Making textbook content inclusive : A focus on religion, gender, and culture
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The pioneering efforts of UNESCO and its partners to improve the quality of textbooks around the world have resulted in significant progress. With few exceptions, textbooks no longer function openly as tools of propaganda or as incitements to violence. Nevertheless, a growing body of international research on school textbooks has uncovered numerous, sometimes subtle, elements of texts that continue to nurture the formation of divisive stereotypes that might fuel discrimination, ethnic tensions and more generally, violent extremism. Though sometimes inadvertent, these examples and omissions can lead to inaccurate and damaging impressions of others. The challenge now is to ensure that schoolbooks endorsed by educational systems serve as a potent force for countering all biased, incomplete, and inaccurate representations of peoples and societies. This will help ensure learners develop into informed and culturally literate citizens who are able to contribute constructively to their societies. This publication was developed by UNESCO and the Georg Eckert Institute (GEI) with the assistance of an international group of specialists in inclusive education. The three key issues – religion, gender and culture – were agreed upon at an expert meeting at UNESCO Headquarters in September 2012. They are among the most critical and possibly controversial issues that may lead to stereotyping and should therefore be addressed properly to encourage diversity and respect for all in quality textbooks. The draft content was tested twice: once in a UNESCO workshop in Rabat, Morocco in May 2013; and, following revision, it was tested again in Vienna, Austria in July 2015 in cooperation with the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID). The resulting publication is deeply rooted in universally shared values as stated in standard international references, in particular those related to human rights and diversity.