Research Seminar: Dr Rachel Bleeze
Encouraging historical consciousness and empathy in lower secondary students: A comparative study of history curricula in Australia and Singapore.
Over the last three decades, research in history education has led to the development of more relevant, student-centred approaches to history curricula. Academics in the discipline of History and History Education have argued strongly for historical inquiry, historical literacy, and historical thinking as the essential elements of their discipline which lower secondary students need to learn. Some have gone further to argue that the mastery of historical literacy can foster in individual students’ personal attitudes or dispositions toward history, ranging from historical understanding and awareness, to historical consciousness and empathy. This paper sets out to compare, to what extent and how, recently developed history curricula in Australia and Singapore have provided for the encouragement of historical consciousness, empathy in lower secondary school students. Where the curriculum also sets out to foster a deeper understanding of other individuals and groups in society, it can strengthen students’ sense of relationality with those who are different from them. The comparative education approach adopted in this paper begins by briefly describing the social, political, and cultural context of each country before presenting a comparative analysis on key sections of the two sets of curriculum documents. This discussion is triangulated with a thematic analysis of public commentary and personal responses from history academics, lower secondary classroom teachers, and senior teachers in charge of history. The findings indicate the two countries’ curriculum documents analysed do seek to foster historical consciousness. In addition, the comments of the teacher participants demonstrated how their understanding of the curriculum documents had led to examples of empathy in their classroom teaching.