On November 30, the Council of Europe published the Observatory on History Teaching in Europe / OHTE General Report on the State of History Teaching in Europe. The report, the first of its kind, summarizes the trends in history teaching in 17 OHTE member countries, including Georgia.
The report covers topics such as formal aspects of the curriculum and teaching practices; challenges faced by educators; the place of history in education systems; textbooks and other educational resources; classroom dynamics; learning outcomes and student assessment.
The event held at the Council of Europe to launch the report underlined the importance of history education in preventing the recurrence of violent conflicts in Europe. The way history is taught matters, was the message. It was also noted that history teachings are relevant when considering how the manipulation of history can be used to undermine democracy and democratic institutions or to justify aggression, particularly in the context of the ongoing Russia’s war against Ukraine.
It was noted during the presentation that all data from OHTE members were provided by the education authorities and further processed and analyzed by the independent external experts. It was also noted that future reports would be more in-depth.
The report’s 15 key findings show that history is taught from primary school onwards and that in most states history lessons include teaching about minorities, but fewer than half explicitly mention the European dimension.
According to the report, textbooks, teachers’ notes, and web-based historical content approved by the education authorities remain the most frequently used educational resources, with the least used being videogames, visits to local events, historical novels, and comics.
Teachers expressed concerns regarding educational resources, ranging from an excessive abundance of resources available, both digitally and in print, through the need for training on how to be selective in their use in history classes, to the adequacy of textbooks.
Teachers also voiced concerns about the extent to which textbooks foster critical thinking and represent various minorities and sensitive themes. A significant number of teachers rarely or never used primary documentary sources in their history classes and there was a gap between teaching methods they would like to use and how often they used them in practice.
Learning and remembering historical facts, dates and processes was seen by educators as less relevant compared to historical thinking and living together in diverse democratic societies. “There seems to be a general discrepancy between what teachers think is relevant and what they describe as happening in practice in the classroom”, the report concludes.
Teachers would like to receive more training, especially in the use of information technologies, innovative teaching resources and historical thinking competences. However, even when such training was offered and encouraged by the state, the sessions were often poorly attended when they took place outside of regular working hours and/or were not financially supported by the authorities.
Some trends in Georgia’s schooling and history curricula
- National Minorities – Some schools in Georgia are for Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian minorities, who study history in Armenian, Azerbaijani (Azeri Turkish) and Russian respectively;
- Specific Subject Specializations – No schools offer such specific subject specializations. However, the report notes that “vocational and technical education is offered and includes a history curriculum as part of the “Citizenship education” course;
- Curriculum Content – The report notes that “all or most courses” develop democratic culture competencies, as well as the historical thinking and critical learning competencies and 21st century skills. In terms of geographic scope, the history curricula in Georgia covers local (Georgian), regional and world history. In particular, some courses also teach European history; In terms of the periods, all or most courses teach students the ancient, middle ages, modern and contemporary history.
- Educational Resources – In all cases, history textbooks are required during the educational process, although other sources such as print or digital press, reports on historical topics, search engines, teacher notes, or video games are also allowed. However, such educational sources are used less on a daily basis;
- Assessment – Teachers are required to use portfolios, essays, oral presentations/exams, knowledge-based questions and source-based questions as assessment methods. In addition, end-of-stage exams are compulsory for the lower secondary courses “Georgian and world history” and “Citizenship education,” but are optional for the upper secondary courses;
- Obstacles to good-quality history teaching – The report identifies three main barriers to the teaching of history in Georgia. These include resources and budget, frequency of educational reforms, and curriculum overload.
History courses offered in Georgia
History courses in Georgia are offered according to the different levels of education. Depending on a course, it can be either mandatory or optional. The courses include:
- “Society and I” and “Our Georgia” – Both courses are obligatory combined courses (history with other subjects) and are taught as part of the primary education (between the ages of eight and eleven);
- “Georgian and World History” – The obligatory course is taught as a separate course during the lower secondary education stage (between the ages of twelve and 14);
- “History” and “History of Georgia” – Both courses are obligatory and are taught as part of upper secondary education stage (between the ages of 15 and 17);
- “World Culture” and “American Studies” – Both courses are elective combined courses (history with other subjects) and could be taught as part of the upper secondary level;
- “Military History and National Defense” – The course is an elective and separate course and could be taught as part of the upper secondary education.
- “Citizenship Education” – This is a combined course that is obligatory for students in vocational education, who wish to pass the national exams and enter university. It is taught at the upper secondary level.
For students between the ages of six and seven, no history and/or history-related (combined) courses are offered in Georgia.