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:
- Establishing public education system with integrated schools
- Establishing mutuality, positive interdependence through cooperative learning in the classroom, general school institution, and community at-large
- Teaching students how to make difficult decisions by creating institutional procedures to follow for conflict resolution and teaching interpersonal skills necessary for conflict resolution
- Teaching students how to resolve conflicts constructively through negotiation and mediation
- 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