History textbooks - political minefield or path to peace?

© UNESCO/Roger Dominique

Creating identities for a joint history project in the Balkans; developing Japan-South Korea joint history education materials; and reviewing French-German and German-Polish history textbook projects will be among the activities at a multilateral dialogue on history education (Tokyo, Japan, 22 to 23 October).

The event is organized by the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research, UNESCO’s partner in textbook development projects.

School textbooks and teaching materials are central to the construction of national and central identity. They can both trigger or become the subject of deep ethnic, political, cultural or religious conflicts or social crises. However, textbooks can also contribute to preventing or overcoming conflict (as underlined in UNESCO’s 2011 EFA Global Monitoring Report). Their role has achieved a new status with the challenge of globalization, the Internet, worldwide migration and the emergence of multi-ethnic societies. 

The workshop aims to introduce, compare, and evaluate bi-national and multilateral textbook activities in the different contexts of East Asia, Europe, and the Middle East; discuss the challenge of implementing textbooks in schools; ask whether regional common history textbooks can promote regional identity; and examine the controversial proposal of a common European/East Asia history textbook.  

UNESCO will present examples of its bi-national and multilateral textbook activities at the event. The Organization has always acknowledged the key role played by textbooks and teaching materials in peace education and the promotion of international understanding and has been engaged with textbooks since its foundation in 1946. Its seminal Comprehensive Strategy for Textbooks and Learning Materials (2005) sets out concrete methods and aims for new projects. The Organization will contribute to discussions about future joint textbook initiatives and the need for an international handbook on textbook revision.

Partner organizations hosting or organizing the workshop are Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Tokyo Office; Northeast Asia History Foundation (Korea); Peace Boat; Children and Textbooks Network 21; History Educationalist Conference of Japan; and the China-Japan-Korea Common History Committee.

Related Links

Programme and Concept note

UNESCO’s textbooks website

UNESCO’s Comprehensive Strategy for Textbooks and Learning Materials

2011 EFA Global Monitoring Report

Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research

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