Schools for Democracy project, Belgium



Dear colleagues,

In the context of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the
Belgian Federal government has recently launched a pilot project, called
"Schools for Democracy". It involves an educational programme for children
in their last year of primary school and for high-school seniors (in two
separate programmes) about the teachings of the Holocaust from the
perspective of its contemporary relevance. The aim is to promote the
values of respect, citizenship and global responsibility.

Each of the two groups (300 primary school pupils, and 300 high-school
students) should reflect the diversity of the Belgian school population.
In other words, the represented backgrounds of the participating classes
should include the two large language communities, the two main
educational curricular structures (general and professional), and
pluralism in some other dimensions deemed relevant. This setup should
reinforce the educational programme's content in terms of tolerance and
respect.

For both groups, the programme involves three to four encounters of the
participating classes, and a day visit to Auschwitz (for the high-school
seniors) and to the Malines/Mechelen deportation camp (for the primary
school children), accompanied by experienced guides.

The Holocaust, it is assumed, can help Belgian children understand how
societal intolerance, a lack of individual civic responsibility, and the
inertia of other nations have contributed to the decimation of the Jewish
and other minorities in Europe.

I have been appointed to co-ordinate this project from within the Centre
of Equal Opportunities and the Opposition to Racism (www.antiracisme.be).
I would be eager to get your feedback and ideas concerning the programme,
as detailed above. I am also interested in similar initiatives and in
methodologies developed for the design and implementation of such
programmes. If the pilot project is successful, it might find a more
perennial and broader place in the Belgian educational traject - possibly
in an altered form.

I thank you in advance for your feedback,

Dan Schreiber




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