The role of education in promoting peace

Today we observe the International Day of Peace
Students take a picture in the classroom before resuming their studies. Côte d'Ivoire, December 2015.
CREDIT: GPE/Carine Durand

This is the twelfth blog post in a series of collaborations between the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE)

The International Day of Peace – a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples – is observed around the world on 21 September. The theme for 2017 is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.” Education is a core element of peace. 

As the former UN Secretary General said: “Education is, quite simply, peace-building by another name."

Nowadays, violent conflicts pose the greatest development challenges in the world. Children and education systems are often on the front line of these violent conflicts. The rise in violent extremism and radicalization represent a significant threat to all of us. Members of radical groups adopt increasingly extreme political, economic, social, cultural, and religious ideologies and use undemocratic and violent means to achieve their objectives. African countries also face the challenge of objectively addressing deeply rooted structural causes of conflicts emanating from historical injustices, marginalization and corruption.

Can education rise to the challenge?

Education imparts knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that are important for the social, economic and political development for any country. This role is well articulated in Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4), which seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.

Moreover, the objective of SDG 4.7 is to ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

Education: a double-edged sword

While education is central to peacebuilding it is important to note that it has two facets. There is evidence to the view that when equitably available, of good quality, relevant and conflict sensitive, education can help promote peace and provide safe environments. On the other hand, when its delivery is characterized with exclusion and inequity, it can exacerbate conflict. It is for this reason that deliberate effort need to be made to put in place necessary policies and strategies to maximize the positive effects of education on peace.

The Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 2016 - 2025) has embraced a paradigm shift in the policies and planning of education so as to adopt “the new approaches” desirable for promoting peace in the continent.                                  

Education has to be sensitive to context, including conflict and disaster, and has to pay attention to disparities, including equity.

What kind of education can respond to this challenge?

One of the key interventions in promoting peace through education is development of conflict-sensitive education policies and plans. This entails conducting conflict analysis on education systems, structures and delivery to identify the drivers of conflict and violence, and the dynamics therein leading to development of concrete and realistic intervention that leverage on the capacity for peace through education.

There should be a paradigm shift towards programs that encourage maximum realization of an individual’s potential and optimal development of human capital. 

Unless young people’s skills are developed for work, they will be ultimately excluded from active participation in their societies. 

Current shifts in the continent that enhance peace and global citizenship include adopting curriculum models that provide for flexible pathways to develop all learners’ abilities and talents; improve efficiency in provision of education and reduce wastage at all levels.

There is need to shift from content-based to competency-based, from more summative assessments and less formative assessments. There is also need to shift focus from content-based teaching and learning resources to activity-based, interactive workbooks.

It is imperative to adopt transformative pedagogy, such as dialogic, active and inquiry-based learning and engaged learning based on context and learners’ interests. The learner is at the center of the learning process where he/she is able to explore, dialogue, discover new knowledge, reflect and is spurred into action.

The curriculum and education services should be designed in such a way that they are culturally and economically relevant to local contexts, with a special focus on minorities, nomadic and other mobile communities, while at the same time developing alternative education opportunities for marginalized and at-risk adolescents and youth.

Challenges

  • Lack of capacity in the ministries of education to translate the policies and commitments into actions and form desirable partnerships at the national and school level.
  • Inadequate investment in education to match the demands of the 21st century.
  • Teachers’ lack of capacity to deliver education using transformative pedagogy.
  • Inadequate, poorly paid and unmotivated teaching force.

Call to action

We call on African governments to:

  • Review and enhance education curriculum to ensure that it is sensitive to context, including conflict and disaster, and pays attention to disparities, including equity.
  • Develop conflict-sensitive education policies and adapt pedagogy.
  • Address issues related to structural violence, marginalization, and social exclusion.