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Contextual education for nonviolence and religious pluralism

Education policies often advocate for peace and values, but they tend to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to peace education. This project aims to develop a peace education framework that builds upon learners' existing positive cultural influences, enhancing its efficacy.

While India has a philosophical and spiritual heritage centred on ideals like ahimsa (nonviolence), rising waves of religious intolerance and violence contradict this history. National education policies advocate schooling for pluralism, tolerance, and peace. However, such efforts cannot rely on generalised, one-size-fits-all models. Constructivist learning theory suggests that students interpret new information through the lens of their existing conceptual frameworks, shaped by their sociocultural contexts. This challenges universalist notions of peace education. Rather, culturally responsive pedagogies that leverage students’ cultural knowledge and lived experiences are needed to make education meaningful and transformative.

This is a qualitative study informed by cultural constructivism and culturally relevant pedagogy, exploring contextually situated pathways for incorporating nonviolence education in Ahmedabad, India. Despite Ahmedabad’s heritage as a centre of Gandhi’s nonviolence movement, the city also witnessed brutal communal riots, highlighting deep divisions. The study will employ interviews, focus groups, and photovoice methods with youth and educators to understand perceptions of nonviolence and identify existing sources of 'cultural nonviolence', like compassion, within students' communities that could provide conceptual foundations. Data will be analysed using NVivo to find recurring themes.

This project challenges the assumptions of universalist models of peace education that overlook diverse cultural contexts. Instead, it offers a model of critical peace education, situating instruction within students’ local cultures as more effective pathways for transformative values like nonviolence. It attempts to offer a conceptual model and methodology for culture-based peace education, eliciting youth perspectives and co-developing responsive pedagogies through participatory action methods.

Key groups that could benefit include educators, students, communities, policymakers, NGOs, and collaborators in both India and the UK. For educators in Ahmedabad and more widely in India, the project will provide culturally relevant pedagogical tools and curricula for teaching peace, nonviolence, and pluralism. This can make these lessons more engaging and impactful. The contextualised education approaches will be more relatable and transformative in cultivating values of tolerance for learners. The photovoice exhibitions and dissemination can promote public dialogue for communities in Ahmedabad about diversity and nonviolence based on youth perspectives. For NGOs working on peacebuilding in India and elsewhere, the project offers localized models of peace education and insights on utilising cultural elements. It will also highlight for the policymakers the need for tailored peace education suited to diverse Indian contexts rather than one-size-fits-all models.

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Mr Abhishek Dharmesh Vyas

Related Research Group(s)

diversity (1)

Interculturality for Diversity and Global Learning - Challenging conventional attitudes and practices and promoting respectful and effective intercultural communication, cross-cultural intelligence, diversity and inclusion, within a world that is increasingly interconnected digitally.

Partnering with confidence

Organisations interested in our research can partner with us with confidence backed by an external and independent benchmark: The Knowledge Exchange Framework. Read more.

Project last modified 11/12/2023