How to transform education for peace?

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How to transform education for peace?


On the International Day of Youth, Carolina Buendia, Master’s degree student at the Peace, Mediation and Conflict Research program of Åbo Akademi University, discusses the key components to transform education into youth and conflict sensitive to effectively contribute to peacebuilding.

Education and peace

It seems common sense to argue that education is the key for peacebuilding, a statement often said by several political and social actors in different scenarios, and there is data to support it:

  • Each year of education reduces the risk of conflict approximately by 20%[1]
  • If the enrollment rate for secondary schooling is 10% higher than the average, the risk of war is reduced by about 3%[2]
  • An increase in secondary school enrollment from 30% to 81% is estimated to reduce the probability of civil war by almost two-thirds[3].

However, it is usually not mention what type of education is the one that can lead to this positive results, and what are the key elements to promote in the transformation towards peace in our societies, particularly the relevance of conflict and youth sensitivity in the educational programs.

Conflict sensitive education

Is equitably accessible, of good quality and provides a safe nourishing environment for youth. Education must be available without discrimination so it can be a tool to improve the quality of life, contribute to the full development of their inner potential and reduce the marginalization of youth.  This includes providing opportunities for participation and leadership in peacebuilding, which decreases their vulnerability to violent recruitment. Youth without education can be 9 times more likely to be recruited by rebel groups[4].

Regarding the quality and nourishing aspects, the educational programs must promote a set of skills that contribute to peaceful resolution of conflicts, namely independent thinking that can lead towards a change from the current war culture to a peace one; problem solving skills meaning thinking, creating and pursuing alternatives for violence in daily life; assertive communication to adequately express needs, interests and disagreements among peers and community; finally build empathy, tolerance and cultivate respect towards others by being inclusive and embrace diversity.

People with secondary education is more tolerant in comparison than those with only primary education to people of different race, sexual orientation, language, ethnic background or religion[5]

Youth sensitive education

Contributes to enhance their knowledge and skills for peacebuilding by providing them with access to guidance, educational programs and networks they need to actively participate. The training should be both content and practical based.

Firstly, focus on learning about the instruments at international level that support youth involvement in peacebuilding such as the 2015 United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 Youth, peace and security. Secondly, it is learning about the national and regional peace priorities and the opportunities for peer and community leadership in it. Thirdly, is to encourage the involvement of youth at governance and political representation at different levels and scenarios, from the classroom, up to the school or the bigger community.

The success of these actions requires the inclusion of youth interests at its center, the use of arts and sports to make it appealing, and the recognition of young people’s leadership as an asset in the designing, planning and implementing of educational projects.

Schools must be safe environments for youth, but also institutions with strong links to the communities where they reside so they can reach out for youth out of the formal education system. They must promote programs that reduce violence not only inside the school but also outside it, using creative methods and including other social relevant actors to have a bigger impact.

Carolina Buendia

Master’s degree student in Peace, Mediation and Conflict Research program

Member of UN Youth’s Resolution 2250 working group


[1] World Bank. Doing well out of war (Paul Collier), 1999 , p. 5.
[2] World Bank. Understanding Civil War, 2005 , p. 16.
[3] ABC’s, 123’s, and the Golden Rule: The Pacifying Effect of Education on Civil War, 1980–1999, by Clayton L. Thyne as cited by Rebecca Winthrop, Brookings Institution, in US leadership in global education: The time is now