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Building capacity for positive peace

By Kate Woodford, Senior Manager, Marketing and Business Development
10 January 2022

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Peace education is what we do and how we do it, not just what children learn. ELLIE ALCHIN, DIRECTOR OF TEACHING AND LEARNING, UWCSEA DOVER

Excerpted from UWCSEA White Paper 1: EDUCATING FOR PEACE: UWCSEA’s mission for future peacebuilders

Broader than a single subject, peace education at UWCSEA aims to instil a deep understanding of what peace is, the different ways peace can be achieved, and to embed peace throughout a wide range of learning opportunities.

“Peace education is what we do and how we do it, not just what children learn,“ explains Ellie Alchin, Director of Teaching and Learning at UWCSEA Dover. “Peacebuilding is not a standalone curriculum because it fits into so many different areas of the school. There are elements of peace education in the personal and social education curriculum, there are conceptual understandings relating to peace in the humanities curriculum. It’s explicitly taught in global citizenship and global politics, and in IB and (i)GCSE history. It’s also built into the service curriculum, and anywhere that students learn about sustainability.”

At UWCSEA, peacebuilding is something that is explicitly taught and considered to be critical to the foundations of a healthy community and society. It is an act of service, but it is also considered to be a core understanding and disposition that helps people achieve peace personally and in complex, real-world situations.

Defining peace

The first fundamental aspect of determining how peace education might be built into learning starts with a definition. This may seem a simple step, but peace can occur across many levels. There can be peace within yourself or in your family, peace within a community and, at its largest consideration, peace between countries.

Peace may also take many different forms in practice. Positive peace is when the attitudes, structures and institutions that underpin peace are in place, function well and a society is free of violence. Negative peace is “the absence of violence and the absence of fear and violence” according to the Institute for Economics and Peace, a non-profit think tank. However, in this state, while a society may be free from violence, its peace structures are still fragile and lack the necessary frameworks to support it into the future. This in turn can result in a peace deficit, where the peace a society has gained can’t be sustained in the future by its internal socio-economic development and the institutions and support networks needed to maintain peaceful societies.

At UWCSEA, students examine all potential aspects of peace, but the focus is on giving students the understanding, skills, and knowledge to help them build the structures and relationships that can help support peace into the future.

“There are lots of definitions of peace. And the most common idea is that peace is the absence of war, that idea of negative peace. But when we think about peace at UWCSEA, and when we talk about peace education, we’re really talking about positive peace,” says Alchin.

The programme is designed to link to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16, to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

As a pillar of the school’s educational philosophy, it helps guide the teaching approach across the Primary, Middle and High Schools, and enables peacebuilding to be woven into many different subject areas in all grade levels. Peace is also one of the “Five Ps” that the United Nations uses to conceptualise sustainable development, and this definition therefore interlinks peace education with other important Mission Competencies, like Sustainable Development, and Interpersonal and Intercultural Understanding.

From definition to practice

The definition of peace has an important impact on the way that peacebuilding is incorporated into the curriculum. The programme begins with the definitions, and then explores three key layers—or rings—of building peace. These layers help shape the way that peace is taught from K1 to Grade 12.

The first inner ring of peace is personal peace, which starts with the ideas of identity, including an understanding of who a student is, their cultural self and a sense of self awareness. The middle ring is the concept of interpersonal peace. This relates to interpersonal relationships and the acceptance of differences, including an ability to appreciate different cultures, so that people know how to interact with each other and can understand each other’s different ideas of community peace. The third and outer ring is the concept of global peace, which includes international conflict, the role of youth as agents of change and advocacy, and peace building in the wider global sense, including how we build the systems and structures that lead to a more peaceful future.

At UWCSEA, the inner ring begins with our youngest students in K1 and guides curriculum development and service and activities throughout a student’s life at school. As students’ develop, the focus moves outside their immediate circle and learning expands to in age-appropriate ways to connecting with others and the community, and concepts that support these. In the outer ring, peacebuilding is explored through understanding of historical conflicts, through global politics and global citizenship courses, and again through the activities and service programmes. Students who choose to focus on peacebuilding in High School can also participate in the Initiative for Peace (IFP), UWCSEA’s flagship peacebuilding education programme.

UWCSEA rings of peacebuilding

UWCSEA rings of peacebuilding