Preventing Violent Extremism through Educational Media

Copyright: Permanent Delegation of Germany to UNESCO

An international workshop on the 'Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) through Educational Media' took place at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on the 26th of June 2017. The workshop was co-organised by the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research and the Permanent Delegation of Germany to UNESCO.

Background

In response to the rise in the number of attacks perpetrated by local and global violent extremist groups, UNESCO’s actions to prevent violent extremism (PVE) have been rapidly expanding. In line with the UN Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism presented in December 2015, and following the adoption of UNESCO’s Executive Board decision on ‘UNESCO’s role in preventing violent extremism through education’ (Decision 197 EX/46), this workshop was organised in order to strengthen national capacities to prevent violent extremism through education – in particular, through textbooks and other educational media (including images, audio and video materials) by identifying and presenting good practices.

Goals and Significance

The primary goal of the workshop was to provide a forum for the discussion of good practices of educational media in both formal and non-formal interventions that countries can adapt to their national contexts, thereby assisting in the effective implementation of UNESCO and UN country commitments. Within the framework of Agenda 2030, and in particular Target 4.7, education sectors need to ensure that they are equipped with adequate human, educational and financial resources to face this challenge.

The event not only raised awareness regarding PVE but also developed capacity building by sharing expertise, identifying obstacles but also ways to overcome them, and providing impulses for further action. It brought together different organisations working on PVE–E and identified the need to move towards a more systematic evaluation of effective pedagogies in PVE, as well as harnessing digital tools to build resilience and promote tolerance and inclusion. It was attended by national delegations to UNESCO, education officials, teachers, teacher educators, NGOs and research experts.

Presentations

The presentations were held in either English or French, and simultaneous translation was provided in both languages. The workshop began with opening remarks from H.E. Mr Stefan Krawielicki, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Germany to UNESCO, who outlined the high level of importance UNESCO attaches to PVE through education.  In the first session, Alexander Leicht, Chief of UNESCO’s Section of Education for Sustainable Development and Global, gave an overview of existing UNESCO initiatives on PVE, and emphasized inclusion and respect for diversity as the “single most important policy principle” that we need to promote in an education system to build resilience to the messages of violent extremism.

Eckhardt Fuchs, director of the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research, highlighted the importance of textbooks in PVE and discussed how we can learn and build on successful past history textbook revisions through bilateral commissions which addressed controversial and sensitive issues. Eleni Christodoulou, postdoctoral researcher at the Georg Eckert Institute, discussed the many challenges that educators face when being given the task to integrate PVE in the classrooms. She also suggested ways to overcome them and in particular, advised caution regarding certain educational policies that can have the adverse effect “leading to stigmatization and stereotyping rather than empowering students”. Ms Christodoulou shared some good practices of PVE in educational media from the UK, Germany as well as from regional and international organizations.

The second session included a mini roundtable where teachers and teacher educators from Belgium, France and Lebanon shared their first-hand experiences both in formal and informal educational settings. Bruno Derbaix, teacher and school coach for the ‘Movement for active citizenship in schools and institutions’ in Belgium, spoke about the need to rethink the problems and vital needs of society, and how in his experience teachers themselves are sometimes undergoing an identity crisis, which makes their task of PVE through education even more complex. Dider Guise teacher and teacher trainer in France, as well as a member of the Media and Information Education Centre in France (CLEMI) highlighted the role of Media and Information Literacy in helping students build resilience and critical thinking, and shared concrete examples from a teacher training course he has been involved in. Fadi Tawa, Professor at the Lebanese University and coordinator of the training centre for public school teachers, spoke about the recent launch of the PVE-E project in Beirut in May 2017 and about the challenges that a teacher can face, especially in regions where there is segregated religious education.

The roundtable was followed by two presentations from NGOs. Jo Ritzen, Chair of the CELL foundation and former Minister of Education of the Netherlands, discussed the importance of revising textbooks as part of PVE and announced an initiative to reduce divisive stereotypes in textbooks. Ariane Wolf, represented the Violence Prevention Network in Germany and shared their 3- tier approach ‘prevention, intervention and deradicalisation’ giving insights from the organisation’s projects and experiences. A core issue throughout the workshop was the need to develop the necessary competencies for young people to resolve conflicts in a peaceful and democratic manner, rather than resorting to violent extremism.

A news article on the event can be found on the official UNESCO website here.

The final workshop programme can be found here.

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Eleni Christodoulou

Department Textbooks and Society

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