Council of Europe Brings History Education Policy Makers and Practitioners in Belgrade for Final Regional Seminar

On 4-5 October, the Council of Europe History Teaching Unit, with support of the Ministry of Education of Serbia and the University of Belgrade held its fourth and final regional seminar in the inter-governmental project "Educating for Diversity and Democracy. Quality History Education in the 21st Century” which seeks to identify effective practice through four regional seminars where practitioners and policy makers are brought together, and the production of guidelines on quality history education for a diverse set of audiences.

The seminar followed the same programme as the preceding regional seminars which were held in Estonia, Greece  and The Netherlands.

The seminar stimulated active work and discussions and brought together many experienced and knowledgeable individuals, in most cases active with or representing EuroClio member organisations.

EuroClio is very glad that the Council of Europe continues to advance the specificity of history education on the inter-governmental level. EuroClio Director Jonathan Even-Zohar remains engaged in the consultancy group and will report on the 2nd stage of the project (2018-2019) in which the group will work further to draft, pilot and put toward the Council of Ministers an intergovernmental recommendation which will help future work across the continent on Quality History Education.

Seminar on “The Role of NGOs in Remembrance of the Holocaust”

The Council of Europe – within the context of the program “Remembrance of the Holocaust and Prevention of Crimes Against Humanity” –  has organised a seminar along with the Polish Ministry of Education, the Krakow pedagogical University and the Auschwitz-Birkenau International Centre which looks at “the Role of NGOs in the Remembrance of the Holocaust“.

The event will explore the responsibility of the NGO community to ensure public memory of the Holocaust is kept alive in the absence of those who witnessed it directly. It aims to promote educational practices which target the remembrance of the Holocaust and the prevention of crimes against humanity, and will look more generally at the role of NGOs in facilitating the trans-generational transmission of memory.

Council of Europe – Learning to Live Together: a Shared Commitment to Democracy

EuroClio Partners

The Council of Europe has published the outcomes of a conference held in Strasbourg on the 20th-22nd of June this year, where over 400 representatives of governments, education institutions and civil society organisations debated the future of citizenship and human rights education in Europe. The discussion at the conference was based on an earlier report on the same topic, and the results of the conference are succinctly explained in a document outlining the Declaration, Key Actions and Expected Outcomes on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights, which is available to read online.


The role of NGOs and NGYOs in passing on the remembrance of the Holocaust and the prevention of crimes against humanity

EuroClio Partners

Sunday 22nd October to Saturday 28th October 2017 both in Krakow and in Oswiecim.

Training seminar in conjunction with the Auschwitz-Birkenau International Centre.

The passing of the last remaining survivors of this dark chapter in the history of Europe inevitably raises the
question of how we can ensure that remembrance of the Holocaust is kept alive in the absence of those who
witnessed it directly. We therefore need to increase the number of ways of passing on this remembrance.
This can be done by: developing a network of authentic places of remembrance of the Holocaust and of the
Resistance in Europe which have an educational or didactic dimension; ensuring that the Holocaust (including
the diversity of its victims and the role of anti-Semitism in Europe) is taught on school curricula; and continuing
to deepen awareness of history in general. These are challenges for all social stakeholders, including public
authorities and non-governmental organisations, from the local to the European level.

Consistently and over a number of years, the brunt of the struggle for remembrance has been borne by
community associations who refuse to let the historical experience of their community be forgotten or denied.
The purpose of this struggle has been to force states and public authorities to recognise their role in and their
responsibility for the genocide that occurred. In some European countries, this debate is still raw and difficult.
However, this issue, like many others, is integral to how we live together and to our common responsibility to
ensure inclusive societies. It is the future of our democracies that is at stake.

The seminar
In conjunction with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum’s International Centre for Education about
Auschwitz and the Holocaust, the seminar aims to:

  •  Ensure that representatives of NGOs (INGYOs, member associations of the NGO Liaison Committee,
    community organisations, etc.) have a solid, historical knowledge of the Holocaust, the history of
    Auschwitz-Birkenau and the diversity of its victims, including Roma. This will include a visit to the
    camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau and their various blocks;
  • Provide information on the Jewish presence and its traces in Krakow;
  • Promote educational practices relating to remembrance of the Holocaust and the prevention of
    crimes against humanity, particularly in informal educational contexts;
  • Reflect on the specific role of NGOs in passing on the remembrance of the Holocaust and the prevention
    of crimes against humanity, and, more generally, the passing down of knowledge to future generations.

A maximum of 35 voluntary sector leaders from:

  • Member associations of the NGO Liaison Committee
  • INGYOs, in conjunction with the youth sector
  • Community organisations

A maximum of five representatives from public bodies with an interest in the topic (less specifically in the
remembrance of the Holocaust than in the role of NGOs in passing it on) could also participate in the seminar.
The language of the seminar will be ENGLISH. The Council of Europe will cover the travel costs and boarding
and lodging.

European History Has a House! It’s a Free and Nuanced Museum in Brussels

On 5th of May, EuroClio Director Jonathan Even-Zohar, together with EuroClio Founder and Special Advisor Joke van der Leeuw-Roord and Honorary Board Member Prof. Dr. Maria Grever (Centre for Historical Culture, Erasmus University Rotterdam), had the pleasure to join a group of about 120 stakeholders, including representatives of the European Commission, Education and Heritage institutes from all over Europe, to visit the new House of European History one day before its opening to the public. After the visit, the EuroClio delegation was able to meet and reflect with colleagues and partners, including Mr Daniel Gaede (Memorial Site Buchenwald), Ms Elma Hasimbegovic (Museum of Bosnia-Herzegovina), Mr Sirok Kaja (Museum of Contemporary History, Slovenia) and also provide some feedback on the visit directly to the House's Director Ms Taja Vovk-van Gaal, and key educational staff Blandine Smilansky and Marti Grau Segu.

So, what did we see?

As we enter the beautiful building, a former dentistry practice in the park right behind the European Parliament, we are helped to get a special tablet. This device forms the core of the visit as all information on the rooms, objects and exhibits are available on this device, in all official EU languages. We are in the first place introduced to Europe. What is it? A continent? An idea? A civilization? These broad debates are left open, while the potential of glorifying it as a successful culture is soon challenges by several objects that illustrate essential experiences in European history, including slavery and genocide.

The detailed exhibition starts with the French and Industrial Revolutions, setting the scene for a world where nationalism, imperialism, globalisation and power in Europe are illustrative of a wider development. The First and Second World War are treated in a very sophisticated fashion, but not overwhelming the visitor with complex military history. Instead surprising collections of items from different countries (the first constitutions, flags of fascistic movements) are complemented with striking objects (the gun which young Gavrilo Princip used, the map used in the Paris Peace Conference to find where the borders between Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey should lie), and inspiring spaces for reflection on the trauma's of the past (such as the Holocaust room where darkness is only interrupted by careful lighting of every-day life objects of victims). The entangled history of imperialism of European nations, racist ideologies, financial crises and various shifts in world-order in the first half of the 20th century are exhibit in thought-provoking way, providing ample opportunity for nuance and discussion on various perspectives.

The era of "Europe" in the space for the world after the wars is accompanied by pillars which are key moments in the history of European cooperation, so-called Milestones, ranging from the The Hague Congress (Congress of Europe) to the Lisbon Treaty. But it is not at all set up as a propagandistic exercise in "EU is good for you"-way. Instead, it is presented as rather modest pillars amidst the whirlpool of contemporary history, including the cold war, decolonisations, the war in the former Yugoslavia, (economic and cultural) globalisation and the rising role of technology in everyday life.

At the end, there is a place that actively asks us to connect this past with the present. The Brexit-referendum voting paper is there. The ten meter long printed out corpus of EU legislation. The stories of refugees seeking to enter the EU. The place of history and memory itself in the building of the idea of a common European space. And more. So much more.

We have had only 2.5 hours time to take this all in. At best we got to really see a quarter of the exhibit.

So, it is perfect?

It cannot be underestimated just how much of an achievement it is that this (political) initiative actually made it. Of course it cost a lot of money, but the result is nothing short but monumental to the efforts of the professional level to demonstrate the complicated nature of Europe and its relation to the difficult past. The initiative’s leadership and staff have been able to navigate the minefield of doing transnational political and social history to such an extent that there seem to be (so far) no overtly negative responses on the content.

However, in our experience there are several points of attentions that could be addressed to improve the experience.

  • The tablet which visitors receive is a smart and intuitive way to offer the museums contents in all EU languages, but without any texts on the walls, or next to the objects, the actual act of visiting becomes rather individual (everybody just listens to their device and plays with their tablets), and difficult to actually ‘roam freely’, because one always needs to get more information through the tablet. Whereas it was a very nice experience to just walk into another room and have the audio adjust to my location, it was more difficult to stop and open specific objects in the exhibit on my tablet when I simply wanted to know two sentences about it. Perhaps there can be an agreement in the future that an English line or two here and there would decrease dependency on the tablet.
  • Connected to this, and in view of the richness of the exhibition (composed of over 3000 items), the tablet is challenging as well because by browsing to one object, one can discover suddenly an incredible 12 minute video, which would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Not many visitors are likely to go through the exhibition with the catalogue at hand, so these type of ‘hidden gems’ could perhaps in another way be brought forward  by hinting at their existence on the walls.
  • In terms of content, with the obvious reservation that in the short time of our visit we were not able to see it all, there does seem to be a focus on the political and military history. But, this does seem to be compensated well by temporary exhibits which highlight other (social, cultural) history.

The exhibition is available also in digital form here and the House of European History is open to the public free-of-charge.

Previous cooperation between EuroClio and the House of European History

Soon after the calling of the European Parliament in 2009 to work to establish a museum of Europe's History in Brussels, EuroClio was among several key organisations, including Council of Europe, Europa Nostra, European Cultural Foundation, Europeana, ICOM and Network of European Museum Organisations (NEMO), to be invited for partner consultation meetings.

It was at that stage already clear that the project had managed to get excellent professionals together, lead by Ms Taja Vovk-van Gaal, and since 2014, the educational work former EuroClio Senior Project Manager Blandine Smilansky was there, adapting gained insights from the EuroClio methodology to the House's educational materials.

In particular, EuroClio offered educational staff of the House of European History to run several piloting activities of educational materials at its professional development events, including a seminar in 2014 in San Sebastian, in 2015 in Tallinn and in 2016 in Belfast.

Future cooperation 

In the coming period it should become more clear what our two organisations can exactly do together, but it is evident that we will seek to organise learning opportunities for our members to come and visit the House of European History, reflect on the contents and seek to construct new and meaningful ways to support the House in taking into account transnational perspectives as well as the wider European dimension into the teaching and learning of history at schools.

EuroClio Supports Council of Europe Project on Quality History Education

In 2016-2017, the Council of Europe History Teaching Unit is implementing a new inter-governmental project entitled “Educating for Democracy and Diversity. Quality History Education for the 21st Century”. In this project four regional seminars are envisioned across Europe, aiming to collect examples of high quality in dealing with a variety of issues that can be seen as supportive of the role of history education in dealing with current challenges in Europe. These issues include topics like teaching sensitive and controversial history, diversity, history education in the digital age and the effective engagement of young people.

The Council of Europe organised the first regional seminar in Tallinn, Estonia, hosted at the occasion of the Estonian Chairmanship of the Council of Europe and in close cooperation with the University of Tallinn. EuroClio Ambassadors Mare Oja and Benny Christensen were part of the local team, as EuroClio Ambassador and former President Dean Smart and EuroClio Director Jonathan Even-Zohar were there to support in reporting and moderating various session. The overall reporting was done by Council of Europe expert Luisa Black, supported by colleagues John Hamer and Brian Carvell.

The seminar was a great opportunity for discussion and networking, among policy makers and expert practitioners and representatives of history teachers associations from the wider North of Europe. EuroClio is very glad at the opportunity to collaborate closely with the Council of Europe in this project. The next regional meeting will be in Greece in October.

Council of Europe

Piloting Descriptors of Competences for Democratic Culture

EuroClio Partners ,

Teachers in Europe working with learners from 9/10 years old up to higher education have the possibility to contribute to the piloting of the descriptors of competence for democratic culture in the framework of a Council of Europe project, endorsed by the ministers of education.

The piloting requires a preparation which can be done through an online course with the estimated duration of 5-6 hours and implies the organisation of educational activities, observation and filling-in an online questionnaire. Access to the online questionnaires and to the additional materials needed for the piloting is allowed only to teachers having attended a face to face workshop or the online course. The online course is open from June 2016 and can be followed by interested teachers at any time until the end of October 2016. Details are available at

The model of competences for democratic culture

The Council of Europe developed a model of competences that an individual needs in order to act as a responsible democratic citizen in culturally diverse societies. The model, developed by the project on “Competences for Democratic Culture” (CDC) consists of 3 sets of values, 6 attitudes, 8 skills, and 3 bodies of knowledge and critical understanding. These 20 competences are listed in the following diagram. Education which aims to prepare children and young people for their future lives as active democratic citizens needs to foster the development of these 20 competences.

Competences for Democratic culture


 How were the 20 competences identified?

Over 100 existing schemes of democratic and intercultural competence that have been proposed by academic researchers, national institutions and international organisations were audited and analysed. The CDC working group established by the Council of Europe identified the common core competences contained across all of these schemes. A draft document describing the model resulted was circulated in an international consultation involving academic experts, educational practitioners, educational policymakers, and experts nominated by the education ministries of Council of Europe member states. The responses received in the consultation strongly endorsed the contents of the model.

What are competence descriptors?

Descriptors are short statements of what a person is able to do if they have mastered a particular competence. They provide clear and explicit descriptions of the behaviours that are associated with the mastery of that competence. Some concrete examples are provided below.

Descriptors for civic-mindedness include:

  • Takes action to stay informed about civic issues
  • Collaborates with other people for common interest causes
  • Expresses the belief that helping other people is something that everyone should do

Descriptors for analytical and critical thinking skills include:

  • Can analyse materials in a logical or systematic manner
  • Uses evidence to support his/her opinions
  • Can make evaluations on the basis of evidence and experience

Descriptors for knowledge and critical understanding of the media include:

  • Can reflect critically on how the mass media are commodities that involve producers and consumers
  • Can explain what propaganda is
  • Can reflect critically on the effects of media content on individuals’ judgements and behaviours

All of the descriptors in the CDC framework are formulated using the language of learning outcomes. The current set of descriptors submitted to piloting have been validated through teachers’ ratings in an international survey involving 1236 teachers in 53 countries. Overall, there are 559 descriptors submitted to piloting but an individual teacher will only focus on a limited number of them.

Apply now for “Democracy at School” Summer Academy in Poland

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In the summer of 2016 a new Regional Summer Academy Democracy at School is organised by the Council of Europe, the Polish Ministry of National Education, the Centre for Education Development Poland and the European Wergeland Centre, and  the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This year the training is located in Sulejowek/Warsaw, Poland and the deadline to apply  is Friday 18 March.

This training programme is dedicated to building a democratic and inclusive culture in schools in the Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine), Poland and Russia through strengthening the competences of education professionals and community actors.

It is a great opportunity for school heads, teachers, civil society organisations, teacher training institutions and parents’ representatives to learn practical tools and strategies on how to create a more inclusive school environment.

For more information, check the website or see the flyer below.

Launch of Interactive Website “Nicosia: The story of a shared and contested city”

On 15 January 2016 the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR), a EuroClio member organization, presented to the public a new interactive website containing the findings of a three-year-long research project, undertaken by the AHDR with funding from Norway Grants 2009-2014, in partnership with the Council of Europe, in the context of the project “Home for Cooperation”. This unique and innovative website aims at gathering together  information on the most significant landmarks of Nicosia, as well as a collection of short personal stories and public scandals that took place in Cyprus’s capital during the period 1878-1974.

The launch of the website took place at a public event at the Home for Cooperation (H4C) in Nicosia where representatives of the main communities of Cyprus were invited to share thoughts and hopes on how this project could contribute to acknowledging and preserving the common heritage of the island.

The night closed with a Question & Answer session. The research team of the ‘Nicosia: The story of a shared and contested city’ project are currently looking into ways to expand the research, including also aspects on the less known social and cultural communities of Nicosia. Also, they invite the public to contribute to the project, by sharing ideas, stories, information and audio-visual material about the history of the capital, in order to help the project evolve. As Mr Lyritsas, member of the research team, said “we see this project as an opportunity for historiography to become a bottom up, collective process that will help all of us to reflect on our common past, present and future.”

The website is currently available on in English, with the Greek and Turkish versions due to be released soon.

Online Now: Council of Europe Pestalozzi Training Programme 2016

The PESTALOZZI Programme , the Council of Europe’s programme for the professional development of teachers and education actors has published their programme for 2016. With 25 new events and activities for the coming year, the programme certainly has a lot to offer. The programme starts with a European workshop in Romania “Tolerance and respect for European values: For an intercultural Europe” at the end of March and runs through to November with the European workshop “Active learning strategies for the development of functional literacy” which takes place in Belarus, with many other workshops, national events, summer schools and trainer training courses in between. Please find an overview of activities in 2016 here.