Podcast: Education and Peace-Building in Deeply Divided Societies

Education reform is often hailed as a panacea after civil wars: it is expected to reformulate identities, heal the wounds of war, reconcile future citizens, and include the formerly marginalised into the political, cultural and economic institutions of the state.  But which education reforms are promoted in peace agreements in practice? And how do schools foster peace and stability after civil wars?

By examining qualitatively and quantitatively education reforms after violent intra-state conflicts, this paper points at a disjuncture between word and deed. A descriptive analysis of over 200 intra-state peace agreements since 1989 suggests that the large majority of education clauses in peace agreements point in an integrationist rather than pluralist direction. Common schools, unified curricula and the promotion of overarching values and behaviours appear more frequently than reforms protecting and preserving the distinctive cultures and practices of formerly warrying groups. However, a qualitative investigation of education reforms in Lebanon, Northern Ireland and the Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia paints a different picture: pluralist reforms are swiftly implemented, while integrationist initiatives are often marginalised in the decades following peace agreements.

This suggests that the implementation of education reforms tend to foster the stability of newly established political systems rather than promoting systemic change after civil wars. In line with consociational expectations, education reforms following the establishment of power-sharing in Lebanon, Northern Ireland and the Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia created or strengthened a 'consociational' education system, mirroring and strengthening the mutually exclusive groups that participated to conflict and now share political power. Thus, often the potential of education as a force for conflict transformation remains unexploited.

Speaker: Dr Giuditta Fontana (University of Birmingham)


Giuditta Fontana is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow and Birmingham Fellow in the School of Government and Society, University of Birmingham. Her research focuses on cultural institutions (schools, museums, the media, cultural associations) in post-conflict and fragile societies including Northern Ireland, Lebanon and the Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia. Her research interests include post-conflict constitutional design, intractable conflicts, the implementation of peace agreements and the reform of non-political institutions in fragmented societies. Her first monograph, “Education Policy and Power-Sharing in Post-Conflict Societies” was recently published by Palgrave (August 2016).

Recorded: Monday 05 December 2016 (16:00-17:30).

Download a transcript here