Ed­u­ca­tion is taken se­ri­ously, but ex­perts warn of ‘trou­bling’ gaps

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY SI­MON ROCKER

THE GOV­ERN­MENT’S pledge ear­lier this year of £50 mil­lion to­wards a new Holo­caust me­mo­rial and learn­ing cen­tre shows how se­ri­ously re­mem­brance of the Shoah is now taken in Bri­tain.

Over the past 30 years the sub­ject has moved from the mar­gins of na­tional life, largely thanks to an an­nual me­mo­rial day and space on the na­tional cur­ricu­lum.

But what do chil­dren ac­tu­ally know? This week’s com­pre­hen­sive 270-page re­port from the CHE sheds un­prece­dented light on the grasp of the sub­ject within English sec­ondary schools.

On the pos­i­tive front, the re­searchers found that “over­whelm­ingly” stu­dents recog­nised the term “the Holo­caust”, and the ma­jor­ity most clearly as­so­ci­ated it with the per­se­cu­tion and mass mur­der of the Jews.

Most ap­peared to place “great value” on learn­ing about it and ex­pressed “high lev­els of in­ter­est” in en­gag­ing with the sub­ject.

But the re­search also ex­posed sig­nif­i­cant gaps in their knowl­edge.

Paul Sal­mons, CHE pro­gramme di­rec­tor, said that what shocked him most was that more than two-thirds could not ex­plain what an­tisemitism was.

“If you don’t know what the word means, how can you be­gin to have un­der­stand­ing?” he said.

The ig­no­rance of the fig­ure of six mil­lion Jewish vic­tims was “trou­bling”, the re­port said. One in five of those in the 15 to 18 age group thought that the num­ber of Jews mur­dered was one to two mil­lion. Just over 53 per cent of the over­all sam­ple cor­rectly iden­ti­fied the fig­ure as six mil­lion.

Some were hazy about other ba­sic his­tor­i­cal de­tails. “The Holo­caust was what started the Sec­ond World War,” said one Year 7 pupil. The Holo­caust was when Jews were killed “for be­ing black”, be­lieved an­other.

The im­pact of vis­its by sur­vivors was ap­par­ent. Nearly half re­ported that they had heard a talk by a sur­vivor. One six­th­former said: “You kind of don’t be­lieve it un­til you ac­tu­ally hear a first-hand view of what hap­pened there.”

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