Examining the Linkages between Education Inequality and Violent Conflict

(Original article: UNICEF – Learning for Peace, Nov. 11, 2015)

Speaking at the recent New York launch of a new UNICEF and FHI 360 study which concluded that the likelihood of violent conflict doubles in countries with high levels of inequality in education, Research Consortium for Education and Peacebuilding Co Director, Professor Mario Novelli, discussed recent research on education, inequality, conflict and peacebuilding. Professor Novelli presented initial insights from work carried out by Sussex researchers on Education Sector Governance, Inequality, Conflict, and Peacebuilding in South Sudan and Kenya.  The research, funded by UNICEF, was carried out with researchers from both the Centre for International Education (CIE) and the Sussex Centre for Conflict and Security Research (SCSR) and in partnership with researchers from Ulster University, Glasgow University, the University of Barcelona, the University of Juba, and the University of Nairobi.

The UNICEF FHI 360 global study, Does Horizontal Education Inequality Lead to Violent Conflict?, studied more than 100 countries over a 50 year period (1960-2010), and analysed the relationship between educational attainment, education inequality and incidents of conflict.

As part of the launch UNICEF hosting a panel discussion that examined the latest evidence on the linkages between systematic inequality in education and the risk of violent civil conflict, and ways to sustain learning in conflict-affected areas. The panel brought together researchers and practitioners to discuss the implications of the evidence, the role that education can play in strengthening peace and security, and ways to advance investments in educational equity, particularly in fragile environments.

Drawing together research findings from South Sudan and Kenya and ongoing work as part of the Research Consortium on Education and Peacebuilding, Professor Novelli remarked:

“Education reflects society and also reproduces it, so it matters what happens in education. We can challenge inequality or we can reproduce it. Education is often conceptualised in our field of education in emergencies as conflict interrupting education.  I would challenge that and say that often conflict is the result of poor, alienating education systems that marginalise communities and contribute to those and feelings and triggers for armed conflict.

It is not only the reality of inequality and injustice, but it is also about the perceptions.  How people feel.  And that means that you might have equitable policies, but if you are not communicating to people it is easy for them to believe that they are being treated unfairly”

You can read the full UNICEF FHI 360 report, Does Horizontal Education Inequality Lead to Violent Conflict? here.

For a comprehensive account of the launch of the UNICEF FHI 360 study with further links, resources and comments from study authors and panel contributors please see here.

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