Study shows how school textbooks in Germany and England present Europe in different ways

Posted on 4 April 2019

When it comes to views about Europe, it’s well known that Germany and England differ sharply. Research after the Brexit vote shows that 68% of Germans are in favour of the European Union and only 11% would support withdrawal. Compare this with 54% of UK respondents who are favourable to the EU.

Similarly, during the 2017 general election campaign in Germany, nearly one third of Germans backed politician Martin Schulz’s idea for a “United States of Europe” by 2025. The corresponding figure for Britain was just 10%. And it seems these differences might run as deep as the way children are taught about Europe in school – as the findings of our latest research indicate.

We analysed the treatment of the European Union in a sample of social studies and politics textbooks from both Germany and England. And we found that the way Europe is depicted in some English and German textbooks for secondary schools differs considerably. In English books there is less coverage of Europe and a more critical approach compared with the German textbooks.

In the English textbooks, Europe was seen almost exclusively in political terms – with strong emphasis on the EU being a controversial issue. In one book for example, although there are references to the European Convention on Human Rights along with the European court and a brief mention of the European Economic Area, most of the limited space given to Europe is about the European Union – and about “different viewpoints on EU membership”.

In the German books there was a very different approach: Europe is seen more expansively and positively with an integrated approach to politics and identity. The German textbooks also had references to Europe being “our historical, cultural and intellectual home”, a “community of values”, and, a place where “enemies became friends”.

Read the full article on 'Study shows how school textbooks in Germany and England present Europe in different ways' on The Conversation web pages.