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Study on Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe and Kosovo Education Center’s Joint History Project Teacher Training

Location

The Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe (CDRSEE) working with the Kosovo Education Center (KEC) under the CDRSEE’s Joint History Project initiated a plan to train teachers in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina to teach history using the multi-perspective history method.  The KEC and CDRSEE carried out their plan by publishing manuals on the importance of and how to effectively use the multi-perspective history teaching method, gaining support within Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina through outreach and advocacy, conducting additional training for teachers who had already participated in the Joint History Project, setting up workshops for new teachers to participate, and distributing the published manuals to teachers across Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina who did not attend the workshops (Project Proposal). 

The Projects results were extremely good gaining official support in Kosovo from the Institute of History and the Ministry of Education and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where political support is harder to find, gained support from a few cantons.  The advanced training workshops in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina were extremely successful. The participating teachers in Kosovo were extremely motivated and expressed a desire for future workshops.  The workshop in Bosnia and Herzegovina was particularly successful because the three main ethnic groups in the country were present and worked seamlessly with each other through out the workshop.  The workshops for new teachers, which were run by those teachers who did the advanced training, went well across Kosovo.  The success of the multi-ethnic Bosnian workshop was recreated for these workshops with similar results.  It was noticeable however that the teachers leading the training were nervous and not as successful as the professional trainers.  Distribution of the materials went well, where local trainers handed out the manuals and gave the local teachers mini-workshops to get them familiar with the methods.  Teachers were receptive and promised to use the methods going forward (Final Report).

Though the project was a success there were some important lessons learned via the feedback from the trainers and the teachers.  These were needing to have more workshops at all levels, including more model lessons in the manuals, providing more copies of the manuals so students can follow along, and creating a website with a database where teachers could upload successful lessons (Final Report).

Summary of the Problem

The histories of Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina are marked by violence and ethnic conflict.  With Serbs, Albanians, Bosniaks, Croats, and many other groups living in the region, ethnic tension is always present.  Often times the leaders of countries in the region will use this tension to support their cause and build nationalism within the country.  Though media control is the most obvious way to do this, leaders will also manipulate the education within their country.  By having strict standards on what can be taught, leaders will ensure that the history taught to the children will continue the trend of nationalism (Project Proposal).  Organizations such as the CDRSEE and KEC look to use multi-perspective history teaching to combat the norms of teaching within a country.  At its core, multi-perspective teaching gets students to look at history through the lens of multiple people in order to understand their motives.  Through this method, history is no longer written by the victor or those in control of the government but instead by the teachers.  The benefits of multi-perspective history teaching is that it gives students the ability to understand differing views, something crucial for a country with many ethnicities (TeachingHistory).   

Organization Summary

The Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD) is a large grant-making fund created by the German Marshall Fund in 2003.  The BTD focuses on implementing grants that focus on improving citizen involvement with the government, bettering public policy, strengthen relations between countries in the Balkans and between the Balkans and the rest of Europe (BTD).

The CDRSEE is a non-governmental organization that looks to develop democracy and society in Southeast Europe.  Democratically, the CDRSEE wants to develop European ideas of citizenship and governance as well as develop market economies that will aid this transition.  Socially, the CDRSEE wants to increase the responsibility of citizens in aiding marginalized groups as well as work toward reconciliation among the many ethnic groups in the region.  The CDRSEE plans to accomplish this through intercultural workshops, publishing materials that aid in reconciliation and democracy, and facilitate dialogues among a government and citizens and the cultural groups within a society (CDRSEE).

The KEC is a non-governmental organization focusing on advancing education in Kosovo.  They accomplish this through training teachers new teaching methods to better educate the young people of Kosovo (KEC).

Analysis of the Project

Over a ten-monthperiod the CRDSEE and KEC went throughout Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina gaining support for teaching teachers the multi-perspective history method, conducting workshops for teachers to be trainers of the method, supervising local workshops where the new trainers taught fellow teachers the methods, and disseminating materials to teachers across the two countries.

The Joint History Project was not new to the area.  This new project was simply a continuation of what had been going on for over ten years in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, yet had not achieved a key goal of the project: official recognition from either of the two state’s governments or major institutions.  One of the major successes for the project this time around was gaining official support from not only the Ministry of Education in Kosovo but also it’s Institute of History (Final Report).  The importance of gaining official support for an initiative cannot be understated.  If a state were to see the democracy promoters as people trying to subvert their rule through the “Trojan horse of democratization” then a project’s goals would not get accomplished (Carothers 57).  Instead the CDRSEE and KEC, with official support, were able to move ahead with the next steps of the project with little hindrance.  Support in Bosnia and Herzegovina was more difficult given the nature of its government; however, the project was able to gain support of the Canton of Sarajevo, which is key since Sarajevo is the capital (Final Report).

The second key success of this project was the conducting of workshops with multi-ethnic participants.  The project first tried this in Bosnia and Herzegovina where they held a tri-ethnic workshop in Sarajevo.  Those running the workshop noticed that it was impossible to know who came from what group, unless one understood the differences in names.  They also noticed how the teachers were all enthusiastic to work with teachers from other ethnic groups, seeing them as colleagues to learn from (Final Report).  The CDRSEE and KEC seeing this workshops success decided to host a workshop with Albanians and Bosnians in Pec and one with Albanians and Turks in Gjilan, which had similar successful results (Final Report).  The multi-ethnic aspect of the workshops is key because the basis of the project is to diffuse ethnic tension in the region through history teaching.  By having the teachers be so enthused about working with their colleagues of differing backgrounds, it shows promising signs that people in the Balkans are ready to move past historical differences.

The third key success of the project was its ability to adapt from its original parameters.  Firstly, by deciding to include Turks in the workshop in Gjilan, materials had to be prepared for them in Turkish, which was carried out easily.  Secondly, were the extension of the project and the creation of the Kosovo sources.  The CDRSEE and KEC found that they had saved money by combining some workshops around Kosovo and so received further funding from the Balkan Trust and NED to collect historical sources to use for the workbooks in Kosovo.  The project moved to set up a committee to run this collection and publication of materials.  It was led by the head of Institute of History Mr. FrasherDemaj, and the project moved to host a regional conference.  This conference had a variety of people from the US, Europe, and Balkans, and it discussed over two days the importance problem at the heart of the project: history teaching, and reports from various states about how they are combatting the problem.  Finally, the project, at the request of the teachers, monitored the progress of teachers in teaching the new method to students (Much of what was learned will be discussed later) (Final Report).   The ability to adapt and its successes show how effective the CDRSEE and KEC are at what they do, and will aid them in gaining more support in their future endeavors.

Lessons Learned

There were three important lessons learned over the course the project.  The first two were minor but still important to the teachers and it consisted of having more example lessons in the manual.  This makes sense, seeing as the more examples a teacher, or anyone for that matter, has to follow the easier it will be for them to find one that makes sense can imitate in lessons.  The second lesson learned was that the workshops were sometimes too precise in the training, especially for teachers new to the project.  They learned that in order for teachers to better understand multi-perspective history teaching, the CDRSEE and KEC needed to instead start with the values of multi-perspective teaching in general.  With an understanding of the general concepts behind the method, the workshops could then delve into how to apply the method to history teaching (Final Report).

Finally, andmost importantly, the CDRSEE and KEC learned that they need a better way to get materials out to more teachers and to students (Final Report).  This is a critical lesson learned because in order for the project to really succeed at changing how history is taught, they need to find a way to have all teachers using their materials.  Secondly, students need to at least be able to share multiple copies amongst themselves.  Teachers complained that it was difficult for their students to remain focused or use the visual aids in the textbooks because they did not have their own copies.  The project will not succeed unless the students have the ability to follow along with their teachers, so it is imperative that more copies of materials get out.

 

Bibliography

 

"About Us: Our Mission." Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe. CDRSEE, n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fcdrsee.org%2Faboutus%2Fmission>.

CDRSEE with KEC Project Proposal

Carothers, Thomas. "The Backlash against Democracy Promotion." Foreign Affairs 85.2 (2006): 55-68. Web.

Joint History Project Final Narrative Report

Kosovo Education Center. KEC, n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2015. <http://kec-ks.org/English/index_eng.html>.

“Teaching History.org, Home of the National History Education Clearinghouse." Multiperspectivity: What Is It, and Why Use It? N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2015. <http://teachinghistory.org/teaching-materials/ask-a-master-teacher/23610>

"The German Marshall Fund of the United States." Balkan Trust for Democracy. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2015. <http://www.gmfus.org/civil-society/balkan-trust-democracy>.