Project Type
Small grant projects
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Disconcerting past – History education on mass atrocities

How can we encourage more interactive ways of learning about mass atrocities? Our process engages history teachers in exploring student-centred methods that will result in a Khmer-English teaching manual.

History teachers from all provinces in Cambodia will be invited to come to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (TSGM) to participate in a learning and development process facilitated by the museum team. During a series of training events, the teachers will be introduced to and discuss interactive activities to teach about Cambodia’s violent past. In between the training sessions, the teachers will be asked to try out the methods with their own students and reflect on them. Based on the feedback and the joint discussions with the teachers a student-centred teaching manual will be developed and published in Khmer and English.

The aim of the project is to promote interactive methods to teach and discuss the history of mass atrocities (not only in Cambodia). We are a team of mainly young historians from Cambodia working at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (TSGM). When we were students, the history lessons in our schools did not inspire us and we didn’t learn much about the Khmer Rouge period in Cambodia. Now, working at the former Khmer Rouge prison S-21, we want to support change for the better at the museum and in schools in Cambodia in collaboration with an educator from Germany.

The project has five main objectives:

  1. to further adapt already existing teaching methods from a European to a non-European context,
  2. to develop additional methods,
  3. to further train educational staff at TSGM,
  4. to introduce and discuss the methods with history teachers from provinces in Cambodia and to learn from their methodology,
  5. to write in a joint process two teaching manuals, one in Khmer (Cambodian version) and one in English (International version).

In addition, the project will give teachers from the provinces the chance to visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, to deepen their knowledge about the Khmer Rouge prison S-21 and encourage them to visit the memorial site with their students.

The team plans to invite 45 teachers working at provincial schools all over Cambodia to Phnom Penh in three groups for a series of 3-day training events. Before the first training, the teachers will be asked to fill in a pre-survey to find out more about their general views on teaching history. During the training, on the compound of the museum, not only the history of S-21 will be introduced, but several interactive methods will be practised together and discussed. Afterwards, the teachers are encouraged to try out the activity that interested them the most and to share their experiences via photos with each other. The TSGM team will also conduct short phone interviews to document their experiences. During the second series of training, the feedback will be discussed, and additional methods and topics introduced. At the same time, the drafting of the manual will start and will incorporate joint learning. After the training, the teachers will be provided with a printed and soft copy of the manual and asked to complete a feedback survey. Let’s see if any changes will be visible already then!



"Our experience is, that students are interested in history – IF the teachers and facilitators are sharing why history is interesting to them and get into a dialogue with the students. Learning about mass atrocities will only frighten young people or provoke apathy if these difficult pasts and the reasons are not discussed!"

Meet the team:


Hang Nisay

Director Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

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Bou Chantha

Project Coordinator and Researcher at TSGM

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Song Pheaktra

Head of Archive at TSGM and Researcher

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Kimly Sothearak

Admin and education staff at TSGM

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Barbara Thimm

Advisor for TSGM (Civil Peace Service-GIZ)

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