Significant Approaches & Themes of Peace Education

Please be sure to review the other sections in the user guide:
User Guide (overview) | What is Peace Education?  | SDG Target 4.7 | Policy Analysis

The country and organization profiles of both maps are categorized according to a list of several “significant approaches” to peace education and cross-cutting “themes” that have been well documented in academic literature.  There are many intersections and substantial overlap among many of these approaches, yet each approach brings a specific emphasis and generally emerges from a particular historical, social, or political context.  

Profiles identify approaches & themes that have been historically significant, as well as currently prevalent, in the peace education efforts that have been developed and pursued in each country or by each organization.  “Significant” implies that the approach/theme has substantially shaped, or plays a major role, in peace education efforts.  Other approaches may be practiced and will be referenced in other narrative sections of country profiles. The threshold of “significant” approaches is determined by profile contributors and reviewers. These themes are designated as an aid for comparative research, allowing researchers to compare countries with similar approaches, contexts, and histories.  

To further support comparative research, profiles are also categorized according to 16 “major branches” of peace education. These “major branches” are umbrella categories, encompassing several related approaches and themes. In most instances, branches have a close descriptive relationship to the social & political context from which they emerge (for example: disarmament education, divided societies).  Other branches may be less descriptive of context, but represent widely adopted approaches (for example: conflict resolution education, social emotional learning).  Please note that “major branches” are also cross-listed as “significant themes and approaches.” See “Tips for Filtering” below for guidance on using these two category schemes. 

We acknowledge that this classification scheme is not perfect.  Mapping Peace Education is designed as a “living” resource.  New themes will emerge as new profiles are added, and ongoing adjustments and re-categorizations will take place. The categorizations, as currently presented, represent an effort to strike a balance between listing as many unique approaches as possible, and providing a more umbrella schema of “major branches” that may be more useful for comparative research purposes.  

Below are brief descriptions of each “major branch” and related “significant approaches & themes” accompanied (in most instances) by links for further reference.  

Tips for Filtering/Sorting by Major Branches and Significant Approaches & Themes

Researchers can easily “filter” the country profile database by using the “major branches” or “significant approaches & themes” drop-down menus.  As many “significant themes” are cross-listed with “major branches,” researchers may wish to use a combination of both drop-down menus to yield the most specific results. You can also search the database for other themes and keywords by typing into the open search box.  We encourage you to experiment with the various filters, as various combinations will return different results. 

For example, the significant theme of “dialogue” is cross-listed under the major branches of “conflict resolution education,” “democracy education,” and “divided societies.” Choosing and pairing one of the “major branch” categories with a choice from the “significant approaches”  will yield more nuanced results. For example, in Cyprus you will find “dialogue” used as an educational approach for overcoming “divided societies.”   

Descriptions of Major Branches and Significant Approaches & Themes

Conflict Resolution Education

Conflict resolution education (CRE) prepares learners with the knowledge, skills and capacities to resolve and transform conflict without violence.  See The Conflict Resolution Education Connection for resources on CRE from around the world.  

Significant themes/approaches of conflict resolution education include:

  • anti-bullying education
  • conflict prevention
  • creative arts
  • conflict transformation 
  • dialogue
  • mediation
  • negotiation
  • peer mediation

Democracy Education

“Education for democracy” has been a significant approach in countries transitioning from autocratic governments.  It supports the development of democratic values and citizen participation.  The development of the knowledge, dispositions, and capacities necessary for participation in public deliberation and choice concerning basic questions of justice should be considered the primary purpose of education in a democratic society, and thus political education should be a moral priority. “Democratic education” is also prevalent in existing democracies, and is characterized by equality between students and teachers and student autonomy and choice.  (For reference, see “Democracy and Education” by John Dewey, and the Institute for Democratic Education in America.)

Significant themes/approaches of democracy education include:

  • civic engagement
  • creative arts
  • dialogue
  • federalism education
  • human rights
  • public education of peace processes
  • public deliberation
  • public reason
  • transitional justice

References and suggested reading:

  • Boulding, E. (1988). Building a Global Civic Culture:  Education for an Interdependent World. Teachers College Press.
  • Chomsky, N., & Otero, C. (2002). Chomsky on democracy and education. Routledge Falmer.
  • Counts, G. S. (1932). Dare the school build a new social order? The John Day Company.
  • Freire, P. (2001). Pedagogy of Freedom:  Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage. Rowan & Littlefield.
  • Gutmann, A. (1999). Democratic education (revised edition ed.). Princeton University Press.
  • Nussbaum, M. C. (2010). Not for profit: why democracy needs the humanities.

Disarmament Education

“Disarmament education, an essential component of peace education, implies both education about disarmament and education for disarmament” (World Congress on Disarmament Education, 1980).  Disarmament education is particularly prevalent in post-conflict contexts.  Japan has played a significant role in developing nuclear disarmament education. 

Significant themes/approaches of disarmament education include:

  • anti-war / war abolition education
  • child soldier / ex-combatant reintegration
  • education for demilitarization
  • emergency education
  • general and complete disarmament
  • nuclear disarmament education
  • security studies
  • small arms reduction

References and suggested reading:

  • Haavelsrud, M. (2004, March). Target:  Disarmament Education. Journal of Peace Education, 1(1), 37-58.

Divided Societies

Specific education approaches have been developed to help overcome ethnic, racial, political, and intercommunal conflict in divided societies.  See for reference the 2019 International Institute on Peace Education, “Educating for a Culture of Peace in Divided Societies: History, Dialogue, and Multiperspectivity Toward Reconciliation.”  

Significant themes/approaches of education for peace in divided societies include:

  • creative arts
  • dialogue
  • history education
  • historical memory
  • interethnic/intercultural education
  • intercommunal education
  • perspective-taking
  • preventing violent extremism
  • reconciliation education
  • transitional justice

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

Development education, more generally, explores issues of social, political and economic inequality.  It is generally global in scope, supporting the development of awareness and understanding of global issues and their impact regionally, nationally, and locally. More specifically, education for sustainable development, as defined by UNESCO, “empowers people to change the way they think and work towards a sustainable future.”  As pursued by UNESCO, ESD supports the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  “ESD empowers everyone to make informed decisions in favour of environmental integrity, economic viability and a just society for present and future generations. It aims to provide the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to address sustainable development challenges” (see: UNESCO – Sustainable Development Goals – Resources for educators”). 

Significant themes/approaches of environment/ecology education include:

  • access to education
  • creative arts
  • development education
  • ecology education
  • economic development
  • education for decolonization 
  • environmental education
  • environmental security
  • environmental racism
  • poverty eradication / reduction
  • sustainable development goals (SDGs)

Gender

Addressing gender and sex-based violence and discrimination is one of the central problematiques of peace education.  For reference, please see Betty Reardon’s Education for a culture of peace in a gender perspective” (available as a free pdf download from UNESCO).  

Significant themes/approaches of gender education include:

  • the disproportionate impact of conflict/war on women
  • gender-based violence
  • girls’ access to education
  • girl’s rights
  • women’s economic empowerment
  • women’s rights
  • women’s role in peace & security

Global Citizenship Education (GCED)

According to UNESCO, “Global Citizenship Education (GCED / GCE) aims to empower learners of all ages to assume active roles, both locally and globally, in building more peaceful, tolerant, inclusive and secure societies.”  Global citizenship education emphasizes values of interdependence and interconnection (from the local to the global) and prepares learners to be active citizens.  For more information, see the UNESCO Clearinghouse on Global Citizenship Education hosted by APCEIU.  

Significant themes/approaches of global citizenship education include:

  • civic education
  • cosmopolitan education
  • creative arts
  • education for international understanding
  • global education
  • human rights
  • multicultural education
  • perspective taking

Human Rights Education (HRE)

The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training defines human rights education as comprising “all educational, training, information, awareness-raising and learning activities aimed at promoting universal respect for and observance of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and thus contributing to, inter alia, the prevention of human rights violations and abuses by providing persons with knowledge, skills and understanding and developing their attitudes and behaviors, to empower them to contribute to the building and promotion of a universal culture of human rights.” (United Nations Human Rights Council 2011)  This Declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly on Dec. 19, 2011.  For additional background on human rights education see: HRE USA.  

Significant themes/approaches of human rights education include:

  • ecological rights
  • economic rights
  • political rights
  • social rights
  • civil rights

Interfaith Peacebuilding

Interfaith peacebuilding education promotes religious tolerance and religious diversity, helping students to understand and negotiate social and cultural differences among members of their living and learning communities. 

Significant themes/approaches of interfaith peacebuilding education include:

  • anti-bias education
  • anti-bullying education
  • coexistence education
  • dialogue
  • perspective-taking
  • preventing violent extremism
  • tolerance education
  • yoga

Interethnic / Intercultural Education

Interethnic/intercultural education encourages critical perspective-taking of ethnic and cultural differences and promotes mutual understanding for the functioning of pluralistic societies.  

Significant themes/approaches of interethnic/intercultural education include:

  • anti-bias education
  • anti-bullying education
  • coexistence education
  • dialogue
  • multicultural education
  • perspective-taking
  • preventing violent extremism
  • tolerance education

Nonviolence

Education for nonviolence prepares students to critically examine power structures and violence at personal, interpersonal, and global levels.  It also capacitates learners with knowledge and skills to nonviolently solve conflicts.  An important strand of nonviolence education is the study of nonviolent movements and nonviolent movement building, and forms of nonviolent action.  

Significant themes/approaches of nonviolence education include:

  • activism
  • creative arts
  • political engagement
  • social movements
  • violence prevention
  • nonviolent direct action
  • civil disobedience
  • philosophy & strategy of nonviolence

Post-Conflict Peacebuilding

Peace education makes critical contributions to peacebuilding efforts in countries emerging from protracted violent contexts.  Post-conflict peacebuilding education addresses the disproportionate impact of armed conflict on children and the disruption to educational activities. Post-conflict peacebuilding education also supports processes of reconciliation, truth-telling, and post-conflict justice.  

Significant themes/approaches of post-conflict peacebuilding education include:

  • anti-bias education
  • creative arts
  • emergency education
  • genocide education / genocide prevention
  • perspective taking
  • preventing violent extremism
  • public education of peace processes
  • reconciliation education
  • transitional justice
  • violence prevention

Restorative Practices

According to The Restorative Justice Council (UK), “restorative approaches refer to a range of methods and strategies which can be used both to prevent relationship-damaging incidents from happening and to resolve them if they do happen.”   Restorative practices promote the development of a healthy school climate and utilize restorative approaches to address conflicts and build community in schools.  For an introduction to restorative justice in schools, see the Schott Foundation’s “Restorative Practices: A Guide for Educators” and the International Institute for Restorative Practices.  

Significant themes/approaches of restorative practices education include:

  • anti-bias education
  • anti-racist education
  • community building
  • critical thinking
  • peace circles
  • perspective taking
  • restorative justice
  • school-to-prison pipeline
  • transformative justice

Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

According to The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), “social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”  Developing social/emotional intelligence and constructively managing intrapersonal conflicts are foundational goals of peace education.  

Significant themes/approaches of SEL include:

  • communication
  • dialogue
  • emotional intelligence
  • nonviolent communication (NVC)
  • personal peace

Social Justice Education

According to Lee Ann Bell, “… [S]ocial justice education is both a process and a goal. The goal of social justice education is full and equal participation of all groups in society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. Social justice includes a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. We envision a society in which individuals are both self-determining (able to develop their full capacities), and interdependent (capable of interacting democratically with others).”  For reference, see Teaching Tolerance’s “Social Justice Standards: The Teaching Tolerance Anti-Bias Framework” (2019).  

Significant themes/approaches of social justice education include:

  • anti-bias education
  • anti-racist education
  • creative arts
  • critical thinking
  • culturally responsive education
  • equity education
  • perspective taking
  • tolerance education
  • transitional justice

Values & Ethics Education

Peace education is values explicit, seeking to develop awareness in learners of the values, norms and guiding principles that should inform society. According to Arigatou International, “Ethics Education for Children promotes values and ethics for children and young people within the framework of the child’s right to education as stated in the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. It utilizes an innovative approach to interfaith and intercultural learning in a value-based, quality education program for children and young people.” 

Significant themes/approaches of values & ethics education include:

  • child’s rights
  • critical thinking
  • ethics education
  • futures education
  • moral education
  • perspective taking
  • philosophy
  • values education
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