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The Centre attends UNESCO conference on preventing violent extremism through education in Delhi

On September 19th and 20th, 2016, the Global Centre for Pluralism attended the UNESCO International Conference on the Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) through Education: Taking Action, in Delhi, India. This was the first international conference on preventing violent extremism focused specifically on education. Over 200 participants from 70 countries attended the Conference.

UNESCO asserted the importance of promoting inclusion and respect for diversity when developing education policy, which lines up with the Centre’s own beliefs.

Critical Thinking as a Key Defense against Violent Extremism

Dr. Anantha Kumar Duraiappah, Director of the Delhi-based Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development, discussed the idea of firing up our ‘Gandhi neurons’ – in other words, teaching learners to be empathetic, compassionate and self-reflective. He also discussed the importance of developing critical thinking skills in order to be equipped to question established positions. And, finally, he emphasized the need to develop ‘moral courage’ - the courage to take risks and stand up for what is right despite our fears. 

The Role of Formal and Informal Educational Settings

The best defense against violent extremism is developing trust between the school and the students so that the school becomes a safe environment for debate. Formal educational institutions must not fall prey to ‘black and white’ messaging and, instead, must encourage critical thinking by presenting students with multiple perspectives. Conference participants agreed that formal education (e.g. schools) plays a key role in removing the breeding ground for the extremist mindset and preventing individuals from joining radical movements. The valuable role of informal educational settings (e.g. community centres, places of worship, the home, etc.) was also discussed. The potential of these institutions to engage and fill the gaps of formal education are valuable in the prevention of violent extremism. This is especially important given the fact that so many youth around the world are out of school.

Conference Takeaways

Some of the takeaways from the conference include:

• the essential role that teachers play in preventing violent extremism, hence the importance of teacher training and appropriate learning tools;

• the importance of removing hateful content from educational materials as it fuels violence;

• the role of emerging information and communications technology in empowering youth to become more informed;

• the need to contextualize education: curriculum and educational initiatives that work in one country may not work in another; and,

• creating partnerships with those from outside of the education sector, including law enforcement officers, social workers, the media, faith-based organizations and families.

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Implementing the Sustainable Development Goal 4.7

Throughout the conference, discussion also focussed on UNESCO’s specific approach to PVE education, which involves supporting the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 4.7. This goal focusses on providing education to learners which fosters “sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.” All findings of the conference contributed to the UNESCO Guide for Policy Makers on the Prevention of Violent Extremism through Education and the Global Citizenship Education Database.

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