In terms of what governments do in response, some provide subsidies for girls, or offer free education. Gendered issues (affecting girls and boys) can be addressed, even as part of the curriculum. Targeted education programs can be initiated to help kids from particularly conflict-ridden zones. School lunch programs can attract people to come, as can offering 'flexschools' that work around domestic or other duties. Providing childcare can also help.
But while these are ways to address how conflict has interrupted education, some researchers wonder if by shoring up school systems we can make certain societies less likely to be affected by future violent conflicts. Or that future conflicts would be less intense.
Going back to perceptions of how education affects the likelihood of conflict or not, a number of myths exist. There's a thought that fights are exclusively started by people who are uneducated, or that if you educate everybody then no one will start any more wars. While there are connections between less-educated populations and conflict, as mentioned above, in cases of terrorism the perpetrators are often very, very educated.
If you think about it, in some cases education might even make tensions worse. Think about what kinds of histories are taught in schools, especially if history encourages people to support the grievances of their own ethnic or religious group. Schools can also be segregated and can foment hatred or misunderstanding. Who does or does not have access to secondary school or university can also matter – maybe all the elites go to the same place and build connections, making it harder for people outside the system to be represented or included in political decision making.
When it comes to restricted access (or lack of access generally) to education, there's a theory that says the amount of boys in secondary school is a factor that can directly contribute to whether or not a conflict might break out. But it's not only about whether or not boys or young men are engaged in school: not having opportunities for a livelihood after being educated can lead to dissatisfaction and tension. This is a factor often attributed to the Arab Spring.
There are a lot of rebel groups who try to step in where governments fail – think of the Islamic State's educational system, as one example. Rebels in Sierra Leone also did this, and thus brought children up into their worldview and made an effective pipeline to their armed bands. Some rebel groups destroy schools and tell folks that since they don't have anything better to do, why not join them?
Political exclusion is often named as a factor in conflict, and it can start at the level of curriculum. If you can't study in your own language, you might start forming a grievance against the state. Or you might try to push for reforms. And sometimes the curriculum, even in the same country, is different in different languages. Serbs and Croats who study history in Eastern Croatia do so with different textbooks, ones that some claim transmit conflict-based stereotypes. When researchers talk about how knowledge is political, like Bruno Oliveira Martins in yesterday's seminar
, this can be what they mean.
There's an argument some make called the 'contact' thesis, and that's the idea that if you're put in contact with different types of people on a regular basis then you'll start learning tolerance or acceptance. Some say this really happens, but others say this just leads to playground fights or worse. Other issues can include the abuse of kids by teachers, especially if the kids are part of a marginalized group. Or teachers sometimes campaigning openly for office in their classes, or using the class to indoctrinate students in a particular ideology.
Then there are all the issues of 'hidden curriculums.' Think of all the hidden, unwritten rules of a classroom. Who gets called upon. How certain people are treated (either better or worse). Military-style drills in different classes, pictures of leaders on the wall. What questions are discouraged (or encouraged). Whether or not students are encouraged to think critically or just accept information passively.
So it's a mixed subject.
When researchers try to look for causal mechanisms for education leading to peace, they're often using it as a proxy for state strength and inclusion, both of which are factors in conflict onset. When talking about psychological arguments, these are described as relating to whether or not you feel included, whether you have grievances that are reproduced in schools (either by sympathetic teachers feeding your grievances or hostile teachers who seem to 'prove' them), and then structures of socialization or critical thinking.
Then there are some who say that the more educated you are, the more successful you become and so the costs involved in picking up a gun grow higher.
But these are all still under research. They do, however, provide compelling directions for ongoing questions, studies and reports.