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Sharing History – Cultural Dialogues REPORT EXPLORATORY VISIT TO AZERBAIJAN

07-13 MAY 2012 BAKU, AZERBAIJAN

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

From the 7th to the 13th of May 2012 EUROCLIO project coordinators Steven Stegers, Aysel Gojayeva and external reporter Patrick Barker undertook a visit to Azerbaijan. The visit was organized in cooperation with the Public Union of Azerbaijan History Educators which is the local partner of the project. During the visit, the EUROCLIO coordinators met officials at the Ministry of Education, Student Admission Commission, the Directorship of the Pedagogical University of Azerbaijan, In-Service Training Institute, Embassies of European countries and UNESCO National Commission in Azerbaijan. By the end of the visit EUROCLIO coordinators visited several schools in Baku, Bilasuvar, Sumgayit, met teachers and students, got familiar with a different education system and teaching models. The participants were introduced to experiences of experts from Russia, Turkey, and The Netherlands and were involved in active workshops on innovative methodology of history teaching.

 

AIMS OF THE EXPLORATORY VISIT 

Creating a sustainable history, heritage and citizenship education network. Work across borders to strengthen the professional capacities of civil society Organizations involved in the teaching and sharing of history. Getting familiarized with the Education system of Azerbaijan, particularly related to History education. Raising awareness for innovative and responsible approaches in cultural education, which enhance democracy and intercultural dialogue. For the project coordinators and experts to establish working relationships with local stakeholders in and around Baku and the regions. Identifying the relevant areas of need by consulting local educators and officials.

 

STAKEHOLDERS MEETINGS

During the exploratory visit, the EUROCLIO coordinators also visited cultural places in Azerbaijan, in particular museums. Among them are the Museum of History of Azerbaijan, the Shirvanshax Palace, the Azerbaijan State Carpet Museum and the national heritage Ateshagah. The scope of the visits included, on one hand, becoming acquainted with the local Azerbaijani culture and history, which plays a great part in the local educational system, as well as meeting museum representatives in an attempt to forge future cooperation, in particular in promoting and using museum collections in history teaching. As such, EUROCLIO coordinators met Saadat Mirzoyeva Director of the Shirvanshax Palace museum. Resulting from this meeting, she showed a keen interest in the cultural dimension of the project. Following her introduction to EUROCLIO, she has decided to attend the first Regional Seminar of the project in Lviv, Ukraine (3-7 October 2012).

 

PRESS CONFERENCE

On 11 May 2012 EUROCLIO held a press session regarding the activities and the conclusions that followed the exploratory trip to Azerbaijan. The message for the press, as well as the aims and conclusions of the trip were best summarized by the EUROCLIO coordinator Steven Stegers: “We were impressed by the investment in education by the government and the level of enthusiasm shown by history teachers, trainers and academics around the project. Whilst there is still much work to be done on innovation and methodology, it is encouraging to see commitment from local educators to work together on the project to make it a success for the country and the region.” Going further he maintained that the “position of the project is not to focus too much on content; what we are really trying to do is work with local stakeholders, to identify their needs on an innovation/methodology level and respond accordingly.” The press release message was broadcasted by local Azerbaijani media channels: Azerbaijani State Telegraph News Agency, ABC.az News Agebcy, bank.az news agency, 3rd View News Agency.

 

TRAINING SEMINAR IN BAKU

A highlight of the Exploratory Visit was the organisation of a training seminar in Baku. In total 83 teachers from Azerbaijan participated in this seminar. The seminar was opened by the Vice President of PUAHE – Public Union of Azerbaijani History Educators, Rauf Rajabov, followed by a presentation of the ‘Sharing History, Cultural Dialogues’ project. The participants were very active during the workshops offered by international trainers from Russia and Turkey, who shared their experience from previous EUROCLIO projects.

 

WORKSHOP By Julia Kushnereva: “Teaching Tolerance and Intercultural Dialogue in Multicultural Society (experience of 'Mosaic of Cultures' project” The workshop by Julia Kushnereva was based on the teaching materials of EUROCLIO project in Russia "Mosaic of Cultures". Source-based tasks show how to deal in class with the shared history when those who shared it were the opposite sides in the conflict. The workshop tackled difficulties in mutual understanding caused by different cultural background. The workshop also dealt with origin and increasing of conflicts, presents some ideas on teaching avoiding conflicts. Role-play activity helps to try on 'politicians' shoes' in ethnic conflict.

 

WORKSHOP by Huseyin Koksal: "Innovative Methodology in History Education: Problems, Period and Models” During his workshop, Huseyin Koksal used one of the modules from the previous EUROCLIO project 'A Key to Europe: Innovative Methodology in Turkish School History' publication namely innovative History Education; Examplar Activities. The theme of the workshop was the Great Fire İzmir. Huseyin Koksal started his workshop by addressing participants the questions ‘Who burnt İzmir’ and started collecting their views and later reflecting on the source materials used in this module. This workshop helped to understand that controversial issues are debated even if we don’t attend the debate. Individuals do not simply give up the habit of evaluating events from their own perspectives. Innovative history teachers are aware of the fact that it is richness for their students to be informed about all perspectives. Workshop on “Great Fire of İzmir” included analysis of different explanations and claims resulting from different perspectives in the context of Great İzmir Fire who took place in 1922 just as Greeks were leaving İzmir. Huseyin Koksal showed participants different source analysis and encouraged participants to think critically and question the narratives. Participants were put in the role of students and calmly faced provocative claims and investigated them in detail. This workshop helped them to understand that history is not only conclusive answers but also investigation and debate. Huseyin Koksal invited participants to construct their own justified perspectives about an event. Participants found this activity very interesting, interactive and intellectually challenging. According to participants, it is very important to use similar innovative activities in their classrooms, as they are currently lacking them. Participants received few copies of the publication both in hard copy and in electronic version.

 

WORKSHOP by Steven Stegers: “Do Facts Lead to the Truth?” This was an interactive workshop which aims at training people to use some concept and competences required in modern History curricula. Steven Stegers asked the participants for assessing the work and analysis by their peer colleagues and build their own conclusions based on the source analyses. This activity aimed at encouraging critical thinking of participants, analysing the sources and demonstrating different perspectives and interpretations on the same sources. This activity helped to understand that though we read same sources on the same event, we interpret sources differently and build different conclusions. Therefore, facts are not always enough to find the truth. It is very important to engage different perspectives through the use of different sources in the classroom. In the end of this work, participants were asked to explore how mentioned concepts and competences were addressed and executed in their materials. According to participants, though the topic was not familiar to them, but the methodology used during this workshop could be successfully applied in history classes in Azerbaijan. Most of them found this activity very innovative and promised to use it in their classrooms.

 

EVALUATION OF THE SEMINAR

The most concrete evaluation point is that the 83 teachers who participated in the active workshops offered by international experts graded the seminar with a very positive 8.63 out of 10. The teachers who took the survey agreed in unanimity that they would recommend future participation in this kind of seminars to their colleagues, and they had learned from participating in it. Specifically, the teachers mentioned that they learned teaching student to think more independently, to help students to learn, aside from data, also problem solving and to build their capacity for independent argumentation. They rated the active workshops with grades from 7.9 out of 10 to 9.47 out of 10 and, when asked to develop their answers, they overwhelmingly expressed their interest in learning more on interactive and multiperspective teaching methods, in developing creative and critical thinking.

 

CONCLUSIONS

Participation of over 80 history teachers on a Saturday can be considered a real success for the first EUROCLIO training activity in Azerbaijan. People stayed and were active until the end of the day. They expressed in many occasions their satisfaction about the opportunities for exchange of experiences and peer-learning with colleagues from Azerbaijan and from other countries. The input of the international trainers was well appreciated, as resulted from the good grades given to the active workshops in the survey. The success of the seminar, as well as the meetings with teachers, students, ministry officials, show that there is a stringent need for training in innovative and interactive history teaching methods. The organization of the event in cooperation by EUROCLIO and PUHA underlined and solidified the connection between the two organizations.

 

NEXT STEPS

The research as part of the Exploratory will be used for the development of a Special Report. This Special Report will “highlight the barriers to lifelong learning for cultural educators, the challenges and issues within current educational content on cultural and cultural practice and the issues of concern with regard to tolerance and awareness of cultural diversity within each target country within the cultural missions within the history/citizenship/heritage educational professionals and young learners of those subjects.” The Special Report will be used as an internal work document throughout the project and will be translated and published in Azerbaijani at the end of the project. The Exploratory Visit to Azerbaijan has been the first of three cultural missions in the Eastern Partnership region under the ‘Sharing History, Cultural Dialogues’ project. The remaining missions will be in Moldova and Armenia, both to be held later in 2012.