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date: 18 June 2024

Education and Peacefree

Education and Peacefree

  • Taro KomatsuTaro KomatsuSophia University


The relationship between education and peace is an area of educational research that merits sustained attention from scholars. A recent review of literature on this relationship pointed out the lack of rigorous research studies and robust evidence showing this link. This is surprising, given its significant implications for policy makers and practitioners who wish to educate youths to build and sustain a peaceful and just society. In fact, those who are engaged in education and peace research often grapple with the gap between their intuitive belief in the power of education to transform individuals and society on one hand, and the difficulty in establishing the causal relationship between the two concepts on the other. Still, today’s incessant tide of violence around the world has been propelling researchers to investigate the intersection of education and peace in order to better understand this connection.

The change in the nature of conflict has also given a new impetus to the research on education and peace. Today’s conflicts are generally fought between cultural groups within a nation, rather than between nation-states. Less developed nations, many of them being multicultural, are particularly prone to the risk of violent conflict. A study suggesting that the percentage of extreme poverty in fragile and conflict-affected societies will increase from the current 17% to 46% by 2030 confirms the close relationships between conflict, poverty and development. Because violence caused by internal conflict is a major obstacle to achieving universal access to education and other development goals, research on education and peace has become an important agenda item in the development aid community. This has added international aid organizations to the major players in education and peace research.

To date, most research studies have attempted to determine how education contributes to, or negatively affects, peace, rather than the other way around. The notion of peace, in the meantime, is no longer merely defined as the absence of war, but has been expanded to include the absence of structural violence, a form of violence that limits the rights of certain groups of citizens. This definition of peace has enlarged the analytical scope for social science researchers engaged in peace-related studies. The research field of education and peace has expanded beyond curriculum, textbooks, and pedagogy to also include education policy, governance, administration, and school management. Research may explore, for example, the impact of equitable and inclusive education policy and governance on the development of citizenship and social cohesion in the context of multicultural societies.

Importantly, scholars engaged in education and peace research need to consider how peace-building education policy and practices can actually be realized in societies where political leaders and education professionals are unwilling to implement reforms that challenge the existing power structure. Normative arguments around education for peace will be challenged in such a context. This means that education and peace research need to draw on multiple academic disciplines, including political science, sociology, and psychology, in order to not only answer the normative questions concerning peace-building policies and practices, but also address their feasibility.

Finally, the development of education and peace research can be enhanced by rigorously designed evaluation studies. How do we measure the outcomes of peace-building policies and practices? The choice of criteria for measurement may depend on the local context, but the discussion and establishment of fair and adaptable evaluation methodology can further enhance education policy and practices favoring peace and thus enrich the research in this field.


  • Educational Purposes and Ideals
  • Education and Society


Researchers engaged in studies about education and peace are primarily interested in finding a way to reduce violence in the world. Violence harms persons physically and psychologically, often making a “normal life” forever impossible. Such tragedies frequently fall on vulnerable people, including children. This has serious consequences not only for the affected individuals, but for the society as a whole, as sustainable development will not be achieved without healthy, productive, and informed citizens in the future generations. It is telling that children in conflict-affected areas are twice as likely to die as those in other low-income nations.1 We all want to live in a world free from violence. This shared hope drives us to pursue education policies and practices to promote peace, and to seek evidence to improve such policies and practices.

Research on education and peace is meaningful for three reasons. First, violent conflicts occur in almost every continent of the world. Reflecting this reality, “peace-building” has become a popular terminology used by academics in related fields, as well as by policy-makers and practitioners in the international aid community. It was symbolic that Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, a former secretary general of the United Nations, added peace-building to the role of the UN in conflict situations. Mr. Boutros-Ghali foresaw that activism was necessary to remove the potential seeds of violence, rather than simply observing the temporary cessation of hostilities. Education is one of these activist interventions, because it can affect the values, perspectives, and attitudes of future generations who will shape tomorrow’s world. Given the prevalence of conflicts and resulting human tragedies, research to expand our understanding of the relationship between education and peace is warranted.

Second, conflict deprives many people of the very opportunity to learn, a basic human right. UNESCO’s Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report in 2011 had a subtitle The Hidden Crisis: Armed Conflict and Education to remind us of the dire situation of children in conflict areas who could not access education. The majority of these out-of-school children were girls. Today, 21.5 million primary school-aged children and another 15 million secondary school–aged children in conflict-affected nations are not attending schools, and the proportion of out-of-school children has been on the rise.2 The length of a conflict in a low-income nation tends to be 12 years, depriving children of their entire school opportunity.3 Indeed, the drop-out rate of primary school children in fragile contexts is close to three times higher than for children in other developing nations.4 The United Nations recently announced Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that called on its member states to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, shifting its emphasis from access to quality. For children in conflict-affected societies, even access to basic education is still a dream unfulfilled.

Third, there is a growing concern that the current emphasis on accountability related to the acquisition of cognitive skills may marginalize research on education and peace. Policy-makers tend to seek “quick solutions” to problems in a society. Research studies that deal with long-term, complex issues, such as education and peace, may not be given a place in the priority lists of governmental funding. In general, the non-cognitive benefits of education on individual lives, in areas such as tolerance and critical thinking, are not easily assessed, while their impact on society is even more challenging to evaluate. Researchers may prefer studies that yield quick outcomes for publication in the competitive academic culture. It is then critical to continue arguing for the importance of peace and education research, giving proper recognition to such research. In 2016, the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) in Vancouver established a special interest group titled “Education, Conflict, and Emergencies.” Such an initiative can provide an opportunity for both practitioners and academicians to not only debate topics pertinent to education and peace, but also to convey to concerned stakeholders and constituencies that research on education and peace is worth pursuing.

The Nature of Modern Conflict

Research on education and peace must be situated in each particular circumstance. Present-day conflicts are commonly characterized as interstate, or fought between different groups within a national boundary. Since World War II, many people have perished, either by participating in or being caught in interethnic conflicts. One study shows that 20 million died as a result of the wars between 1945 and 1993, of which 70% were casualties in interethnic clashes.5 Today, it is commonly understood that interethnic conflicts are not necessarily attributed to the thesis of “class of civilizations,” but may be multifaceted, such as including resource competition.6 Still, given that the majority of today’s sovereign states are multicultural, and previously homogeneous states are becoming increasingly multicultural due to globalization, one cannot underscore the importance of addressing the challenge of “living together.”

Recognizing the need to address peaceful coexistence, the International Commission on Education for the 21st Century was convened by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Its 1996 report titled Learning: The Treasure Within is still relevant to today’s even more connected world; it declared “living together” as one of the four pillars of learning for the 21st century, along with learning to know, learning to do, and learning to be. The report explains that conflict is a part of human nature, and we need to learn how to manage it by using nonviolent means. To accomplish this, education should provide opportunities to “discover others,” to learn that different people may share common interests and must depend on each other for their survival. As an educational approach, schools are encouraged to provide learning activities, including sports and cultural events, whereby students of diverse backgrounds work together for common objectives. Through this cooperation, students would become more aware of their common characteristics and interests.7

The need to address “living together” through educational means is acutely felt in societies that have undergone internal conflicts, because antagonistic groups continue to share living space. However, such educational interventions face challenges because access to quality education is often severely limited due to the resource constraints and capacity deficiencies of national authorities. In such a case, various nonstate actors may need to be involved. The notion of human security is relevant and important in this regard. Human security, as advocated by the Indian economist Amartya Sen and the former head of UNHCR Sadako Ogata in their report Human Security Now, shifted the focus of security from the state to individual human beings.8 Human security recognizes the limits of the state when it is too weak to function properly or does not intend to protect all of its citizens. The report calls for diverse actors, from nongovernmental organizations to international donors and agencies, to work together to safeguard the essential rights of people exposed to life threats and risks, including access to opportunities to learn how to live together. Educational opportunities should also be diversified to reach out to learners who no longer attend formal schools. Non-formal education and adult literacy training, including accelerated learning programs, catch-up programs, or equivalency programs for those who missed schooling due to conflicts or disasters, can become an important venue to provide these learning opportunities.

These flexible learning opportunities are of particular importance, given that today’s inter-group conflicts cause a large number of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). The host nation of refugees typically hesitates to actively provide social services to refugees because such a policy may encourage them to stay longer in their newly found sanctuary. IDPs also face a challenge, in that the national or local authority may be reluctant to provide social services, including education, to those hostile to them. Refugees and IDPs, in turn, may refuse to accept the national curriculum, which they view as containing unfair representations of their group in subjects such as history and literature. Such a case is found in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where returnees faced the problem of learning in schools controlled by an ethnic group different from their own, resulting in “two schools under one roof” where the two different ethnic groups hold separate classes within the same school premises.9

These situations often necessitate, or create space for, the involvement of external actors to provide alternative education with the aim to facilitate reconciliation, thereby enhancing human security. In the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya, for example, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) developed and implemented a Peace Education Program (PEP) in 1998 to respond to ethnic tensions that existed among refugees who had fled a conflict in Sudan. The PEP, which was implemented in both schools and the community at large, aimed to develop skills among refugee youth to communicate, cooperate, and think critically.10 The PEP did not follow the national-specific curriculum and learning content of either the conflict nation or the host nation accepting refugees. Because of the flexible nature of the program, its materials have been used by UNESCO and other international agencies in various post-conflict contexts, including African nations such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, and Sudan.11

The Relationship between Education and Peace

Researchers studying education and peace are primarily interested in discovering and understanding the relationship between these two concepts. Peace, or its absence, affects education significantly. Peace can help fulfill the achievement of basic human rights, including the right to receive basic quality education. The absence of peace, or the presence of physical, structural, and cultural violence, can affect the provision of educational services and learning outcomes. Education for All (EFA), a global campaign to safeguard children’s right to education, will not be achieved unless significant efforts are made on the part of national governments and the international aid community to provide education during and after conflicts, natural disasters, and similar situations. Further research to analyze the impact of conflict on educational services and their effective delivery in emergencies can greatly support the realization of EFA.

More typically, however, research in this field has a focus on education’s contributions to peace. More research in this direction is advocated, because such research studies would seek answers to questions regarding the values, meaning, and functions of education. A challenge emerges when we operationalize these two concepts, particularly peace.

The operationalization of education is relatively simple. Researchers would ask, for example, what and how much education contributes to more, or leads to less, peace. They would look at the type of education, for example, primary education or across different education levels, and its coverage (enrollment) rate. Or they would choose to focus on a particular subject or educational activity, and compare the performance of participants and nonparticipants, or pre- and post-participation of the same group.

The operationalization of peace is more challenging. What should we look for in order to determine if and to what extent peace is being built or strengthened? If one adopts the definition of peace as the absence of physical violence, data will be focused on showing a change in the pattern or frequency of violence in the place where the educational activity takes place. Of course, one may argue that violence could occur regardless of a particular educational intervention. Here the distinction between outputs (or outcomes) and impacts is useful. Outputs of a particular subject or an activity can be measured by the acquisition of a particular set of knowledge, attitudes, and skills that are considered to be pro-peace, while impacts are presumed long-terms consequences of the intervention for a society at large. Impacts are difficult to assess, given the many confounding factors that can affect the consequences of interventions.

In operationalizing the concept of peace, social cohesion can be a useful idea. Social cohesion refers to the density and interplay of the horizontal trust relations between social groups and the vertical trust relations between government institutions and civilians.12 Trust refers to reciprocal relations between two parties based on expectation and obligation,13 which enables human beings to cooperate in economic activities and affects the general well-being of a nation.14 A socially cohesive society is said to be less prone to internal strife and violence. One may examine the degrees of social trust across different societies or different periods within a society to determine the effectiveness of a particular educational intervention. In constructing survey items to gauge the degrees of social trust, the World Values Survey or a similar instrument can serve as a helpful reference. The World Values Survey is an international project that examines changing values and their impact on societies. It conducts face-to-face interviews with representative samples in some 100 countries and asks respondents to answer questions such as “How much do you trust people you meet for the first time?” “How much do you trust your neighbours?” and “How much do you trust people of another religion?”15 Post-conflict nations tend to record lower scores on these questions than more stable countries.

After operationalizing peace, the next step is to determine the unit of analysis, which can be a school, community, region, or nation. When one conducts an activity in a school, the dependent variable may be the frequency of violence or the degree of trust among the students in the chosen school or its surrounding community. Such a relationship can be established by an experimental study or by a qualitative inquiry approach using a case study or interviews with program stakeholders (participants, instructors, managers, and community residents). Then, one can judge whether the school or community has become more peaceful due to the intervention.

When the unit of analysis is a broader society, such as a region or a nation, assessing the impact of an activity involves the work of inference. One may argue that the significant effects noted between participating and nonparticipating schools or from pre- to post-intervention would mean that such an activity can contribute to the building and maintenance of peace in the wider society. However, such logic can invite criticism due to the possibility of confounding new variables. The frequency of violence or the level of social trust can increase or decrease, regardless of education. For this reason, research addressing education and peace must define the scope of its claim from the onset of its inquiry. This is particularly relevant in the case of policy studies, because their results are often expected to show the impact of an intervention on the broader society.

Research on education and peace has been helped by Johan Galtung’s definition of peace as the absence of structural violence. Galtung, a prominent peace scholar, introduced the notion of structural violence as a systematic form of discrimination against individuals and groups in a society.16 Removing the structural violence has become a focus of peace activists because it can ignite direct violence. It is important to note, however, that structural violence is not necessarily linked to large-scale military conflict. Structural violence challenges us to question whether we should be content if a society enjoys “stability” when a marginalized and disadvantaged group, such as handicapped children or girls, continues to experience discrimination. For them, peace may not be felt. Peace is not just the absence of physical violence; it has to include justice.

Today, international aid donors address structural violence by conducting conflict analysis that examines the equality and equity of access to social services, among other topics. For example, they analyze whether and to what extent certain social groups may be marginalized from educational services due to their linguistic backgrounds. Kosovo is a prime example. The Albanians, the majority population of the territory, increased their discontent toward the Serbs in authority when their President Slobodan Milošević enacted a law that prohibited the use of the Albanian language in schools. As a result, the ethnic Albanian teachers and students left the state schools and started their own schools in private homes, where it was difficult to provide quality educational services. This law created discontent among the ethnic Albanians that eventually escalated into a conflict. Understanding the equality and equity of educational access across different educational levels can also help us assess the nature of structural violence and its potentiality for physical violence. Ishiyama and Breunig, for example, found in their cross-national analysis that access to higher education is a more significant indicator than access to primary and secondary education in preventing the recurrence of violence.17 They speculate that access to higher education creates a higher opportunity cost for youths to join military groups.

The quality of education is another area that needs to be addressed by research communities because it has an important implication for the reduction of structural violence. Quality in education encompasses two areas: the learning environment and learning content. Educational access and a better learning environment are closely linked. A number of research studies have found that many children drop out of school in developing nations due to the lack of a quality environment for learning, including the lack of qualified teachers. Where qualified teachers are available, their frequent absence has been reported, which is suspected to discourage children from attending school.18 This phenomenon is said to be caused by the meager teacher salaries, causing teachers to find a second job, or by late receipt of their salaries or not receiving them at all. The lack of monitoring by local administrative offices or school managers further exacerbates teacher absenteeism.

Quality of education also refers to learning content, which has implications for the reduction of structural violence. For example, citizenship education that encourages students to critically examine the issues of equality, equity, and social justice can nurture citizens who are able to transform the society into a more just one. In postwar Guatemala and other parts of Latin America, democratic citizenship education based on the doctrines of human rights and participation has been introduced by regional bodies, though it has been reported that such education did not necessarily address the issues of power structure and a sense of belonging, elements regarded as critical in the region.19 To date, comparative and robust research studies that examine the effectiveness of these citizenship education approaches are few. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Incheon Declaration, an international proclamation of educational goals for the period between 2015 and 2030, refer to the importance of global citizenship education and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). Discussion on the evidence of their effectiveness and achievement indicators has just begun.

Key Debate: Unity and Diversity

A core debate in the field of education and peace research concerns the ways in which we deal with the balance between unity and diversity. The 2015 Incheon Declaration stressed the equity of education, by recognizing and embracing the diversity of children’s needs, conditions, and cultural roots. Such values are ingrained in the concept of multicultural education. In its original concept, multicultural education is based on cultural relativism, the concept that there is no “better” or “worse” culture than others. Schools are encouraged to teach children their cultural backgrounds and cherish each and every child’s background.

However, multicultural education came to be viewed with some skepticism in the 1990s. Facing the arrival of overwhelming numbers of immigrants from non-Western civilizations and the perceived need to integrate them into their societies, the Western governments began advocating citizenship education, whose basic premise lies in the need to have a set of knowledge, skills, and values shared by their citizens. While acknowledging that each culture has value, policy-makers and scholars became concerned that social divisions based on the lack of interaction between cultural communities might create fear and mistrust between them. Policy leaders in these host nations carefully avoid using the term “assimilation” so as not to give the impression that their policies deny the cultural rights of minorities. Instead, new terminologies such as “social integration” or “citizenship” came to be used in their policy documents.

Multicultural education based on the idea of cultural relativism has also been scrutinized by human security scholars, who tend to base their claims on the principle of universalism. For example, Martha Nussbaum, an American philosopher, limits the scope of cultural values that should be tolerated. According to Nussbaum, education for girls and women is imperative to their life improvement and human security, regardless of the societies in which they live.20 Cultural practices such as female genital mutilation should not be tolerated in view of the universal principles of human rights. While respecting individuals’ rights to determine their fate, she sets a condition under which they can do so, that is, unlimited access to information about their life choices. This means that we need to be cautious, for example, when we interpret female survey participants’ responses when they are not even aware of the limitations in their lives.

In post-conflict societies, extreme forms of multiculturalism have been seen as a threat to peace-building, rather than as an approval of cultural rights. A typical example is post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereafter referred to as BiH) which witnessed violent clashes during the 1992–1995 war between three “constituent” peoples distinguished by their religions. Bosniaks (Muslims), Serbs (Christian Orthodox), and Croats (Christian Catholics) each claimed their right to educate their children according to their ethos. Such claims of cultural rights manifested in the “group of national subjects,” including history, religion, and language. Prior to the interethnic conflict, children from these different ethnic backgrounds went to the same schools together, learned together, and played together. Now, many of these schools have become mono-ethnic, or become “mixed schools” by adopting the previously mentioned “two schools under one roof” arrangement, where children of the two ethnic groups share a school building but learn in completely separate environments with different curricula and school leadership.

Alarmed by the polarization of BiH society, the international community has been prodding the ethnic leaders to work together on the provision of educational services to promote national integrity. In 2003, the international community demanded that the authorities adopt the Common Framework Law to ensure that children learn a common set of knowledge, skills, and values based on democratic principles. In addition, a new Education Agency was established at the central level to coordinate and harmonize the nation’s education delivery, previously fragmented by 13 ministries of education. The Council of Europe has demanded that the national authorities adhere to the Common Framework Law and made it clear that BiH could only become a member of the European Union as “a unified nation.” However, any move toward a more unified nation has been met with strong resistance. The creation of ethnically mixed schools is seen as an attempt to assimilate one group into the other. Subjects such as history and geography are particularly contentious and may be irreconcilable, because each group stresses its own version of events.

An alternative approach to a unity-based paradigm is social cohesion, a looser form of social integration. As previously mentioned, social cohesion in a multicultural society refers to a trusting relationship between different social groups, as well as between civilians and public entities. Social cohesion is not about assimilation, but seeks to enhance trust while respecting diversity.21 In developing inter-group trust, however, sharing a minimum set of values and principles is considered necessary.22 Hence, liberal integrationists argue that common citizenship education is needed. When this type of citizenship education is planned, its curriculum has to be negotiated and agreed upon across diverse social groups so as to give legitimacy to its content and modes of delivery. Such a process itself can provide an opportunity for diverse stakeholders to interact and build rapport. Whether sharing common citizenship principles does indeed enhance inter-group trust is a question that needs to be addressed by empirical studies.

Social cohesion can also be strengthened by inter-group contacts. Peace education activities in post-conflict societies tend to include a component of inter-group contacts that are believed to reduce bias and facilitate mutual understanding. Such a belief is based on the well-known “contact hypothesis” advanced by Gordon Allport and Thomas Pettigrew. These scholars examined the effects of racially integrated schools in the United States on children’s attitudes toward each other and found positive impacts. Research studies around the world have shown similar results, including Sri Lanka,23 Northern Ireland,24 Australia25 and Canada.26 Such inter-group contacts are a key ingredient of inter-cultural education, which can lead to the realization of a peaceful society. While the notion of “multicultural” describes more the nature of a collection of people, “inter-cultural” emphasizes the process of interactions between different cultures.27 Its basic premise lies in the belief that inter-group trust, or “living together,” requires interaction and cannot be forged by simply sharing the same geographical space. Its pedagogical approach emphasizes the processes of interaction, conversation, engagement, debate, and dialogue.28

Certain conditions are needed, however, to ensure that inter-group contacts are effective in developing trusting relationships. Allport and Pettigrew identified that interacting groups need to share common goals and equal status, sustain the contacts, and enjoy support from their authorities.29 These conditions are not easily met in the many societies where such activities are most needed. In multicultural societies around the world, different social groups often do not share the same status in political and economic spheres. An illustrative case is found in the study by Ifat Maoz, who reviewed planned encounters between Jews and Palestinian-Arabs between 1988 and 2008. Maoz asserts that encounters meant to stress commonness between the two groups without addressing existing structural relations may have left participants feeling disappointed and frustrated.30 In addition, national authorities may refuse to endorse inter-group activities if they see these activities as a threat to the status quo that benefits them. In some of the previously mentioned “two schools under one roof” in Bosnia and Herzegovina, ethno-national politics mandated that students from the different ethnic groups use different entrances so as to avoid mixing.31 Additional research is needed to investigate the conditions that support the contact hypothesis, particularly in conflict-affected contexts. This should contribute to our understanding of when and how these inter-group activities advance social cohesion and peace.

A key ingredient of intercultural pedagogy that has the potential of building inter-group trust is the notion of multiple identities. Amartya Sen maintains that one’s freedom to “rationally” choose an identity needs to be respected.32 People can more easily reach out to those in an antagonistic group when they share alternative identities, such as gender and generation. Exclusive national, regional, or ethnic identities, on the other hand, limits the possibilities of forming inter-group connections. What is not clear, however, is how schools can encourage students to become aware of their multiple identities, particularly during a time of inter-group conflicts. Despite their potential for human security and peace-building, few research studies exist to address educational approaches that nurture multiple identities as a way to enhance inter-group trust, or “bridging social capital.”

The lack of research regarding pedagogical approaches to the development of multiple identities is partly due to the lack of practices related to this topic. Education has traditionally been the responsibility of the state, which has a monopoly over curriculum content and even pedagogical approaches. Despite the evidence that shows national school curricula are increasingly encouraging global awareness,33 the primary purpose of public education remains the development of a national identity to enhance national unity. The modernization paradigm that centers the nation-state as the source of identity is still dominant, so pedagogies for multiple identities are somewhat constrained by this paradigm.

Among various learning subjects, history education is particularly contentious, because it is seen to influence the balance between unity and diversity. History education has been used by the states to teach their approved version of historical events, which tend to glorify the shared experiences of their nationals. Such a learning experience is believed to give confidence and a sense of unity to the nationals. However, this approach to history education inevitably faces a problem, because the world is composed of multiple nations. Different explanations for a historical event are often noted by the use of opposing words such as “advancement” in one curriculum and “aggression” in another. This can create very different worldviews among youth. In a multicultural and conflict-affected nation, youth who have been taught different versions of history may experience awkward situations when they live in close proximity to the other social groups. Rwanda has dealt with this issue in a particular way. Because of its contentious nature, the Rwandan government suspended history education after the genocide for some 10 years. More recent history education stresses the unified national identity.34

Alternative approaches to history education have been developed that overcome a mono-perspective approach, and deal with the issue of unity and diversity in a constructive way to facilitate reconciliation and nurture critical minds. Such attempts have been well-documented in English language reports and academic papers, particularly in Europe. Supported by regional agencies such as the Council of Europe, the European Association of History Educators (EUROCLIO), and Georg Eckert Institute, common history textbook productions have been attempted. For example, the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe (CDRSEE) initiated a Joint History Project with 11 countries in the region to produce common textbooks. These textbooks discuss not only kings and military generals but also the daily lives of common people on all sides and their suffering as well as their cooperation.35 The project was deemed generally successful with the participation of motivated educators from the region, despite some technical challenges including the uneven availability of historic documents.36

History education can also be conceived based on the principle of an outcome-based curriculum. Originally promoted as a way to make school education accountable and transparent, an outcome-based approach presents the objectives and indicators of learning achievement before planning a course syllabus. An outcome-based approach to history education, for example, sets out its objective as “being able to formulate hypotheses, gather and analyze evidence, and present a conclusion,” instead of “learning and memorizing a version of a historical event.” History education that attempts to develop multiple perspectives may profit from such an outcome-based strategy. Moreover, because critical thinking and analytical skills are increasingly recognized as a legitimate way of learning, different groups or nations can agree to develop history education syllabi with these skills as learning outcomes. This can avoid the issue of different groups teaching different versions of the same historical event.

A question remains as to how these approaches may be achieved. What do the syllabus and pedagogical approaches look like in a history education course that nurtures critical thinking? What kind of teacher training is necessary when teachers themselves do not have such learning experiences? Most of all, will the state authority allow such a progressive approach to history education, particularly in a post-conflict nation where authorities are struggling to secure their legitimacy by stressing their group or national identity? An outcome-based approach to history education is still theoretical and practiced in very few parts of the world. The approach represents a shift away from an over-emphasis on the “factual” content of history to the view that history is best understood as an interpretation of evidence. Students are encouraged to evaluate evidence from a variety of sources, consider competing interpretations, and develop their own critical perspective on events of the past.37 Supported by a third party, be they international, regional, or private organizations, joint textbook projects have been implemented in various post-conflict contexts. However, in regions such as the Middle East and Caucasus, the produced textbooks jointly prepared by parties involved in conflict have not been adopted by the authorities. Even in the case of a Franco-German history textbook, a case generally deemed successful, the textbook was used mostly in “specialist classes” such as those in Franco-German schools, as opposed to the general lycée and gymnasium.38 An in-depth analysis of a case study where joint textbooks were officially adopted may reveal how such education can be realized and implemented in schools.

Peace Education

A central focus of peace and education research is to understand education’s contributions to peace. Peace education encompasses a broad range of pedagogical approaches that aim to nurture attitudes, knowledge, and skills that contribute to nonviolent, equitable, and sustainable peace. These approaches are adopted in various types of peace education. Ian Harris, for example, lists international education, development education, human rights education, and conflict resolution education as types of peace education.39 These types differ in their focuses but share a common ground in that they recognize a difference of opinions as the reality of a human society. Based on this premise, they explain the roots of violence and its different forms and seek alternatives to violence.

It should be noted that there are many other types of peace education, each shaped by the historical, social, and cultural context of a society. Peace education in Japan, for example, was meant to teach the principles of its postwar constitution in which its Article 9 denounces the use of military force as a way to solve international disputes. Such education is particularly active in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the two cities that suffered from the atomic bombs, and Okinawa, a southern island where a severe land battle caused many civilian casualties. Understandably, children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki learn a lot about the consequences of nuclear weapons, while their counterparts in Okinawa go inside a cave, as their grandparents did during the battle, and learn how it feels to be in the dark, unsure what will happen to them. Researchers on peace education need to recognize the diversity of its implementation and understand that its approach is often a product of each particular context.

At the same time, one can observe the emergence of popular patterns of peace education around the world. International practitioners often refer to them as “models.” Democratic citizenship education is one of these models. These models serve as a reference upon which context-specific peace education can be developed. Models can be useful where a government does not exist or is emerging but does not function sufficiently so as to develop curriculum. This was the case in Timor-Leste, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Indeed the period of post-conflict reconstruction offers a window of opportunity, as it is often the time to review past curriculum and pedagogical approaches, and revise them according to internationally accepted norms, such as the adherence to human rights. In such a case, international models of peace education can be referenced or introduced to seize upon the momentum of social transformation. Needless to say, such a template should be developed with the close collaboration of practitioners and researchers representing varied regions of the world, in order to ensure its representation and legitimacy.

Citizenship education, or more precisely democratic citizenship education, is one of the increasingly popular models of peace education. Its primary purpose is to develop critical citizens through debate, active learning, and teamwork. As critical citizenship education inevitably deals with divisive issues where equality and equity are at stake, innovative pedagogies are necessary. For example, many of the world’s teachers are not accustomed to creating or allowing classroom dynamics where students feel comfortable debating controversial issues. However, some of these unique attempts are worth the attention of education and peace researchers. For example, Palestinian and Israeli students in a peace education program discussed the conflict in Northern Ireland, a land far from the Middle East, and were able to understand the two opposing perspectives.40 A similar case has been reported in Rwanda, where students learn and discuss the issues of conflict and reconciliation in Europe.41 Such a pedagogy may be effective, because the students have no direct stake or emotional involvement in the conflict; therefore, they are able to analyze conflict dynamics in a more objective way. This may then lead them to analyze and discuss domestic issues.

Nurturing critical minds has long been a major component of democratic citizenship education and is currently re-emphasized in today’s complex world. UNESCO, in its 2015 publication on global citizenship education, acknowledges increasing political, economic, social, and cultural interconnectedness and interdependency between the local, the national, and the global and asserts that education is required to be transformative in order to help learners contribute to a more inclusive, just, and peaceful world.42 This is the role of humanity and social science education. This type of education, however, may be sidelined when education institutions prioritize science and technology education in their attempt to train youths who can work effectively in an increasingly high-tech and competitive global market. Still, nurturing critical minds and compassion for other human beings are as important as ever in the face of the dangerous extremism to which youths are increasingly exposed due to their accessibility to the Internet. Those who join extremist groups that intend to achieve their political purposes by violent means are not less-educated people; rather, they tend to be well-educated and unemployed.43 Global and democratic citizenship education is now expected to address this crucial issue of today’s globally connected world.

Another type of peace education model very common in post-conflict societies today is inter-group activities, as previously discussed. These activities are meant to develop trust between individuals, as well as different social groups. The activities aim to nurture empathy by human-to-human contacts. Such an approach to peace education is based on what James Page calls the “ethics of care” that stresses “relationship rather than principles.” According to the ethics of care, educators strive to create an environment where children learn to cherish human relations based on trust and caring.44

It is important to note, however, that one cannot “teach” pupils to befriend, let alone love, somebody. This may be obvious, but mediators may fail to see this in their desire to promote reconciliation and rapprochement between antagonistic groups. A group often holds collective historical memories that form a shared identity and can develop the mentality of “us as righteous versus them as enemy.” This mentality cannot be changed by inter-group activities in a few days or even weeks.45 This is not to say that inter-group activities are not worthwhile, but that peace education is a long process, given that it aims to change people’s perceptions and attitudes toward others formerly labeled as enemies.

The ethics of care applies not only to the relationships between students, but also between students and school personnel. Proponents of this approach argue that, while it is important that students learn about human rights, they also learn about the value of peace most effectively through a nurturing and supportive learning environment. If classroom teachers frequently use physical and verbal violence, pupils would find it difficult to believe in the message of nonviolent conflict resolution. If a school is managed in an authoritarian way, the message of inclusivity, fairness, and participation may not permeate through to the children, even when textbooks stress the importance of such values.

A learning environment also includes the perceptions and attitudes of the educators. Psychology theory suggests that humans’ actions are affected by their beliefs. How do school teachers perceive the value of peace education? Do they really believe in it? In Palestine, the school teachers were not satisfied with the curriculum authorized by the Israeli government. Palestinian educators complained that the curriculum they had to teach was unrelated to the students’ reality and aspirations. These Palestinian teachers would find it difficult to answer the students’ questions about international understanding, respect for the law, love for peace, and human dignity.46 Despite the technological progress affecting educational practices today, many nations still rely on a mass workforce of humans to teach young people. A better understanding of these educators’ beliefs would reveal how peace education is actually practiced, which may be very different from that prescribed by policy or curriculum documents.

Evidence, Feasibility, and Legitimacy

As with all types of research, studies on education and peace are expected to produce evidence that supports a theory, explains phenomena, or shows the effectiveness of policies and practices. Evidence-based education policies and practices have increasingly been advocated in developed nations and the aid donor community. Since peace-building was recognized as an important agenda within development aid during the 1990s, practitioners of education for peace-building have been under pressure to show that their programs are evidence-based and produce measurable outcomes.

Today, the most powerful way to make a causal inference, showing that a particular intervention leads to a particular outcome, is to conduct an experimental study. Individuals are assigned to two groups, one that receives an educational intervention and the other that does not. Then the performance of the two groups is compared. The random selection method reduces bias and excludes factors other than the intervention that can influence the outcome. This is an effective method to establish a causal relationship. The data produced by an experimental study, or randomized controlled trial (RCT), is widely regarded as “scientific hard evidence.”

Though RCTs are quite effective, caution needs to be heeded as to the interpretation and use of the evidence they produce. RCTs only show that one particular input leads to one particular output. There are several alternative routes, possibly more efficient and effective ones, to achieve the same goal. Moreover, RCTs do not “explain” why a particular input leads to a particular output. Classroom interactions, be they between students and teachers or between students themselves, are highly complex, and can be greatly affected by the values, norms, and assumptions shared by the people in a society. In some cases, a particular pedagogical model, tested to be effective by an experimental study, may cause marginalization. For example, students in a treatment group that utilized many collaborative activities may show a higher score on average than the other group, but students of a particular cultural background may not have actively participated in the group work because their cultural norms did not encourage them to do so. Then, the role of researchers is not limited to demonstrating the effectiveness of an intervention, but also involves investigating when and how marginalization may occur, which might raise an equity question that public policies need to address.

Even when evidence is produced and presented, this does not necessarily translate into policy and practice, if technical and political feasibility are weak. Teachers may not be capable of using a pedagogical method because of classroom conditions, their lack of skills, or their professional beliefs and norms. In addition, the feasibility of implementing peace education in an overcrowded curriculum can be examined. Debate exists around the question of whether peace education should be an independent subject or a cross-curricular subject. UNESCO once promoted a cross-curricular approach in its manual for the teaching of tolerance.47 This approach can avoid adding a new subject to an overcrowded school curriculum, a typical feature of modern schools. Considering the importance of peace, all subjects should perhaps include components of peace education. The educational board in Okinawa, Japan, adopted an integrated approach in its teaching guide for peace education. In a biology class, for example, teachers are encouraged to teach the mutually dependent relationship between different human organs and apply the symbiotic relationship to the teaching of human interactions and associations.48

Caution must be taken, however, about such an integral approach. Teachers around the world tend to be preoccupied with covering tasks assigned to each lesson. Unless the textbooks of each subject clearly include peace education elements, many teachers may not deliver peace education in their classes. Moreover, it becomes difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of peace education if it is dispersed across different subjects. Researchers need to examine the practicality and comparative effectiveness of integrated versus independent approaches in a given context.

The political feasibility of peace education is also an important area that needs more attention from the research community. Peace education is inherently critical of the existing power structure;49 therefore, it may be seen as a subversive activity50 or even labeled as “unpatriotic.”51 One would then ask whether it is reasonable to expect a government to introduce democratic citizenship education when its leadership does not respect democratic values. In the aftermath of interethnic conflict, a government dominated by a particular ethnic group may be hesitant to introduce education to teach tolerance toward other groups with whom they fought fiercely during the conflict. The results of an experimental study are not sufficient to promote the development of evidence-based education policies and practices. More studies are needed to address the question of how evidence-based education policy and practices may be successfully implemented in a challenging environment.

Ultimately, peace education will not be implemented if it does not enjoy legitimacy among its stakeholders. Normative “standards” or “models” of peace education developed without consultation with a wide range of constituencies would not be supported by practitioners working in diverse historical, social, and cultural contexts. This also applies to the legitimacy of research on education and peace. Given the inevitable uncertainty of the causal relationship between education and peace, the question of whether research evidence will be reviewed seriously by practitioners is largely dependent on its trustworthiness. This trustworthiness is affected by the research processes. Research that deals with such a sensitive topic as peace must involve various stakeholders in its design, planning, and implementation. This discussion is also relevant to the evaluation of education policies and practices aiming to promote peace.

The evaluation aspect of peace-building education policies and practices is a critical area that deserves further discussion and inquiries. The design of evaluation itself, by using a logical framework, for example, often provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to discuss and agree upon the objectives of a program and the indicators to monitor and judge the extent of the program’s achievement. Also, research studies can analyze program results and draw lessons from the implementation of a program, which can help future interventions be more efficient and effective. Evaluation is particularly important for peace education initiatives because its achievement tends to be non-cognitive; thus, it is difficult to measure in a quantitative and clear-cut manner. As a result, stakeholders may interpret the results of interventions differently. This does not mean, however, that peace education cannot and should not be evaluated. On the contrary, the development of evaluation tools can be advantageous to the development of peace-building education policies and practices.

Global citizenship education and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as well as active learning and “education for the 21st century” all stress critical thinking and intercultural competencies. Societies that have undergone violent conflict typically need the type of education that helps learners acquire critical minds, problem-solving skills, and tolerance. But other societies, in fact every society in this globalizing world, also need such education. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) alone cannot yield significant insights into how these educational activities are being conducted and what they have achieved. Education and peace research is now challenged to be flexible, innovative, and moral, while maintaining academic rigor. This field is called upon to develop evaluation methods that can examine the effectiveness of these new types of education.


Education has often been considered an effective tool to promote peace because it shapes the next generation’s minds, attitudes, and skills. New skills are needed to resolve our inevitable differences in a nonviolent way. In the past, however, education has predominantly been viewed as a way to develop human capital to enhance economic growth or to promote national unity. Research on education and peace has been somewhat sidelined in the face of these national priorities. Nevertheless, in this time of globalization that challenges the nation-state paradigm, research on education and peace is more important than ever, and can significantly contribute to the discussion of human security, or protecting human lives and livelihoods. For this, we first need to work on the operationalization of the two concepts, education and peace, in view of the nature of modern conflict, and conduct rigorously designed research studies to examine the relationship between them. Peace, for example, can be operationalized as the accumulation of inter-group trust in a community, rather than interstate diplomatic relations. Given that most violent conflicts today occur between different social groups within a nation or community, social cohesion can be a useful concept, providing an analytical lens for research on education and peace.

Research on education and peace is not just about pedagogy but also about policies, governance, and administration that are fair to all. Peace education cannot succeed if a society or school does not respect the principles of fairness and equity. Researchers need to continue questioning the effectiveness of education policies and practices, not just from the viewpoint of increasing individual students’ academic achievements, but also from the perspective of reducing marginalization and enhancing inclusiveness. From this viewpoint, it is important that research on education and peace needs to critically examine issues from multiple perspectives so as to ensure the issue of equity is not overlooked.

Lastly, research on education and peace can be enriched and utilized further for the development of policies and practices if it addresses the questions of feasibility and legitimacy. The feasibility of peace education needs more attention, because it often faces resistance in politically volatile contexts. Scholars can examine when peace education is perceived as legitimate and likely to be supported by all stakeholders during its implementation. Such endeavors, together with the development of effective evaluation tools and practices, can significantly enhance both policies and practices concerning education for peace.

Further Reading

  • Bajaj, M., & Hantzopoulos, M. (Eds.). (2016). Peace education: International perspectives. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
  • Bekerman, Z., & McGlynn, C. (2007). Addressing ethnic conflict through peace education: International perspectives. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Bush, K., & Saltarelli, D. (2000). The two faces of education in ethnic conflict. Florence, Italy: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre.
  • McGlynn, C. (2009). Peace education in conflict and post-conflict societies. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


  • 1. The World Bank, World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security, and Development (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2011).

  • 2. UNESCO, Global Education Monitoring Report 2016 (Paris: UNESCO Publishing, 2016).

  • 3. UNESCO, EFA Global Monitoring Report 2011 (Paris: UNESCO Publishing, 2011).

  • 4. World Bank, World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security, and Development (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2011).

  • 5. David Welsh, “Domestic Politics and Ethnic Conflict,” Survival 35.1 (1993): 63–80.

  • 6. Raymond Taras and Rajat Ganguly, Understanding Ethnic Conflict (London: Routledge, 2015).

  • 7. International Commission on Education for the Twenty-First Century, and Jacques Delors, Learning, the Treasure Within: Report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-First Century: [Summary] (Paris: UNESCO, 1996).

  • 8. Sadako Ogata, and Amartya Sen, Human Security Now. Commission on Human Security, Final Report (New York: United Nations, 2003).

  • 9. Adela Kreso, “The War and Post-War Impact on the Educational System of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” International Review of Education (2008): 353–374.

  • 10. Pamela Baxter, “UNHCR Peace Education Programme: Skills for Life,” Forced Migration Review 11 (2011): 28–30.

  • 11. Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), Peace Education.

  • 12. Adapted from the definitions offered by Joseph Chan, Ho-Pong To, and Elaine Chan, “Reconsidering Social Cohesion: Developing a Definition and Analytical Framework for Empirical Research,” Social Indicators Research 75.2 (2006): 273–302, and Alan Smith and T. Vaux, Education and Conflict (London: Department for International Development, 2003).

  • 13. James S. Coleman, “Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital,” American Journal of Sociology (1988): S95–S120.

  • 14. Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (New York: Free Press, 1995).

  • 15. World Values Survey.

  • 16. Johan Galtung, “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research,” Journal of Peace Research 6.3 (1969): 167–191.

  • 17. John Ishiyama and Marijke Breuning, “Educational Access and Peace Duration in Post-Conflict Countries,” International Interactions 38.1 (January 2012): 58–78.

  • 18. For example, Emmanuel Jimenez and Yasuyuki Sawada, “Do Community-Managed Schools Work? An Evaluation of El Salvador’s EDUCO Program,” World Bank Economic Review (1999): 415–441.

  • 19. Beth C. Rubin, “We Come to Form Ourselves Bit by Bit: Educating for Citizenship in Post-Conflict Guatemala,” American Educational Research Journal (2016): 1–34.

  • 20. Martha C. Nussbaum, Creating Capabilities (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011).

  • 21. Taro Komatsu, “Does Decentralisation Enhance a School’s Role of Promoting Social Cohesion? Bosnian School Leaders’ Perceptions of School Governance,” International Review of Education 60.1 (2014): 7–31.

  • 22. Stephen P. Heyneman, “Defining the Influence of Education on Social Cohesion,” International Journal of Educational Policy, Research and Practice 3.4 (2002): 73–97.

  • 23. Sri Lanka Ministry of Education, National Policy and a Comprehensive Framework of Actions on Education for Social Cohesion and Peace (Colombo: Government of Sri Lanka, 2008).

  • 24. Bernadette C. Hayes and Ian McAllister “Education as a Mechanism for Conflict Resolution in Northern Ireland,” Oxford Review of Education 35.4 (2009): 437–450; and Claire McGlynn, “Education for Peace in Integrated Schools: A Priority for Northern Ireland?” Child Care in Practice 10.2 (2004): 85–94.

  • 25. Hurriyet Babacan, “Education and Social Cohesion,” in Social Cohesion in Australia, ed.J. Jupp, J. Nieuwenhuysen, and E. Dawson (Port Melbourne, Victoria: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 142–157.

  • 26. Ulrike Niens and Marie ‐Hélène Chastenay, “Educating for Peace? Citizenship Education in Quebec and Northern Ireland,” Comparative Education Review 52.4 (2008): 519–540.

  • 27. Ian Hill, “Multicultural and International Education: Never the Twain Shall Meet?” International Review of Education 53.3 (2007): 245–264.

  • 28. Jagdish Gundara, “Complex Societies, Common Schools and Curriculum: Separate Is Not Equal,” International Review of Education 54.3–4 (2008): 337–352.

  • 29. Gordon W. Allport, The Nature of Prejudice (Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books, 1954); and Thomas F. Pettigrew, “Intergroup Contact Theory,” Annual Review of Psychology 49.1 (1998): 65–85.

  • 30. Ifat Maoz. “Does Contact Work in Protracted Asymmetrical Conflict? Appraising 20 Years of Reconciliation-Aimed Encounters between Israeli Jews and Palestinians,” Journal of Peace Research 48.1 (2011): 115–125.

  • 31. Adela Kreso, “The War and Post-War Impact on the Educational System of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” International Review of Education (2008): 353–374.

  • 32. Amartya Sen, Reason before Identity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

  • 33. Patricia Bromley, John W. Meyer, and Francisco O. Ramirez, “The Worldwide Spread of Environmental Discourse in Social Studies, History, and Civics Textbooks, 1970–2008,” Comparative Education Review 55.4 (2011): 517–545.

  • 34. S. W. Freedman, H. M Weinstein, K. Murphy, and T. Longman, “Teaching History after Identity‐Based Conflicts: The Rwanda Experience.” Comparative Education Review 52.4 (2008): 663–690.

  • 35. CDRSEE, Joint History Project.

  • 36. Lubov Fajfer, “Reconnecting History: The Joint History Project in the Balkans,” in History Education and Post-Conflict Reconciliation: Reconsidering Joint Textbook Projects, ed. Karina V. Korostelina and Simone Lässig (New York: Routledge, 2013).

  • 37. Alan Smith and Tony Vaux, Education. Conflict and International Development (London: UK Department for International Development, 2003).

  • 38. Karina V. Korostelina and Simone Lässig, eds. History Education and Post-Conflict Reconciliation: Reconsidering Joint Textbook Projects (New York: Routledge, 2013).

  • 39. Ian M. Harris, “Peace Education Theory,” Journal of Peace Education 1.1 (2004): 5–20.

  • 40. Tormala and Petty, 2002 cited in Gavriel Salomon, “Does Peace Education Make a Difference in the Context of an Intractable Conflict?” Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology 10.3 (2004): 257–274.

  • 41. Freedman, Weinstein, Murphy, and Longman, “Teaching History.”

  • 42. UNESCO, Global Citizenship Education: Topics and Learning Objectives (Paris: UNESCO Publications, 2015).

  • 43. The World Bank, Economic and Social Inclusion to Prevent Violent Extremism (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2016).

  • 44. James S. Page, “Peace Education: Exploring Some Philosophical Foundations,” International Review of Education 50.1 (2004): 3–15.

  • 45. Gavriel Salomon, “Does Peace Education Make a Difference in the Context of an Intractable Conflict?” Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology 10.3 (2004): 257–274.

  • 46. Agustı́n Velloso de Santisteban, “Palestinian Education: A National Curriculum against All Odds,” International Journal of Educational Development 22.2 (2002): 145–154.

  • 47. B. A. Reardon, Tolerance: The Threshold of Peace. A Teaching/Learning Guide for Education for Peace, Human Rights and Democracy (Paris: UNESCO Publishing, 1994).

  • 48. Okinawa Prefectural Education Board, Teaching Guide to Peace Education (Heiwakyoikushido no tebiki) (Okinawa, Japan: Okinawa Prefectural Education Board, 1993).

  • 49. Monisha Bajaj, “Critical Peace Education,” Encyclopedia of Peace Education (2008): 135–146.

  • 50. Salomon, “Does Peace Education Make a Difference.”

  • 51. Lynn Davies, Education and Conflict: Complexity and Chaos (New York: Routledge, 2003).