The Flight of the Dove: Building Cultures of Peace in the Classroom
WORKSHOP ON PEDAGOGY FOR PEACE: A REPORT
By Anupriya Jain
The afternoon session of the Peace Conference at Lady Shri Ram College for Women saw a workshop on ‘Pedagogy for Peace: (through) Dialogic Explorations’ by Dr. Shweta Singh from the South Asian University. Conducted for teachers from various schools across Delhi, this workshop aimed at intertwining the message and practice of peace within the Indian curriculum and education as a whole.
The session began with an interactive activity of the teachers wherein they were asked to share any three primary identities of their own and state why they were important for them. Due to the presence of a higher number of female teachers, the responses ranged from a mother, a daughter and a woman to a teacher, a learner and a homemaker. When prodded further, some revealed regional or national identities. What was observed was that if asked spontaneously, almost everyone chose to call out their social identity, be it at home or in the society and as pointed out by Dr. Singh, this showed how teachers always have to juggle between a private as well as a public sphere and the resulting shift of identities. At the end of the activity, she also explained how the prevalence of peace automatically seeped into our identities. She compared and contrasted the identity responses Kashmiri women had given her in a previous workshop where they identified themselves first as Kashmiris, or Muslims, victims and then women.
Next up, the teachers were asked to reflect upon questions like what a conflict is and whether the words ‘conflict’ and ‘violence’ can be used interchangeably. A unanimous negation gave rise to an interesting discussion about how the two were very different and among a few responses that emerged was that conflict could be positive if seen as a conflict of ideas that ultimately brings out the truth or it could be negative if it gave rise to violence. Further, Dr. Singh pointed out that the absence of violence did not necessarily mean prevalence of peace. By categorizing peace into three different categories: direct, structural and cultural, she explained how there exists ‘negative peace’ in case of mere absence of a direct assault or hostility and there exists ‘positive peace’ if even the structural and cultural violence, that finds expression in religious, gender and socio-economic discrimination are also removed. Quoting examples by Johan Galtung, the father of peace and conflict studies, she explained how hate politics in a history class or biases like no tiffin-sharing with minority communities in school were a classic portrayal of structural and cultural violence. To this, the participant teachers responded with examples from their own experience where Muslim students in their class were looked down upon or when Sikh students were made fun of. Stepping outside religion, teachers also mentioned how obese children were teased or bullied or children with special needs were sometimes treated with contempt and insensitivity. Dr. Singh then highlighted the importance of their role as teachers to do a layered analysis of the same and find out how they can employ their pedagogical tools to combat the problem. The plausible solutions included opening the classroom for dialogue, examining symbols used in NCERT textbooks, sensitizing students about issues like gender, organizing contextual lectures and recording responses of students reflecting their opinions, for instance, how they see the country of Pakistan – as a neighbor, as a cricket match opponent or as a terrorist nation.
“Don’t just teach people how to fish but to fish in their own ponds…”
The brief discussion on ‘Education as a tool for Peace Building’ resonated this idea. The participants discussed how education was also about learning how to make relationships and how essential it is to have an undertone of peacefulness and understanding in every new relationship formed. Furthermore, the participants agreed that peace could be brought about by breaking down hierarchies and power dynamics and facilitating a more egalitarian model for relationships. In this context, Paulo Freire’s point of view was discussed where he sees the current education system as a ‘banking model’ in which the teacher is just supposed to fill in a ‘container’ with knowledge and not necessarily be responsible for making it an agent of social change. So, Freire sees the need for an eliciting and participatory model of teaching where the student becomes an active participant in the process of exchange of ideas. One of the teachers then rightly pointed out how the advent of the Internet had rendered the students sometimes even more updated and informative than the traditional teacher herself. This triggered the collective appreciation of technology as a tool for peace building and the teachers discussed the scope for face-to-face interaction and human rights discussions with say, child soldiers or students from countries like Afghanistan and Iraq.
Towards the end of her presentation, Dr. Singh pointed out the difference between ‘Education for Peace’ and ‘Education about Peace’ and how both were significant in their own regard. While education for peace requires the knowledge and skills concerning components like international, multicultural and environmental education, education about peace requires an altogether separate arena for training in human rights skills, conflict transformation (like the Harvard 0 Program) and development of institutions that comprise a peaceful social order. With India in special focus, she elaborated on how the National Focus Group here believes in ‘load reduction’ rather than ‘load enhancement’ when it comes to the curriculum for peace education. Shedding light onto the international efforts in this regard, the teachers were shown examples of the Cyber School Bus that is an online platform endorsing the concept of ‘teachers without borders’, providing the space and resources for tutors from all across the globe to indulge in a dialogue about peace education and other pressing issues. Drumming for Peace was another such global endeavor for the promotion of peace.
The final phase of the workshop witnessed a group activity by the teachers. Five divided groups were asked to do a series of tasks within themselves which involved:
After this, one facilitator from each group was asked to share the group’s findings with the rest. The groups mapped their explorations on chart papers and the results were explained with the help of properly structured diagrams, pointers and tables. Out of the many useful tools that were brought to the fore, the ones that seemed the most implementable included classroom activities like group discussions and projects, film screenings and role play for sensitization, ruling out the ‘competition’ factor and infusing ‘cooperation’, promoting the idea of justice and the ‘veil of ignorance’, equality on the socio-economic and cultural fronts, and interactive games etc.
“Conferences and workshops like these help teachers bridge the gap between theory and practice and provide us deeper insights into the issue at hand,” said Mrs. Shweta Kukreja, a psychology teacher at Springdales School, when asked how the conference had benefitted her. She also expressed elation at the fact that after the workshop, the idea of peace was so deeply etched in her mind that she was now sure it was going to flow naturally in her lectures and find way into the students’ minds.
Thus the session ended successfully with all the participant teachers taking back with them a new set of ideas and the determination to implement them in their classrooms.