The selective way in which countries cover the Holocaust in learning materials


by Peter Carrier, Georg Eckert Institute

One of the most striking aspects of education about the Holocaust is that no country is alike. Even when two countries stipulate simply ‘the Holocaust’ in their national curricula, the event is invariably contextualised in idiosyncratic ways. England, for example, stipulates that the Holocaust be taught in the context of the Second World War, while the curriculum of Mexico demands that it be taught in the context of lessons about human rights violations. Some countries place the Holocaust squarely in the centre of the history of the twentieth century, while others place it within European history or do not mention it at all. In short, among the 195 officially recognised countries in the world, curricula stipulate at least 135 different versions of the Holocaust.

Representations of the Holocaust in history textbooks are more complex than those found in curricula. The UNESCO report International Status of Education about the Holocaust – A Global Mapping of Textbooks (2015) documents the narratives of the Holocaust in eighty-nine textbooks published in twenty-six countries since 2000. The findings show that there are broadly shared patterns by which the Holocaust is represented – patterns which convey recurrent geographical boundaries and time spans, protagonists, interpretative patterns, narrative techniques and pedagogical methods. However, all countries demonstrate narrative idiosyncracies by emphasising selective information and the local significance of the event, or by appropriating it in the interests of local populations. Continue reading

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Gender Equality in Post-Genocide Rwanda


This blog looks at the positive example Rwanda sets in promoting gender equality through its textbooks. It is part of a series of blogs on this site published to encourage debates around a new GEM Report Policy Paper: Between the Lines, which looks at the content of textbooks and how it reflects some of the key concepts in Target 4.7 in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

by S. Garnett Russell, Assistant Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and Director of the George Clement Bond Center for African Education

In 1994, Rwanda experienced one of the worst genocides in history. In just 100 days, more than 800,000 Rwandans were killed and roughly 350,000 women were raped. Today, Rwanda is held up as a paradigm for countries hoping to achieve gender equality in a post-conflict context. This blog highlights some of the work the country has done in pushing equal rights for men and women in its laws, policies, and through its education system via textbooks. It also shows, however, that deeply embedded views about gender norms will take time to change. Continue reading

Posted in Africa, Developing countries, Equality, Gender, Learning, textbooks, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Let’s decide how to monitor school-related violence

1Today, a large symposium is opening in South Korea on School Violence and Bullying: From Evidence to Action, with more than 250 participants from 70 countries coming together to discuss how to combat the issue.

A new Global Status Report on School Violence and Bullying is being released this morning by UNESCO and the Institute of School Violence Prevention at Ewha Womans University. It compiles data from 19 low and middle-income countries and found that 34 % of students aged 11–13 reported being bullied in the previous month, with 8% reporting daily bullying.

These are shocking findings. They sit alongside many other similar findings, which give us snapshots of school-related violence in different countries, and regions, and confirm that bullying and school-related violence are issues we all need to pay more attention to. But, as our new paper, released in time for this Symposium shows, these disparate findings, taken from various cross-national and national surveys can almost never be compared one with the other. From the perspective of a monitoring body aiming to look at the global prevalence of the issue, and help inform policy makers with those findings, this measurement issue needs addressing. Continue reading

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How can education help us rethink what we mean by prosperity?

cover-pageWe need to reconceive what it means to prosper. The current prosperity enjoyed by pockets of people across the world has had a devastating impact on our natural environment and left too many people behind. Education is often held up as the panacea for poverty, and while there is little doubt that education increases income, reduces poverty and contributes to economic growth, there is an urgent need for us to rethink how we educate ourselves in order for our economies to become more sustainable and inclusive.

Our publication, Partnering for prosperity: Education for green and inclusive growth, launched today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, describes the transformative role that education and lifelong learning can play in fostering green growth. Education can help make production and consumption sustainable, provide green skills for current and emergent industries, and orient higher education and research towards green innovation. At the same time, as the economy becomes greener, it must also become more inclusive. Prosperity must be conceived in ways that leave no one behind. Closer integration of education, economic and employment policies are essential for that change to happen. Continue reading

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We must stamp out stereotypical teaching tools

Gender bias in textbooks is one of the best camouflaged and hardest to budge rocks in the road to gender equality in education. Through stereotypical and unbalanced depictions of men and women in stories and illustrations, textbooks undermine values and attitudes conducive to gender equality and empowerment, a cornerstone in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

card-2Our latest policy paper, about which we’ve been running an extensive blog series over recent weeks, has taken a detailed look at the content of textbooks. This week we will be focusing on the way they cover gender issues and women’s rights, in order to help feed into an online WikiGender discussion with OECD and UNESCO. Partners for the discussion include UNGEI (United Nations Girls Education Initiative), FAWE (Forum for African Women Educationalists), GPE (Global Partnership for Education) and the Council of Europe. Join us online this week via the website, or tune into the Google Hangout this Friday at 3pm CET. It is lined up to be a vibrant discussion. Continue reading

Posted in Equality, Equity, Gender, Learning, textbooks, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Global health funds have done a lot of good. Is there room for a “global fund” for books?

By Paul Wilson, Assistant Professor of Clinical Population and Family Health at Columbia University.

Books, especially textbooks, are critical to learning, as we have been reading in the latest blog series on this site, but they are in grievously short supply in many developing country classrooms. Results for Development (R4D) recently released a report, on which I advised, exploring the feasibility of a “Global Book Alliance” that would focus attention, expertise and resources on this crucial obstacle to effective education.

Much of our inspiration came from the success of global funds in health, which have transformed donor assistance in many areas. In our Report – and this blog – we carry on the questions explored in the policy paper released by the GEM Report at the start of last year: Could a new alliance do the same for books? Continue reading

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What American textbooks say about Vietnam, and about Americans’ attitudes toward war


This blog examines what a country’s textbooks can tell us about their attitude towards war, and in particular how coverage of the Vietnam war has changed over time in American textbooks. It is part of a series of blogs on this site published to encourage debates around a new GEM Report Policy Paper: Between the Lines, which looks at the content of textbooks and how it reflects some of the key concepts in Target 4.7 in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

By Richard Lachmann, Professor of Sociology, University at Albany

Textbooks are opportunities for governments to instill patriotic values in school children. Such values are especially important if a government wants its citizens to support future wars. Governments that seek to convince their soldiers to fight, kill and die in wars need to present past wars as glorious and honorable and minimize the wartime suffering of the country’s soldiers. However, textbooks, deliberately or inadvertently, can also open space for ‘critical pedagogy’ that undercuts militarism by presenting the human costs of war for soldiers and civilians.

Textbooks are especially influential in shaping US students’ opinions on war. This is because American high school teachers, unlike their counterparts in Europe and Asia, are not trained in history, having majored in education or social science disciplines, like sociology or psychology. Thus, the decisions made by US textbook authors and publishers are decisive in determining what students learn about America’s wars.

Publishers in the US, as elsewhere, want to sell as many books as possible and therefore seek to avoid offending the often-conservative state and local school boards that select textbooks. This leads to fairly bland volumes that say little about controversial topics like the Vietnam War, or that muddle any contentious message with multiple points of view. Nevertheless, even as publishers try to evade controversy, textbook authors, as they select words and images, make editorial choices that shape how students view specific wars and influence their stance toward the military and war in general. Continue reading

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