Educating for peace: Equipping students with capacity to resolve conflicts non-violently (Jammu & Kashmir)

(Reposted from: Kashmir Reader. July 27, 2023)

By Irshad Ahmad Wani (Guest Author)

As stated by Plato, education is “the capacity to feel pain and pleasure at the right moment”. Education is aimed to have physical, cognitive, socio-emotional, and ethical development and increase the prospects of employability and financial security. Thus holistic development being the aim of education, ultimately boil down to a peaceful life and as such it will not be an exaggeration if it is said that education aims for peace and peaceful individuals to constitute a peaceful society.

Peace education is based on the philosophy that teaches love, compassion, trust, fairness, cooperation and reverence for human family and all life on this earth. Peace education is a narrow term that focuses on integrating peace concerns into education. Education for peace, on the other hand, is a broader concept that approaches peace very differently. In peace education, peace is a subject in the syllabus, and in education for peace; peace becomes the shaping vision of education. Education for peace is education for life, equipping individuals with the values, skills and attitudes required to become wholesome persons who live in harmony with others and as responsible citizens. This write-up is aimed to throw light on how the teaching-learning processes in our academic institutions can be made peace-oriented and how it can become the shaping vision of all academic and non-academic activities.

The NCF-2005 proposes that the values of peace education must be integrated into all aspects of education, including teacher training, curriculum, student-teacher relationships, and examinations. In other words, as stated in the NCF, peace education is not an add‐on subject per se but a way of making all the subjects in the curriculum peace‐oriented. It unfolds that inculcating peace values should be an integral part of the teaching-learning process and all the subject teachers should strive to make the students internalize these values and grow up as empathetic, responsible and civilized citizens.

So peace education on the one hand is a pedagogical approach that aims to cultivate a culture of peace and non-violence within educational institutions and on the other hand inculcate conflict resolution skills, interpersonal relationship skills, communication skills, values of love, compassion, solidarity and unity among the students to make them responsible citizens and crave for a peaceful society. As such, educational institutions are the most important agencies that can assure peace prevails in a true sense.

With every passing day, we see social norms being thrown to shreds, the crime rate increasing, ethical values on the decline of being adhered to, mental serenity becoming rare, and human relationships losing their warmth and sweetness. All these states of affairs cannot find a potion except through education. More than guaranteeing a prospectus of employability and financial security, the role of education in promising a tranquil life can hardly be underestimated.

Conflicts in everyday life are inevitable but preventing conflicts to turn into violence and ensuring their non-violent resolution demands particular skills, attitudes and behaviours and the same is guaranteed by education. So peace education on the one hand is a pedagogical approach that aims to cultivate a culture of peace and non-violence within educational institutions and on the other hand inculcate conflict resolution skills, interpersonal relationship skills, communication skills, values of love, compassion, solidarity and unity among the students to make them responsible citizens and crave for a peaceful society. As such, educational institutions are the most important agencies that can assure peace prevails in a true sense. In this context role of all the stakeholders in general and that of teachers, in particular, is of utmost significance.

Teachers are the most decisive element in the classroom and their approach decides climate and their mood decides the weather of a classroom. They can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration and they have a sufficient command over making life of students miserable or joyful. It is the teachers who decide whether to humanize or dehumanize a child and whether to escalate or deescalate crises that are there in the minds of their teachers. The teachers, in order to inculcate peace values among their students, have to build a cordial pupil-teacher relationship, be role models and have command over effective communication skills including responding and attending behaviour. In order to ensure students imbibe peace values teachers have to shun all kinds of negative attitudes including ego, bias, favoritism, impulsive judgment, punitive behaviour, etc, they have to replace punishments with positive reinforcements to strengthen the positive behaviours of the students.

To make teaching learning process joyful the teachers have to take recourse to diverse teaching methods and make the students to be the creators of knowledge rather than just memorizing the concepts. In this regard, pedagogical approaches such as experiential learning, inquiry-based learning, project-based learning, art, and sport-based learning can do away with the banking approach in which knowledge is deposited into the child’s mind with no regard for his/her creativity, capacity and competency. Teachers need to work on inculcating life skills like creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, communication skills, etc in the students to develop them as sound personalities. So the onus of creating a peaceful society, to a larger extent, lies on the teachers.

The responsibility of developing requisite pedagogical skills among the teachers to make them educated for peace lies on the administrative authorities, teacher training institutes and non-government organisations. Save the Children organisation in collaboration with the Directorate of School Education Kashmir has been holding a series of teacher training programmes on peace education for teachers of a few selected schools from Srinagar, Budgam and Anantnag districts but the number of teachers covered is meagre. They need to upscale their activities on the subject and ensure covering the maximum number of schools so that more teachers are trained and more students are benefitted.

The writer is a teacher at HSS Khag and can be reached at abuaalim@gmail.com

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