Academic journal article Estonian Journal of Archaeology

A Critical Look at Archaeology Teaching in Estonian High Schools

Academic journal article Estonian Journal of Archaeology

A Critical Look at Archaeology Teaching in Estonian High Schools

Article excerpt


History professor David Vseviov (2008) noted 'History is dead and alive at the same time'. History is present in our everyday life in objects, in buildings, in documents and also in traditions, in languages, in laws, etc., but at the same time history is permanently and forever lost and you cannot turn the clock back.

So how can you teach it? It can be only partly reconstructed based on our knowledge of the past and present day world. Our historical understanding is complicated and constantly developing and changing. There are more factors than history itself, such as the nature of teacher training and the qualifications to teach prehistory, the curriculum, textbooks, but also the rapidly changing environment. Students are now accustomed to digital methods of presentation and teaching has to adopt new ways, and all this makes prehistory teaching even more complicated.

The aim of this article is to give a systematized overview of the present state of archaeological teaching at Estonian high school and produce an analysis of the potential for teaching archaeology in Estonia based on high school curriculum. At first teacher training in universities will be analysed to see what kind of archaeological background they will have gained when they graduate and go on to teach. Emphasis in the curriculum of history is distorted. In terms of volume and also in essence contemporary history prevails. Textbooks (both printed and digital) will be analysed to see how the archaeology part is written considering both archaeology and curriculum objectives.

The imperfect and often skewed knowledge of history teachers, coupled with time constraints, creates a situation where sometimes archaeology is taught less than the curriculum requires and some prehistoric periods are poorly taught or entirely absent.

History teacher training

Teacher training at Estonian universities

Teacher training's importance is hard to overestimate. Teacher awareness of what archaeology is and how it contributes to our knowledge of the past is essential to delivering the archaeological element in the curriculum (Copeland 1999). Teacher competences are described in occupation standards for teachers 2013 (Eesti Opetajate Liit). To be a history and citizenship teacher you need to have a master's degree (2 years) which you can get at Tallinn University and the University of Tartu. It is common in Estonia that history teachers give citizenship lessons with political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions, plus more practical aspects, such as visiting a court session, a local authority, government department, etc. This is a relict from the Soviet era when history teaching and citizenship were ideological.

The terms of acceptance at the University of Tartu for history and social studies teachers' MA are shown in Table 1. There were 7 vacancies in 2018.

There are no compulsory subjects that describe archaeology, object-based teaching or archaeology teaching methodology in the master's degree programme in the University of Tartu (see Table 2), but there still exists the possibility to study archaeology via elective courses. The reason might be the teacher educators' own lack of knowledge of archaeology (Copeland 1999). History and Civic Didactics objectives are to give competence in the subject area, designing and delivering lessons, and gaining competency in developing sound historical thinking using historical sources (Study Information System 2017). There is nothing about how to teach archaeology-based lessons (prehistory) or on interpreting archaeological material. Therefore, future teachers have a lack of archaeological knowledge if they have not educated themselves in archaeology via elective courses.

A Bachelor degree in history should give professional knowledge for teaching, but most graduates have an incomplete data in archaeology. Terms of acceptance to History and Citizenship MA at the University of Tartu do not require any archaeology modules. …

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