When I began my teaching career, earnestly I battled with the question, ‘What’s the purpose of education?’ Whenever I asked colleagues, their answers were always varied, but rarely satisfying. Indeed, I became disheartened when two members of an SLT team separately said, “I gave up asking that question years ago,” when I asked them as an NQT.
Since then I’ve met many educators who are switched on to their craft and purpose, but the stressful demands placed on teachers and pupils can bring attention away from asking some important questions of education; focus instead being on performance and outcomes. Time poor and often stressed, teachers do what they can to be as effective as possible. However, with an outcomes based education system, teaching and learning can become formulaic and many teachers fall into the trap of teaching to the exam. As a result education can become oppressive and dehumanising for teacher and student.
A good education, arguably, will develop the competencies needed for a young person to function in the world beyond formal education and give good qualifications – opening opportunities for employment or further study. But as it stands education is preserving the status quo and perpetuating the challenges of our time (climate change, social inequality, institutional racism, poor health etc.), rather than addressing them meaningfully.
The model of peace education offers a blue print upon which to build an innovative approach towards one’s education. Aiming to achieve true peace, it can be found at the intersection between inner peace, social peace and environmental peace. I like this model of peace education because it links the individual directly to the environment and invites one to consider the impact and responsibility we have as a result of our actions. It encourages us to make connections between the different areas of our lives in a meaningful way.
The DfE’s whitepaper ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere’ is a demonstration of the government’s priority to make the British Education system the best in the world. But when we look to Finland and understand their system became the best because they were concentrating more on improving access to a better education for all, the development of individual, holistic personalities of children, and modernised teacher training responding to the needs which arose from this focus, we see there is value in adopting a holistic approach towards education.
Peace education “cuts across disciplines and brings attention to non-violence, human rights and participation as being integral.” To account for these areas of focus a curriculum would need to be developed which accommodates these areas. I’d be bold enough to say that new subjects would need to be created in order to account for the new competencies and skills needing to be learnt. I’d also be in favour of Peace Education moving away from a higherarchical structure of subject valuation and recognise the importance of developing individuals as complete human beings instead, so students are encouraged to find their elements.
I believe Einstein’s words of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Peace education offers us an opportunity to broaden our thinking and reconsider what education’s purpose is and should be.