Why the need for peace education: Town Hall #1. Katherine Covell, PhD


Over the past couple of decades our schools, like our governments have focused on global economic restructuring and concerned themselves with promoting an economically and technologically competitive citizenry. But global developments, intensified by the events of 9-11, have highlighted the need for global citizens who are educated for peace, not just economic competitiveness. The ideal global citizen is one who understands the importance of respecting human rights, and who is prepared to work cooperatively to end poverty, to improve the health and well-being of the world’s children, to reclaim and protect the environment, and to effect peaceful co-existence among individuals, peoples and states. I believe we have the opportunity to work toward developing such global citizens through the systematic inclusion of children’s rights education – my form of peace education – in our schools.

 The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely ratified international treaty in world history – ratified by all but Somalia and the U.S. Its ratification commits states parties to respect and implement the rights of children to protection from all forms of harm, and to the provision of basic needs for healthy physical, psychological and intellectual development. The Convention also requires states parties to educate children as well as adults about children’s rights. And here is our opportunity.

Empirical data show that when children are taught about their Convention rights within a rights-based pedagogy, they demonstrate a deeper understanding of rights, more respect for the rights of others, a sense of social responsibility and the participation skills appropriate for effective democratic citizenship. Similarly, those who teach children about their rights come to believe more strongly in the need for ensuring the rights of all children are respected. In essence, children’s rights education can promote a culture of peace. It is one means of preparing children for a world characterized by mutual respect based on the belief in rights for all, and thus characterized by peace.


Dr Katherine Covell is a professor of psychology at the University College of Cape Breton,  executive director of the UCCB Children’s Rights Centre, and board member of a number of child advocacy groups including the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children. Her teaching, research, and publications are centered on children’s rights issues, most notably children’s rights education.