Peace Education in the Western Balkans
Peace education is of crucial importance to end cycles of violence and to transform the way people deal with their conflicts. The importance of learning and education involves much more than merely transmitting knowledge to another generation. Education reflects and reproduces the values, identity and behaviour of the society it is part of, the standardised body of knowledge that is supposed to be shared by all members of that society and the means by which this knowledge is conveyed.
Educational institutions are microcosms, which reflect the social cohesion, social interaction and structure of the people they serve. Students can be supported in their personal development and taught to become valuable members of their society. “Peace education” inspires critical reflection (which helps to overcome prejudices), improves learners’ ability to deal with conflicts and the violent past, and fosters mutual understanding.
Our workshops, seminars, and summer camps provide safe spaces for meeting “the other side”, contribute to trust-building and reduce inter-ethnic tensions. Teachers learn to reflect on their own behaviour and to convey the positive aspects of a pluralistic society in everyday school life. We support them in challenging widespread authoritarian structures and divisive teachings in schools, while also promoting democratic processes and teachings which encourage critical thinking and multi-perspective approaches.
Our understanding of “peace education” is not a ready-made product, but rather its content is adapted to a specific context. This may include civic education, human rights education, gender mainstreaming, as well as diversity management. Working closely with our partner organisations and in close consultation with relevant education ministries, we develop tailored activities and programs that address the needs in a specific context. This includes institutionalizing mechanisms for constructive conflict transformation, developing a standardised training curriculum, and conducting school mediation training for trainers, school directors, teachers and students. Through our activities, we aim to:
- counteract the strong and widespread ethnic segregation in public and private spheres of society;
- foster a culture of trust and tolerance;
- increase the ability to deal with conflicts;
- promote critical thinking and student participation in decision-making processes;
- support local civil society organisations in the formation of alliances for political dialogue and reforms in the education sector.