Education for peace: redefining the future of the nation
Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena recently stated that the
country has put a full stop to an era when students belonging to
different races looked at each other with suspicion. He further said
that in this new era, Sri Lanka is faced with the challenge to use
education for peace and sustainable development and the launch of the
recent National Action Plan is an initial measure taken by the
government to face that challenge.
It is really encouraging to note that as a country poised to achieve
the cherished EFA goals by 2015, Sri Lanka has understood the importance
of the Education for Peace and sustainable development as a national
need of the hour.
Education for peace and sustainable development is a novel concept
concentrating on the promotion of the right to education, in line with
UNDAF (United Nations Development Assistance Framework) priority area
focusing on good governance, peace and stability, and particularly on
the promotion of culture of peace.
This article studies one part of the concept: Education for Peace.
Education for Peace may be defined as the process of acquiring the
values, the knowledge and developing the attitudes, skills, and
behaviours to live in harmony with oneself, with others, and with the
natural environment. It will teach the students how to create a
violence-free environment, in homes and schools and in the country as a
whole. It will encourage the student to love his country and care for
I believe that Education for Peace should initially be developed as a
conceptual framework from which schools may devise a programme
comprising the teaching of values and enduring attitudes, and the
development of skills which will enable our students to become active
The implementation of this framework should recognize the practice of
peaceful relations at all levels: personal, familial, communal,
inter-cultural and national. It should be a process which filters all
aspects of school life, with implications for students, teachers and
administrators and it extends beyond the school to society as a whole.
In the democratic world, eight guiding principles are identified
which give direction to teaching and learning for peace. These would
indicate the place of ‘values’ in our schools and identify broad themes
which can be used throughout the curriculum at appropriate ages. These
are (1) dignity, (2) equality, (3) liberty, (4) justice, (5)
responsibility, (6) security, (7) solidarity and (8) democracy.
Schools can explore and analyze these principles within their
communities so that they are accepted as the foundation for building a
culture of peace.
What really are ‘values’? When we think of our values, we think of
what is important to us in our lives (e.g., security, independence,
wisdom, success, kindness, pleasure). Each individual will hold numerous
values with varying degrees of importance.
A particular value may be very important to one person, but not that
important to another. Consensus regarding the most useful way to
conceptualize basic values has emerged gradually since the 1950s.
We can summarize the main features of the conception of the universal
basic values implicit in the writings of many theorists and researchers
*Values are beliefs. But they are beliefs tied inextricably to
emotion, not objective, cold ideas.
*Values are a motivational construct. They refer to the desirable goals
people strive to attain.
*Values are abstract goals. This abstract nature distinguishes them from
concepts like norms and attitudes.
*Values guide the selection of actions and policies and serve as
standards or criteria.
*Values form an ordered system of value priorities that characterize
people as individuals.
These five features above are common to all values. We find these
values embodied in such Charters as the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, the Rights of the Child, on Women’s Rights, etc. However, in
keeping with the general philosophy of Education for Peace, students
should be encouraged to examine the context and implications of their
own values and those of others to arrive at a set of values which best
create a climate of peace.
The inclusion of our students in the peace building initiatives will
bring vibrancy and creativity to the government’s efforts of nation
building. We must have faith that our youths can offer creative energy
and active potential for the creation of peace in the country and the
world. Therefore, we should let students explore the root causes of
conflict, know international humanitarian and human rights laws,
envision alternative structures of security, and learn skills for
managing micro/macro conflict without violence.
Curricula in peace education can cover a range of topics, including
the dialectic between ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ peace, gender and
militarism, conflict resolution and the formation of peaceful values. At
the end of the studies, let the students understand that ultimate peace
requires citizens to contain their aggression, exhibit cooperative
behaviour, and resolve conflicts without violence.
Often, Education about Peace is mistaken as Education for Peace. We
must let the students understand the difference. Education about peace
includes modules on war and peace and leaders of peace movements, such
as Gandhi and King. Education for peace, on the other hand, intends to
nurture knowledge, values, behaviours and capacities to confront
In real practice, Education for Peace is problem-posing education
that attempts to build in every person the values and behaviours on
which a culture of peace is proclaimed, including the development of
non-violent conflict resolution skills and a commitment to working
together to realize a shared and preferred future.
Education for peace raises dialogue on critical issues at the heart
of the community in order to transform oppressive systems from a violent
orientation toward a culture of Peace. Thus, through Education for
Peace, educators and students can critically discuss manifestations of,
and justifications for, violence, identify the actors involved and
propose peaceful futures.
So, where should we begin? Education for peace should begin with
questions. What are our problems? What are the values and methods of
education needed to tackle those problems? How do our educators develop
these required education programmes? These are the core issues to
On the other hand, each student should be guided to answer few
questions. Who am I? How do I identify myself? What, if anything,
represents me? To what communities do I belong? What is community? How
do members define community? What are the assets of a community? What
are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to a
particular community? How do I solve conflicts? How do I involve myself
with others in my community? What are examples of conflict and peace
building in my community, and how do I harness the potential
encapsulated within conflict to transform it?
How do I define violence? Can I justify violence? When do I use
violent means? How is violence taught? What are alternatives? How do I
learn? What do I learn? Who teaches the content? How is it taught? Who
supports the content? In what spaces is peace learned? In what spaces is
violence learned? What is done with the learning? These questions are
examples of the inquiry-based methodology and reflective practice that
should form Education for Peace.
Education for Peace should not necessarily education for activism,
though its intent is to create an informed, active and engaged
citizenry. The process of this education could be described as a process
of revealing world views, biases and unmasking the intent behind
It should not pour knowledge into the minds of students or tell them
what to do. Nor should it utilize a system of experts who will come into
the classroom and tell students what to think. Education for Peace has
to help learners begin to raise questions and give students the tools
they need to direct their learning. It needs to be an education about
how to learn, not what to learn.