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Peace education



Archive for the 'Reflections' Category

The Visualising Peace Project by Otilia Rose-Marie Meden

By Blog Editor, on 23 January 2024

I am Otilia Rose-Marie Meden, and I am one of the student researchers in the Visualising Peace Project, supervised by Dr Alice König at the University of St Andrews. This interdisciplinary project has been running since January 2022 and we have produced a wide variety of outputs like The Museum of Peace, The Visualising Peace Library, Podcasts, and other Peace Projects. We have become particularly interested in examining peace education and have researched various aspects within the field, including how education on climate change, refugees, gender, and inner peace interact with each other. We stress an urgent need for greater institutional and scholarly recognition of teachers’ and young peoples’ understandings of peace in school settings. Moreover, we call for an even greater recognition of inner peace and the need for addressing inner peace in dialogue with peace in wider society. These two calls for attention and action stem from our research and require both scholarly and practical efforts as the field of peace education expands and evolves in the future.

We hope to support the field of peace education by asking how the inner and outer dimensions of peace can be incorporated into existing school curricular, and how the voices of children and young people can contribute to this end. Particularly, we are researching three aspects of peace education: (I) teachers’ perspectives; (II) students’ perspectives; and (III) the connections between inner, local, and global peace. To the third aspect, we examine the relationship between peace education and inner peace because inner peace and mental wellbeing are often understood as extra-curricular or as separate from curricular altogether. Here, we take inspiration from Daisaku Ikeda’s peace education approach: processes of inner transformation are powerful tools to promote sustainable peace, as they allow to develop a sense of shared compassion, humanity, and responsibility – on a local to global scale.

(I) Teachers’ perspectives

To support our work on the first aspect, a former researcher Joe Walker interviewed teachers across the UK to learn how they teach about peace in different subject areas. His findings, combined with bibliographic research, show that teachers do indeed want to and already engage with various topics related to peace. However, peace education is often perceived as extracurricular because it tends not to be integrated into official, examined parts of the academic curriculum in the UK (Jones, Orchard and Paulson 2017). This is unfortunate and indicates that peace education risks burdening teachers with more workload, a counterintuitive since it aims to promote rather than stifle peace.

Furthermore, to understand the field in greater depth, we have participated in workshops held by Highland One World and the Peace Education Network with schoolteachers. We have also interviewed peace educators Ellis Brooks and Isabel Cartwright from Quakers and researchers Michael Ogunussi and Helen Berents. While a growing body of studies evidences the positive outcomes of peace education (some examples include: Ogunussi 2021, 20; Quakers in Britain 2022, 4; European Union 2023, 12; Global Campaign for Peace Education), most UK schools do not teach peace in formal or informal ways (Quakers in Britain 2022, 5). From conversations with peace educators and research on relevant literature, we have learned that one of the potential challenges to including peace education might stem from governmental institutions’ lack of emphasis, funding, and resources in education policies (For further reading, see: Jones, Orchard and Paulson 2017). Thus, our research steers us to look further into how educators can get other support to include more peace education in their work.

(II) Students’ perspectives

The second aspect is still a new research interest of ours, which asks how pupils would like to engage with the topic of peace. Previously, fellow researchers Harris Siderfin, Joe Walker, Maddie McCall, Margaux de Seze, and I were working on developing teaching resources based on our research. In a nutshell, our aim was (and still is) to pilot draft teaching resources, collect data in response, and feed this into a report to support the call for greater recognition of the field across the education sector and a wider understanding of what peace education can consist of (connecting to rights education, climate change education, and the creative arts, among other areas).

In the summer of 2023, I researched young people’s experiences with peace education, focusing on inner peace and outer peace in school settings in Argentina, Denmark, and the UK. I collected data through surveys and interviews with young people to examine what they have learned about peace and how they wish to learn about peace in school. The youth across the countries reported that they had mostly learned about peace in relation to war and conflict. Moreover, around 75 percent of the British youth voiced that they wished to learn about peace in a more positive way and that they wished to learn strategies to cultivate inner peace within and beyond educational settings. Informed by these findings, fellow researcher Lia Da Giau and I are currently working on co-producing resources with young people to center their perspectives on what inner, local, and global peace education might involve.

We advocate that young people both can and must contribute to what is known about peace in school settings, as experts in their own rights and co-producers of knowledge. This leads to another important aspect of paying attention to how and where pupils already practice peace and how we can amplify these practices in school settings. Building upon other scholars’ work, this might redeem peace education from being an extra burden for teachers and students (Ogunussi 2021, 57). However, it also requires us to consider each classroom as shaped by different contexts. For instance, my research findings suggest that young people who report that they have experienced conflict and violence are more likely to perceive peace education and inner peace as relevant topics in schools. This finding aligns with recent conflict-situated work about peace education, asserting that to cultivate peace, the inner sense of wellbeing is crucial (Obregón 2019, 4). In our research, we aim to understand how young people would like to engage with topics of peace in their different contexts.

(III) The connections between inner, local, and global peace

Building on this, our third area of research about the interconnections between inner, local, and global peace draws on insights from the Quakers’ report Peace at The Heart: A Relational Approach to Education in British schools. When the authors offer practical ways to address inner, local, and global peace in classrooms, it is supported with research from Psychology, underlying that one’s inner feelings impact one’s engagements with the outer world (for example, a thorough study is the Youth Life Satisfaction: A Review of the Literature). Additionally, a growing body of international initiatives work for strengthening the relationship between inner and outer development. For example, the Inner Development Goals (IDGs) offer a practical framework to address inner development as a fundamental pillar to progressing sustainable development. As young researchers, we experience the urgent need to address these areas as interrelated because cultivating inner peace cannot happen in solitude. Equally, building local and global peace should not curtail individual wellbeing. Thus, we are examining how the connections between inner, local, and global peace can be amplified within peace education.

Final thoughts

While we believe that teachers’ and students’ understandings of the connections between inner, local, and global peace are pivotal in shaping future perspectives on peace, it is crucial to note that our focus on these areas does not imply that they should take precedence over others. Rather, our emphasis showcases both the limitations and potentials of our research efforts to amplify different voices on what peace education can look like. Researching and developing educational resources about peace is a humbling process. We often go back to our initially posed questions, dismantle our outputs, and start over by acknowledging that peace is an ever-changing concept, that students’ varying contexts influence the focus and urgency of their engagement with the topic, and that school set-ups present a wide range of opportunities as well as limitations. At the heart of this project lies our genuine commitment to ask other young people in school ages how they want to learn about peace and relate it to their everyday lives. We continue listening to and engaging with teachers and students who speak back to our research and consider the concepts of peace with, alongside, and beyond us.

Dear Mr Oppenheimer by Antony Owen

By Blog Editor, on 25 July 2023

Dear Mr Oppenheimer

Beneath your crafted nebula  

I picture your dead noon walk 

casting a long shadow eastward. 


In the post atomic abendrot 

you brush off Alamogordo sand 

like glitter from a forbidden kiss. 


Dear Mr Oppenheimer, 

sky is badged in yellow stars, 

magenta stars, violet dust. 


Dear Mr Oppenheimer, 

this night your star was born 

sunset bled over Hiroshima. 


At the IMAX film of your life 

a man scoffs bulb warm Dorito’s 

sharing his awe on TikTok –  

the new age Brittanica. 

By Antony Owen

For Teaching resources around early atomic scientists see these lessons from Quakers in Britain and the Peace education network.

Helping to shape the future: For and with pupils and students

By Blog Editor, on 17 July 2023

Dr Anna Korula, is a former Senior Human Rights Officer and Adviser at the UN and OSCE. She now works as an independent Consultant, Advisor and author on human rights, mediation, peace-making, conflict transformation and peace education. She recently contributed to the Citizenship PGCE and makes strong suggestions here about how universities, schools and NGOs can collaborate.

Helping to shape the future: For and with pupils and students

By Dr Anna R. Korula

In the educational sphere there are innumerable opportunities for teachers, particularly PGCE graduates working with pupils or students, to shape the future. Together with staff, other academics, and relevant university departments they might link with think tanks, NGOs and governments to draw attention to and generate action on a host of pressing societal issues during the course of their entire teaching careers. IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society for example, is very well placed to propel forward movement in many potential areas. Drawing on my own insights gained over three decades of a career in the human rights arena, including research, as well as a decade of active peacebuilding in five field missions based in Europe, Africa and Asia, with the United Nations and OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), I outline some ideas in case they are of some potential interest to teachers engaging with various cohorts.  I have attempted to set it squarely in the context of education and social impact, also given the many pressing issues that are pertinent for the pupils and students of the present and future.  I do this in the hope that they will be given due consideration, and that they may help shape some future directions, as well as discussions.

  1. As I see it, I think it important to have stronger elements of Leadership Studies included in the curriculum or extra-curricular courses offered in schools, with emphasis on ethical leadership.  Practical implementation could also draw on the model used by the Obama Foundation to train youth in leadership, for example. Several charities in the UK, e.g., Quaker for Peace and Social Witness, the British Red Cross, Amnesty International, The Prince’s Trust, and others train or use staff or community members to become leaders in their fields, even if not always through specific leadership programmes, so it would seem the knowledge and capacity exist, but have to be included in a more systematic way.  My hope is that including such practical knowledge, as well as leadership studies per se will help shape more ethical young leaders for the future. Needless to say, embedding these courses within an overarching human rights framework would make eminent sense.
  2. I believe it important to consider, with some urgency, how AI, robotics, ChatGPT, Google Bard and other such tools will need to be managed by students, teaching staff, administrators and government agencies so as to draw on their strengths, whilst recognizing and managing their negative impacts. These are concrete challenges everyone will face, which will have very long-lasting impacts, also in the legal and ethical spheres. Here it becomes an imperative perhaps to adopt or adapt new EU legislation on AI regulation (currently being negotiated) for example, and include or tailor it to specific local i.e., national contexts and needs as well.  For example, EU legislation proposes that ChatGPT must disclose that content was AI-generated, which is an absolutely crucial pre-requisite and should be the minimum that is required by all teaching institutions. I am also particularly concerned about the developments in thought/brain controlling AI tools that have evolved with as yet no legal or ethical guidelines in place on their use and proliferation. It is perhaps essential to consider how best AI, robotics, and other tools currently under development be challenged more systematically (e.g. for bias; fake news, lack of ethical and legal norms) as well as built upon to propagate peace education, human rights education, but also e.g., generate wellbeing, supportive peer relationships, and enhance mitigatory approaches like restorative justice, mediation etc.  The possibilities are challenging, but also endless in their potential for good.

It is worth noting here that the commercial sector, as recognized just recently by McKinsey (June 2023) for example, is welcoming tech developments such as generative-AI with open arms as it is estimated to contribute $4.4 trillion annually to global GDP, so will not be ignored or marginalized, but embraced. Education needs to embrace this trend as well.

If undertaken in the near future, these initiatives as summarized above, could also feed into my third prospective initiative suggested below:

  1. Based on my subjective experience and insights I suggest a good way forward may be for academics/universities, NGOs (charities) to work via governments and the UN, with a special committee or subgroup set up primarily under the UN’s aegis, but with sub committees in all countries (lead and supportive countries initially) to work toward specific goals, as described briefly below. The SDGs may provide the lead-in required, as well as the glue, as they are now well established and gaining currency worldwide, so linking these initiatives to the SDGs will have many advantages, as the framework and structures already exist and they have cross-cutting themes across the main UN pillars.

UCL/IOE could for example, together with other relevant UCL departments as well as networks such as OxPeace, CPERG, charities such as the Association for Citizenship Teaching, Quaker for Peace and Social Witness Peace Education, the Peace Education Network, Peacemakers and so forth spearhead some of these initiatives. This could, over time, ensure global convergence of peace and human rights education in these areas, as foreseen in some of the literature on peace and human rights education (e.g., Hantzopoulos and Bajaj, 2021).  At present the division is still quite marked, also because the UN core pillars on security (including peacebuilding) and human rights are seen to be inter-related but separate, i.e., as parallel entities. So let’s hope this long overdue convergence and coordination will now begin and the overlap eliminated, streamlined, or rationalized.

Possible long-term outcomes therefore might be an UN Convention on Peace and Human Rights Education, though a Draft Declaration would be the first step toward this. Although the plethora of existing laws is an impediment to budgetary allocations and implementation, there is evidence to suggest that working toward a Convention would raise awareness globally, encourage governments, NGOs and community groups to become more active in establishing this as a part of the curriculum, provide the backbone for more ethical leadership, inform as well as strengthen democratic governance. This could spur greater citizen participation, particularly with youth and children becoming a natural part of the process. In addition, UN Conventions generally spawn ad hoc working groups or committees, Special Rapporteurs or other experts at the UN’s top tiers, who work to raise awareness and further the objectives of the convention or declaration.

In fact I suggest here it has to become an imperative to set up, perhaps as a first step, task forces managed and directed by children and youth, also linked across the globe, in keeping with the requirements of the CRC, and also enabling cross-cultural critical examination of issues of global concern such as climate change, the impact of technology etc.

At the very least, or as a first step, one could work to institute an UN International Day for Peace and Human Rights Education as this too raises awareness worldwide on both the necessary foundations as well as ongoing work in the area. Initiatives could coordinate with existing ones such as those undertaken by e.g., Global Peace Education, enabling a streamlined approach, as well as helping coordinate the innumerable local/national initiatives under way, and to augment as well as enhance them.

Perhaps pupils and students in global hubs could also be mentored or linked to former and serving UN and others peace workers to shape a new generation of peace workers who bring science and tech more into play in peacebuilding activities and institutions of the future, with a greater focus and emphasis on prevention.


Poet Antony Owen reflects on Peace education & publishes new poem ‘War Anniversary’.

By Blog Editor, on 1 March 2023

Antony Owen is a writer from Coventry with an avid interest in the psychological and physical affects of conflict. In World War II his Nan, Martha Sherriff was forcibly displaced with her children following the Luftwaffe bombing of Coventry. As a child/adolescent growing up in the 1980’s where nuclear war tensions were high and weapons were proliferated to nearly four times what they are today (55,000 nuclear weapons) this had a profound affect on his interest in modern conflicts. Since 2009 Owen has had nine volumes of poetry published by many presses internationally and his work is widely translated. His 2017 book The Nagasaki Elder (VPress) was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for new work in poetry and he was also a winner of the Museum of Military Medicine Poetry Award in 2018.  He has met survivors in Hiroshima, Dresden and Coventry and has a passion for peace education and the role poetry and arts has to play in raising awareness of the consequences that conflict has on people in both the immediate and longer term.


I am writing this with a heavy heart at the first anniversary of the Ukrainian war and the ongoing escalations in nuclear weapon rhetoric. Despite feeling sad and deeply reflective about the lives consumed by this tragic war I am hopeful as Peace education has never been so active. With organisations and individuals working together to guide the next generation to better understand the consequences of warfare away from a video game or Hollywood film. The reality of war is far more devastating but seeing the progressive and balanced work CND Peace Education and places like the education team at Quakers UK is hopeful. These organisations continue to provide high quality teaching resources to meet the needs of student curiosity about the world of conflict, providing them with a balance away from aggressive militarisation.

A few years ago I visited Jogakuin School in Hiroshima where 350 students and teachers died from the atomic bomb explosion in 1945. At the existing school I conducted a Peace education lesson to students using a visual stimulus of over 2050 dots on a blackboard that represented a nuclear test conducted since the last atomic bomb on Nagasaki on 9th August 1945. We discussed how this made them feel, how they thought atomic bomb survivors felt, how the Marshall islanders and people from the Polygon and Aleut people felt seeing their land poisoned. They were undoubtedly very sad. Peace education in Hiroshima is mandatory and embedded into their social conscience in the hope they will never suffer again. With their American teacher we discussed Truman’s quote justifying use of the atomic bombs where Truman said “Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned of obeying international laws of warfare” (Source: PBS). The student responses included points that the tens of thousands of children and babies that were killed from the atomic bombings were not responsible for the cruelty to American Prisoners of war. Another point from our discussion was the dozen American POWs killed in the blast. This helped us to consider the different views involved that are not expressed in the speech from Truman and why Peace education provides that criticality.

I read a poem on the bombing of Hiroshima inspired by the testimony of an atomic bomb survivor the perspective was welcomed. Flags and nationalities are not respected by nuclear weapons and we know that all will be lost if a nuclear war was to happen. This is the most compelling insight I have had to the power of Peace education and poetry. The Quakers, CND Peace Education, ICAN, UCL PESIG are playing a key role in Peace education which is why the Quakers and CND Peace education can use my poems as they wish to advance their work in UK schools.

The poem below is written for the one-year anniversary of the Ukraine War and is dedicated to ALL victims in that conflict and to our inspirational school students and teachers in creating a more informed and peaceful world for the future.


War Anniversary


Let us for a moment

be patriotic to human life

think of flags as swaddled babes

their burst eardrums of bomb tinnitus


Let us for a moment

remember a beautiful blooding

a baby made in the kiln of her mother

wanting only the sonar of scent and milk.


What have we learnt?

that frozen ground can warp spades

of bodies covered in ghost white sheets

haunting the bones from previous massacres.


What have we learnt?

when wheat bends away from the scythe

and the mad machinery destroys mother earth

all because of locusts who leave nothing but plague.


Let us for a moment

pledge allegiance to life

learn that compromise is not Armageddon

to remember a baby today shall lead us tomorrow.