Healing the Scars of War: Teaching for Peace through Higher Education in Divided and Conflict-Affected Contexts

Given the growing importance of higher education within the international community in its efforts to achieve the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this presentation examines the potentiality for higher education to contribute to peacebuilding in divided and conflict-affected settings. For more than a decade, the international community has explicitly stated that the achievement of global development goals is dependent on addressing access to quality education in conflict-affected contexts; and, in 2015, the SDGs extended this to higher education. However, in settings affected by conflict, higher education is often perceived to be a luxury, not a necessity. Recent research has indicated the positive role of higher education to contribute to post-conflict recovery, reconciliation, the promotion of democracy, and preservation of local culture, but little is known about how university educators themselves teach for peace and reconciliation through higher education in settings affected by conflict. In light of this lacuna, this presentation explores higher education pedagogies and policies for peace with university educators in four divided and conflict-affected contexts: China/Taiwan, Cyprus, Korea, and Somalia. Data was collected through extensive fieldwork, document analysis, and interviews with 34 faculty. Inductive thematic analysis generated four themes (community, complexity, criticality, and change) that were then further analysed through the lenses of cultural political economy of education and borderlands. Findings reveal contested interpretations of peace across cultures and educational settings, as well as creative and resilient approaches to teaching for peace and reconciliation in divided and conflict-affected contexts. Learning from cross-cutting themes within and across these locales is valuable for faculty in each of the settings as well as those faculty and policymakers elsewhere who promote peace through higher education in other divided and conflict-affected regions.

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