While it is possible to define education as a process of systematic institutionalized transmission of knowledge and skills, as well as of basic values and norms that are accepted in a certain society, the concept of peace is less clearly defined. Many writers make an important distinction between positive and negative peace.
Negative peace is defined as the absence of large scale physical violence, the absence of the condition of war. Positive peace involves the development of a society in which, except for the absence of direct violence, there is no structural violence or social injustice. Accordingly, peace education could be defined as an interdisciplinary area of education whose goal is institutionalized and noninstitutionalized teaching about peace and for peace.
Peace education aims to help students acquire skills for nonviolent conflict resolution and to reinforce these skills for active and responsible action in the society for the promotion of the values of peace. Therefore, unlike the concept of conflict resolution, which can be considered to be retroactive, trying to solve a conflict after it has already occurred, peace education has a more proactive approach. Its aim is to prevent a conflict in advance or rather to educate individuals and a society for a peaceful existence on the basis of nonviolence, tolerance, equality, respect for differences, and social justice.
The understanding of the concept of peace has changed throughout history, and so has its role and importance in the educational system from the very beginnings of the institutionalized socialization of children. When discussing the evolution of peace education, however, there have been a few important points in history that defined its aims and actions. In 1946 UNESCO was founded as an umbrella institution of the United Nations, and it was charged with planning, developing, and implementing general changes in education according to the international politics of peace and security.
The statute of this organization reinforced the principle of the role of education in the development of peace, and a framework was created for including and applying the principles of peace in the general world education systems. The cold war division of the world after World War II and the strategy of the balance of fear between the West and East blocs redirected the peace efforts. The peace movement began concentrating on stopping the threat of nuclear war, halting the arms race, and encouraging disarmament.
Somewhat parallel to this, the issues of environmental protection and development found their place in peace education programs. The contemporary sociopolitical environment has created new challenges for the understanding of peace and for the development of the underlying principles of responsibility and security. A 1996 book by Robin Burns and Robert Aspeslagh showed that the field and the themes that are included in peace education are diverse.
Within the field of peace education, therefore, one can find a variety of issues, ranging from violence in schools to international security and cooperation, from the conflict between the developed world and the undeveloped world to peace as the ideal for the future, from the question of human rights to the teaching of sustainable development and environmental protection. A critic could say that the field is too wide and that peace education is full of people with good intentions but without a unique theoretical framework, firm methodology, and an evaluation of the outcomes of the practical efforts and programs of peace education. Nevertheless, the importance of accepting the specific situations in which programs for peace are being implemented and held should be emphasized.
The complex systems of society, the circumstances, and the context make the peace education field very active and diverse. In the active process of achieving positive peace, peace education is faced with a few basic discrepancies:
Discrepancy between the individual and the group: in that sense a social individual is a starting point and a final target of peace education efforts.
Discrepancy between groups within one society or from different societies: Therefore, peace education is dealing with key elements of individual and group identity formed by historical and cultural heritage, balancing the values of both of these, and trying to teach people how to enjoy their own rights without endangering the rights of others, and especially how to advocate for the rights of others when such rights are threatened. This motivating element of defense and advocating for the rights of others is the foundation of shared responsibility for the process of building peace.
Discrepancy of conflict as an imbalance of different interests that need to be resolved without violence: An important aspect of conflict is that it includes potential for change, and it is in this context that peace education addresses the issues of conflict and conflict resolution by teaching students how to take creative approaches to the conflict and how to find different possibilities for the conflict resolution.
From the very beginnings of the development of systematic peace education, there has been discussion about whether it should be added as a separate program in the schools, or if the principles of peace education should be applied through the regular school subjects. The variety of approaches and attitudes on what peace education actually is leads to the introduction of a series of titles, such as multicultural training, education for democracy and human rights, and education for development. Many in the field, however, believe that the implementation of principles of peace education into the institutionalized educational system is a better approach, especially within the subjects encompassing the cultural heritage of the dominant society and the ethnic groups belonging to it.
The key problem of peace education is not the interpersonal conflict but the collective conflict between groups, races, nations, or states. Therefore, the issue of transferring the positive attitudes toward members of other groups, attitudes achieved in safe environments such as classrooms, schools, workshops, and the like, to all members of the outgroup and all other outgroups remains the pivotal issue of peace education. Children learn about peace and the need for peace in safe protected environments and then return to a wider society where there is still injustice, asymmetry of power, a hierarchical structure, discrimination, and xenophobia.
Therefore, each program for peace education must not only strengthen the capacity of an individual for critical thinking but also strengthen the individual’s ability to resist the majority, if the majority is one that discriminates. Peace education is a diverse field that includes the theoretical, research, and practical activities from many disciplines. Like what we do in Galaxy 4 Peace, which was founded in 2013.
Our programs of peace education exist within the academic discipline of many schools, especially in Lagos. The dissemination of research results and theoretical approaches is ensured by the existence of a number of programs, for example Teach Peace Early Peace Lab, Cook 4 Peace and Street Peace Talk. For the culture of peace to become established, it is necessary to accept the principles of uniqueness in diversity and to establish the social norms of respect, dignity, and the rights of every individual. by – Wine Amanda