Peace Education and the Subcontinent.

The Subcontinent has seen it’s fair share of hostility, failed measures and political upheaval. Can Peace Education help India and Pakistan?

Can India and Pakistan shed off years of internal hostility with Peace Education? Image : Wagah Border, Source: JTO


 When it comes to the traditional rivals, India and Pakistan, nothing can be taken for granted. Amidst hostile statements expressed during Narendra Modi’s election campaign, until Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to India for Modi’s oath-taking ceremony, the air of uncertainty prevailed on both sides of the border.

In the aftermath of the these events, the atmosphere has surprisingly changed to reflect new positivity, with both Premiers expressing their sincere commitment to restart the stalled peace process. In the context of history, such moments of hope and pessimism are familiar to both nations. There have been numerous occasions in the past where a breakthrough towards peace was imminent and others when the two nations were at the brink of war.

A BBC World Service Poll of 2013 suggested that 45% of Pakistani’s viewed India’s influence negatively, while 54% of Indians had negative views on Pakistan. With these statistics, it is essential that the means of achieving peace ought to be reviewed in order to achieve results that have been unattainable thus far.

The Road to Peace

Part of the confidence building measures would be to ensure ample opportunities for Track II Diplomacy, besides the traditional Track I Diplomacy. Track II diplomacy consists of activities lead by influential religious, academic, Non Government Organisation leaders and other civil society actors that can help encourage dialogue and collaborative ventures with the aim of conflict resolution. A new development in Track II Diplomacy is Multi-Track Diplomacy, which emphasizes research and education as a means of resolving deep-seated conflicts (Malik, 2012). In lieu of this, Peace Education is a learning framework that brings together multiple pedagogical traditions to enhance human development.

What is Peace Education?

Before discussing what Peace Education is, it is important to understand the meaning of peace and education. Peace is a concept with philosophical underpinnings. It is a ‘relationship variable’and not an isolated ‘trait’. This is because peace is only relevant when it exists between two entities. It is an active process of conflict resolution and negotiations. To help understand its dimensions, Johan Galtung developed the idea of negative and positive peace. Negative peace refers to the absence of conflict, while positive peace is the integration of human society.

Education is the journey of an individual from inexperience and ignorance to knowledge and responsibility. The aims of educating a society or a community should be to raise individuals that are responsible for their actions and thoughts. It is a process whereby the ability to transform, remedy and improve become embodied in the nature of individuals. So together, Peace Education is an “attempt to respond to problems of conflict and violence on scales ranging from the global and national to the local and personal. It is about exploring ways of creating just and sustainable futures”. Peace Education is an ideal path to this end because it teaches students how to think, as opposed to what to think. This alone can help future generations break free from collective narratives and deep rooted historical memories.

With elements of human rights education, democratic education and development studies woven into its teachings, Peace Education offers a holistic and participatory approach to learning. John Dewey designed Peace Education curriculums to promote an idea known as ‘world patriotism’. This is an idea that helps train the youth in habits of justice, co-operation, tolerance and respect

Both Pakistan and India have a rich tradition of peaceful activism to draw inspiration from. Islamic Sufism and Gandhi’s theory of Satyagraha can help catalyse concepts of pluralism and co-existence on both sides. Finally, peace is a-learned behaviour, just as violence is, and because these are learned behaviours, there is hope in transformation when the right circumstances are created through education environments.

Recent Efforts for Peace Education in India and Pakistan

Efforts are already being made in India and Pakistan, to incorporate Peace Education and conflict-resolution studies into mainstream curriculum, but on a national scale, these efforts are fragmented.

Some examples of these efforts can be seen in schools in remote conflict zones of Pakistan such as Gilgit-Baltistan . Another such example is found in the Amn Tehrik (Peace Movement) launched in 2009 by civilians of Khyber Pukhtoon-Khwa, who realized the need for Peace Education and awareness to combat terrorism. Amn Tehrik has dealt with a range of issues, from the role of the armed forces in Malakand to the Afghan-Pakistan policy in relation to terrorism. In addition, the Amn Tehrik has been strongly opposing pro-terrorism clerics. . Some schools in Pakistan, such as the Peace Education Welfare Organization based in Karachi, support schools that are committed to creating and maintaining a culture of peace. PEWO, through its projects, in collaboration with Peaceful Schools International, is focusing on promoting peace in Karachi’s conflict zone of Lyari.

Similar projects are also being carried out in India. A localised variant of peace studies already exists in the form of Gandhian studies . Gandhigram University, for example, has been particularly active in its training of peace workers and has sought an avenue through higher education and training City Montessori School in Lucknow was awarded the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education UNESCO in 2002, appreciating the school’s efforts in ‘promoting the values of peace, religious harmony, tolerance and coexistence among children’. National Council of Educational Training and Research (NCERT) in India has included Peace Education in its teacher training program.

Peace Education : Vital to the future. Source : The Tribune

These programs address local, structural violence and conflict, largely at the regional level. While this will have its benefits, the only way Peace Education can have an impact on India and Pakistan’s future is through regional cooperation. In this regard, the historical and cultural ties that exist between Pakistan and India can enhance shared learning experiences. According to the Jomtien Declaration of 1990 “Active and participatory approaches are particularly valuable in assuring learning acquisition and allowing learners to reach their fullest potential”. Consortia between schools and universities in India and Pakistan can help achieve these aims. Another resource that has not been tapped into thus far is the Pakistani/Indian diaspora, that has strong pre-existing ties. This diaspora can be engaged to mobilise the same spirit regionally. Simultaneously there is a need for Governmental grants on either side, that support all those contributing.

Today’s universal maxims are all rooted in idealism. They all began as ideas that under went years of contention before culminating into a reality that we today take for granted. The aim of promoting Peace Education should be to make peace the ultimate reality.  As A.J Muste said, “There is no way to peace; peace is the way”.

Shaan Hameed Khan

Shaan Hameed Khan

Contributor at InPRA
I was born in Saudi Arabia, and raised in Pakistan. I have been an autodidact (self-directed learner) for almost a decade of my academic journey which included pursuing a Bachelors in Philosophy from Birkbeck College. I then went on to study Diplomacy and International Relations at Oxford University and now am studying for a Masters in Education from the Institute of Education, London.

I am very passionate about education and this passion has been a motivating force in all my academic pursuits . Through my writings I would like to continue to explore the many applications of education and pedagogy to disciplines such as politics and development.
Shaan Hameed Khan

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