Combatting Societal Challenges Through Peace Education In Schools
By Swaleha Sindhi
05 November, 2013
Many teachers are already practising peace education without calling it by name. Historically, in various parts of the world, peace education has been referred to as Education for Conflict Resolution, International Understanding, and Human Rights; Global Education; Critical Pedagogy; Education for Liberation and Empowerment; Social Justice Education; Environmental Education; Life Skills Education; Disarmament and Development Education; and more. These various labels illuminate the depth and diversity of the field. Using the term peace education helps co-ordinate such global initiatives and unite educators in the common practice of educating for a culture of peace.
Much of the work of UNESCO is centred on the promotion of education for peace, human rights, and democracy. The Yamoussoukro Declaration called on UNESCO to ‘construct a new vision of peace by developing a peace culture based on the universal values of respect for life, liberty, justice, solidarity, tolerance, human rights and equality between women and men’ and to promote education and research for a this vision. (UNESCO and a Culture of Peace, UNESCO Publishing, 1995) Underlying all of this work in the field of peace education are the efforts of committed educators, researchers, activists, and members of global civil society.
Definition of Peace Education
Peace education is more effective and meaningful when it is adopted according to the social and cultural context and the needs of a country. It should be enriched by its cultural and spiritual values together with the universal human values. It should also be globally relevant. “Peace education is skill building. It empowers children to be creative and non-destructive ways to settle conflict and to live in harmony with themselves, others, and their world. Peace building is the task of every human being and the challenge of the human family” (Fran Schmidt and Alice Friedman (1988).
Why Peace Education?
Violence is emerging in an unprecedented manner in human society. Looking at the world today any sensible person feels disheartened to see the kind of violent acts being committed by man against man. It is sad to realize that we live in an era of unprecedented violence in the forms of terrorism, war, crimes, injustice and oppression and exploitation. The majority of mankind lives in poverty, struggling for survival. There is so much disorder and confusion in the society that it is affecting the children's innocent minds. Therefore there is an urgent need to nurture peace in the innocent hearts and minds of the children. However, in spite of materialistic views, the thinking of humanists like Rousseau, Henry Thoreau, Tolstoy and Maria Montessori kept the sense of education alive reawakening to the need of developing the humanistic side of education at least among a few educationists. Constructive education for peace must aim to reform humanity so as to permit the inner development of human personality and develop a more conscious vision of the mission of mankind and the present conditions of social life. What we need today is an education that is capable of saving mankind from the present predicament. Such an education involves the spiritual development of man and the enhancement of his value as an individual and prepares the young people to understand the time in which they live. At school we must construct an environment in which children can be actively engaged in learning.
Education is narrowing down into the teaching of certain subject matters necessary only for passing examinations. Due to such subject- centred and examination-oriented learning at school the purpose and the beauty of whole education seems to have lost. The joy of learning is taken away from children. They are trained to cope with the rat race of the competitive society. Today school is no more a place of leisure or of peace as the very word 'school' means. (The word school drives from Greek 'meaning leisure’) Today teachers complain about increasing disciplinary problems in schools. The public criticizes the youth whom we produce at schools as insensitive to the problems of society, selfish, narrow minded, lacking in intellectual depth and susceptible to the violent and corrupt social pressures. The excellence of a few students cannot make up for the rest. R.D. Laing (1978) puts it this way:
As a result, more and more peace concepts, attitudes, values and behavioural skills are being integrated into school curricula in many countries. There is also renewed interest to develop peace-related disciplines such as values education, moral education, global education, etc.
There should be short courses for teachers as a part of professional development on peace education. This would bring a positive change in their attitudes and help them to weave it into the curriculum. This would in turn help the students form meaningful relationships in the classrooms. Thus, schools must; develop a more humanistic management approach, improve human relations between, teacher-student, teacher-teacher, student-student, help develop good attitudes in students and teachers as well and a healthy emotional development in students, facilitate socialization through participation in interactive and co-operative learning activities, improve students' discipline and moral behaviour, develop creativity both in students and teachers. Improve standard of quality of teaching and learning.
No education system is complete without peace education. It may take such forms as moral, value or citizenship, democratic or global education, peace education can be defined as an educational response to the problem of human violence. It has the following basic features: It aims at protecting children's minds from being filled by violence in the society. It prepares them for building a peaceful world by empowering them with necessary knowledge, attitudes, and skills. Schools can directly benefit by adopting peace education. There is ample evidence to show that it improves the quality of teaching and learning, discipline, and helps emotional development in children.
(Swaleha A. Sindhi is Assistant Professor in The M.S.University of Baroda, Gujarat, she can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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