One of the questions I am often asked by parents is whether their children will be able to maintain their links with their original culture. Of course, every learning experience involves change – especially during childhood and adolescence. GSO world history approach, consistent with the IBDP requirements, powerfully offers a means of reaching out to otherness and yet maintaining a sense of one’s own origins. Comparing and contrasting different historical scenarios is a way of making everything stand against its own background. Indeed, historical investigations are usually carefully made.
Moreover, there is another way in which learners’ identities are valued when studying world history. Since studying history is a communicative task, one of the most important skills is the ability to understand others, their motivations and values.
Understanding does not mean full acceptance: nobody can express worthwhile agreement, disagreement, or develop a critical view as long as they keep seeing only what they want to see.
When interpreting other people’s words and actions, the learner is not required to lose ground but, rather, to be aware of the very spot that constitutes his/her staring (and starting) point. Thus, to make mindful choices, it is compulsory to improve self-awareness.
Mindfulness plays an important role also when it comes to the teacher’s tasks in high schools: it is a duty of the teacher to realise he/she is not facing future specialists but learners who are eager to convert teachings into useful skills for their future experiences. Therefore, modernity gives history its value, since it is in present times that students face problems and challenges.
This means historical journeys should always consider individuality and societies as their final goal. Personally, when I teach history I bear in mind problem-solving, as I aim at preparing students to undertake autonomous research projects, communicate in unorthodox ways, make qualitative sources interact with each other, follow tracks, understand diversity, and develop existential awareness.
Luckily, we are not alone when aiming at such ambitious goals. Experience taught us the traditional identity between subjects, methods, and objects of study does not fit the multilayered reality we deal with every day. Almost every subject of study benefits from other subjects: the historian, for instance, uses literary critique, philology, anthropology and even economy. This list could be even longer – and the same could be said for many other human sciences, such as literary studies or business.
At GSO, strong educational needs meet with a diverse offer. Firstly, students need to directly deal with historical pieces of work. It is only later, when basic tools and concepts have been mastered, that young researchers can improve using digital tools. Researches are eventually integrated with different forms of fieldwork and laboratories, so that the ability to collect sources requires students to use all of their senses in order to efficiently perform. Finally, they will use concepts and categories to classify and analyse their own materials, thus producing original works such as articles and essays (following IBDP guidelines) or videos and podcasts.