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Should Teachers include Peace Education Goals?

This is a post which has been brewing for some time now and I have taken the opportunity to publish it on this day of September to celebrate the International Day of Peace.


In this post, the focus is on teaching English as a Foreign or Second Language, but English teachers can incorporate such activities even if teaching ELL.



In my local ELT scene, Greece, many of the ‘givens’ we used to take for granted are no longer true. We used to assume that our learners have the same mother tongue, educational background and religion, similar knowledge bases, social and cultural background, and similar learning habits and difficulties.


These givens have changed drastically in the last 10-15 years. Most mainstream schools and foreign language classrooms are now multicultural, in some areas more so than others. In most cases, educators report that their pupils or students work well together and there are no issues of racism or persecution towards other ethnic groups, but there have been recent instances which have shocked our nation and reports of many more cases of violence that never made the headlines.


So, to the question ‘Is educating for peace really a concern of the foreign language instructor?’ I would reply with a very emphatic ‘Yes!’.


I. Peace Education goals


According to UNESCO, a peace oriented education…


“…..should attempt to reduce the willingness to use violence in individuals and to reveal and remove the infrastructures which cause violence in human relations at all levels of society and amongst nations.”


“ Human rights and an education which has peace as its goal are not a luxury but are at the roots of the mission of an educational institution..”


‘Peace Linguistics’ is a term which appeared in the 90’s for the promotion of peace and human rights at international level and stressed the value of linguistic multilingualism at national and international level.


Within this framework, there is a need to create language attitudes which respect the dignity of individual speakers and speech communities (D.Crystal, 1999).


II. What does educating for peace involve?

A multitude of interesting articles on the subject can be found easily by searching the world wide web and interested teachers will even find ready made lesson plans on topic areas promoting peace education – more material, it must be said, is available for school teachers rather than for foreign language teachers, but some of the material available for mainstream education can be easily adapted for use in the EFL class.


Educating for Peace requires improvement or development of the following:

  • Becoming a good communicator – improving communication skills
  • Developing the ability to resolve conflicts
  • Improving understanding and developing empathy for others
  • Developing the ability to view issues from a multiple perspective
  • Developing critical thinking

There is also a need for knowing things. Learners who know very little about the world and others will need help with:

  • Improvement of general knowledge
  • Knowledge of the target language community
  • Knowledge of their own country and their own culture
  • Knowledge of cultures other than their own

Finally, educating for peace requires more self-confidence and improvement of self-image in our learners.

The points mentioned above do not go against the principles of any good language programme which, in fact, they themselves include:

  • The development of good communication skills through linguistic means (Grammar, Vocabulary, Pronunciation)
  • Learning about successful interpersonal communication codes (Discourse Analysis – Pragmatics – Sociolinguistics)

This can be done through many of the well-known and tested in the EFL Classroom communicative activities BUT with a special emphasis on

  • Including more problem solving tasks requiring the development of negotiation skills
  • Better/more careful structuring of the communication process




.........

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