Teaching the future's past:history education, identity values and prospects of reconciliation in the Republic of Macedonia

Sicurella, Federico (2007) Teaching the future's past:history education, identity values and prospects of reconciliation in the Republic of Macedonia. Masters thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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According to the constructivist approach to nationalism, mass education systems not only constitute a key marker of modern state-ness, but also perform a crucial function within the nation-building process itself. Namely, state education is the apparatus through which a state’s societal culture is inculcated into the new generations of citizens. The teaching of history in schools, in this respect, takes up the vital task of disseminating a state’s national, or official, history. An eloquent illustration is that of the ‘new’ countries emerged from the dissolution of the Yugoslav Federation. Here, the willingness to do away with the socialist legacy, and the need to construct ‘new’ national memories to uphold each country’s engagement in the nation-building process, have resulted in deep changes in the content of education. In particular, the contents of history teaching – that is, what is written in the textbooks – have been rearranged according to markedly ethno-centric perspectives, through both the retrieval and re-formulation of past events in a new national narrative and the endorsement of stereotyping. As a result, history teaching is very likely to promote intolerance and foster animosity between national groups. Remarkably, such phenomenon has found marked disapproval within the human rights discourse. International documents articulating the right to education, in fact, ascribe to the educational enterprise the fundamental task of promoting tolerance and mutual understanding among peoples and nations. Drawing on this principle, the international community has carried out a number of initiatives aiming at reforming history education in the region of South Eastern Europe, in particular through the revision of the textbooks. The case of Macedonia is a clear illustration of the pattern described above. The ‘national assertiveness’ of the ethnic Macedonian elites to the detriment of the other national groups (especially the Albanian community), already existing in the 1980s, mounted in the aftermath of the country’s independence. As an outcome, the state’s education system has been infused with elements of ethno-centrism, which are well detectable in history textbooks. Furthermore, the current Macedonian educational sector shows great rigidity in terms of the inclusiveness of the decision-making processes, the procedure of curriculum and textbooks adoption, and the responsiveness to external inputs. Such conditions, besides making the system highly susceptible to ideological penetration, limit the impact of international initiatives of history revision, and ultimately impinge on Macedonia’s chances of achieving internal and external stability.

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24 Jan 2014 06:19
Last Modified:
21 Nov 2022 11:39