There’s “widespread misunderstanding” about the Holocaust among secondary school teachers, a major new report revealed.
Research by the University College London’s Centre for Holocaust Education found there has been “improved subject knowledge” over the last ten years, but there was “a number of significant gaps and common confusions”.
The report, based on answers by almost 1,000 teachers, says nearly “one fifth of those with recent experience of teaching about the Holocaust had received no formal specialist training at all”.
It warns “many teachers still appear to share a number of widespread misunderstandings, enduring misconceptions and common historical inaccuracies all of which have potentially profound consequence for the teaching and learning of this important history.”
The study flagged major gaps, saying “fewer than half of all teachers were able to correctly identify that Jews comprised less than 1% of the pre-war population of Germany or that systematic mass murder of Jewish people began with the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941”.
Dr Andy Pearce, Associate Professor in Holocaust and History Education said the findings “clearly indicate that formal specialist training.. makes a significant impact on teachers’ subject knowledge of the Holocaust and its history.”
While praising the reported improvement in the last decade, he said many teachers “do not appear to have the subject knowledge required to combat myths and misconceptions that are prevalent in wider society and which we know are held by many young people.
“Not having this knowledge has profound repercussions. It means that teachers are less likely to be able to identify misconceptions among their students, it increases the risk that misunderstandings will be perpetuated, and it undermines the notion that by learning about the Holocaust young people will be able to better understand and respond to persecution and atrocity.
“It is troubling that such myths and misconceptions as these remain among large sections of the teaching profession.”
A spokesperson for the Holocaust Educational Trust said it “has always believed that it is vitally important that educators are equipped with the best tools to teach this difficult subject effectively and with sensitivity in the classroom. This important study from UCL confirms that the route to high quality impact is high quality training. That is why we, alongside others in the sector, place huge emphasis on teacher training but of course there is always more work to be done.”
Teaching about the Holocaust has been a compulsory component of the national curriculum at secondary level since 1991.
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