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Women and Girls WASHing Away the Water Crisis

Ethiopian women collecting water from COWASH project site. Photo: USAID Photo Gallery. Photo credit: Morgana Wingard.

What is WASH?

Widespread access to water is a continual challenge for both rural and urban populations in Ethiopia. Whether it be due to mismanagement of water allocation, lack of infrastructure, or severe droughts that continue to plague the nation; many young women still have to spend hours walking, not to school, but to retrieve water for their families. In 2004 a movement was launched under the United Nations Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council in partnership with multiple development organizations in order to address the issues of water access and sanitation in Ethiopia. This movement was called WASH (Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene) and its objectives were “to promote improved water, sanitation, and hygiene practices and gain the political and social commitment required to make a real difference.1” WASH programs have been initiated in many nations to initially meet the Millennium Development Goal Target 7.C. which sets the goal of halving, “the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015” and has launched into second phases with Sustainable Development Goal 6 that aims to achieve sustainable access to drinking water and basic sanitation for all. In Ethiopia the WASH movement has leveraged social mobilization and advocacy activities that resulted in the development of a National Hygiene and Sanitation Strategy Protocol2. UNICEF is now supporting the second phase of the WASH program that is intended to “increase the number of people having access to water and sanitation, through strengthening the service delivery, enabling environment, and knowledge management of the WASH sector.3” The goal is to increase water access from the current 59% to 85% in rural areas and 58% to 75% in urban areas by 2020. This second phase also has a strong focus on working with the government in order to reduce vulnerability to water insecurity as droughts become more frequent and longer in the country4.

Community Project Ownership

We are now aware of what is happening from a “top down” approach to solve the water access crisis  Ethiopia, but an important question is often overlooked: How do communities improve their own water situation? A good answer to this question can be found in the first phase of the COWASH program was implemented in 2011 in partnership with the Ethiopian government and the government of Finland with the goal to reach more rural communities. In this approach communities are given full ownership. They have control over the planning, financial management, construction, and maintenance of their water access project. In contrast, the majority of WASH projects only have the community members involved in the continued maintenance and operation of infrastructure. In the COWASH program funding for construction is given directly to the communities through regional micro-finance institutions set up by the Ethiopian government. The transfer of investment funds (grant) is carried through regional micro-finance institutions (MFIs)5. A major reason for the success and sustainability of the COWASH program is it entails a high amount of ownership from the community since they are involved in the life cycle of the project implementation. It also provides capacity building for rural Ethiopians and extends the reach of the WASH movement in order to achieve its goal of increased water access across Ethiopia6. The COWASH program is now in its third phase and operating in 76 Woredas of 5 Regions 7.

Women Taking the Lead

As we know poor water access and sanitation disproportionately affects women and girls in many ways. The second phase of COWASH added that gender equality should be mainstreamed into the WASH intervention process. Women empowerment is defined by the European Institute for Gender Equality as “the process by which women gain power and control over their own lives and acquire the ability to make strategic choices.8” The major goals related to gender equality in COWASH Phase II are a 50% quota of women’s participation in WASH committees and at least 25% of artisans to be trained for implemented WASH facilities should be women.

In researching the success of this phase at increasing female participation in WASH projects it was found that the majority of projects fell short of these goals. One issue that was sited was community meetings were not held at times when women could easily attend and participate9. With the implementation of third phase of COWASH last year, new entry points have been identified for women empowerment. These include targeted capacity building for women, placing women in leadership roles, creating conducive environments for women to be engaged in male-dominated productive activities such artisanship, and advocating for gender programming in the WASH sector10.

Since women are directly involved and affected by access to water they have the knowledge of what issues need to be solved and have the motivation to solve them. As the issues with water access and sanitation are solved in a sustainable way it means that girls are able to spend their time in school rather than walking to retrieve water. This will only increase their capacity and bring more empowerment for women and girls to play an important role in their community.



The Use and Implementation of Information and Communications Technology as a subsector of TVET in Kenya

The author has mentioned in the first blog post that the more access to and the higher quality of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), the more the rate of youth unemployment in Kenya can be controlled and reduced; and that as a result, Kenyan government has paid great attention to provide more opportunities for the students to get access to TVET courses of high quality. In this blog post, the author will go deeper into the use and implementation of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as the subsector of  technical and vocational education and training in Kenya.

According to Bingimlas (2009), Information and Communications Technology is defined as groups of technologies providing access to information through telecommunications with a primary focus on communication technologies. This includes the Internet, wireless networks, mobile phones, as well as other communication mediums. As Maina, Kahando, and Maina (2017) point out, ICT is one of the fastest growing economic activities in the world now. Countries that have exploited the potential and the power of ICT have attained significant social and economic development (Nyerere, 2009). To be more specific, Ngure (2013) indicates that ICT can create both the direct jobs of employment in the ICT industries and the indirect ones in the ancillary enterprises enabled by ICT.

Under this trend, Kenya’s ICT industry has also been growing at a promising rate since Kenyan business environment has experienced the positive changes. As a result, the government of Kenya recognizes that ICT plays an important role in its social and economic development. The Kenyan government has encouraged institutions and universities to integrate ICTs in their TVET courses. In addition, the government has proclaimed national ICT policies on the basis of its economic recovery strategy for wealth and employment creation (Maina, Ogalo, and Mwai, 2016).

Ngure (2013) points out that the TVET Authority and Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development have committed themselves to promote access to and relevance of ICTs in TVET courses, with the goal of reflecting the needs of industry and the labor market within Kenya’s nationwide socio-economic development plans and policies. To attain this goal, Maina, Ogalo, and Mwai (2016) indicate that work has been done to ensure that the ICT competence-based skills that are necessary and essential in the labor market are offered by technical and vocational education and trainings. The involvement of ICT stakeholders in the development of the training strategies for the TVET of national skills has also been endeavored. Therefore, it can in particular contribute to the better control and reduction of the rate of youth unemployment. The curriculums have become more and more flexible and up-to-date to meet the ICT technological changes and demands in the world of work.

Kenya Science Campus-University of Nairobi

Maina, Kahando, and Maina (2017) gives an example that Chepkoilel University College of Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya, integrates ICTs in their TVET programs in School of Education, School of Agriculture, School of Business and Economics, and School of Science, aiming to strengthen students’ skills and employability concerned. What is more, as TVET institutions in Kenya, Michuki and Thika Technical Training Institute in Murang’a and Kiambu County have emphasized the importance of the pedagogical readiness on the effective integration of ICTs.

Maina, Ogalo, and Mwai (2016) suggest that currently the ICT resources are used for developing and improving lecturers’ own knowledge and teaching students about computer and software appliance. To achieve greater positive impacts on controlling and reducing the rate of youth unemployment in Kenya, the use of ICTs in TVET institutions should maintain a balance between research and accessing information and tutoring students in computer literacy and information and communication science. Therefore, the integration of ICTs with TVET can be more effective and of higher quality, which can definitely lead to less inflexible and outdated TVET curriculums; and less mismatch between the skills learned and the skills demanded by industries and the labor market.


Bingimlas (2009) also recommends that Board of Management of TVET institutions in Kenya had better recruit ICT competent teachers with an assessment of the technological proficiency in advance, in order to make sure that teachers are competent to facilitate ICT Integration in TVET. Moreover, teachers should be encouraged to regularly improve their skill-sets to ICT facilities for the sake of integrating the new tools and methodologies in relevant curriculums in an efficient way. Now, more and more TVET institutions and universities have internal ICT training programs, anchored in their ICT strategic plan, for both ICT staff members and students.



Bingimlas, K. A. (2009). Barriers to the successful integration of ICT in teaching and learning

environments: A review of the literature. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science &

Technology Education, 5(3), 235-245.

Maina, T. M., Kahando, D. M., & Maina, C. M. (2017). Curriculum Content Relevancy in

Integration of ICTs in Kenya TVET Institutions in Readiness to Industry Needs.

International Journal of Secondary Education, 4(6), 58-64.

Maina, T. M., Ogalo, J., & Mwai, N. (2016). The Pedagogical Readiness of Instructors towards

Achieving Integration of ICT’s in TVET Institutions in Kenya. Research in Pedagogy,

6(1), 55-65.

Ngure, S. W. (2013). Stakeholders’ perceptions of technical, vocational education and

training :the case of Kenyan micro and small enterprises in the motor vehicle service and

repair industry. Retrieved from https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/597

Nyerere, J. (2009). Technical, industrial & vocational education and training (TVET) sector

mapping in Kenya [PPT]. Www.slideplayer.com.


A book holds a house of gold: Observations on educational inequality in Chengdu, China


Chengdu is the centuries-old capital of Sichuan Province, sprawling in a valley surrounded by the Tibetan mountains, home to pandas and spicy cuisine. It is also an up-and-coming financial center and critical hub for technological innovation in China’s southwestern region. As a result, the competition to get into educational institutions such as the famous Sichuan University is becoming fiercer. Private tutoring, or shadow education, has exploded as a lucrative sector for both native Chinese and foreign workers in response to the demand for better performance on the gaokao, China’s college entrance examination. The gaokao is considered one of the most stressful and difficult tests in the world, and good scores for test-takers can translate more than university options, which is why the pressure for students is so high (Ming, 2016). However, disadvantaged groups like ethnic minorities or rural migrants find it difficult to achieve high scores despite the so-called equality of public education. In fact, 95% of rural students drop out of the education system before they even take their college entrance exams (“China’s Education Gap”, 2016). Chengdu, with its growing economy and increased rural-to-urban migration, is one of many such cases.

I came to Chengdu in 2014 and stayed for three years, working as an English teacher in university settings, formal elementary and high school classrooms, and as a “shadow” tutor for businessmen and students preparing for overseas colleges. Over that time, I came to understand some of the fundamental differences in access to public services and quality education between poorer students and wealthy ones. While my personal experience and anecdotes may seem like just that—personal and limited—they are a microcosmic reflection of situations occurring all around China. There is a real problem with educational inequality in China that is affecting future prospects for the already under-resourced and marginalized, one that can only be addressed by first understanding how mechanisms like private tutoring both fulfill a demand but create barriers to access.

First, competition between private tutoring institutions is intense, but because shadow education is, in general, unregulated by the Chinese state, quality varies wildly. Public education, too, has fallen prey to marketization in a divergence from the professed strategic goal of equality in the education system (World Bank, 1999). So, even amongst public high schools there is a big push to get the best students and best teachers[2]. Private tutoring helps middle school students gain access to better high schools, whether public or private, and so on and so forth up the educational chain. As Wei Zhang and Mark Bray discuss in their study of shadow education in Shanghai, differentiation of access to private tutoring has “offset” the ostensible equalization policies present in public schools and allowed “privileged families and elite schools” to compete on a totally different playing field (p. 221). Chengdu is much the same in that the only way to guarantee a good quality private tutor or public school is to pay extra money. Private and foreign institutions, however, can usually pay more money to attract better teachers and do more advertising in wealthy neighborhoods, thus quality is being condensed into those private and foreign institutions. Despite the lack of standardization, high demand for private tutoring services has not abated, and those who cannot afford to pay a high price will lose out on quality.

Second, while access to private tutoring is not the sole reason for wealthy students’ success on the gaokao, access to quality education in general is a huge factor. Private tutoring supplements a public education that has not kept up with student and parent demand (Li, 2016), offering new and different opportunities like English classes, art classes, writing courses for students who are applying to overseas universities, and other specialized content. I helped a classroom of teenagers write argumentative essays for the SAT, as well as college motivation letters, and their opportunity to learn directly from me (a foreigner who had participated in the U.S. education system) was available to them because of their socioeconomic status. Likewise, children who I taught in the “elite” i2 Institute of International Education were privy to personalized classes and extra assistance on homework, and most of them were preparing to enter competitive high schools and colleges.

Unequal access to higher education for disadvantaged groups occurs because high-quality private and public schools favor certain socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds (Wang, 2010). Nobody can make a profit from teaching a Tibetan, or a migrant worker’s daughter from Aba in the far western part of Sichuan Province. They might still manage to be successful on their own, but it is unlikely when quality resources are being funneled towards the privileged. This is why, in many ways, Chinese public schools are not succeeding in meeting the state’s strategic goals for equitable education. The demographic difference in quality is even more obvious when foreign schools are taken into consideration. I lived across the street from the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu and knew many of the people who worked there. Some of my friends were teachers in the local QSI (Quality Schools International) elementary school, a private institution for children of foreigners, consulate workers, and diplomats. This was one of the only places that required a master’s degree in education and continuous training. (My place of work, for comparison, hired some who were still in the middle of their undergraduate schooling and had no prior tutoring experience.) Rich Chinese parents would send their children to QSI because it had a great international reputation, but one of the only reasons they were able to get in was because they were able to purchase passports from Hong Kong that “proved” their children were “international” and therefore qualified to be in a foreign school (Fraser, 2018). It is not hard to see how easy it is for a privileged child to succeed on a much bigger scale—even beyond Chengdu and China—as opposed to one who does not even have access to updated gaokao textbooks because their school is underfunded.

My final point is this: there is a clear connection between wealth, educational attainment, and future prospects (Rong & Shi, 2001). Wealthier youth are more likely to go to both vocational schools and universities, but especially if they come from a certain demographic background (Liu, 2013) and wealthier youth in my personal experience are infinitely more likely to have a better, more exciting life. They can travel, study abroad, have good jobs and job performance. While private tutoring is filling a certain gap in demand that public education has been unable meet, it is the symptom of a wider problem of inequality and lack of quality. This brings us back to problems of access for rural-to-urban migrating students (Li, 2008) and disadvantaged groups like ethnic minorities. It is difficult to draw any conclusions about shadow tutoring and teaching in Chengdu, however. Equity versus excellence is a big topic in China now, but there is a dearth of research on the subject as it plays out in cities like Chengdu, which are not on the coast and have not received as much attention as Beijing or Shanghai. But if the proverb is true that “a book holds a house of gold,” then the best books that hold the best houses are still unavailable to many in Chengdu.

References and Works Cited

China’s Education Gap – A Surprising Factor of Rural Poverty. (2016, November 29). Retrieved from


Fraser, N. (2018, January 10). Passports for sale: Rich Chinese, the new super immigrants. Retrieved

from https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/society/article/2071903/passports-sale-why-rich-chinese-are-new-super-immigrant

Li, Ran, “Shadow Education in China: What is the relationship between private tutoring and

students’ National College Entrance Examination (Gaokao) Performance?” (2016).

Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 15754. https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/etd/15754

Li, W. (2008). Education inequality in China: problems of policies on access to higher education.

Journal of Asian Public Policy, 1(1), 115-123. doi: 10.1080/17516230801900444

Liu, Y. (2013). Meritocracy and the Gaokao: a survey study of higher education selection and socio-

economic participation in East China. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 34(5-6), 868-887. doi: 10.1080/01425692.2013.816237

Ming, X. (2013, July 13). China’s exam high-scorers weighed down by unrealistic expectations.

Retrieved from http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/994073.shtml

Rong, X. & Shi, T. (2001). Inequality in Chinese Education. Journal of Contemporary

China10(26),107-124. doi: 10.1080/10670560124330

Wang, H. (2010). Research on the Influence of College Entrance Examination Policies on the

Fairness of Higher Education Admissions Opportunities in China. Chinese Education & Society43(6), 15-35. doi: 10.2753/CED1061-1932430601

World Bank. 1999. Strategic goals for Chinese education in the 21st century (English). Washington,

DC: World Bank. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/203951468768863829/Strategic-goals-for-Chinese-education-in-the-21st-century

Zhang, W., & Bray, M. (2017). Equalising schooling, unequalising private supplementary

tutoring: Access and tracking through shadow education in China. Oxford Review of

Education, 44(2), 221-238. doi:10.1080/03054985.2017.1389710


[1] Shū zhōng zì yǒu huáng jīn wū, shū zhōng zì yǒu yán rú yù. Literally, “in books are sumptuous houses and graceful ladies.” Figuratively means “study hard, success and glory will follow.”

[2] The differences between rural and urban schools, as well as how public education is funded, are complicated issues beyond the scope of this essay. Suffice to say that Chengdu has strict hukou laws which prevent rural-to-urban migrant students from accessing high-quality public schools where the provincial and national governments concentrate more resources.

Guatemala Mandates Peace Education in its Schools, but Does it Work?

Photo by Jeison Higuita on Unsplash

Eric Law

As my colleague Daisy Betancourt Ramos and I noted in a blog post last month, part of the peace accords that brought an end to Guatemala’s thirty-six year civil war enshrines peace education as a core part of the country’s educational system.  The promotion of peace education aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, Target 7, and the intended outcomes of peace education are broadly aligned with SDG 16“Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

In our earlier post, we discussed several studies which highlighted various ways formal and informal educational programs in Guatemala incorporate peace education into their curricula.  The country’s progressive educational policies and intentions deserve praise, but also beg the question:  Are they working?  Is it enough that the country is no longer at war, and that its homicide rates (still among the world’s highest) have trended downward?  The peace accord’s educational reform agreement use phrases like “strengthen national unity through respect for cultural diversity,” “strategy of equity,” “democratic coexistence, including respect for human rights,” and “culture of peace”—all patently difficult to define—before getting to the key directive to “Design and implement a national civic education programme for democracy and peace, promoting the protection of human rights, the renewal of political culture and the peaceful resolution of conflicts,” (para. 22.[f]).  But even if Guatemalans arrive at a general consensus about what these mean, and decide those are sufficient indicators of overall success for the country’s peace education programs, as development and/or peacebuilding professionals we should want to establish attribution, and explore avenues of possible improvement.

The small handful of peer-reviewed studies on Guatemalan peace education programs cited in our last post (Bellino, 2015; Bellino, 2016; Gass, Gough, Armas, & Dolcino, 2016; Rubin, 2016) were structured as case studies, and relied mostly on key informant interviews and self-reported responses about knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors.  In fact, we have not found any longitudinal studies on Guatemala’s peace education programs.  This is not unique to the country though.  Globally, we have found that there is very little published research evaluating peace education programs’ long-term effectiveness.  Two rare examples are the studies conducted by Malhotra and Liyanage (2005) and Rosen and Salomon (2011).  Malhotra and Liyanage evaluated the effects of a four-day peace workshop in Sri Lanka one year on (finding that participants showed greater empathy than did non-participants, in the context of protracted ethnic conflict).  Rosen and Salomon examined a year-long peace education program in an Israeli high school, followed by an additional two-month-delayed posttest (finding that the program effectively influenced participants’ malleable “peripheral beliefs,” but not the core beliefs associated with the collective narratives of their Jewish and Palestinian identity groups).

To be clear, the two longitudinal evaluations above were not randomized control trials (RCTs).  RCTs, while generally considered the gold standard in terms of evaluations, were originally conceived with laboratory-based medical research in mind, and present numerous ethical, methodological, and practical problems which make them highly contentious in development and social science circles (Wolff, 2000).  What’s more, if we are primarily concerned with internal validity—for example, whether Guatemalan peace education works and can be improved in Guatemala, without regard to external validity—we should question the point and expense of conducting an RCT.  But even when it comes to alternative methods, empirical, systematic evaluations of peace education programs face extensive challenges (e.g. social desirability bias, self-selected participation, dangerous research environments) which make them exceedingly rare (Fitzduff & Jean, 2011; Harber & Sakade, 2009; Johnson & Johnson, 2010; Nevo & Brem, 2005; Salomon, 2006).

So what specific evaluation questions do we want to answer about Guatemalan peace education, and if we can’t or shouldn’t conduct RCTs, are there any practical, ethical, and methodologically sound alternatives?

To the first question, we could refer to the SDGs, but as noted above, Guatemala was nearly twenty years ahead of the United Nations in statutory peace education, so why not use its own standards?  Where more specificity is needed in defining the standards, Guatemalans should be the ones who get the final say.  In any case, we would certainly want to look beyond knowledge and attitudes (although these are important) to include behaviors (e.g. Did participants choose non-violent approaches where they might previously have chosen violence?).  Chigas, Church, and Corlazzoli (2014) suggest a long list of questions that impact evaluations of peacebuilding interventions (including peace education programs) can answer (e.g. impacts on conflict drivers, better options under particular circumstances, mechanisms of action, sustainability of outcomes).  Happily, they also address the second question (on alternatives) by providing well-organized guidance on how, when, and why to use many quasi-experimental and alternative evaluation methods in conflict zones and conflict-prone zones (e.g. fragile and post-conflict), such as Guatemala.

Clearly, there is interest from inside and outside Guatemala in its peace education.  Clearly as well, there are a great many tools available to help determine its effectiveness.  Whether one refers Guatemalan law or the UN’s SDGs, there is political and legal rationale for carrying out impact evaluations on these programs, in order to gain insights on possible improvements and lessons that may be applied in Guatemala and around the world.  As usual, the main questions seem to be funding and time.


Bellino, M. J. (2015). The risks we are willing to take: Youth civic development in “postwar” Guatemala. Harvard Educational Review, 8(4), 537-561.

Bellino, M. J. (2016).  So that we do not fall again: History education and citizenship in “postwar” Guatemala,” Comparative Education Review, 60(1), 58-79.

Chigas, D., Church, M., & Corlazzoli, V. (2014). Evaluating Impacts of Peacebuilding Interventions: Approaches and methods, challenges and considerations (Practice Product). Department for International Development. Retrieved from https://www.saferworld.org.uk/downloads/evaluating-impacts-of-peacebuilding-interventions.pdf

Fitzduff, M., & Jean, I. (2011). Peace education: State of the field and lessons Learned from USIP grantmaking (Peaceworks No. 74). Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace. Retrieved from https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/PW74.pdf

Gass, M., Gough, S., Armas, A., & Dolcino, C. (2016). Play for Peace as a violence prevention model: Achieving voluntad y convivencia. Journal of Experiential Education, 39(4), 412–426. https://doi.org/10.1177/1053825916674978

Harber, C., & Sakade, N. (2009). Schooling for violence and peace: How does peace education differ from ‘normal’ schooling? Journal of Peace Education, 6(2), 171–187. https://doi.org/10.1080/17400200903086599

Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (2010). Peace education in the classroom: Creating effective peace education programs. In G. Salomon & E. Cairns (Eds.), Handbook on peace education (pp. 223–240). New York,  NY,  US: Psychology Press.

Malhotra, D., & Liyanage, S. (2005). Long-term effects of peace workshops in protracted conflicts. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 49(6), 908–924. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022002705281153

Nevo, B., & Brem, I. (2005). Peace education programs and the evaluation of their effectiveness. In G. Salomon & B. Nevo (Eds.), Peace education: The concept, principles, and practices around the world (ebook, pp. 271–282). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Publishers. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ebook-nps/detail.action?docID=227509#

Rosen, Y., & Salomon, G. (2011). Durability of peace education effects in the shadow of conflict. Social Psychology of Education, 14(1), 135–147. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-010-9134-y

Rubin, B. C. (2016). We come to form ourselves bit by bit: Educating for citizenship in post-conflict Guatemala. American Educational Research Journal, 53(3), 639–672. https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831216646871

Salomon, G. (2006). Does peace education really make a difference? Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 12(1), 37–48. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327949pac1201_3

Wolff, N. (2000). Using randomized controlled trials to evaluate socially complex services: problems, challenges and recommendations. The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics, 3(2), 97–109. https://doi.org/10.1002/1099-176X(200006)3:2<97::AID-MHP77>3.0.CO;2-S

Does peace education within national curriculum promote harmony in post-conflict and/or conflict-affected countries?

In our previous blog, Eric and I looked at how Guatemala had integrated peace education into their national curriculum as a potential catalyst for SDG 4.7 and 16. Several studies showed mixed results due to: facilitation inconsistencies across the country, questionable efficacy of the top-down approach, the impact of ongoing processing of trauma as experienced by both teachers and students, and the influence of historical memory as it impacts how teachers and schools define civic engagement and peace. The gap-filled curriculum and insufficient teacher training led us to question if the government of Guatemala had in mind social cohesion or social justice as their motivation for peace education?

There is potential contradiction that arises within peace education in terms of social cohesion versus social justice. With a top-down approach peace education initiatives that aim for social cohesion can come at the expense of social justice. If the goal for peace education in post-conflict or conflict-affected countries is social cohesion, then it could provide a false equity and/or promote the same institutional oppression of marginalized groups before or during the conflict. In this blog, I focus on the necessary components for strong peace education curriculum and the role of the teacher as an agent of change.

It is important to consider the different ways to establishing peace in post-conflict and conflict-affected countries. Johnson, D.W., & Johnson R.T. (2005), identify two ways: imposed peace and consensual peace. The former is based on domination and imposition that is often enacted by the winners of the conflict. This course of action suppresses violence but doesn’t resolve deep-rooted injustices and utilizes structural oppression. Consensual peace involves two stages, peacemaking (addresses the immediate violence) and peacebuilding (which devotes time and effort to reforming economic, political, and educational institutions as negotiated for long-term peace). The process of consensual peace establishes a harmonious relationship with common goals and mutual benefits. Peace education can be used to institutionalize both forms, but Johnson & Johnson argue that consensual peace is the most effective to nurture a sustainable, peaceful society. They identify 5 steps for integrating peace education in the public education system:

  1. Establishing public education system with integrated schools
  2. Establishing mutuality, positive interdependence through cooperative learning in the classroom, general school institution, and community at-large
  3. Teaching students how to make difficult decisions by creating institutional procedures to follow for conflict resolution and teaching interpersonal skills necessary for conflict resolution
  4. Teaching students how to resolve conflicts constructively through negotiation and mediation
  5. Instilling civic values to generate an inclusive society with moral bonds

What Johnson & Johnson hazardly overlook is the need to collaborate and generate a contextually relevant curriculum that considers the collective construction of history, reconciliation, and the effects of trauma and historical memory. Lauritzen, S.M., & Nodeland, T.S. (2017), evaluated the results of the implementation of a standardized peace education curriculum adopted by the Ministry of Education of Kenya from UN organizations following the post-election violence that occurred in 2007. The curriculum included interpersonal skills building but had no inclusion of the historical context. During the implementation challenges emerged, such as, there was an unexpected quantity of teachers and students who were experiencing post-traumatic stress that the curriculum was not designed to address. Also, teachers were unwilling and/or untrained in counselling to address the trauma so the curriculum had to be readjusted. Results showed that, without the inclusion of reconciliation processes and negating the need to include context-specific history, the curriculum was weak and irrelevant to providing strong peacebuilding within the community. In addition, they identified a large gap between the pupils’ awareness, teachers perceptions, and the schools’ approach and signaled the importance of the teachers role in effective peace education implementation.

Halai, A., & Naureen Durrani, N. (2018) analyzed the teachers role as active agents in promoting and sustaining peacebuilding, social cohesion and mitigation of inequality in Pakistan. In their study they found that, beyond inadequate teacher training, personal biases and trauma also impacted the application of peace education curriculum. Teachers were conflicted by the overarching message of assimilation from the curriculum and many believed it excluded marginalized groups. There was also a common belief that peace education was a “peripheral curriculum” and not core academic content thus impacting the frequency and attention given to the lessons.

This brings to light the need to put greater attention to the creation of (consensual) peace education curriculum if it is to be a catalyst for meaningful and long-lasting peaceful and inclusive societies.


Halai, A., & Naureen Durrani, N. (2018). Teachers as agents of peace? Exploring teacher agency in social cohesion in Pakistan, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 48(4), 535-552. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057925.2017.1322491

Johnson, D.W., & Johnson R.T. (2005). Essential Components of Peace Education, Theory Into Practice, 44(4), 280-292. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15430421tip4404_2

Lauritzen, S.M., & Nodeland, T.S. (2017). What happened and why? Considering the role of truth and memory in peace education curricula, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 49(4), 437-455. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220272.2016.1278041

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