It is widely acknowledged by Tamils and Muslims in this study that the educational levels of students at the Muslim school are drastically below the level of neighbouring students at the Tamil-Catholic and Tamil-Hindu schools due to displacement resulting in illiteracy and limited personal development.
Education Conflict Complexity Chaos by Lynn Davies
Moreover, the Muslim school has the highest teacher student ratio in this study at , although this figure remains below the national average World Bank, The Tamil-Hindu school is the only school in this study to have the facilities to teach Advanced Level, resulting in a flow of students from the Muslim school wishing to continue with their studies, which has both positive and negative outcomes.
This flow of students has become a tradition, developing links between the Hindu and Muslim community and contributing to de-segregation between Muslim and Tamil schoolchildren. Students at the Muslim school feel it is unfair that their school is under-resourced when in comparison with neighbouring schools such as the Tamil-Hindu school which teaches Advanced Level.
Some teachers explicitly assert that inequality between schools in different areas is deepening divisions between young Muslims and Tamils, particularly the absence of Advanced Level at the Muslim school and the perceived lower quality of teaching and funding for facilities. Based on our analysis, formal peace education is the only component of secondary school education which can be said to be appropriately redistributed towards the Muslim community.
As one of the few Islamic schools in the Northern Province, the Muslim school receives greater attention in terms of formal peace education than the Tamil-Catholic and Tamil-Hindu schools in this study.
This is one of pilot schools in disadvantaged areas receiving support and is considered a positive development by those within the Muslim community. Yet, conflict-affected vulnerable schoolchildren at neighbouring Tamil schools are not included in this programme. The implementation of peace education as developed in discourse is perceived by teachers to be weak in the Tamil-Catholic and Tamil-Hindu schools and is plagued by shortages in training, funding and resources.
Only four out of 14 teachers interviewed stated they had attended formal peace education training; yet they are expected to possess the appropriate skills to deliver peace education and incorporate it into all aspects of the school curriculum. Formal peace education is generally not perceived by key actors to be having an observable influence on further conflict between Muslim and Tamil groups, as the following section will illustrate. Recalling here our earlier claim for the need to conduct a multi-scalar analysis and moving on now to focus our attention on the fourth R of reconciliation, we found that formal peace education is perceived by respondents not to be addressing the post-war needs for reconciliation within and between communities at the supra-community, inter-community and intra-community levels, as demonstrated in Figure 1.
Multi-scalar reconciliation conceptual diagram adapted from Duncan, First, analysis at the supra-community level examines the relationship between society and the state, and national issues of history, language policy and free speech in the context of continued aspects of militarisation and ethnicisation of education.
Building on existing writings on the challenges of reconciliation at the national level within and beyond educational reform by a number of authors Balasooriya et al. Four teachers were highly critical of the history curriculum stating that it does not accurately represent Tamil and Muslim minority culture, with many strongly contending this as an act of purposeful discrimination. Some teachers commented the history text is heavily structured in favour of the Sinhalese ethnic group and adherence to Buddhism.
Less than half 16 out of 34 of students explicitly asserted they thought that history teaching is biased, with Muslim students less likely than Tamil students to acknowledge this perceived bias. These teacher and student views confirm findings from earlier studies on the biased nature of history teaching in Sri Lanka Lopes Cardozo, , and confirm this is a continuing issue of concern. Although acknowledging that Muslims are one of the smallest ethno-religious groups in Sri Lanka, there is certainly an underlying conviction among young Muslims that they should learn each culture — Muslim, Tamil and Sinhalese — in equal measure and not at the expense of the erosion of their own culture in a history curriculum, which should seek to promote inclusive identities and diversity.
The teaching of the second national language, in this case Sinhala language, in Tamil-speaking schools, is generally considered a potential positive tool for peace and reconciliation by teachers and students, yet there is a lack of implementation due to inadequate Sinhala language skills, lack of teacher training and no appointment of Sinhala language teachers within the three Tamil-medium secondary schools. Of the 14 teachers interviewed, three could speak Sinhala fluently, of whom two were Muslim having learnt Sinhala whilst displaced from Jaffna.
Of 18 Muslim students, six can speak Sinhala, of whom two are fluent, and 4 can speak conversational Sinhala. This compares with a mere three out of 16 Tamil students capable of speaking limited Sinhala.
Education And Conflict Complexity And Chaos 2004
In general, Tamil-speaking teachers want to teach Sinhala and Tamil-speaking students want to learn Sinhala in order to improve understanding and reconciliation between disparate communities and participate in Sri Lankan civic life, with only one teacher voicing concerns that Sinhala is a threat to the identity of northern Tamil language and culture. There exists a perception that Tamil-speaking people, including northern Tamils and Muslims, feel as though they are subjugated at the national-level and persistently marginalised through language policies. Second, at the inter-community level we explore the state of post-war ethno-religious reconciliation between Tamil and Muslim communities in Jaffna, through analysing changing perceptions and attitudes facilitating greater understanding, integration and inclusion between these groups.
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In this section on reconciliation we discuss inter-group grievances in relation to the interconnected issues of misdistribution, misrecognition and misrepresentation alluded to above. The importance of reconciliation at the inter-group level has been recognised by a number of scholars Bush and Saltarelli, ; Davies, ; Page, ;. Our data show there is a general consensus among teachers and NGO staff involved in education practice that formal peace education does not address unresolved religious identity-driven conflict and instead focuses on the ethnic Tamil-Sinhalese problem.
A central contention of this paper is that peace education must give more leaning towards tensions and grievances between different religious groups and re-address religious misunderstandings and intolerance, as this is identified as a central driver of conflict. Davies argues for the need to critically question the role of religion in schooling, and how it potentially can exacerbate rather than mitigate conflict, through processes of segregation, narrowing of views and ring-fencing religion as something above critique. According to Davies, secular and state-funded schools should encourage and allow for critical religious education across a wide range of student backgrounds.
While these arguments might hold in certain contexts, we do acknowledge that such a secular approach might not be context-appropriate in every conflict-affected location.
In the context of Sri Lanka, and based on the voices of teachers and students represented in this study, the teaching of values, ethics and morals can be crucial to attaining religious tolerance and understanding between these rival ethno-religious groups. For example, a campaign for cultural and religious tolerance was launched in , which is based on ethics of mutual respect, multiculturalism and equality.
Teachers are expected to maintain a positive state of mind and impart this philosophy to their students to develop a positive attitude towards others. However, there are a number of teachers deeply critical of these initiatives, describing them as superficial and shallow which can be viewed as merely a point of departure and not as a substitute for more rigorous and in-depth teaching. This is primarily because this does not address societal and educational inequalities which the majority of educators ascertain as the root causes of ethnic conflict, but instead asserts a one-size-fits-all approach of individual happiness and positivity to a plethora of underlying complex factors.
This has led to calls for an increase in inter-ethnic and inter-religious participation events which allow a space for students to de-alienate those who identify themselves differently in society and to discover the many commonalities among them. The implementation of this through bottom-up agency of community groups and teachers will be discussed later in this paper. Third, analysis at the intra-community level is concerned with post-war reconciliation within groups, on an inter-personal and intra-personal basis, specifically related to psycho-social care and overall wellbeing.
Internal conflict has afflicted Muslim, Tamil-Catholic and Tamil-Hindu communities, framed by complex social problems poverty; displacement; religious, gender and caste-based discrimination; and violence. An important, although often repudiated component of peace education should be to address the psychological wellbeing of children and teachers affected by war. Former studies have aptly highlighted the need for greater focus on the psychological well-being of students in the aftermath of ethnic conflict Davies, ; Hoeks, ; Page, ; Lopes Cardozo, According to the views of the majority of respondents, the existing problem of youth engagement in violent conflict, ignited by the psycho-social trauma of experiencing war, is continuing to curse communities and is a substantial challenge which cannot be ignored.
Government authorities have been accused of neglecting the psycho-social needs of young people after the war Helbardt et al. For selected secondary schools, resources have been provided by GIZ such as the appointment of specialist teachers and increased counselling for secondary school students targeting those who have been subjected to abuse, violence and displacement.
These claims are disputed by teachers: the number of students receiving counselling and teachers receiving counselling training in the researched schools has been minimal, yet all schools in this study are said to require psycho-social counselling. A Hindu teacher and trained counsellor at the Muslim school explained that the school in fact obtained more funding for counsellor training and student welfare before the end of the war in , but funding for these programmes has since been reduced.
Furthermore, the presence of the Sri Lankan Army SLA is said to be negatively affecting students by creating an atmosphere of mistrust and fear. Out of 34 students, 25 stated that the military presence in Jaffna makes them fearful and negatively affects their studies. Without the involvement of GIZ, extra assistance for the most vulnerable conflict-affected students delivered through the MoE is minimal.
In addition to the crucial recognition of the need to address trauma and provide psycho-social support to students, we would like to emphasise the simultaneous need to also acknowledge the trauma and need for support for teachers. A minority of teachers interviewed explicitly asserted that they actively pursued a personal strategy to deviate from the curriculum with which they disagreed, and instead teach with input from their own beliefs, culture and history, challenging the barriers of identity and prejudice between Muslims and Tamils in Jaffna, and beyond to the relationship with the Sinhalese.
This form of teacher agency follows an educational objective advocated by Davies : 32 to challenge exclusionary nationalist subjectivities and pre-conceived notions of identity and difference through an open dialogue. Although these texts are not included in the national curriculum, teachers decide to teach this due to their own personal convictions and desire to place emphasis upon their own culture as the Principal of the school allows teachers a certain degree of autonomy.
This justification for introducing alternative teaching materials is reinforced through a desire to instil values of equality and tolerance between religions, ethnicities and races in their students, an important theme which is present throughout these selected texts. Disagreements between teachers persist regarding the need or possibility to discuss with students the to civil war, human rights abuses committed by the SLA and LTTE, forced evictions and the presence of the SLA in the Northern Province, a conversation officially forbidden in schools and therefore unlikely to be discussed Bush and Saltarelli, ; Davies, ; Hoeks, A minority of teachers actively sought to discuss these issues with students.
Although some respondents claim that it might be too early to have such conversations, what becomes clear is that teachers face a difficult situation with no guidance or support when such issues arise in a learning setting.
Interestingly, students in the three secondary schools have begun to exert agency for free speech, critical thinking and political debate through student projects and unions. Through these extra-curricular Tamil student unions and student debating clubs, a space for debate has been established where students actively set the agenda and argue for and against motions, for example on militarisation of the north, devolution for Tamil areas and the discrimination of minorities.
The vast majority of students surveyed 28 out of 34 participate in these extra-curricular student forums and debates, as they provide an opportunity to openly debate issues of war and human rights abuses which they are officially unable to do within the confines of formal education in the school classroom.
The agency of students through individual projects in attempting to redefine the contested relationship between the Muslim and Tamil communities is of particular interest.
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For example, a Muslim pupil studying Advanced Level is conducting a project regarding Muslim displacement, investigating the justification for such an eviction and the subsequent trauma experienced by Muslims, so he can inform young people of his age not aware of these issues. Like many young Muslims, he learnt about displacement from his parents, but recognises their views can be subjective and carry prejudicial attitudes; yet he seeks to challenge these inherited assumptions of the Tamil-Muslim relationship.
This example can be viewed as representative of many young people we spoke to as they expressed their aspirations to positively change their communities. Although we recognise that we draw from a relatively small sample of respondents, it is interesting to note that especially Muslim teachers and students express an inner desire to address issues of the recent past, and re-examine the social and historical context of education in Jaffna and their position in relation to it.
Education And Conflict Complexity And Chaos
Agency has also emanated from individuals and community-based organisations in both Muslim and Tamil communities who have begun to take it upon themselves to re-define the role of education in the community for ethno-religious reconciliation. According to respondents, the perpetuation of ethnic inequalities and conflict has motivated local groups into action and increased involvement within the education system. However, there is a reluctance and fear to engage in such activities because of recent cases whereby activists have endured intimidation from the SLA and have disappeared following engagement in Muslim-Tamil reconciliation.
Throughout the three secondary schools, this form of local participation is said not to be encouraged by Government and MoE officials, which could be viewed as preventing and stifling local agency, initiative and a sense of local ownership of education. There are a number of Muslim parents and local activists working with Tamil individuals who assist the school in terms of campaigning for better quality education and fundraising for extra classes for students.
A select number of Tamil individuals, who are generally professional, well-educated and recent returnees to Jaffna, have been instrumental in activating this change of direction for education towards the means of reconciliation.
One such individual is a Tamil teacher at the Muslim school, who has assisted greatly in the reopening of the school, helping the Muslim community and battling teacher and funding shortages; meanwhile, another Tamil respondent has recently become a community coordinator, organising free after-school classes for schoolchildren in the Muslim school to improve literacy and numeracy.
Students from any school and area are welcome here. This has provided students with different ethno-religious identities an opportunity to study together and to build relationships and friendships with one another, promoting reconciliation — and addressing issues of misdistribution of access and resources — between formerly opposing groups. Inter-religious reconciliation through cross-community engagement, collaboration and participation is identified as a priority area by both Muslim and Tamil communities to improve relations between them.
Opportunities for inter-religious events within and between schools are limited through formal peace education channels, however there have been events organized through the community. External community-based organisations have initiated efforts to improve relations, particularly through inter-religious and inter-cultural events structured to develop religious tolerance and understanding between Muslim, Hindu and Catholic schoolchildren.
A teacher explained religious festivals held between secondary schools organised by civil society on a voluntary basis:.