Average Fleming flunks test on historical knowledge

Summary

A recent test administered by KU Leuven for the culture network Davidsfonds shows that knowledge of historical facts is lacking in the general population

Causal relationships

Flemings have achieved an average score of 4.5 out of 10 in a test on historical knowledge and insight. The test was part of a survey among 1,000 residents, created by researchers from the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) at the request of Radio 1 and the culture network Davidsfonds.

Participants scored an average 6.8 out of 10 for historical knowledge but only 3.4 for insight into subjects such as chronological historical events and causal relationships.

Knowledge of Belgium’s colonial history was particularly troubling, said researchers, with 32% offering the correct answer to a question about the independence of Congo. Flemings also overestimated the country’s historical role in certain events. Some 45% answered that the Benelux is the alliance contributing the most to European unification since 1945, while it is in fact the French-German alliance.

The respondents also had little insight into structural historical changes and see changes more as an abrupt result of occurrences. Some 71%, for example, responded that the main cause of the industrial revolution was the invention of the steam engine, while it was the result of a gradual agrarian revolution.

People under 25 scored less well on factual knowledge but turned out to have more historical insight. According to KU Leuven professor Karel Van Nieuwenhuyse, this is the result of education goals in history at Flemish schools, which were adapted in 2000. The general results show, according to Van Nieuwenhuyse, how difficult it is to correct widespread views that don’t correspond to the reality.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons