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Peace at the heart of education

Context:

The International Day of Non-Violence is celebrated every year on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi (October 2nd) – this day presents an opportunity to explore the causes of violence and reassert a commitment to building a culture of dialogue through education.

Relevance:

Essay, GS-IV: Ethics, GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to Education and Children)

Mains Questions:

  1. “Education can impart the skills and values needed to prevent potential conflicts.” Discuss.
  2. Education for peace has a rich history in India. What is the need for working on how peace is promoted now? What can be some of the reforms in our education system to imbibe peace in the younger generations?

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Recent Concerns which call for imbibing peace in education
  2. Preventing conflicts and the role of education
  3. What is the importance of imbibing peace in education system?
  4. Issue with our current education system and teaching peace
  5. Steps in India towards promoting “peace” through education
  6. Way Forward for Teachers and the Education System

Recent Concerns which call for imbibing peace in education

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new forces of division globally – levels of hate speech and fear of the ‘other’ have grown, as people have assigned blame for the virus.
  • Forms of structural violence – economic, racial and gendered forms- have been aggravated as marginalised groups have been disproportionately affected during the pandemic.
  • Around the world, the surge in inequality is driving instability, tension and is fuelling potential social unrest.
  • ‘Pathways for peace’ – a flagship 2018 report by the World Bank and the United Nations showed that many of the world’s conflicts arise from exclusion and feelings of injustice.

Preventing conflicts and the role of education

  • In order to rebuild solidarity, the root causes of human animosity must be understood.
  • There is a need to make peace with one another. The structures, attitudes and skills that create and sustain peace is the need of the hour.
  • Ignorance and fear of the unknown should be overcome through understanding and dialogue.
  • According to UNESCO, education is a significant part of the answer because it can impart the skills and values necessary to recognise and prevent potential conflicts and promote tolerance.
  • Education for peace has a rich history in India. The philosophies of various religions, cultures and of Gandhi have non-violence, syncretism and tolerance at their core.

What is the importance of imbibing peace in education system?

  • Our future depends on how well we nurture the best qualities of children — instinctive empathy, curiosity and an eagerness to express themselves.
  • Empathy brings sensitivity, compassion and acceptance.
  • Curiosity brings a willingness to learn about others and to explore new solutions to old problems.
  • Encouraging the impulse to self-expression can go beyond an individual articulation of feelings and grievances when we also model honesty, thoughtful speech, listening, discussion, debate and conflict resolution through dialogue.
  • These everyday habits, or ways of being, make us citizens inclined to choose peace-promoting behaviours.

Issue with our current education system and teaching peace

It can be said that teaching feels more like consumer appeasement or crowd management than a scholarly avocation in our ‘Average Indian School’ because of various issues like:

  • A marks-driven system that requires “covering” a syllabus at a military clip;
  • Aspirational parents looking anxiously at a competitive job market for their children;
  • Mounting vacancies and structural inadequacies racing fighting a relentless clock.

Steps in India towards promoting “peace” through education

NCERT

  • Since the 1990s, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has mandated that peace education be integrated into classroom practice across the curriculum (schools and teachers should find a way to teach peace in every class and subject they cover in a school).
  • The NCERT has created courses, tool kits and guidelines to facilitate this transformation.

The potential way forward: NEP 2020

  • The National Education Policy (NEP) of 2020 presents a unique opportunity to contribute to strengthening equity, justice and social cohesion. The policy has a broad focus on value-based and experiential education, including promoting critical thinking, cultural exchanges, teaching in regional languages, and a commitment to education for all.
  • Peace education can be integrated within national curricula and the broader learning environment to promote non-violence, conflict resolution and compassion.
  • Equipping children from a young age with the skills to respect the dignity of others is key to building resilient and peaceful societies.
  • Teachers and educators also need to be equipped with skills to promote peace through experiential and interactive methods.

Way Forward for Teachers and the Education System

How can the Education system (Esp. Teachers) help in promoting peace? (Research by an instructor and doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education)

Several ways that teachers and school leaders can incorporate peace education into their work, teaching students how to be empathetic, responsible, and active learners and leaders:

Model kindness and empathy

  • Teachers, principals, and staff throughout the building can model how to love and care for others through their interactions among each other and with students.
  • Adults should get to know students individually, appreciating the unique strengths and needs of each student and member of the school community.

Repair, don’t punish

  • When students commit an offense, use models of restorative justice to help them understand the effects of their actions and how they can repair any damage done.
  • Instead of punishing or excluding offenders, facilitate conversations on what would need to happen to restore balance in the community. The end goal is for children to understand the impact of their actions and to learn to take responsibility for them.

Create a democratic space

  • Involve student voices in establishing and revising school and class norms.
  • Create classrooms where children are encouraged to share their ideas and share power with students and give them the space to question authority.
  • Great injustices, inequalities, and atrocities take place when people either are uncritical of authority or aren’t given the appropriate space and courage to question and resist it.

Give a voice to the excluded

  • On a micro level, this means encouraging students who are commonly excluded to speak up in class.
  • On a macro level, this means incorporating into lessons the narratives of people who have been historically discriminated against or excluded.

Encourage collaboration in diverse groups

  • Emphasize collaboration and teamwork and deemphasize competition and self-interests.
  • Intercultural competencies, like empathy and critical thinking, are best learned through intercultural exchanges and scenario-based learning and not rote learning.
  • Opportunities in which children get to know one another as individuals, “may help break prejudices and establish caring relationships among members of different groups.”

Discuss controversial issues

  • Facilitate discussions about divisive civic and ethical issues for children of all ages
  • These debates teach students not only about viewpoints different from their own, but also that it’s okay to disagree with authority figures and peers as long as it’s done respectfully and in a safe environment.

-Source: The Hindu

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September 2022
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