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The Role of Peace Education Through Science in Promoting Environmental Sustainability

Tue, April 16, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Bay (Level 1), Bayview B


The Bangladesh education system is a dynamic co-existence of three parallel streams - the secular (vernacular) stream, the religion-based madrassa stream, and the English medium stream (BANBEIS, 2016a; EFA, 2015). The purpose of this paper is to explore on peace education through science subjects (biology, chemistry and physics) in the two major education streams of Bangladesh one religious and one secular to identify the role of peace education through science in the country. The research findings and arguments revolve around key research question: What is the role of peace education in promoting environmental sustainability? This paper focuses Grade 10 students’ perception of their learning in the science classroom and the pedagogy used by teachers to deliver the science curriculum, and learners’ use of science in their everyday life in negotiating peace and resolving conflicts that are tailing Bangladesh’s current social environment.
This paper proposes and embodies a shift in peace education research, to focus more on students’ experiences and perspectives and less on abstract policy distant from local contexts. To close the secondary science research gap and inform processes of curricular reform, this paper presents a rigorous and systematic account of students’ experiences on peace and conflict resolution that is lacking in research and policy on Bangladeshi education, thereby contributing to our understanding both of how students make sense of science subjects and of their social hopes and aspirations, a sustainable environment.
The context of Bangladesh indicates there is widespread concern about the outcomes of science education at schools globally (Iftekhar, 2013) including in Bangladesh. It has been more than four decades since independence but the Bangladesh secondary science education has not improved much (BANBEIS, 2016b; UNESCO, 2017). Value of secularism became contested (Rahman, 2017) and ethnic and religious conflicts implicate the Bangladesh education system in that students bring the realities (conflicts) of everyday life into science learning (Assadullah et al., 2009; Bano, 2011; Riaz, 2011; Riaz & Fair, 2015). Additionally, past and existing social and political violence and geopolitics destabilized the country (Ahmed, 2018; International Crisis Group, 2018; Rahman, 2017; Riaz & Parvez (2018) that also affects country’s peace and educational environment including science education, which was overlooked by the science subject researchers. And there is a possibility of direct or indirect violence in school environment or outside of the school and students face the structural or cultural violence (Cremin, 2016; Kester, 2012; Galtung, 1996) in some way. All these tensions lead to explore key research question to find out peace education status in Bangladesh.
“Peace” requires a vibrant activity that can be sustained within a balanced and healthy environment where peace-building efforts are from grass root levels (Bickmore, 2002). “Conflict” is an inevitable (Ury, 2000) constant (Bickmore, 2005) which can be both violent and non-violent and they are “learned behaviour” (Bickmore, 2001, p.1). “Conflict resolution” requires skills for being a citizen with good values, behaviour and attitude (Bickmore, 2017). These three terms shape the analysis and construction of interpretation of this study.
Religiously inspired violence: killing people who are from different gender spectrum, non-believers, science bloggers, science educators and science believers and militancy emerged in the country only in the mid-1990s and there was a dramatic rise of political violence in 2004 and 2005. Extremism and political violence is rippling across Bangladesh currently (Amnesty International, 2015; International Crisis Group, 2018; Riaz, 2014; UNESCO, 2016). It is alarming that the Holey Artisan Bakery killing on the 1st July 2016 involved rural madrasa students and elite urban young students (International Crisis Group, 2018). Past studies were focused largely on general science and concerned on the detachment of science content with daily life (Sarkar & Corrigan, 2014), difficulty in science learning (UNESCO, 2010) and students’ perception of the everyday use of learning science (BANBEIS, 2016b, Siddique, 2008) and transmission method use in teaching science ((Babu, 2016; BANBEIS, 2016b). There is a scarcity of empirical studies (Asadullah et al., 2009) and sources of experiences as they occur in home, school and social spheres, especially from a comparative perspective, and there are conflicts in values between home and school (Education Watch, 2017).
The literature review indicates there is a widespread of religious extremism (International Crisis Group, 2018) and conflict resolution in countries that experience conflicts related to ethnic and religious differences (Iftekhar, 2013). There is no published research exists on the spiritual aspects (peace) of science and conflict resolution pedagogy at the secondary level. Yet, science education is able to engage with peace and conflict and listening to children’s dialogue how they negotiate when any conflicts occur is beneficial for peacebuilding as demonstrated by Bickmore (2002, 2017). Thus, the gap that exists in literature related to science subjects, peace education, conflict resolution, sustainable environment and students’ perspective, impelled this research.
Theorizing the research topic, I design a Radical Theory of Pedagogy Framework (RTPF) that includes Tagore’s (1906) models of learning, Gandhi’s (1937) peace education, Dewey’s (1902) experiential learning and Miller’s holistic (2008) pedagogy framework.
This study adopted a qualitative approach using ethnography methods of data collection and analysis. A student-centred approach was used to analyze data with especial emphasis on participants’ cultural context, their “social cultural setting” (Gitari, 2009).
The sample was 24 Grade 10 science students, six science teachers and two school head teachers from two secondary schools in Bangladesh, one from the secular and the other from the religious streams. The sample was identified using the purposive sampling procedure as the criteria for selection is specifically Grade 10 students who are taking science subjects in the secular and religious streams, and their science teachers.
This paper offers a critical analysis for local and international peace and science educators, curriculum designers, administrators, teachers and policy-makers interested in developing peace through science pedagogy and designing of a more effective science curriculum for the transformation of the Bangladesh secondary science education system and promote a sustainable environment in the country. Furthermore, comparative studies are extremely valuable and enriching for both our understanding of peace education, the reality of Bangladesh and the broader international context.


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