Peace Education Approaches in Brazil

(*Reports prepared by graduate students of the American University’s International Peace and Conflict Studies Program.  Please see November 2010 issue of the Global Campaign for Peace Education newsletter for more information: www.peace-ed-campaign.org/newsletter)

Peace Education Approaches in Brazil by Alyssa Hansen

Books and articles:

  • “Developing the Brazilian School for Peace” by Joo Marcelo Dalla Costa. Peace Review, Volume 21, Issue 1 January 2009 , pages 79 – 84.   jmdallacosta@hotmail.com
  • “Women’s Human Rights in Brazil” by Maria Amlia de Almeida Teles and Susan Bracale-Howard. Peace Review, Volume 18, Issue 4 October 2006 , pages 485 – 490.
  • “Tackling violence in schools: the role of UNESCO/Brazil” by Jorge Werthein. Journal of Educational Administration, 2003, Volume 41, Issue 6, pages 603 – 625. Abstract.
  • “For the Peace and Well-Being of the Country: Intercultural Mediators and Dutch-Indian Relations in New Netherland and Dutch Brazil, 1600-1644” by Marcus P. Meuwese. 2003.  (Historical documentation of the failures of colonial tribal mediators to create shared symbols and beliefs between the Indian tribes of Brazil and the Dutch colonists.)
  • “Peace Education: Perspectives from Brazil and India. An Interview with Anima Bose (India) and Zlmarian Jeanne Walker (Brazil)” in Reprints and Miniprints. Lund University (Sweden) Malmo School of Education, No. 683, Jan. 1990.

Zlmarian Jeanne Walker is an educator in the School of the Nations, a private Bahai international elementary school in Brasilia, Brazil. This school is a pilot project for developing peace education-based curricula to deal with the conflicts produced by Brazil’s diversity. The school is bilingual and composed of students of diplomats, government workers, and regular Brazilian families interested in an international education. Walker teaches kindergarten and 9th grade classes, but is the school’s peace education coordinator. Her definition of peace education is “a global perspective and taking positive steps to create a peaceful world; teaching students what these steps might be and giving them some sense of responsibility to take some of those steps”. Walker also teaches 1 or 3-day peace education seminars to teachers in public schools (analyzing the teaching materials available and how they can be used for peace education) and has received a very positive response. She conducted a preliminary survey of elementary school textbooks in Brazil and only found 2 instances of the word “peace” and it was related to a treaty. They were lacking in descriptions of international organizations that promote peace and cooperative events. These 2 instances of peace were outweighed by 40 references to “war”. Walker outlines a process for schools to use peace education: first is working with the teachers, second is creating more instruction materials, teachers manuals and practical exercises, third is to arrange curriculum development groups to pitch the program to local/st/national authorities. In Walker’s school, there is a two-fold approach of in-class activities and special days oriented towards peace outside the classroom. On these days, the students do research about this event, discuss it in groups, and do activities related to it. In-class activities involve the issues of sexism, racism, and cooperation. On the question of making peace education a separate course to be taught or simply integrating it into every class, Walker believes that in elementary school it should not be taught separately. As developmental skills progress, older students can discuss peace education and recognize it as something separate. Peace education can be integrated into subjects like history or social studies by making students reflect on what they can do in their own lives to advance the reality of an interdependent world. She tries to balance out war history by discussing a “peace” for every “war”. The challenge of implementing peace education in a school where families have not self-selected to learn about peace, such as in Brazil’s public schools, is that the people do not feel that global issues have an importance in their personal life. Peace education is also met with the accusation that it is something “extra” and therefore not of primary concern. One of Walker’s goals in Brazil was to develop a peace education library.

A Youtube video charcoal animation of the history of capoeira, the Brazilian martial-arts dance which is known for promoting peace instead of fighting, and traces its roots back to African slave resistance in Brazil. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_GTvPC34cM