The Classroom: A Place for Inner Peace Education

The Classroom: A Place for Inner Peace Education
Gloria María Abarca Obregón, Mexico
I have been a primary school teacher for 12 years and strangely enough I always wanted to be one. I love being a teacher and thanks to my job, I have had the opportunity to be in many diverse encounters and meet the most different people. This is how I experience being a teacher, and above all, how I experience being a human who, through education, found a way of teaching, learning and living, where peace and education go hand in hand. It has become not only a teaching style, but a personal philosophy and a lifestyle.
I wish to share with you my lived experiences in the classroom of a public primary school in Mexico, with the goal of giving a voice to my own real experiences of inner peace. As a teacher, I want to share with other teachers all around the world what is possible to achieve through this transformative approach.
To read the full post, please download here.
To download Spanish version, please click here.
teachwithout brders

If wars begin in the human mind, then it is through our minds – through education – that war can be vanquished by peace. At Teachers Without Borders, we believe that teachers can lead the way towards peace in their classrooms and communities. Our Peace Education Program is designed to help them in this pursuit. By providing teachers with a framework for peace education, we are contributing to the growing movement towards a global culture of peace.

Teachers Without Borders’ Introduction to Peace Education is a teacher professional development course that explores peace education in theory and practice. In addition to offering the course as an onsite workshop in various contexts around the world, we make it available as a free download or a free self-paced online course.

Learn More:

A note about the UN’s approaches to Peace Education:

In 1945, the United Nations was established to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”, “to reaffirm faith in the …dignity and worth of the human person [and] in the equal rights of men and women”, “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”, and “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom…”. (
Preamble to the UN Charter  outside link)

Peace education has developed as a means to achieve these goals. It is education that is “directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”. It promotes “understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups” and furthers “the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.” (Article 26, Universal Declaration of Human Rights  outside link)

In other words, peace education is an integral part of the work of the United Nations. Through a humanising process of teaching and learning, peace educators facilitate human development. They strive to counteract the dehumanisation of poverty, prejudice, discrimination, rape, violence, and war. Originally aimed at eliminating the possibility of global extinction through nuclear war, peace education currently addresses the broader objective of building a culture of peace. In this global effort, progressive educators world-wide are teaching the values, standards and principles articulated in fundamental UN instruments such as the UN Charter  outside link, Human Rights documents, the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)  outside link, the Convention on the Rights of the Child  outside link (CRC), the World Declaration on Education for All, and many others.

UNICEF and UNESCO are particularly active advocates of education for peace. UNICEF describes peace education as schooling and other educational initiatives that:

• Function as ‘zones of peace’, where children are safe from violent conflict
• Uphold children’s basic rights as outlined in the CRC
• Develop a climate that models peaceful and respectful behaviour among all members of the learning community
• Demonstrate the principles of equality and non-discrimination in administrative policies and practices
• Draw on the knowledge of peace-building that exists in the community, including means of dealing with conflict that are effective, non-violent, and rooted in the local culture
• Handle conflicts in ways that respect the rights and dignity of all involved
• Integrate an understanding of peace, human rights, social justice and global issues throughout the curriculum whenever possible
• Provide a forum for the explicit discussion of values of peace and social justice
• Use teaching and learning methods that stress participation, Cupertino, problem-solving and respect for differences
• Enable children to put peace-making into practice in the educational setting as well as in the wider community
• Generate opportunities for continuous reflection and professional development of all educators in relation to issues of peace, justice and rights. (Peace Education in UNICEF Working Paper Series, July 1999)

Much of the work of UNESCO is centred on the promotion of education for peace, human rights, and democracy. The notion of a “culture of peace” was first elaborated for UNESCO at the International Congress on Peace in the Minds of Men, held at Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire, in 1989. The Yamoussoukro Declaration called on UNESCO to ‘construct a new vision of peace by developing a peace culture based on the universal values of respect for life, liberty, justice, solidarity, tolerance, human rights and equality between women and men’ and to promote education and research for a this vision. (UNESCO and a Culture of Peace, UNESCO Publishing, 1995)

Underlying all of this work in the field of peace education are the efforts of committed educators, researchers, activists, and members of global civil society. Acting in partnership with the United Nations and its Specialised Agencies, Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), educational institutions, and citizen networks have advanced education for peace by linking ideals with extensive research and practice. The Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice for the 21st Century (UN Document: Ref A/54/98  outside link), is a significant example of such work. One of the first principles of this document is the necessity of instituting systematic education for peace. According to the Agenda, their Global Campaign for Peace Education aims to “support the United Nations Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World and to introduce peace and human rights education into all educational institutions, including medical and law schools.”

“A culture of peace will be achieved when citizens of the world understand global problems, have the skills to resolve conflicts and struggle for justice non-violently, live by international standards of human rights and equity, appreciate cultural diversity, and respect the Earth and each other. Such learning can only be achieved with systematic education for peace.” -Hague Appeal for Peace Global Campaign for Peace Education

The International Peace Research Association, founded with support from UNESCO, has a Peace Education Commission that brings together educators working to promote a culture of peace. The Peace Education Network, based in London, also works alongside the UN in promoting peace through education. Overall, the participation of global civil society in building a culture of peace is essential. Get connected!

Framework and Rationale
Many teachers are already practising peace education without calling it by name. Historically, in various parts of the world, peace education has been referred to as Education for Conflict Resolution, International Understanding, and Human Rights; Global Education; Critical Pedagogy; Education for Liberation and Empowerment; Social Justice Education; Environmental Education; Life Skills Education; Disarmament and Development Education; and more. These various labels illuminate the depth and diversity of the field. Using the term peace education helps co-ordinate such global initiatives and unite educators in the common practice of educating for a culture of peace.

Because the year 2000 is the International Year for the Culture of Peace  outside link (UN Doc A/RES/52/15) and the period 2001-2010 is the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (UN Doc A/RES/53/25), the UN Cyberschoolbus Peace Education site joins the global movement  outside link to build and sustain a culture of peace through education.

Some more reading and resources for studying and implementing peace education:

            Education for human rights…young people talking (DVD), UNESCO: 2011.

Teaching the transatlantic slave trade: achievements, challenges and perspectives, UNESCO, 2011.

World development report 2011: conflict security and development, World Bank: 2011.

Education under attack, 2010: a global study on targeted political and military violence against education staff, students, teachers, union and government officials, aid workers and institutions, UNESCO, Paris: 2010.

Davies L. and Bentrovato D, Understanding education’s role in fragility Synthesis of four situational analyses of education and fragility: Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Liberia, IIEP, 2011.

The hidden crisis: Armed conflict and education, EFA Global Monitoring Report, UNESCO, 2011.

Smith A, The Influence of education on conflict and peace building, Background paper for the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2011, 2010.

UNESCO Guidebook on Textbook Analysis and Textbook Revision, UNESCO/ GEORG ECKERT INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL TEXTBOOK RESEARCH, Paris/Braunschweig: 2010.

Guidebook for planning in emergencies and reconstruction, IIEP, 2010.

Davies L, Think piece on education and conflict, Think piece prepared for the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2011, 2009.

Opportunities for change, Education innovation and reform during and after conflict, Ed. By S. Nicolai, UNESCO IIEP, Paris: 2009.

Brochure on UNESCO’s Work on Education for Peace and Non-Violence – Building Peace through Education (ED-2008/WS/38), English, Paris: 2008.

Expert meeting: stopping violence in schools. What works? Report, 2007.

A Human Rights-based Approach to Education for All, UNESCO/UNICEF, New York: 2007.

UNESCO Guidelines on Intercultural Education, UNESCO, Paris: 2006.

Intercultural Understanding and Human Rights Education in the Era of Globalization, APCEIU, 2006.

Margaret Sinclair, Learning to Live Together: Building skills, values and attitudes for the 21st Century, UNESCO/IBE, Geneva: 2004.

UNESCO’s Work on Education for Peace and Non-Violence, UNESCO, Paris: 2008.

UNESCO (1996) Learning: The Treasure Within (also known as the Delors Report; Report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century).


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