Only half of Canadian teachers say students know about Holocaust and other genocides

Majority of educators queried say boost in education on the subject is needed in light of world events.

Prisoners in forced labor at Neuengamme concentration camp. Credit: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum via Wikimedia Commons.
Prisoners in forced labor at Neuengamme concentration camp. Credit: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum via Wikimedia Commons.

Nearly 72% of Canada’s high school teachers believe that there is a greater urgency to teach about the Holocaust and other genocides in light of recent world events.

That’s the finding of a survey conducted in February and March by the Foundation for Genocide Education in partnership with the Association for Canadian Studies. The study polled nearly 200 post-secondary social science and history teachers nationally—most who teach grades 10 through 12—about Holocaust and genocide education in Canada.

While 93% of those queried said they included Holocaust and genocide education in their lesson plans, such as showing videos, films or taking field trips to museums, only 51% claimed that their students are knowledgeable about the subject. In fact, more than 30% of respondents expressed dissatisfaction or neutrality with the current teaching of the subject at their schools.

Many cited barriers to teaching about the Holocaust and other genocides, including lack of training, massive amounts of material to be covered on the subject, time constraints and curriculum limitations.

“It’s clear from the survey that teachers are looking for more direction, training and structure when teaching this subject to bolster their confidence and increase student levels of awareness and understanding,” said Heidi Berger, founder of the Foundation for Genocide Education. “In fact, when asked if education about the Holocaust and other genocides should be mandated for all secondary school students across Canada, 70% of the teachers strongly agreed and 22% somewhat agreed.”

What are the benefits of teaching high schoolers about the Holocaust and other genocides? The vast majority of respondents cited combating antisemitism and other forms of racism, and developing more informed and engaged citizens (87%), as well as promoting respect for diversity, teaching how to recognize human-rights violations and encouraging critical thinking (86%). Eighty-four percent said it would help create empathy and understanding among students.

Curriculum varies nationally

Berger emphasized that while 82% of teachers queried said the topic of Holocaust and other genocides is included in their school’s curriculum, the level varies by province.

According to the survey, for example, 100% of respondents from Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and British Columbia said their schools have such a curriculum, whereas less than half of Quebec respondents (47%) claimed that their school has one.

More than 93% of respondents from Saskatchewan, 91% from Ontario, 89% from Alberta, 88% from Manitoba and 80% from Nova Scotia said their schools have Holocaust and genocide curriculums.

“Considering the fact that only half of the teachers surveyed said that their students are knowledgeable about Holocaust and genocide education, there’s clearly work to be done to increase the effectiveness of the programs already in place in schools across the country,” Berger said.

To this end, the Foundation for Genocide Education is working with the Quebec Education Ministry to promote the use of a groundbreaking comprehensive genocide education guide for high school teachers across the province.

Source: The Foundation for Genocide Education.

Written by Montreal professors Sivane Hirsch of Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and Sabrina Moisan of Sherbrooke University, and supported by teacher-training workshops, the guide was launched in 2022. The nonprofit is now making it available to governments and teachers nationally to incorporate into their curriculums.

Details of the online guide can be found here.

You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.
About & contact The Publisher
The Foundation for Genocide Education is a non-profit organization that works with governments to ensure that the subject of genocide is taught in high schools across North America.
Releases published on the JNS Wire are communicated and paid for by third parties. Jewish News Syndicate, and any of its distribution partners, take zero responsibility for the accuracy of any content published in any press release. All the statements, opinions, figures in text or multimedia including photos or videos included in each release are presented solely by the sponsoring organization, and in no way reflect the views or recommendation of Jewish News Syndicate or any of its partners. If you believe any of the content in a release published on JNS Wire is offensive or abusive, please report a release.
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates