In morning participants went to schools in Riga- it was a special request from guests and HTA of Latvia offered 3 different schools for visiting:
- Riga Herders secondary school is an educational establishment with Russian language of instruction, specialised in German language teaching. The number of pupils in this school is 500, their age- 7-19 years old;
- Riga French Lyceum- one of the best schools in Latvia, specialised in French language teaching. The number of pupils- 801, age- 7- 19 years old;
- Natalya Draudzina gymnasium is one of the biggest Secondary schools in Riga with strong Pupils Parliament traditions. The number of pupils- 819, age- 13-19 years old.
There was a special programme organised in every school, aimed at meetings with staff and discussions with pupils; short introduction to the educational system of Latvia, history teaching and history textbooks.
In Riga Herders secondary school the participants of seminar had an optional choice to see two history lessons. The first one was on topic “Which countries’ history should we know and understand” (grades 1-10). The guests took active part in lesson, working with pictures, making tables, offering their versions. The other topic was “Historical sources” (grades 2-7) and again the guests were active in participating in discussions with pupils about historical literature, textbooks, notebooks. Later on the guests were offered a tour around school and visiting school German library where the meeting with secondary school pupils took place. The students introduced the learning process, lessons, home works, literature they use. The guests were interested in teaching controversial topics, ability of pupils to interpret historical facts. There were a lot of questions about assessment, home works. Three languages- English, Russian and German were used for discussion.
There was an opportunity to look at history textbooks for primary and secondary school level and also the teacher guides. The atmosphere of the meeting was very warm and nice and both parts- hosts and guests were really happy with this.
In Riga French Lyceum the guests were received by the pupils of 12th grade, showing them classrooms and libraries. The discussion took place in history room.
The guests were given some insight in history of school. The Lyceum was founded in 1921 with support from Latvian state and France. This school offers advanced knowledge of French language and the Embassy of France still supports Lyceum by donating books, paying for guest lecturers’ work, finding possibilities for teachers’ professional development in France. The guests were also informed about educational system in Latvia and the place of subject of history in it. Two co-authors of history textbooks work at the school and it was a great opportunity for participants of seminar to see their work and talk about textbook writing. Pupils from grade 10B (16 years old) discussed with guests on topic “What do we know about our neighbours and what would we like to know”. Both- the seminar participants and pupils had to answer different questions about neighbours’ history. The guests were especially interested in pupils’ knowledge about history of Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, Russia and Sweden. They were also interested in reasons why pupils have chosen this particular school. The pupils asked guests if pupils in Estonia, Finland and Lithuania are interested in history, they also wanted to know about recent political developments in those countries, and some of them asked why did guests choose profession of teacher. The discussion was very active and interesting for both of sides.
In Natalya Draudzina gymnasium the guests were welcomed by school headmaster Mr. Maris Sika. At first there was presentation on educational system in Latvia and history of gymnasium in the Big Auditorium of the school. Our guests used the opportunity to ask the school principle about different aspects of school management and educational system in Latvia. The pupils of 12th grades (18-19 years old) took part in discussion with guests and Mr. Sika about what we know about our neighbours’ history, what are the similarities and differences in teaching/learning process in our countries, what are the future expectations of pupils. Part of discussion was devoted also to the status of teacher in our societies and recent development of our country and our neighbouring countries. Both the guests and the pupils were actively interested in each others’ viewpoints and questions. Then pupils guided the guests and they saw the school library, classrooms, sport complex and listened to the history of school. During the meeting the idea of cooperation between the two schools in Sweden and Natalya Draudzina gymnasium appeared.
After the school visits the official opening of seminar took place and the Ministry of Education, the Nordic Council of Ministers' Office in Latvia, the Latvian Institute and also European organisation of History Teachers Associations- EUROCLIO and HTA of Latvia were represented.
Participants were welcomed by the president of the board of HTA of Latvia Dzintra Liepina, who stressed the importance of such international meeting to discuss teaching of regional history, to meet colleagues from so many countries.
Ms. Daina Mezecka -Adviser of the Nordic Council of Ministers' Office in Latvia found the idea of project and seminar very interesting and wished success to participants, Ms. Kristine Vagnere -Deputy State Secretary of Ministry of Education and Science stressed the role of teacher in teaching/learning process.
Ms. Joke van der Leeuw-Roord - Executive director of EUROCLIO- the international European organisation of history teachers’ associations and expert of project was agreeably surprised to meet so many well known friends and expressed how interesting and important is the topic of teaching neighbours’ history in Europe.
Mr. Ojars Kalnins, the head of the Latvian Institute addressed participants with an interesting speech about branding national identities.
Most of the time of seminar was devoted to the presentations prepared by participants. There was a short discussion after every presentation. All the presentations were on a high level. HTA of Latvia collected them in digital format and after the seminar all the material was put on the Internet- a Google discussion group was organised and every participant was invited to this group. So material was available for further discussions in national working groups.
In the evening of this day the Ministry of Education and Science of Republic of Latvia organised an excursion in the building of the Latvian University attending the University museum and even the punishment cell. After that there was a nice reception. Our host was Ms. Mara Katvare- Deputy Director of European Affairs, Ministry of Education and Science.