The integration process that has shaped Europe since the mid-twentieth century has had a great influence from a global perspective, and has been connected with some of the most fundamental dynamics and processes of the recent decades, including a surge in globalization and exchange, as well as in international collaboration and conflict management in the post-Cold War world. This process of European integration is not only limited to the economic and political spheres, and also has effects from a social and, more specifically, from an educational point of view. In Europe, this has led to a greater convergence linked to the effects of greater mobility, to a more profound knowledge of languages, and to a tendency towards harmonization in education.
Therefore, focusing our attention on the different educational frameworks acquires capital importance if we want to promote a new concept of citizenship consciousness, not exclusively limited to a national conception. Since the approval of the Maastricht Treaty and the publication of the Green Paper on the European Dimension of Education (1993) a year later, it was established that “educational systems should not be merely limited to transmit content, but should also train young people in the spirit of democracy, in the fight against inequality, in tolerance, and in respect for diversity (…) [because] the reference to Europe is a dimension that does not replace the others, but instead enriches them” (Commission of the European Communities, 1993, point 15).
In this sense, the strategic framework Education and Training 2020 of the European Union highlights the need for an exchange of good practices between the different European countries as one of the main cohesion elements between its members, and as a basis of active citizenship (2015 Joint Report of the Council and the Commission, 2015). Hence, the importance of analysing and sharing how this issue is being addressed in in the different curricula and educational systems of the EU and of the rest of European nations, and, especially, of examining the role that history education plays in this process.
We should keep it in mind that the discipline of history must adopt an important role in the development of civic competencies, but that it can also promote an opposite approach, reproducing stories, myths and prejudices that reinforce nationalist or exclusive identities.This circumstance does not help in the construction of the idea of a European citizenship, not based on the creation of a common fictional concept of nationality, but in the need to overcome the dichotomy of national and foreign by offering a cosmopolitan vision that goes beyond the idea of national frontiers in order to understand the other. In relation with history education, the aim is not to create a false common European history, but to approach shared historical periods taking into account different perspectives and attending to the image of others, as stated in some of the recommendations promoted from the Council of Europe (Recommendation Rec (2001) 15, 2001).
The consequences that this might have on citizenship consciousness are undeniable due to the fundamental role, although not always homogeneous, of historical education in civic education, generally linked to a democratic and participatory conception, at least in the Western context. From this point of view, the analysis of the frameworks, fields and orientations of history education can help in the promotion of a reflection on the conditions and opportunities in relation to the conceptions about citizenship. This is especially important in those educational contexts where an increasingly global approach is sought.
In view of all these considerations, in this special issue we seek to inquire, by collecting articles that will focus on specific cases from different countries, about the current situation of the teaching of history in Europe.
The papers selected for this issue must carry out a critical and well-founded analysis of how the teaching of history is organized at pre-university levels in the educational system of the country under study.
Therefore, all papers must follow a similar structure and address the following issues:
- Synthetic description of the educational system in relation to history (key characteristics of the curricula, different educational levels and subjects, presence of history in each of them, etc.)
- History contents taught at each educational level.
- Features of these contents: do they adopt a disciplinary or a multidisciplinary approach? Which kind of contents (conceptual, procedural or attitudinal) prevail? What is the emphasis in each of them? Are they national, Eurocentric or multinational contents? Do contents follow a chronological order or any other rationale?
- How is civic education addressed in history subjects or courses?
- Is heritage taken into account in history education? If so, in what way: as a teaching resource, as an independent subject, or simply to illustrate or supplement other content?
- Is the acquisition or development of historical competences taken into account? In which ways?
- What type of curricular materials are used? What are the main characteristics of history textbooks?
- How are history teachers selected at the different educational levels? How is their training structured?
- And finally: what problems do still exist and what could be done to address them (improving initial training, changing the curriculum, promoting lifelong teacher training…)?
Guest editors: Sebastián Molina Puche (Universidad de Murcia) & María Sánchez Agustí (Universidad de Valladolid)