ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Historical Thinking Skills

Why It Matters in School Education

The rhetoric over “which history” should be taught to school students has always been a contentious issue. The debates generated in the process are understandable and imperative, as what young students learn about their past has a direct bearing on how they view their own identity, cultural heritage and nationality. Governments across the world have therefore sought to influence their school history curricula, with the prime objective of shaping or reshaping notions of the countries’ national identity. In the context of the Indian classrooms, what is baffling is the inability to tread a fine balance between what students should know about the past to how they should know.

The author thanks the anonymous reviewer for the suggestions.

Our obsessive preoccupation over the polarised debates on National History Standards has diverted our attention from the “places that matter most—the schools where young people learn and the colleges where teachers are taught’’ (Wineburg 2001: 5). We have churned out citizens who, in the slightest irreverence to historical events, individuals or monumental structures, are instantaneously provoked in committing heinous acts of violence. In this sense, we do seem to be fixated in our historical narratives, albeit sans the knowledge of knowing how to navigate the complexities of a past we have never experienced. At the other end of the spectrum, in the large number of schools across the country, where history should really matter, its status in the overall hierarchy of school subjects is abysmally low.

Deemed secondary to the teaching of mathematics, science and literature, even the relevance of the subject to the contemporary world of work and day-to-day life is often questioned. How many history (school education) seminars, webinars, workshops, projects and courses do we hear of, in contrast to the subjects under science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)? How many research articles, books and educational tools do we have in history? And most important of all, are we even aware that history is not just about disseminating stories and events of the past?

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Updated On : 8th Nov, 2023
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