and ambiguity in historical accounts; presenting history with discontinuities and complexity rather than in a linear, thin, progressive, and coherent narrative;

  • taking a critical stance towards nationalism – a political ideology – as solely one of the competing worldviews in a pluralist competition;
  • addressing militarism in education paying more attention to the human costs of wars, war avoiders or other types of dissenting voices, and promoting a general social history going beyond the framework of military history;
  • moving away from essentialism;
  • equipping students with skills and competencies to decipher, understand, and engage in a conscious and critical application of terms of time and space; encouraging a type of history education that is more inclusive, embracing of differences, and sensitive to possible patterns of discrimination;
  • finding the proper balance between going into the depth of a single case and contextualization;
  • breaking away with the textbook authority in general and redesigning textbooks to be collections of sources and guides in navigating these sources;
  • encouraging students to question texts and understand the motivation behind and the implications of the language that they use;
  • rethinking political history to incorporate modernization histories and histories of institutions during the phase of modernization; reformulating history in a less state- centric manner including marginalized, invisible, and silenced groups; including feminist histories into the curriculum;
  • incorporating local histories into the curriculum.

The second publication produced in 2019 represents teaching modules on the topics of “The Role of Media in the Nation-Building”, “Social Movements”, and “Women’s Movements and Feminisms in the 19th and 20th Centuries”. The modules can be found here.

Each module is developed by teachers from Armenia and Turkey, an academic consultant and an editor. Each module includes lessons, notes to teachers, activities, comprehension questions, information and bibliography. The modules can be used as a whole or particular lessons or activities can be chosen for teaching activities.

The modules are the first products of a cross-border cooperation between Armenia and Turkey to develop alternative education materials by testing different methodologies. They were aimed to pilot alternative approaches and methods to the history education. The project partners – the Imagine Center and History Foundation – will continue to collaborate in an effort to build the professional capacity in both Turkey and Armenia in contemporary and alternative methods of historiography and history teaching that incorporates alternative narratives and oral histories, promotes critical thinking and multiperspectivity, and uses interactive, student-centered and discussion-based teaching methods.