Creating an Observatory on History Teaching in Europe (12 November 2019)

As Chair of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers (17 May - 27 November), France and its partners have proposed creating an Observatory on History Teaching in Europe. The Observatory project will be introduced during the “Teaching History, Teaching Peace: Confronting and Reconciling Memories in Europe” event, organized on 12 November as part of the Paris Peace Forum, with the participation of the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Minister for National Education and Youth and the Minister of State for European Affairs.

Teaching history, teaching peace

The European Cultural Convention, concluded 65 years ago, stated that development and mutual understanding among the peoples of Europe would help move towards closer union between the members of the Council of Europe in order to safeguard and promote the ideals and principles that form their common heritage. To this end, exchanges and cooperation between Europeans as regards history teaching play a major role.

Curricula and teaching methods vary widely between countries and dialogue should be established between them, sometimes they should be compared, to form well-balanced citizens with critical judgment who can play a full role in society.

In the 20th century, a skewed vision of history fuelled by warmongering contributed to the rise of nationalism and the worst wars our continent had ever seen. Today, all over Europe, we see the re-emergence of racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic speech, especially online. The European project, expected to encourage reconciliation among peoples, has been weakened. European history is part of a shared heritage: it should unite rather than divide.

Discussing the past and exchanging points of view are powerful tools for peace and bringing peoples together.

An Observatory on History Teaching for a reconciled Europe

It is to address these concerns that France and its partners have proposed creating an Observatory on History Teaching in Europe. The Observatory will take the form of an Enlarged Partial Agreement of the Council of Europe, a type of specific cooperation within the organization enabling all States which so wish, and all relevant international organizations, to join this initiative.

The Observatory does not seek to impose a single vision of history but rather to give a neutral, objective appraisal of history teaching in schools throughout Europe and enable dialogue between specialists and curriculum managers on the issue. The Observatory’s work will aim to encourage debate and to share and disseminate best practice for history teaching. This initiative will help form a collective European consciousness.

States will be invited to show their support for this project at the Education Ministers’ Meeting which France will hold in Paris on 26 November. France has made a special contribution of €200,000 to the budget of the European Council in order to finance the project’s launch phase.

The Observatory project will be introduced during the “Teaching History, Teaching Peace: Confronting and Reconciling Memories in Europe” event, organized on 12 November as part of the Paris Peace Forum, with the participation of the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Minister for National Education and Youth and the Minister of State for European Affairs.