Students at Flemish secondary schools will have colonialism as part of their standard curriculum, according to a proposal by the region’s education minister Ben Weyts (N-VA).
The subject forms part of the history syllabus for students in the third grade – fifth and sixth year of secondary school.
The subject will include imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism and decolonisation. This would be the first time such topics have expressly been included in what are called the end terms – a list of subjects that must be covered in class and will appear in examinations.
The end terms for history as they stand at present are vague, and set out only which historical periods are to be studied by each grade. Teachers are free, in classes on the nineteenth century for example, to leave out Belgium’s history in the Congo altogether if they prefer.
Elsewhere, some teachers cover the subject in detail, while other touch on the matter on the margins of a wider study of imperialism in general.
Weyts’ proposal still has to be considered by his fellow ministers, and if it is approved, it will have to pass the scrutiny of the Flemish parliament.
Meanwhile his French-speaking counterpart, Caroline Désir (PS), has expressed support of the same type of course in the schools of the French Community, in Wallonia and Brussels.
Désir posted a short video to Twitter in response to an open letter from the comedian and actor Cécile Djunga, calling for the compulsory teaching of colonialism in the community’s schools.
“It is not so much that the history of the Congo or of colonisation is done in an awkward way on the basis of outdated references, it is above all that this history is too often ignored. Most of our students do not hear about Belgian colonisation in the Congo or the exploitation and domination mechanisms used. We can no longer tolerate this shortcoming,” she said.