Revisiting the Two Faces of Education in Conflict: Implications for Education Materials

Bush and Saltarelli (2000) told us that there are two faces of education in ethnic conflict – education grievances and structural features that can act as drivers of conflict, and education policies that can build connectors and promote peace. Many countries face new and divisive tensions as economic and other forces impact unevenly on different ethnic, linguistic, religious and other groups, leading to instability and sometimes armed conflict.

The Sustainable Development Goals Targets 4.1 and 4.7 ask educators to see that all children complete primary and secondary school, with relevant and effective outcomes (Target 4.1) including the knowledge and skills for global citizenship, human rights, sustainable lifestyles, culture of peace, gender equality and respect for cultural diversity (Target 4.7). This behavior change education is hardest in the places that need it most – fragile and post-conflict states with weakened education systems.  How can one effectively get new behavior-  and values –oriented skills out to students and their teachers in a large country with poor communications and with under-resourced schools with under-trained teachers, often working two jobs to make up for low and irregular salaries?  How can one overcome the focus of parents, teachers and students on learning, often by rote, for high-stakes examinations, and the reluctance of teachers to take on sensitive topics for which they lack relevant expertise?

There are no easy answers, however, this blog suggests one key response: utilizing the potential of textbooks and other education materials.  As Aaron Benavot wrote recently, a new GEM policy paper ‘calls for these core values to be built into national guidelines used during textbook review, and taught in workshops for textbook writers and illustrators’.  The achievement of Target 4.1 will require a new generation of updated textbooks, that students can engage with and that teachers can easily use, even in difficult circumstances. In the process of investing in new textbooks, as well as in Early Grade Reading materials, we have the opportunity to train national writers in the elements of education for local, national and global citizenship, – in the topics listed under Target 4.7.

Sustainable Development Goals:   Education Targets

4.1 by 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes

4.7 By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

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What strategies can be adopted such that this becomes a normal practice?  We have seen increased gender-sensitivity in some educational materials, – not yet complete and after a couple of decades of advocacy.  Can we act more quickly to bring Target 4.7 into standard writing practice within the next decade?

To date, much of the work on socio-emotional learning has focused on emergency measures to address immediate trauma and psycho-social needs.  We have organized, therefore, a preconference workshop at CIES 2017 to discuss longer term efforts to integrate effective SEL into formal curricula and the teaching and learning materials to support them.  Like the SEL Community of Practice that formed following the SEL pre-conference workshop at CIES 2016, we hope our workshop will provide a location for organizing ongoing efforts to achieve SDG targets 4.1 and 4.7 in the coming years.  For those interested or already engaged in this medium-term effort at the materials development, curriculum designing, or policy level, we encourage you to sign up for our workshop at CIES in Atlanta on Sunday 5 March 2017 11:45am – 6pm.   In any case, please watch this space for feedback on participants’ hands-on work with Bloom software as well as strategic thinking.

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Margaret Sinclair is a Technical Adviser, Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict program, Education Above All Foundation and Jean Bernard is a Senior Partner, Spectacle Learning Media.

Posted in Design, Implement, Research and Evaluate for Better EiCC Programs, Understand and Strive for Equity

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