Fighting intolerance with ‘peace education’ in schools stressed




Speakers at a conference stressed on ‘peace education’ in schools, saying this could help address growing intolerance in the society by making the younger generation understand religious, cultural, and linguistic diversity.

A daylong conference on ‘Fostering Culture of Peace through Education’ was jointly organized by German organization Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and MNA Asiya Nasir here on Tuesday.

The conference brought together academicians, civil society activists, students and parliamentarians for discussing the role of peace education in dealing with extremism.

The participants agreed that intolerance was a big impediment to peace, which could be best dealt through education. Educating children about different cultures, religions and traditions could enable them to better understand others, besides media was urged to focus on positives in the society instead of negatives.

Host Asiya Nasir, while stressing peace education, said strong political commitment and passion was required for peaceful and harmonious society. Urging everyone to play their role, she said, ‘Change could be achieved if everyone thinks about promotion of peace and contributes towards it. “Starting with children is one way of getting closer to the goal of culture of peace and non-violence,” she noted.

Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) Vice Chancellor Dr Asad Zaman called for a multi-pronged and multi dimensional strategy for achieving vision of a harmonious and tolerant Pakistan. He said it was important to change the narrative, as positive things needed to be projected, while treating negatives as exception.

Dr Zaman said our society was full of examples of selfless service, tolerance, and hospitality, which needed to be highlighted. Underscoring the importance of media’s role in influencing attitudes and behaviours, he said, “If newspapers highlight incidents of hospitality, harmony, tolerance, mutual accommodation, people will be motivated in this direction. Contrariwise, highlighting news of the other type can create intolerance.”

Senator Rubina Khalid wondered why youth were not taught about their rich cultural heritage and history. She regretted that religion had been turned into a business and said this ‘madness’ must come to an end.

Dr Kamran Naqi, an educationist, said childhood education was very important, but got little attention in Pakistan. “Our investment on preschool curricula presents a quite dismal picture. It is a point where children of +4 should get a fair amount of opportunity for self-expression besides nurturing the norms of cooperation, fellow feeling, and starting to internalize the values of sharing.”

Pakistan Minorities’ Teachers Association Chairman Anjum James Paul said the extremism would have to be rooted out from curricula and textbooks.