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International Day of Education: Learning for Lasting Peace

January 24th is International Day of Education: Learning for lasting peace!

An unwavering dedication to peace is of utmost importance in today's world. Education plays a pivotal role in this endeavor, as the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Recommendation on Education for Peace, Human Rights, and Sustainable Development highlights. The world will celebrate the sixth International Day of Education on January 24, 2024. This year's theme is "learning for lasting peace." Unfortunately, the world is currently experiencing a surge of violent conflicts, which is accompanied by a worrying increase in discrimination, racism, xenophobia, and hate speech. The impact of this violence is not limited by geography, gender, race, religion, or politics, and it affects both offline and online communities. The process of learning for peace must be transformational, and it should equip learners with essential knowledge, values, attitudes, skills, and behaviors, so that they can become active agents of peace and live peaceably in their communities.


"Transformative education" refers to the kind of teaching and learning that is co-created by both teachers and learners. It recognizes and values the diversity and dignity of all learners and removes any barriers to their learning. It also motivates and empowers them to think critically and become agents of change, enabling them to make informed decisions and take action at individual, community, local, national, regional, and global levels. Transformative education supports building peaceful, just, inclusive, equal, healthy, and sustainable societies. Approaches such as global citizenship education, sustainable development education, and human rights education are examples of how transformative education can be achieved.


UNESCO argues that Education should be transformative, building a strong foundation of literacy and numeracy and enabling the development of knowledge, skills, values, attitudes, and behaviors. UNESCO presupposes that every person, from early childhood throughout adulthood can learn each skill, knowledge, and ability. 

UNESCO lays out the following components of transformational education:

Individuals should possess analytical and critical thinking skills, anticipatory skills, respect for diversity, self-awareness, a sense of connectedness and belonging, empowerment, agency, and resilience, decision-making skills, collaborative skills, adaptive and creative skills, citizenship skills, peaceful conflict resolution and transformation skills, and media and information literacy, communication, and digital skills.


Education should lead to transformation and be of high quality, guided by the following Guiding Principles.  

Quality transformational education should be:

- accessible to all;

- grounded in rights and obligations;

- ensure inclusion and equity;

- promote an ethic of care and solidarity;

- promote gender equality;

- respectful of identity and culture;

- ensure safety, health and well-being;

- recognize education as a lifelong process;

- encourage active creation of knowledge;

- ensure freedom of thought, expression and opinion;

- encourage problem-solving at all levels;

- enable international and global perspectives;

- promote intercultural and intergenerational dialogue; and,

- cultivate an ethic of global citizenship and shared responsibility.


Early childhood care and education (ECCE) is a critical stage where attitudes are formed. Foundational learning should integrate “global citizenship, peace, and human rights”. Children should become aware of their rights, assert themselves freely, learn about their responsibilities, and improve their awareness through story-telling and playtime. ECCE will help children belong to larger communities, starting from family and school.

Education should also prioritize children's well-being, joy, and health. Central to individual development is “quality, inclusive, equitable, and relevant” primary and secondary education. 

It is important to give equal attention to the relevance of learning and learner retention, just as we do to educational access in primary and secondary schools. This is crucial to ensure that all learners are equipped with the necessary competencies “to lead active, healthy, sustainable and productive lives as autonomous and democratic adults” and that they complete their schooling successfully.


Adult learning and education (ALE) is essential to lifelong learning. It helps build learning societies, and its policies and practices apply to a wide range of ages, developmental levels, education levels, learning spaces, and modalities. ALE involves individuals, families, communities, organizations, workplaces, neighborhoods, cities, and regions. It should support the aims of this recommendation by equipping people with the knowledge, attitudes, universal values, skills, and behaviors to live together in peace as global citizens. ALE also aims to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and to lead decent lives in terms of health and well-being, culture, spirituality, economic and civic participation, environmental responsibility, sustainability, and all other ways that contribute to personal development and dignity.


Parents, families, and caregivers should have access to “evidence-based and inclusive parenting” programs and education to create supportive environments in households and communities. All learners should have access to inclusive and comprehensive sexuality education that is evidence-based, scientifically accurate, culturally relevant, age-appropriate, and promotes healthy relationships.


Member States must provide their support and acknowledge non-formal education (NFE), which refers to learning that is acquired outside of formal education settings. This includes alternative or supplementary education. Informal learning that occurs during daily life, in families, workplaces, communities, and through personal interests and activities should also be recognized. NFE and informal learning are crucial in empowering individuals of all ages, especially those who do not have access to formal education, to become agents of change at the local, national, regional, and global levels.


Member States must make clear commitments to provide infrastructure and different forms of professional and technical support to ensure that learners are not left behind in their educational opportunities. This includes access to all-day schooling through collaboration between formal and NFE actors, guidance, and counseling to help learners achieve learning outcomes and continuity of learning in case of need. Additionally, bridging opportunities must be provided in circumstances of adversity or when other forms of support are required to ensure that learners keep advancing in their training.


The United Nations requires that Member States and all stakeholders uphold and protect the values, principles, and standards outlined in this Recommendation, and take all necessary steps to implement it.  The United States is a United Nations member.  I wonder what would be the results of the discovery to ascertain if the public education system upholds the values as outlined in UNESCO's Recommendations.  Can you imagine the state of the union if a majority of its citizens embrace quality transformative education to practice learning for lasting peace? Learning for lasting peace implies continuous and lifelong learning.  Should the majority of this nation continue on its current trajectory, it is doubtful that future generations will inherit a sustainable place of peace to safely and securely live, work, and play!  


There is a Chinese Proverb that says If You are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.  Benjamin Franklin once said that education is "the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world".  I believe that it is time to lay down actual and proverbial weapons that only tend to destroy sustainable resources, including human lives, for perpetuity and choose rather to learn how to create and sustain peace on the earth instead. 


Operation Xcel includes the recommended transformational components.  Our vision, mission, and objectives support and provide transformational education through Operation Xcel's afterschool and summer academic programs that are intentionally  “quality, inclusive, equitable, and relevant”.  


You can get involved and observe International Day of Education this year.  Here are a few ways.: