What is Peace Education?

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User Guide (overview)Significant Approaches & Themes | SDG Target 4.7 | Policy Analysis

Key Concepts & Characteristics

Peace education is education both about and for peace

The above, very simplified and succinct conceptualization of peace education is a good starting point for exploring a field of learning, knowledge, and practice that is complex and nuanced. (For additional perspectives, see “Quotes: Defining and Conceptualizing Peace Education” below.)

Education “about” peace captures much of the substance of the learning.  It invites reflection and analysis on the conditions of sustainable peace and how to achieve them.  It also involves understanding and critically examining violence in all of its multiple forms and manifestations.

Education “for” peace orients peace education towards preparing and cultivating learners with knowledge, skills and capacities to pursue peace and to nonviolently respond to conflict.  It is also concerned with nurturing psychological, inner moral, and ethical resources that are essential to external peace action. In other words, peace education seeks to nurture dispositions and attitudes that are necessary for engaging in transformative action for peaceful change.  Peace education is particularly futures oriented, preparing students to envision and build more preferred realities. 

Pedagogy is an important dimension of education “for” peace.  How we teach has a significant impact on learning outcomes and shapes how students will apply what they learn.  Peace education seeks to model a pedagogy that is consistent with the values and principles of peace (Jenkins, 2019).In the tradition of American philosopher John Dewey (Dewey, 1916) and Brazilian popular educator Paulo Freire (Freire, 2017), peace education pedagogy is typically learner-centered, seeking to draw forth knowledge from the learner’s reflection on experience rather than impose knowledge through a process of indoctrination.  Learning and development occur, not from experience as such, but from reflective experience. Transformative peace pedagogy is holistic, incorporating cognitive, reflective, affective, and active dimensions into the learning.

Peace education takes place in many contexts and settings, both inside and outside of schools.  Considered most broadly, education can be understood as the intentional and organized process of learning.  Integrating peace education into schools is a strategic goal of the Global Campaign for Peace Education, as formal education plays a fundamental role in producing and reproducing knowledge and values in societies and cultures.  Non-formal peace education, taking place in conflict settings, communities, and in homes, is a critical complement to formal endeavors.  Peace education is an essential component of peacebuilding, supporting conflict transformation, community development, and community and individual empowerment. 

Peace education, as it has emerged for those engaged in the international network of the GCPE, is global in scope yet culturally specific.  It seeks to holistically identify and acknowledge the intersections and interdependencies between global phenomena (war, patriarchy, colonialism, economic violence, climate change, pandemics) and local manifestations of violence and injustice.  While a holistic, comprehensive approach is most ideal, we also acknowledge that peace education must be contextually relevant.  It should be cultural contextualized and emerge from the concerns, motivations, and experiences of a given population.  “While we argue for the universal need for peace education, we do not advocate the universalization and standardization of approach and content” (Reardon & Cabezudo, 2002, p. 17).  People, communities, and cultures are not standardized, as such, nor should their learning be.  Betty Reardon and Alicia Cabezudo observe that “peacemaking is the continuous task of humanity, a dynamic process, not a static state. It requires a dynamic, continually renewed process of education” (2002, p. 20).

It therefore goes hand-in-hand that the approach utilized, and themes emphasized, reflect a particular historical, social, or political context.  A variety of significant approaches have emerged over the past 50+ years, including conflict resolution education, democracy education, development education, education for sustainable development, disarmament education, racial justice education, restorative justice education and social emotional learning.  Mapping Peace Education identifies several overarching approaches and sub-themes (see a complete categorization here).  Country profiles are classified according to significant approaches and themes to aid researchers in comparing and learning from different contexts.  Many of these approaches are not explicitly identified as “peace education.” Nonetheless they are included in our list of approaches as their implicit social purposes and learning goals contribute directly to the development of cultures of peace.  

We hope this brief introduction provides a modest orientation to some of the key concepts and characteristics of peace education, an often misunderstood, complex, dynamic, and ever-changing field.  We encourage readers to dive deeper into the field by exploring additional resources, conceptions, and definitions.  Below you will find several quotes defining peace education from slightly different perspectives.  At the bottom of the page you will also find a short list of what we believe to be accessible and historical resources for a more thorough introduction to peace education. 

-Tony Jenkins (August 2020)

References

  • Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. The Macmillan company.
  • Freire, P. (2017). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th anniversary ed.). Bloomsbury. 
  • Jenkins T. (2019) Comprehensive peace education. In: Peters M. (eds) Encyclopedia of Teacher Education. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-1179-6_319-1
  • Reardon, B. & Cabezudo, A. (2002). Learning to abolish war: Teaching toward a culture of peace. Hague Appeal for Peace. 

Quotes: Defining and Conceptualizing Peace Education

“Peace education is education both about and for peace. It is an academic field of inquiry, and the practice(s) of teaching and learning, oriented toward and for the elimination of all forms of violence, and the establishment of a culture of peace. Peace education has its origins in responses to evolving social, political, and ecological crises and concerns of violence and injustice.”  – Tony Jenkins.  [Jenkins T. (2019) Comprehensive peace education. In: Peters M. (eds) Encyclopedia of Teacher Education. Springer, Singapore. (p. 1)]

“Peace education, or an education that promotes a culture of peace, is essentially transformative. It cultivates the knowledge base, skills, attitudes and values that seek to transform people’s mindsets, attitudes and behaviors that, in the first place, have either created or exacerbated violent conflicts. It seeks this transformation by building awareness and understanding, developing concern and challenging personal and social action that will enable people to live, relate and create conditions and systems that actualize nonviolence, justice, environmental care and other peace values.”  – Loreta Navarro-Castro & Jasmin Nario-Galace. [Navarro-Castro, L. & Nario-Galace, J. (2019). Peace education: A pathway to a culture of peace, (3rd Edition), Center for Peace Education, Miriam College, Quezon City, Philippines. (p. 25)]

“Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.”   – Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [The United Nations. (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (p. 6)]

“Peace education in UNICEF refers to the process of promoting the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values needed to bring about behaviour changes that will enable children, youth and adults to prevent conflict and violence, both overt and structural; to resolve conflict peacefully; and to create the conditions conducive to peace, whether at an intrapersonal, interpersonal, intergroup, national or international level.” – Susan Fountain / UNICEF. [Fountain, S. (1999). Peace education in UNICEF. UNICEF. (p. 1)]

“Peace education can be defined as: the transmission of knowledge about requirements of, the obstacles to, and possibilities for achieving and maintaining peace; training in skills for interpreting the knowledge; and the development of reflective and participatory capacities for applying the knowledge to overcome problems and achieve possibilities.” – Betty Reardon.  [Reardon, B. (2000). Peace education: A review and a projection. In B. Moon, M. Ben-Peretz & S. Brown (Eds.), Routledge international companion to education. Taylor & Francis. (p. 399)]

“The general purpose of peace education, as I understand it, is to promote the development of an authentic planetary consciousness that will enable us to function as global citizens and to transform the present human condition by changing the social structures and the patterns of thought that have created it. This transformational imperative must, in my view, be at the center of peace education.” Betty Reardon. [Reardon, B. (1988). Comprehensive peace education: Educating for global responsibility. Teachers College Press.   

“Peace education is multidimensional and holistic in its content and process. We can imagine it as a tree with many robust branches…. Among the various forms or facets of peace education practice are: Disarmament Education, Human Rights Education, Global Education, Conflict Resolution Education, Multicultural Education, Education for International Understanding, Interfaith Education, Gender-fair/Nonsexist Education, Development Education and Environmental Education. Each of these focuses on a problem of direct or indirect violence. Each form of peace education practice also includes a particular knowledge base as well as a normative set of skills and value-orientations that it wants to develop.Loreta Navarro-Castro & Jasmin Nario-Galace. [Navarro-Castro, L. & Nario-Galace, J. (2019). Peace education: A pathway to a culture of peace, (3rd Edition), Center for Peace Education, Miriam College, Quezon City, Philippines. (p. 35)]

“Peace education in the context of conflict and tension can be characterized as follows: 1) It is edu-psychologically rather than politically oriented. 2) It addresses primarily ways of relating to a threatening adversary.  3) It focuses on intergroup more than interpersonal relations.  4) It aims at changing hearts and minds with respect to an adversary involved in a particular context.”  Gavriel Salomon and Ed Cairns. [Salomon, G. & Cairns, E. (Eds.). (2009). Handbook on peace education. Psychology Press. (p. 5)]

“Peace education… is especially concerned with the role of education (formal, non-formal, informal) in contributing to a culture of peace and emphasizes methodological and pedagogical processes and modes of learning that are essential for transformative learning and nurturing attitudes and capacities for pursuing peace personally, interpersonally, socially and politically.  In this regard, peace education is intentionally transformative and politically and action oriented.” -Tony Jenkins.  [Jenkins, T. (2015).  Theoretical Analysis and Practical Possibilities for Transformative, Comprehensive Peace Education. Thesis for the degree of Philosphiae Doctor, Norwegian University of Science and Technology. (p. 18)]

“An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking; it involves the spiritual development of man, the enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live.” – Maria Montessori

General Resources on Peace Education for Further Study

Please see the Global Campaign for Peace Education for an overview of peace education news, activities, and research conducted around the world.  

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