Teaching for Peace

Teaching for Peace

Teaching for Peace

Commentary

6 min read

Posted on: 14th November 2019

Education is a political and ideological battleground. Today’s teachers must equip students with the skills of tomorrow.

In my classroom, we start our school day by reading verses from the Holy Quran and a prophetic saying about one value, such as peace. Then we listen to the national anthem so that our children learn the value of belonging to their homeland. Then we do some exercises to English- language songs so that the students learn about different cultures, and we talk with them about broader events and occasions so that they gain the skills to express their own opinions. I always make sure that my classes include activities, games or drama, thus liberating the students from any fear or anger they may carry inside. Fear and anger can easily be manipulated into hatred.

There is no doubt that the world today suffers greatly from the spread of extremist ideas, resulting in the increase of violence and the prevalence of hatred.

Extremism is one of the most complex challenges facing humankind. It has catastrophic consequences at the human and cultural levels. The clashes and bloody conflicts it has caused have brought misery to people around the world. Extremism and respect for humanity sit on opposite sides.

Faced with this ‘intellectual cancer’ of hatred and extremism, spreading and causing harm, we have to ask ourselves how we can develop a clear and shared vision, and what we can practically do to counter it.

There is a lot to be done, and it starts with creating  good global citizens–individuals who are capable of spreading the concepts of love, peace and respect for the other–through a system of shared values and ethics.

Early childhood is where exposure to racial, linguistic and religious differences begins. Therefore, this stage is paramount in any efforts to promote a value system that protects future generations from ideologies related to hatred, violence and fanaticism.

Here we must emphasise the essential role played by the family in the growth and development of individuals. Family is the first source of physiological, physical and cognitive influence and experience. The family is the first cell that builds society. However, it is impossible to ignore the fact that, in light of the communications revolution and rapid technological advances, the family has been forced to partly abandon its educational role. Responsibility for bringing up generations has also been placed on schools.

However, schools can struggle to fulfil this role without support and resource. When schools are unable play a part in the safeguarding of communities, extremists deliberately target children who can be particularly susceptible to extremist ideologies. Poverty, injustice, marginalisation, despair, deprivation, social and political insecurity can all lead to weakness and vulnerability on which those with extremist ideologies can prey.

Education has always been a battleground for political and ideological movements seeking to inculcate society with their views and values. Governments have a responsibility to be conscious of these agendas.

It is also important to harness the energy of all governments to protect children from falling victim to extremist groups. The magnitude of this problem should be addressed with interventions that prioritise investment in education; that provide material and moral support; and that focus on the quality of education. Unfortunately, most governments tend to allocate the biggest percentage of their budgets to security. These governments overlook the fact that education, which is based on values and ethics, is the greatest guarantee to rein in any form of extremism.

There is a lot to be done, and it starts with creating good global citizens–individuals who are capable of spreading the concepts of love, peace and respect for the other–through a system of shared values and ethics.

So, what type of education can achieve such a goal? We need education that protects students from being drawn into the cycle of violence. We need safe and attractive schools where children’s minds are nurtured and respected and where they are taught to be free human beings, independent thinkers and social people. Schools should raise children who know how and when to say no to something that contradicts their morals and values. This is the qualitative educational system we want in schools and the type of students we want  to raise. Without this, extremism will remain. What matters is that it becomes entrenched in children’s minds that education is not just limited to what one learns in the classroom. Such an education should instil a passion for knowledge that unleashes their imagination and creativity.

Here, the crucial question arises: Who is the teacher that can make the desired change we look for? Without hesitation, the answer is the teacher who believes in the honour of their mission and is an inspiring role model.

A teacher with a strong sense of ethics and set of values. A teacher with a philosophical knowledge that is consistent with the curriculum and national values   of their country, and who cultivates a sense of national belonging and responsibility. It is the teacher who believes in cooperative and participatory education.

The role of the curriculum is pivotal in education.  One of the most significant educational interventions that can be taken is the teaching of sports, arts, culture, philosophy, civic education and religious knowledge. This can give students various ways to express themselves and promote positive and inclusive values. It reflects the concepts of global society and humanity. It carries the legacy of the past and the aspirations of the future. The curriculum must balance between the past, present and future. It should focus on the meaning of love and renouncing hatred.  A curriculum remains abstract unless it is coupled with skills, values and ethics; integrates conflict resolution skills and teaches critical thinking; strengthens pluralism and diversity; focusses on human rights; and adapts to a democratic society.

In my classroom, as the saying goes “experience is the greatest proof”. It is clear that it takes much more  than the textbook to instill the values of a good, global citizen. Students need to put these values into practice – through activities that involve teamwork, cooperation and dialogue, promoting giving instead of just receiving. We need to teach children to take responsibility and rid themselves of ego and selfishness. Racism and injustice are at least partly born in schools, and therefore schools are among the greatest catalysts for change, and most vital starting points in any society.

Education seeks to prepare children for life, as well as developing future leaders who will work for humanity and spread good around the world. Leaders who do more than call for human rights within the corridors of global conferences. The type of teacher we need  is one who comprehends their role in preparing a generation equipped with the skills to contribute to the development of a healthy society where values  of justice and democracy prevail. The type of teacher who is committed to training their students and enabling them to communicate effectively with all the peoples of the world. It is necessary, therefore, to pay attention to the criteria of selecting teachers, starting by going to universities and attracting those interested in the profession. It is also vital to provide teachers with training to build their capacity and strengthen their skills in dealing with violence and extremism, in promoting positive values among their students and in providing mechanisms for the exchange of experiences among teachers all over the world.

We need education that protects students from being drawn into the cycle of violence. We need safe and attractive schools where children’s minds are nurtured and respected and where they are taught to be free human beings, independent thinkers and social people.

So, we need safe schools where we can educate good, global citizens with the skills to make their countries successful, economically and scientifically. This will also allow civili, free communication between the people of all nations, contributing the starting point for change. The diagnosis is there, the interventions are clear and the possibilities and ambition are endless. What’s stopping us?!

Protection Is Not Enough: We Must Prevent Extremism

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