Study Proves: Peace Education Promotes Readiness for Peaceful Conflict Settlement
9 February 2011
Peace education work in crisis and conflict areas actually does help to make hostile groups more peaceable in their attitudes towards one another. Compared with persons who have not taken part in such programmes, participants in so-called peace-building education projects in countries with armed conflicts differ often distinctly in the extent to which they are prepared to envisage peaceful conflict settlement. A research project at Heidelberg University’s Institute for Education Studies has demonstrated that this is the case. Headed by Prof. Dr. Volker Lenhart, the scientists questioned almost 1,600 people in seven countries featuring earlier or ongoing armed conflicts, such as Afghanistan, Sudan or Israel/Palestine.
“So far there have been hardly any studies evaluating whether peace-building education projects actually have any effect,” says Prof. Lenhart. To find this out, the scientists questioned 1,585 persons aged between 10 and 77 in Afghanistan, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Colombia, Israel/Palestine, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka and Sudan. The inquiry included questions about their attitudes both towards their own groups and to the respective conflict groups. They also indicated how willing they were to work towards a peaceful solution and shared any previous experience they had dealing with members of the opposing groups. For example, participants were asked whether they were proud to be a member of their group or whether they felt that peace negotiations should be conducted until an agreement had been reached.
The most important indicator of the success of peace-building education projects was the readiness of the respondees to settle a conflict peacefully. In all countries except Colombia, this readiness was more marked in the participants in peace-building education projects than in the other respondees. The difference was particularly distinct in Sudan. “Peace-building projects actually do make the participants more peaceable,” Prof. Lenhart concludes. “These findings are an encouragement to invest time and money in peace-building projects for crisis and conflict areas. Our research indicates that projects and programmes of this kind can make a valuable contribution to peaceful conflict settlement.” According to Prof. Lenhart, the Heidelberg study also demonstrates that large budgets and long running times do not necessarily enhance the chances of a programme’s success. Smaller and shorter projects can also be effective.
The research work at the Institute for Education Studies was funded by the German Foundation for Peace Research. For more information on the study, go to www.ibw.uni-heidelberg.de.
Prof. Dr. Volker Lenhart
Institute for Education Studies
phone: +49 6221 547512
Communications and Marketing
Press Office, phone: +49 6221 542311