Teaching the Holocaust

The Education Select Committee have published a report into how the Holocaust is taught in schools. Under the national curriculum, it is compulsory to for all maintained schools to teach the history of the Holocaust and the lessons learnt from it.

The Committee found that, “At its best, Holocaust education can lead students towards being active and informed citizens.” There is a wealth of good practice and enthusiasm to learn about the events of seventy years ago.  But few teachers have been trained to teach the Holocaust, and there is little professional development for teachers to learn.

UCL Centre for Holocaust Education is the UK’s leading provider of research and teacher development in Holocaust education. It offers an educational programme based on research and responds to school need.

Alongside the findings of the Select Committee, the researchers at UCL highlight these key messages about teaching the Holocaust:

  • Curriculum time for studying the Holocaust is often inadequate, as it is not a priority in many of our secondary schools and is not a key part of Ofsted inspections.
  • Teachers say it is difficult to teach effectively – the majority admit to being ‘self-taught’ and want high quality professional development, but many cannot get time out of the classroom to update their subject knowledge and explore effective approaches to teaching this challenging and complex subject.
  • Too much time is spent on the ‘lessons’ of the Holocaust and not enough on understanding that complex past. Common myths and oversimplifications – ‘the Holocaust was caused by Adolf Hitler’; ‘Hitler wanted to kill anyone who was different’; ‘ordinary people didn’t know what was happening’; ‘it all starts with bullying’ – often go unchallenged in the classroom.
  • Early signs from a new impact study of the Centre’s work with schools show that young people are capable of much deeper knowledge and sophisticated thinking about the Holocaust.
  • However, long-term funding government for the UCL Centre for Holocaust Education and its teacher development programmes is by no means certain.

Notes:

UCL Centre for Holocaust Education research report:  ‘What do students know and understand about the Holocaust? Evidence from English Secondary Schools.’ 

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