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The Role of Documentary Films in Teaching 20th Century History in Secondary Schools

Project duration: February – December 2011

Project objective:

The implementation of two previous projects, “The Communist and Nazi Crimes against Humanity and Bulgarian History Textbooks for Primary and Secondary Schools” and “Controversial Issues and Notions in Teaching Bulgarian and European History of XX Century in Bulgarian Primary and Secondary Schools”, and the meetings and discussions with history teachers held throughout the country, convinced us that this period of Bulgarian history is taught very cursorily, and young generations remain deeply uninformed about the crimes of totalitarian regimes. Under the first project, a book titled The European Conscience and Totalitarianism: Discussions and Historical Sources was published; the book is a collection of authentic documents, obtained from the archives of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party, and scientific articles on totalitarian regimes and their manifestations. Under the second project, the publication of a book is forthcoming: “Glossary of the Major Terms Included in the Curricula for 5th, 6th, 10th and 11th Grade”.

The overarching goal of the current project is to develop methodology for working with film materials in teaching history at school and methodological tools for working with specific documentaries. The illustration of concrete events and mechanisms, used by totalitarian states, with film and documentary materials will awaken students’ interest and will make the material more accessible.

Another project goal is to maintain the sustainable functioning of the established network of history teachers set up during the implementation of the previous two projects, which has already been working successfully for three years. The network is comprised of teachers from Sofia, Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo, Silistra, Shoumen, Assenovgrad, Sliven, Vratsa, Novi Pazar, Gorna Oriahovitza, etc.

Project activities:

  1. Purchase from the Bulgarian National Television of copyrights for five documentaries and their copying on CDs for dissemination purposes is envisaged:
  • Technology of Evil, producer Tatiana Waxberg;
  • A Word of Praise for the Conservatism of the Bulgarians, producer Svetoslav Ovcharov;
  • Konstantin Velichkov – the European, producers Ilia Kostov and Tatiana Pandurska.
  1. Working out of methodological conception for work with these documentaries, incl. theoretical and practical/applied aspects;
  2. Discussion on the developed conception with history teachers at two meetings in Veliko Tarnovo and in Plovdiv;
  3. Presentation of the completed methodological tools and conducting a discussion with history teachers from the entire country at a concluding meeting in Sozopol, held within the framework of the annual conference of the Department of History at New Bulgarian University.

Project results:

  1. Developing methodology for work with documentaries in teaching history;
  2. Developing and printing 5 study sets, one for each of the 5 indicated films, containing methodological tools with work instructions and a CD (total print of 300 copies);
  3. Maintenance and further development of the already established network of history teachers;
  4. Dissemination of the materials to a wide range of history teachers and assisting the teaching of 20th century history in Bulgarian primary and secondary schools.

The project is funded by Open Society Institute – Sofia.