British Council Lebanon recently celebrated the conclusion of the pilot phase of the Teaching Divided Histories (TDH) project, which we’ve been implementing in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) and the Centre for Educational Research and Development (CERD).  

TDH recognises the importance that studying history has on understanding and shaping society.  The project was initially designed to focus on the teaching of the Northern Ireland conflict in schools there and in the Republic of Ireland, led by the Nerve Centre, Northern Ireland’s leading creative media arts centre.  Partnering with the British Council allowed the project to expand to four other post-conflict countries – Lebanon, South Africa, Sierra Leone and India.  In all of the countries, the teaching of their recent conflicts/civil wars hadn’t been formally included in the history curricula, so addressing this through TDH has allowed knowledge and expertise to be exchanged between all of the countries in order to help promote shared societies.  

TDH uses digital technologies to introduce new curriculum linked approaches to the study of conflict into schools.  Teaching about past conflicts can be emotive, controversial and contentious, and exploring history from the perspective of ‘the other’ requires teachers to be courageous.  As a result, teachers and educators were trained in a range of creative and critical skills to use moving image and digital technologies within the classroom to liberate and empower young people to engage practically with issues of conflict and division.  The TDH resources for teachers include a lesson on the conflicts in Lebanon, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Sierra Leone and India, including discussion points, active learning and digital tasks.  As Country Director, Donna McGowan, said, ‘Learning about others’ troubled histories often helps us better understand our own, as well as improving our understanding of global citizenship.’  She also added ‘The more we learn from our past, the more we can effect change and build a more tolerant and a more inclusive present and future.’  

This was echoed by the enthusiasm and commitment of the participating teachers and students.  Since the start of the project, 500 secondary students from 15 Lebanese schools have developed projects focusing on peace building and reconciliation.  All, including the Centre for Education and Research and Development, are now campaigning for a revised and improved history curriculum.  One of the teachers who took part in the project said, ‘Lebanese modern history is not taught in schools and teaching about the conflict has been largely avoided.’  She added that her participation in the project gave her students the chance to know about their modern history and appreciate the importance of living in a diverse society.  

The event was attended by more than a 100 people representing local and international civil society organisations, academics, ministry officials, education experts, teachers and students.  It included presentations of the innovative TDH projects that were designed by the students.  A student from one of the public schools said, ‘What would solve a conflict is sitting together and understanding and appreciating our differences.’  In 15/16, the project will be scaled up to include more schools country-wide.