Education and Conflict: Research and Research Possibilities

Pauline Benefield , Kathryn Tomlinson

01 April 2005

This project aimed to undertake a scoping study of existent and potential research into the relationship between education and conflict, peace building and post-conflict situations, both nationally and internationally. Within this aim, the project investigates the main research dimensions of this area, identifies gaps in the research literature, summarises key findings that emerge from the literature and suggests future areas of research.

About the study

Keyword searches of educational databases were conducted in order to identify relevant materials, published between 1997 and 2004. Those items that were considered key texts or those that were easily accessible were read in depth. It is important to note that the project did not aim to review the literature but to identify the key themes and gaps. The main author also attended two key conferences and used the internet to search for additional materials and keep in touch with relevant online discussion groups.

Conclusions and recommendations

The report recommends:

  • the expansion of centralised data collection regarding the provision of education in conflict situations
  • greater use of the internet and e-discussions for dissemination of research and network building
  • the use of ‘user-friendly’ tools in research reports
  • greater use of professional researchers to provide consultancy on monitoring and evaluation to practitioners working in the field
  • greater collaboration between practitioner agencies and academics.

The report suggests that further research should:

  • look at the role of education as a tool for protection
  • investigate the links between citizenship education and peace education
  • examine ways in which governments and NGOs can support schooling initiated by parents.

Key Findings

It is estimated that half of the 104 million children not attending primary school live in countries in, or recovering from, conflict. Countries that have lost educational infrastructure as a result of war are less likely to reach the Dakar goal of primary Education for All by the year 2015.

The project identified the following.

  • The field of education and conflict is in its infancy.
  • There is much material that addresses the challenges involved in providing education in conflict-affected and post-conflict areas.
  • Very little research or evaluative evidence from education programmes that operate in conflict and post-conflict areas exists - either from successful or unsuccessful programmes.
  • Research, evaluation and monitoring are often low on the list of priorities for practitioners working in these circumstances. This lack of reflective information means that future initiatives will be repeated without assessment of their effectiveness and suitability.
  • Despite the lack of material in the pubic domain, there is a wealth of evidence that is unpublished. Such material includes internal reports and evaluations conducted by agencies and consultants working in the field. Research and development of practice is hindered by the fact that most of this reflective material is not available more widely.
  • There is a research - practice gap. Published research is often not accessible to practitioners - either in its location or style. The result is a limited amount of evidence from which further interventions can be planned by practitioners and policy makers.
  • Those working in the field of education and conflict have made a significant contribution to challenging the assumption that education is always a positive force in areas of conflict. However, because of the research - practice gap, these developments may not feed into theory.
  • Peace education is well documented in the literature on education and conflict. However, much of the material is opinion based and descriptive rather than evidence based. This is fuelled by the difficulty of assessing the impact of peace education interventions in post-conflict areas.
  • At a national level, peace education is closely allied to civic education and citizenship education, but the links between these topics are not well researched in conflict-affected areas.
  • The difficulties facing agencies seeking to implement education in conflict-situations are thought to be well known, but one key study revealed that, in practice, the challenges may be different.
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