Remembrance education in Belgium

Remembrance Education (RE) intends to offer within the program of the teacher education workable solutions for the introduction of cross-curricular subjects in secondary education in Flanders related to remembrance education and focusing on issues as human rights, democracy, tolerance and not in the least lessons learned from the past. Future teachers (secondary education level) should be prepared to contribute together with their pupils to the building of a society, based on respect and regardless of cultural origin. Remembrance education offers numerous angles to meet this objective. Remembrance education wants to contribute to an attitude of active respect in today’s society starting from the collective memory of human suffering that was caused by human behavior (war, intolerance or exploitation) and which should not be forgotten. The course Remembrance Education is still unique in the Flemisch educational landscape.

Remembrance Education will opt for a multidisciplinary approach: in addition to the historical focus also ethical, philosophical, ideological, artistic and literary perspectives should be considered. It is important that the ‘good practices’ ‘ will be shared through ICT, publications, websites, symposia and seminars. Through initiatives of commemoration in Flanders this project will show that remembrance education is very much related to local and regional contexts. We hope that this project will result in a methodology, which will offer possibilities to exchange experience for teachers in secondary education.

Special attention is to be paid to the ‘Great War’, Our statement is that you cannot understand the Second World War without referring to the content of the war between 1914-1918. Jewish community both in Flanders before, during and after the Holocaust and the occupation and liberation from 10 May 1940 till 1944 -1945 will be also topic to investigate and to focus on. In the context of the Flemish-Polish -Baltic character of this project, a special focus will be on the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis on these territory. Students will be expected to get acquainted with some Belgian and foreign personalities who played a historic role during the Second World War. History never repeats itself in the same way but the study of mechanisms makes it possible to identify links. There cannot be a correct understanding of the past without some historical criticism. Sometimes the collective memory does not coincide with the historical reality. It will definitely be interesting to see how a particular topic today is remembered in different countries and what the reasons for these specific approaches are. It is quite obvious that there will be significant differences between the war memories in Flanders, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.
The aim of this course is to acquire knowledge and understanding of historical events, to generate empathy (solidarity with the victims, empathy with the bystanders and awareness of the motivations of the perpetrators) and not in the least to stimulate reflection about our own action and choices in society. We do not want to assess the past from a contemporary perspective, but rather to counteract processes such as dehumanization and exclusion. The element ‘Exchange’ adds another dimension to the project. It goes without saying that also with the other group of students a degree of empathy needs to be built. This project is not only meant to provide a theoretical reference framework. Students will be expected to identify learning patterns they can later use to reach “an attitude of active respect”. The challenge is to make the students aware of this process and to develop together with them tools which they will be able to use later on with their own pupils.

It is expected that especially students of history, mathematics, geography, English, French, , will subscribe/enroll for this pilot project.
Possible guideline questions to be used: How do you deal with the past? How has this evolved? Through these questions we want to try to create an understanding for the different approach to history, typical of each society. We definitely want to avoid touching upon very delicate sensitivities by showing that also in Belgium we had to go through a specific process and that several issues related to the Second World War (e.g. collaboration) remain very sensitive and partially unresolved until today.