Updated: Mar 24
On January 4, 2022, UNICEF and Paradigma Education Foundation presented History#5, a brand new resource pack for history teachers.
"Women represent less than five percent of historical figures and characters in textbooks, as authors seem to predominantly quote men, which is visible across social sciences, history, and literature textbooks at the secondary level. At UNICEF, we know how important teaching and learning are in the socialization of girls and boys, which is why we set out to develop new learning material based on the principle of inclusion, said Ms. Christine Weigand, UNICEF Representative in Armenia.
History#5 covers five topics of Armenian history from the 19th-20th century. These topics are women’s liberation policies and propaganda in the early Soviet era, pre-wedding, and post-wedding ritual behaviors in traditional and modern Armenian societies, Armenian women’s social and civic activism in the Ottoman and Russian empires and Persia, labor migration of Armenians from the Armenian Provinces of the Ottoman Empire, and public debates on the role of Armenian women in the Ottoman and Russian Empires.
"This is part of a bigger project. When we started working with teachers so that they adopt gender-sensitive practices during teaching, it became very clear, and the teachers themselves were surprised that there was so much discriminatory representation in the textbooks in favor of men. We realized that to make it possible for the teacher to build the curriculum to correct the existing discrimination, it is necessary to support them and provide reliable content and tools,” UNICEF Gender Equality Officer Nvard Manasyan says. She explains that it is very problematic that half of society is missing from textbooks, particularly from history textbooks. UNICEF announced a competition to address this fundamental issue in Armenia. While several ideas were presented, “…the most profound and comprehensive approach was presented by the Paradigma Educational Foundation. That’s how we started working with them,” Manasyan explains.
The resource pack contains 240 primary source cards and a teacher's guide with five exemplar lesson plans to foster active historical thinking with the use of gaming principles for learning. History#5 became possible with extensive support from Houry Berberian (Professor of History, Director of the Center for Armenian Studies), Talinn Grigor (Associate Professor of Fine Arts, UC Davis), Melissa Bilal (Associate Director of Armenian music program and lecturer, UCLA), Lerna Ekmekcioglu (Associate Professor of History Director Women and Gender Studies Program, MIT), Gayane Shagoyan (Senior Researcher at the Insitute of Archaeology and Ethnography), Anna Aleksanyan (Ph.D. candidate at the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University), Smbat Hovhannisyan (Adjunct Lecturer, American University of Armenia).
“Our goal is to transform history education and promote active historical thinking. Women are often left out of history. Bringing them forward as a perspective of analysis is a daring innovation in the field of history teaching. We look forward to future collaboration with UNICEF in this regard and hope that both teachers and students will enjoy using this resource pack in class to offer a new and more inclusive perspective to the teaching of history,” noted Ms. Hasmik Kyureghyan, Founding CEO of Paradigma Educational Foundation.
In February and March of 2022, UNICEF and Paradigma Educational Foundation disseminated 1000 copies of the resource pack to schools across the country. The Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports recommended History#5 as an alternative learning resource which is in line with the laws on secondary general education and education.
“The main purpose of the resource box is to allow students to work with source materials and to develop historical, analytical thinking through studying them,” Talin Saghdasaryan, Paradigma’s educational program coordinator says. Changing methods and tools for teaching history is part of the Foundation’s strategy. In December 2020, it published “Why and How: A Guidebook on Teaching History”, which focused on approaches to teaching. The Foundation donated the book to schools and started working with history teachers. The “History #5” resource box is the next step in this project.
Zhanna Andreasyan, Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture, and Sports, says that the initiative will complement history teachers’ tools and will provide new resources and materials that will significantly facilitate the process of effectively teaching history to students. “We now have new opportunities to significantly expand the history teaching toolkit—to make it more flexible and more in line with existing needs. This is especially important in the new standard [for General Education], which has been in place for almost a year now,” said the deputy minister, prioritizing the topics selected as the core of the material presented. “It’s about gender equality, proportional representation of men and women. I am glad that the materials provide an opportunity to address a very sensitive but a very important topic for our society,” Andreasyan explains.
The resource pack was developed in 2021 with the generous support of the UNICEF National Committee of Switzerland and Lichtenstein. “This project will help learners become less objective and more subjective. This is radically different from the textbook approach, where certain groups claim to write the only true history for all of us. History is not a single narrative, rather, it is an exploration in which the adoption of an active attitude toward time is important. This is what teachers must teach,” Manasyan explains.