Why this website?

There are two main reasons why New Perspektiva has created this multi-perspective methodology website:
1. Kosovo is a multi-ethnic society and yet the teaching of history in its schools is based on a single national-centered approach. This risks driving the communities further apart and does not foster greater integration and mutual understanding. The multi-perspective methodology should help address this approach which is disabling to school students.
2. The multi-perspective methodology of teaching history enables students to question and analyse history from a wider perspective. This in turn develops them as more responsible citizens. They learn to distinguish between facts and interpretations. They cease to see history as something which has to be memorized – memorizing is not thinking.

Nor is the problem of single-perspective history one only found in the Balkans. In Europe the
concept of “multiperspectivity” entered the history teaching discourse in the 1970s. After 1989,
the end of the cold war, it began to be used more widely as history had to be rewritten and taught
differently after the fall of communism, as many European states were becoming more ethnically
diverse and because of other social developments. The new political discourse acknowledged
that school students should learn the skills of analyzing, interpreting and synthesizing evidence
obtained from a variety of primary and secondary sources. There was a growing recognition that
history had been taught from a perspective that was mono-cultural, ethnocentric, exclusive rather
than inclusive and based on the assumption that the national narrative coincided with the history
of the largest national, linguistic or cultural group. It started to be seen that schools needed to do
more to prepare young people for life in a world characterized by ethnic, cultural, linguistic and
religious diversity.2

This problem is not peculiar to Kosovo. It is one which became quickly apparent after the break-up of the former Yugoslavia at the beginning of the 1990s. In the former Yugoslavia greater emphasis had been laid on the similar historical experiences and the common historical destiny of the south Slavs. New identities resulting from the 1990 conflicts and the break up of the Yugoslav federation stress the absolute incompatibility and the differences among former co-citizens.1 History has become highly politicized. There has, however, been some modification and opening up to wider perspectives usually as a result of international intervention. The Council of Europe, the Georg Eckert Institute, Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and the European Association of History Educators, EUROCLIO, are some of the international factors which have tried to raise awareness and intervene. Despite their admirable work change has been slow and in Kosovo it is only just beginning.

New Perspektiva has set up this website as a reference point for both teachers and students. We would like students in particular to be aware of a different way of understanding history and to give them a source they can access independently. We have provided examples and suggestions related to the joint history of Kosovo and its neighbouring region. The website is not about saying whose history is right or wrong but about showing that history usually has many aspects and truths.

1. ONCE UPON A TIME… WE LIVED TOGETHER – Joint work in a multiperspective approach – Katarina Batarilo-Henschen (Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research) file:///C:/Users/HP/Downloads/Evaluation-Euroclio-workbook.pdf
2. Council of Europe, Multiperspectivity in history teaching: a guide for teachers Dr Robert Stradling, 2003. https://rm.coe.int/1680493c9e

What is a multi-perspective approach to history?

There is no clear definition but we think this is a good one: It is a process, “a strategy of understanding”, in which we take into account another’s perspective or others’ perspectives in addition to our own. It means being able and willing to regard a situation from a different perspective.

 

Why should we consider using this methodology to teach history?

– the single-perspective approach is exclusive and restricted. Students do not learn that there is a multiplicity of ways of looking at historical events and situations e.g. different participants and witnesses see the events differently. It does not give them the opportunity to understand human behavior in the wider context.

– in a multi-ethnic society the teaching of history should help students of different national backgrounds understand that each side may have a different point of view. This should help them have a shared understanding of an event but not necessarily an acceptance of the other point of view.

– It develops students’ critical thinking skills. They learn to distinguish between facts and interpretations. They cease to see history as something which has to be memorized – memorizing is not thinking.

– This approach aims to help students to learn how to analyze, interpret and synthesize evidence obtained from a variety of sources.

– It is for all these reasons that the Council of Europe has adopted a strong stance on the multi-perspective approach. The Council stated in its 1996 Recommendations on History and the Learning of History that the multi-perspective teaching methodology would encourage students to respect diversity and cultural difference. It said, “history has a key role to play in Europe … it could be a force for division, violence and intolerance if not taught carefully.”3

The structure of the website

The website looks at Kosovo-Serbian history from three perspectives, the perspectives of Kosovo and Serbian elementary and secondary-school textbooks and the views of other historians, commentators, observers who have researched and written on these historical events. The sources of these three texts are included in the texts. The portal also provides an overarching summary of each individual historical event using those three perspectives as its base. This summary is a suggestion always open to discussion and debate, one open to other perspectives. It should enable school students to connect better with students from other communities, to prompt them to question what their textbooks say and to facilitate wider mutual understanding.

Our request to readers

We hope you find the website helpful and interesting. It is a live portal which will be updated when applicable.

We are keen to know what you think. Please let us have your comments and suggestions.

July 2017

3. [http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/Xref-XML2HTML-en.asp?fileid=15317&lang=en]