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Making History Work for Tolerance:
main findings from Latvia
Linda Curika,
Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS
Brussels, 31.01.2014
Legislation
• One Standart for teaching History for all schoola
• Teachers have creative freedom
• Since the end of the transition period in school
year 2012/2013 Latvian and World History in
basic education are taught as two separate
subjects
• One of the objectives of the subject „History of
Latvia” is to promote the sense of affiliation to
the Latvian State and patriotism.
Schools and teachers
• Teacher from minority school in interview:
– «We teach history bilingually, according to state standards. But students in my
school say they would like to study more about world history, to have a
broader look on what is happening in the world. For example, to understand
what is currently happening in Arab countries. From my opinion, history of
Latvia is being taught too much during 3 years...»
• Teacher in interview:
– «Students now have a better knowledge about Latvian history, but they cannot
connect events in Latvia and in the World history. Their knowledge about
World history is worse than it used to be. Now students do not have a feeling
that history – it is a connected process.»
• In public discourse it is possible to find stories about teachers from
minority schools, who use history textbooks, which have been printed in
Russian federation. Those teachers are shamed on press and National
television for bringing the “wrong version of history into schools”.
Students
• Students do not recognize how history teaching
could be connected to Tolerance
• Students: „history textbooks just give us
uninteresting facts, that are boring”.
• Students sometimes hear different stories about
history at home
• Student in interview:
– «History is boring and it is just another subject that is
based on learning facts. For me the hardest part is
remembering correct dates, I would really need some
help with that.»
Political discourse
• Pressure on patriotic upbringing, not tolerance and
inclusion, quotes that divide society into “us” and
“them” and depict “otherness” as something bad for
society can be seen throughout everyday political
discourse.
– «I am happy that ministry of Culture has agreed to national
union and that there is a certain guarantee, that these
Latvian values, Latvian identity will be made a priority and
that “Unity”’s previous ministers, let’s call them, genetic
attempts with slogan “You do not need to be born a
Latvian, you can become one!”… this fake continuation of
latvianism maybe will now be re-evaluated.» (I.Cepane,
coalition party Vienotiba, speech in parliament)
Recomendations
• Raise awareness about cultural diversity in the society and to
increase understanding about diverse cultural legacies
• To maintain good knowledge of the cultural history of the
world’s other regions and civilisations in the general context
of globalisation whilst simultaneously maintaining an
appropriate focus on national history through teaching it as a
separate subject
• Encourage and increase cooperation by all the stakeholders
and institutions that assist in the teaching of history and
foster development of joint projects, initiatives, events and
reflection
Thank you for your attention!
Linda Curika
linda.curika@providus.lv
www.providus.lv

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Noziedzīgu nodarījumu prevencija, kā kriminālsoda mērķis

  • 1. Making History Work for Tolerance: main findings from Latvia Linda Curika, Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS Brussels, 31.01.2014
  • 2. Legislation • One Standart for teaching History for all schoola • Teachers have creative freedom • Since the end of the transition period in school year 2012/2013 Latvian and World History in basic education are taught as two separate subjects • One of the objectives of the subject „History of Latvia” is to promote the sense of affiliation to the Latvian State and patriotism.
  • 3. Schools and teachers • Teacher from minority school in interview: – «We teach history bilingually, according to state standards. But students in my school say they would like to study more about world history, to have a broader look on what is happening in the world. For example, to understand what is currently happening in Arab countries. From my opinion, history of Latvia is being taught too much during 3 years...» • Teacher in interview: – «Students now have a better knowledge about Latvian history, but they cannot connect events in Latvia and in the World history. Their knowledge about World history is worse than it used to be. Now students do not have a feeling that history – it is a connected process.» • In public discourse it is possible to find stories about teachers from minority schools, who use history textbooks, which have been printed in Russian federation. Those teachers are shamed on press and National television for bringing the “wrong version of history into schools”.
  • 4. Students • Students do not recognize how history teaching could be connected to Tolerance • Students: „history textbooks just give us uninteresting facts, that are boring”. • Students sometimes hear different stories about history at home • Student in interview: – «History is boring and it is just another subject that is based on learning facts. For me the hardest part is remembering correct dates, I would really need some help with that.»
  • 5. Political discourse • Pressure on patriotic upbringing, not tolerance and inclusion, quotes that divide society into “us” and “them” and depict “otherness” as something bad for society can be seen throughout everyday political discourse. – «I am happy that ministry of Culture has agreed to national union and that there is a certain guarantee, that these Latvian values, Latvian identity will be made a priority and that “Unity”’s previous ministers, let’s call them, genetic attempts with slogan “You do not need to be born a Latvian, you can become one!”… this fake continuation of latvianism maybe will now be re-evaluated.» (I.Cepane, coalition party Vienotiba, speech in parliament)
  • 6. Recomendations • Raise awareness about cultural diversity in the society and to increase understanding about diverse cultural legacies • To maintain good knowledge of the cultural history of the world’s other regions and civilisations in the general context of globalisation whilst simultaneously maintaining an appropriate focus on national history through teaching it as a separate subject • Encourage and increase cooperation by all the stakeholders and institutions that assist in the teaching of history and foster development of joint projects, initiatives, events and reflection
  • 7. Thank you for your attention! Linda Curika linda.curika@providus.lv www.providus.lv

Editor's Notes

  1. In 2010 in Latvia, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted legislation that divided history teaching into two subjects in primary schools, which was a change promoted by nationalistic politicians. Main aim of this legislation was to use history as a tool for patriotic upbringing in Latvian schools. Students’ knowledge on history events and dates is frequently tested by the media, so teachers constantly feel pressurized to address this demand. Although teachers in Latvia have creative freedom to use materials and methods they find appropriate, it is obvious that they feel pressured by the media to teach according to the political agenda, which can be subject to change.
  2. history teaching in different schools taught by different teachers will be different. It might teach tolerance, it might teach being hateful towards „others” as well. Even though textbooks lately have tried to include stories of all nationalities living in Latvia, teachers can still stress out specific struggles of Latvians or specific wrongdoing of „others”. There will be teachers who will teach patriotism, there will be teachers, who will not be able to teach it.
  3. For the context of this policy brief, it is crucial to take into consideration that the unique historical narratives of the region are still very much present in the current day Latvia and provides a significant backdrop against which many of the decisions are made. However, many of the more controversial and xenophobic/intolerant views are not voiced out loudly in the public sphere and are instead reserved for private conversation in families and in some cases, schools as well. Since direct, aggressive xenophobic discourse surfaces rarely, media content and discourse analysis is not particularly helpful for this type of analysis, as it does not fully describe the situation in the country. At the same time, political discourse can in certain cases be useful in this regard as it serves as a reflection of the ‘general will’, so to speak.