Peace Education Without Borders: Teachers Without Borders Teacher Professional Development Program on Peace Education
Author: Stephanie Knox Cubbon
Originally Published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on: 10/25/2010
A Peace Education Program Begins
When sectarian violence erupted in the Jos region of Nigeria in 2010, Raphael Ogar Oko was looking for peaceful solutions. Mr. Oko, a veteran educator and Teachers Without Borders Country Coordinator, had witnessed much violence and conflict in his life, having grown up in a family who struggled to survive during the civil war that erupted just after the country gained independence. During his school days in the Niger Delta region, he witnessed unimaginable violence and conflict, and astutely observed the pervasive culture of war all around him – from “Man O War” clubs, to the celebration of warlords as local heroes, to the giant billboard for the National War College that greeted him upon his arrival to Abuja. Wanting to counter this, Mr. Oko dedicated his life to peacebuilding, through his roles as an educator, Ambassador for Peace, and Secretary-General for the Universal Peace Federation.
When violence erupted at a time when the country was preparing to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the end of civil war, it became clear to Mr. Oko that there was a need to intensify efforts to build a culture of peace, to create peaceful communities, and to use resources and technology for peace – and he believed that peace education would be the best way to do this. While some organizations, including the Nigerian army, had started initiatives for peacebuilding, no one seemed to be institutionalizing peacebuilding programs. Mr. Oko decided that peace education would be the most effective way to build a culture of peace, as he sees teachers as best positioned in terms of numbers and ability to influence the hearts and minds of future generations. Furthermore, he saw peace education as a tool to empower teachers with the skills they need to teach their students the knowledge, attitudes, values and skills for peaceful living. To meet this need, as well as the general need for greater professional development opportunities for teachers, he requested that Teachers Without Borders develop a teacher professional development program on peace education.
Teachers Without Borders
Teachers Without Borders (TWB) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance human welfare through teacher professional development on a global scale. TWB believes that investing in teachers is one of the most effective, efficient ways to invest in communities, and that through teacher professional development, widespread change can be effected. TWB offers a number of online teacher professional development courses, including The Certificate of Teaching Mastery, and also hosts workshops and conferences for teachers all over the world. TWB also emphasizes that teachers learn best from one another, and the organization strives to bring teachers together, both in person and online, in learning communities.
The Teachers Without Borders Teacher Professional Development Program on Peace Education, which evolved from Mr. Oko’s request, seeks to bring peace education to a global audience by providing professional development to teachers. The program aims to provide teachers with the knowledge, skills, and tools that they need to bring peace education to their classrooms, schools, and communities, equipping their students to be agents of peaceful change. One teacher has the potential to impact dozens of students, creating a ripple effect of peaceful transformation throughout the school, community, and ultimately, the world.
What is Peace Education?
But what is peace education? As peace education is a broad field, it can be hard to define. Very simply, peace education aims to provide learners with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to end violence and injustice and promote a culture of peace.
Peace education can manifest itself in many forms. It is a holistic practice, and attempts to analyze issues from the micro, personal level to the macro, global level, linking the past to the present and future. Fields such as human rights education, multicultural education, global citizenship education, and conflict resolution education are all considered to be part of the field of peace education. Peace education is highly contextual, and while it will appear differently in different regions, the essence is the same. Peace is peace, no matter where you are.
Perhaps more important than the content of peace education is the pedagogy, or teaching methods, through which education is delivered. One of the most influential philosophers in the field is the Brazilian pedagogue Paulo Freire, who critiqued the traditional lecture-based education system, or what he called the “banking system,” in which the teacher is perceived to have all of the knowledge and works to deposit the knowledge in the students’ heads. Freire proposes an alternative to this, which he expounds upon in his 1970 classic Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
Several key principles of Pedagogy of the Oppressed have become key principles in peace education, one of which is reconciling the teacher-student relationship. In the banking system, this relationship is hierarchical, in which the teacher has the power and the students have little to none. To reconcile this imbalanced relationship, teachers and students must develop a horizontal, equitable relationship where both are seen as teachers and learners with valuable knowledge and experience.
How do teachers and students cultivate this relationship? Freire’s answer, and another key peace education principle, is through dialogue. By engaging in a practice of dialogue, where everyone has the opportunity to share and be heard, greater understanding arises. As such, dialogue is the cornerstone of peace education practice. An important aspect of this is asking critical questions.
The development of critical consciousness is another key principle of peace education, which Freire calls “conscientization” (in Portuguese, conscientização). Through cultivating critical consciousness, learners develop an in-depth understanding of the world and its underlying contradictions. A key aspect of this is learning to question one’s own beliefs and where they come from, making self-reflection another essential peace education practice.
From critical consciousness, students must put their learning into action, or what Freire referred to as praxis. Praxis involves moving from the theoretical to the practical, as learners take their knowledge and apply it in real-world situations. Action is a vital step in all peace education efforts, as without practical application in the real world, transformation cannot occur.
Transformation of learners and of the world is the ultimate goal of peace education. We currently live in a culture of war, rife with violence and injustice. Peace education seeks to transform this culture to a culture of peace, where human rights, democratic principles, nonviolence, and compassion prevail. In order for this to occur, there must be a transformative shift in learners. From this place of personal transformation, learners can in turn transform the outer world, in their homes, communities, and the world.
Teachers Without Borders Peace Education Program
The Dr. Hungwa Memorial Peace Education Program seeks to impart these principles so that teachers can then work with their students in creating this transformation. The program is named after the late Dr. Joseph Hungwa, who was the former TWB Country Coordinator in Nigeria and a Millennium Development Ambassador. Dr. Hungwa was a model peace educator and teacher of teachers who dedicated his life to promoting education in his community, region and country. He believed in education and worked hard to eliminate all barriers to education in his community and among his colleagues and kinsmen. Dr. Hungwa played a crucial role in expanding TWB’s programs in Nigeria, and it is largely due to his efforts that the official launch of the Peace Education program will take place there.
The comprehensive program moves from the theoretical to the practical, and begins with the history and definitions of peace education, philosophical underpinnings, and the core concepts in the peace studies field. The program then explores the scope of peace education, reviewing areas such as human rights education and multicultural education. The second half emphasizes practical applications and provides selected activities to give teachers tools that they can immediately implement with their students.
While the course is intended for K-12 teachers (primary and secondary school), the course is useful for teachers of any level, as the lessons and principles are easily adapted, and is likewise useful for anyone who is interested in peace education. In reality, we all can be teachers of peace by leading by example in our everyday lives. However, school teachers have a particularly important role to play in promoting a culture of peace, as teachers serve as role models for children and young adults at a formative phase in their human development. By being role models for peaceful living, and by helping learners to acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to live peacefully, teachers can play a vital role in the cultural transformation towards a culture of peace.
The online format of this program allows peace education to literally reach across borders. Through the free online service, teachers from different parts of the world can engage in the material and bring peace education to their regions. The TWB website allows teachers to dialogue with one another, and through this program, teachers can exchange ideas about strengths and challenges, share lesson plans and strategies, and overall, build a peace education learning community.
TWB will also be organizing in-person workshops in many regions, the first one to take place in Nigeria in the upcoming months. Through these workshops, TWB intends to reach across the digital divide to teachers who may not yet have access to the internet, while at the same time providing the opportunity to bring teachers together to learn from one another. While TWB sees the value of technology in helping to spread ideas at the global scale, the organization also sees the importance of person-to-person interactions, and views in-person trainings as an important way to promote interpersonal learning exchanges.
Through training teachers, the program intends to have positive impacts on communities at various levels. While the program should result in decreased incidents of violent behaviors such as bullying, the program also aims to promote constructive, holistic peacebuilding. Through peace education, students will develop peaceful communication skills, the abilities to navigate across cultures, conflict resolution skills, and the ability to work cooperatively – all skills that are necessary for peaceful living. Students will also hone their critical thinking skills and be able to understand and dissect complex problems, develop creative solutions, and put the solutions into concrete action. By increasing student involvement and participation through experiential and reflective learning activities, students will be more empowered and overall performance will improve.
When asked about his hopes for the peace education program, Mr. Oko said, “I am looking forward to the peace education programs contributing to making our families, schools and communities become more peaceful and conducive for healthy living…Teachers will become more interested in advancing their professional skills in peacebuilding and more schools will witness [a] reduction in violence.”
In this time of environmental degradation, violent upheaval and instability, the world needs peace education, from the central Nigeria to southern California and everywhere in between. While our current situation is dire, we have the power to change the trajectory of our society from one that promotes violence and destruction to one that promotes peace and creativity. Peace education helps to prepare individuals to become creative thinkers and problem solvers, so that we may transform our world into one in which peace prevails. As the problems we face are complex and varied, they will require multi-pronged solutions. However, peace education can serve as the framework for solving these problems. Peace education is the path towards a sustainable, just, and thriving future.
For more information on the Teachers Without Borders Peace Education Program, please visit http://www.teacherswithoutborders.org, or email Stephanie Knox Cubbon, Peace Education Program Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org.