Baildon M,Seng L K, Lim I M, Inanc G and Jaffar J (eds) (2014) Controversial History Eductation in Asian Contexts London: Routledge

ISBN: 978 0 41583352 3

This book provides an open exploration of both history textbook controversies and teaching historical controversy in Asian contexts. This includes case studies from a variety of countries and historical events spanning time and distance.

The book is well structured and guides the reader through the issues of addressing and teaching historical events which may appear controversial in their first instance. It delves in to how in some countries the curriculum is politically shaped and so consequently how the reporting of some certain historical events is influenced. It also makes the reader aware of how the inclusion or in some instances the exclusion of some historical events is evident within some curriculum development. Individual chapters acknowledge and challenge this offering commenting that history should not be a “single, fixed and authoritative version of the past”. The structure of the chapters is accessible by the inclusion of case studies which enables the reader to gain insight and information of how to approach and deliver certain topics. The importance of the use of pupil enquiry is discussed and methods of encouraging this practice are investigated. Examples of how to approach teaching controversial topics in history is included as are examples of lesson plans and worksheets. These allow for the teacher to choose appropriate teaching methods and styles to complement the resources made available. It also enables the readers themselves to reflect on their current practice and reassess their own knowledge and indeed if they do have a bias in delivery.

This book offers a supportive conversation around the topics which in themselves may appear controversial. It understands the challenges to be faced in striving for historical events to be reported upon and taught in a wider and more critically engaging manner. These span across countries, cultures and age-related events.

The authors also touch on the area of change and how (especially established) teachers can find it hard to adapt to new syllabi and the challenges that can bring. The book draws on the ‘dilemma of change management and mismanagement’ and touches on research that looks to establish why some teachers find change such an issue and the thinking that goes with it. In a different chapter the authors look at how the same period of history is taught differently at primary and secondary level and how differently the stories are presented within the supporting text material. In this instance the actual material is delivered differently with one age group taking a completely different approach from another. The emphasis of events is seen to be very different.

In a separate chapter the author discusses how other forms of information influence the learners understanding of a certain historical event. For example in Japan it has been seen that students have taken their learning from popular media sources rather than structured academic textbooks. The chapter investigates how such material can influence the ideologies of their audiences.

The book offers a range of approaches for teaching various historical controversies in the classroom. The chapters allow the reader to engage with a variety of relevant opportunities to enhance their professional knowledge and skills further, in order to improve their own practice and performance in the classroom. The book, therefore, can be read both as a means to source information and as a practical assistance guide.

Liz Plummer

Senior Lecturer, School of Education, Newman University