Majority of teachers do not know when Holocaust began, says study

New research by University College London's Centre for Holocaust Education warns of ‘real-world consequences’ from the knowledge gap


A majority of teachers in England do no not know when the Holocaust began and lack the knowledge to challenge myths about it, according to new research by 

University College London's Centre for Holocaust Education.

While evidence shows there have been improvements since a similar study carried out in 2009, researchers warned of "real-world consequences" from a lack of understanding about the Shoah.

According to the findings, most teachers did not know where or when the Holocaust began and could not correctly identify the proportion of the German population that was Jewish in 1933. 

They also found that fewer than half of teachers surveyed knew what the British government's response was and almost a fifth of those with recent experience of teaching about the Holocaust had received no formal specialist training.

UCL associate professor Dr Andy Pearce said the results meant pupils could be developing "skewed and fundamentally erroneous impressions of this period."

He said: “If one of the aims of teaching and learning about the Holocaust is to prevent the repetition of similar atrocities in the future, then we need to have secure knowledge and understanding of why this particular genocide happened.

"As a society, we should have no tolerance for misunderstandings, myths and mythologies about the Holocaust.

"That can be a breeding ground for conspiracy theories and for revisionism and for denial and distortion.

"There are real-world consequences for these misconceptions and misunderstandings."

The study was based on in-depth focus groups and a survey of 1,077 teachers.

Of the 1,077 teacher surveyed 964 of them had recently taught the Holocaust.

The Holocaust Educational Trust said UCL's findings were "important" and confirmed "the route to high quality impact is high quality training."

A Spokesperson for HET said the charity "has always believed that it is vitally important that educators are equipped with the best tools to teach this difficult subject effectively and with sensitivity in the classroom. 

"That is why we, alongside others in the sector, place huge emphasis on teacher training but of course there is always more work to be done."

Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Geoff Barton said he was "concerned" at the findings.

He said: "School leaders and teachers work very hard to combat a range of false information and myths on a range of subjects that are spread through the click of a button in a society which has undergone a rapid and poorly regulated digital revolution.

"However, the reality is that schools and teachers face a huge number of pressures on their time in a crowded curriculum and constantly have to juggle many competing priorities.

"There is a wider need for the government to work with the education sector to review the many expectations on schools to make this situation more manageable."

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