By Blog editor, on 19 April 2022
The war in Ukraine has raised the issue of peace education. How do teachers respond to questions from children about the conflict? What resources are available? How can teachers be better equipped to address these challenging questions.
It needs to be noted that peace education is not a new area within education. It has a long and strong tradition within English education systems as in many other countries around the world. Whilst the area has often been subject to political attacks by governments, many teachers have brought in themes of peace, conflict resolution, mediation and understanding of causes of war into their classrooms. Some of this has come through religious education, others through citizenship and also through history.
This blog contribution suggests there is a need however to bring in peace education themes more directly into learning opportunities that are addressing global and sustainability issues. For example, the term global citizenship is a popular buzz phrase at present but surely to be an effective global citizen means being a peaceful one.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals have become popular themes in schools for making connections between local and global issues. There has rightly been a focus on climate change and sustainability but peace should only be seen as equally relevant, some of the threats to war in the future may well relate to environmental issues. That is why Sustainable Development Goal 16 is so important: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
Within these Sustainable Development Goals, which all countries have signed up too, there is Target 4.7 which states:
By 2030, 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
The promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence is included here but it is a concept that has had, up until now, less discussion than say human rights on sustainability. What is needed is in taking forward the relevance of Target 4.7, is to ensure that peace education is recognised as equally important as the other themes.
This may well happen because of the war in Ukraine but it needs to go beyond making passing references to conflict and war and to look at ways in which peace education can be more than learning about war and conflict to identifying from a pedagogical perspective what learning through peace can actually mean.
One attempt to address this in England has been the Our Shared World initiative which is a coalition of over 200 civil society organisations and higher education institutions. This initiative has as its goal the embedding of Target 4.7 of the SDGs into the English school curriculum. An Evidence and Research report for this network, to be launched on April 25th, states that if a concern for social justice, independent and critical thinking and community participation is to be part of education, then peace education can be a key lens through which to perceive a more just and sustainable world.
The challenge is how to ensure that teachers and teacher educators have the knowledge, skills and expertise to put these themes into practice. It is much more than just having a session on peace education when training teachers. There is a need for teachers to be reminded as to why they came into education, having a moral purpose and an approach that encourages learners to develop a values base based on social justice, respect for human rights and sense of co-operation.
Douglas Bourn, Professor of Development Education at UCL-IOE, author of Theory and Practice of Development Education (2015) Understanding Global Skills for 21st Century Professions (2018) Education for Social Change (2022) and editor of The Bloomsbury Handbook for Global Education and Learning (2020). He is also chair of the Academic Network of Global Education and Learning (ANGEL) Advisory Board.