Routes of Education: The impact of UNESCO's education for international understanding initiative

Routes of Education: The impact of UNESCO's education for international understanding initiative

Christian Ydesen

"Unity in diversity", was formulated early on by UNESCO as a goal to achieve – namely, solidarity among different groups of people. However, psychological studies showed that the most entrenched forms of prejudice are established in the formative years of childhood – often reflecting nationalistic attitudes rather than a spirit of mutual understanding.

This sub-project focuses on the impact of UNESCO’s strategy of providing education for international understanding by revising textbooks for primary and secondary schools. Geography and history books attracted special attention. History, because the books often reflected the positive self-image of the nation and negative counter-images of the neighboring countries, while geography books delivered an even longer series of negative, ethnocentric counter-images.

As far as history was concerned, UNESCO recommended that all future textbooks were improved according to the following standards: 1 Authors should emphasize the history of civilization and to a lesser degree political and military history. 2. Textbooks should be written in a way that could be easily understood by children. 3. Textbooks should not only be about a nation’s heroes; also great men of other nations should be included, such as outstanding inventors and great humanists. 4. The Orient and Africa should not be ignored; history books should aim at being global. 5. All new history books should be submitted to foreign historians for critical review, and the values and ethical standards of the United Nations should be the very foundation of any future textbook.

How this textbook revision work was carried out in practice is the focus of this sub-project. The mere existence of UNESCO-approved textbooks is of course a type of impact in itself, but the way in which the new standards were implemented in the books might vary, indicating certain country-specific limitations of the new worldview – due to unsolved as well as the new emerging conflicts on both sides of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War and in Asia and Africa in the new postcolonial world.

 

Contact

Contact

Research Coordinator Poul Duedahl

Kroghstraede 1, 9220 Aalborg O, Denmark

Phone: +45 9940 9141
Email: duedahl@cgs.aau.dk