The manipulation of identity to create division lies at the heart of many of the world’s most serious challenges. Worsening structural inequalities alongside a rapid increase in online consumption of conspiracy and disinformation have helped exclusionary populist movements grow in strength and confidence all over the world, threatening democracies and fragile states, human rights, and the security of minority or vulnerable groups. The Covid-19 pandemic has only worsened this trend by accelerating existing drivers of division. As we look to the future, climate change is likely to change every aspect of how we live our lives, but it will be in the arenas of identity-based violence, systemic racism, extremism, mass atrocity and armed conflict that we will see some of the most explosive human consequences.
Against this backdrop, citizens around the world are calling upon governments to invest in education systems that build resilience, inclusion, and equity. The DENI initiative aims to support those efforts by bringing together educators, public officials, academic experts, and civil society from around the world to investigate and advocate for how educational policies and pedagogies can best contribute to preventing the worst consequences of such polarising phenomena.
Through this theme we seek to identify a key set of competences (knowledge, attitudes and skills) that will enable young people to understand and interpret the complexities of the societies in which they live, and thus be more resilient against the rising challenges of polarisation, identity-based divisions and conflict.
Through this theme we will explore evidence-based knowledge from around the world about strategies and methodologies that have effectively enabled students to think critically about their immediate environment, respect the plurality of worldviews that exist in a society, and feel that they belong to a diverse political community.
Through this theme we will explore how school culture and connections with the wider community in which schools are located can contribute to promoting stronger, more resilient societies. Understanding schools as communities can help to integrate learning objectives outside of the curriculum and foster collaboration between schools and community organizations.
This theme will explore the role of educational planners and policymakers in overcoming challenges. Key considerations include questions related to general educational policy planning and more specific issues such how to embed topics related to democratic citizenship in the curricula in a sustainable manner, how to develop the skills and knowledge of teachers to facilitate difficult and sensitive conversations, how to ensure academic freedom, and how to include the voices of young people and other relevant actors in policy change.
The DENI initiative is launching with the Democratic Education Needs Imagination conference taking place online 3-16 November 2021. This conference brings together a diverse group of practitioners from around the world to exchange theoretical perspectives and practical expertise through an inclusive and collaborative series of discussions on the four DENI themes. Alongside these discussions, we are excited to have commissioned 12 research papers by education experts from around the world bringing evidence from their local context on the DENI themes.
In Spring 2022 we will be publishing here an outcomes paper alongside a series of recommendations drawing on the conference discussions and the research papers.
The Warren Educational Policies Program (WEPP) of AIPG was created to develop knowledge and experience to effectively incorporate an educational approach into broader governmental strategies for the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities. Since 2016, the WEPP has implemented two major educational projects in Brazil and El Salvador. These projects utilized a participatory methodology–involving representatives from state institutions, the education sector, and civil society–as means to develop two distinct and unique proposals that could better promote preventive goals through education. As a result, in El Salvador, the WEPP produced a toolkit designed to build teachers' capacity to effectively teach the legacy of the civil war in El Salvador, while nurturing a culture of peace, which is now included in the Ministry of Education’s standard curricula. In Brazil, the WEPP designed and developed an educational methodology to help teachers create spaces for dialogue based on plurality and respect for others. This initiative, entitled “Citizenship and Democracy in Schools” is currently operating in ten states in Brazil.
Protection Approaches is a UK-based charity working to tackle all forms of identity-based violence, from hate crime to violent extremism and genocide. Through research, campaigns, education, and community partnerships we build understanding of how to end such violence in the UK and globally.
Our education team works with schools around Britain to develop and deliver programmes that equip students and teachers with the strategies they need to reject prejudice and violence. Our teacher training programmes help students and staff develop whole-of-school approaches to building a positive and inclusive culture both in the classroom and at home. We also work with national networks to ensure that schools are seen not only as formal places of learning but also as organic communities with shared values and interests.