Peace Education
Education in conflict and crisis situations has emerged as a major concern. The middecade meeting of the „Education for all Forum“ in Amman in 1996, stressed the importance of ensuring that education be incorporated within the first conflict interventions. That is, that education should be included early on within the linear relief- rehabilitation- development continuum. Indeed, re-establishing basic social services, including education, are crucial to society’s return to normal life.

However, despite growing concerns for education in conflict and the process of recovery, the more fundamental consequences or implications of violence and conflict on education and training do not appear to be receiving serious attention. What attention has been paid to education in conflict situations has traditionally tended to focus on the re-establishment of the normative process in view of fostering stability and the return to normality. „Healing the Wounds“ of conflict is a must! However „Healing the Wounds“ involves more than the rehabilitation of education services and requires a critical re-examination of the role and purpose of education during different phases in the development of political, social and ethnic conflicts. The return to social order implies more than a return to what was being done in the past. We would have to attempt to understand, to the extent possible, what went wrong and what can be learnt?

Such a critical re-examination is crucial, if the reconstruction process is to be viewed as a „window of opportunity“ to redesign an educational system, so as to foster stability and promote peace through the inculcation of new values on principles of justice, solidarity and participation.

Governments cannot determine a people’s culture: indeed, they are partly determined by it. But they can influence it for better or worse, and thereby affect the path of development, because economic development in full flowering is part of a people’s culture..



The Sri Lankan Case In Sri Lanka there now appears to be a general trend to place more emphasis on education for peace as a tool for conflict prevention. The National Education Policy says under the headline of „Education for National Integration, 1996, p.11“: 
„There is a great deal of strife and tension within our society which has brought about many traumatic conditions. It is therefore important that there is a reawakening of an active sense of National Cohesion, National Integrity and reinforcement of the senses of National Unity.“

„The teaching of Sinhala to Tamil speaking children and Tamil to Sinhala speaking children will reduce the barriers of communication.“

Concepts on education for conflict resolution, peace and multi-cultural education will be introduced. Extra-curricular activities ... will provide opportunities for children from different ethnic groups to interact.

This means Peace Education is recognized as a tool of prevention and of social reconciliation, given that Peace Education is a long-term process, which aims 
to modify behavioural patterns through changes in values and perceptions 
and which expands the educational concept from a narrow focus on the arts 
and suggests a different way of thinking about it. Educational policy is now directed at encouraging multi-cultural activities. Diversity is now considered a source of creativity. Such a concept is freed from any connotations of ethnic exclusivity.

In this spirit the Sri Lankan-German education program, funded by the „Bundesministerium für Wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit“, has formulated an Agenda. It has the purpose of mobilising the energies of the people, particularly of children and teachers, especially in the North East Province in recognition of today’s urgent cultural challenges.

These actions seek to:

– enhance and deepen the discussion and analysis of a multicultural society

– foster the emergence of an intercultural consensus on culture and development, 
   particularly through the national recognition of cultural rights, and of the need to 
   balance these rights with responsibilities

– try to ensure that through intercultural education internal conflicts can be at least 

– initiate a process of consultation to all educationists on the island that will lead 
   to a national conference on Peace Education

– promote the widest democratic participation by all, especially women and 


Implementing activities The role of education in conflict situations is ambivalent and an almost sensitive area. It may sow the seeds that contribute to the outbreak of violence and conflict, assist in coping with and recovering from crisis, as well as contribute to the resolution and prevention of such conflicts.

Teachers for example operating from stances that include prejudice and stereotyping cannot help children learn respect with respect to other cultures, social justice and conflict resolution skills. Styles of learning and teaching will need significant reform. It will take a sustained effort to change teacher education and teacher in-service systems in the above mentioned sense.

In this context one of the main tasks in this education program is to seriously rethink current actions, as too often conventional approaches – telling children how to act, how to be „nice and better people“, rather than demonstrating and living those elements that are essential for genuinely peaceful and productive lives.

Furthermore, the introduction of the history of the conflict into teacher training and school curricula would be the best example of an attempt to confront the experience of war and heal emotional wounds. Redesigning curricula for such endeavour implies addressing noncognitive components such as social representations of the other, in order to stimulate a mechanism of dialogue between different parties.

But Peace Education must also be conceived beyond the narrow confines of schooling. Schooling alone cannot have the major impact in promoting peace and mutual understanding if it is not supported through other agents of socialisation and communication such as the family, the media, the street and daily behaviour. Creative initiatives may also be built upon community-based educational alternatives and grass-roots expriences that develop during prolonged periods of crisis. The effort is to struggle against violence at all levels. It is the most important investment in our children’s future.

Colombo 1999 

Michael Hirth
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit/GT

Dr. Michael Hirth unterrichtete als Oberstudienrat mehrere Jahre an der Sophienschule. Er arbeitet für die Bundesregierung in Ländern Afrikas und Asiens in der Bildungshilfe. Zur Zeit lebt er in Sri Lanka und leitet dort das Projekt „Bildung und Erziehung in kriegsbetroffenen Gebieten“.

Der Bürgerkrieg im Nordosten Sri Lankas um die Autonomie der tamilischen Bevölkerung hat in den letzten 15 Jahren Zehntausende von Opfern gefordert. Tausende von Kindern sind Waisen, vertrieben und ohne schulische Versorgung.


.© 2002 Sophienschule Hannover