Teaching (In)Equality through Formal Curriculum: A closer look at the Grade 4 and 5 Social Studies Textbooks in Afghanistan.
The importance of the (re)development of education during and immediately following a conflict is a crucial yet often complex process. Generally, it is acknowledged by the international humanitarian community, educationalists, and local populations that education is a ‘necessary’ step towards recovery and healing in the aftermath of or during ongoing conflict. Indeed as Novelli, Lopes Cardozo and Smith (2017) highlight, within conflict-affected societies, education has the potential to provide considerable contributions towards (sustainable) peacebuilding “by providing greater security, as well as political, economic, social and cultural transformations” (p. 18).
It can also serve as the instrument through which social inequities and injustices could be addressed (Maclure & Denov, 2009), and more crucially how they can be transformed (Novelli, Lopes Cardozo & Smith, 2017). Yet as Bush and Saltarelli (2000) have imminently noted, education in conflict-affected environments can also be “part of the problem not the solution” (p. 33), as it serves to further divide or exasperate existing challenges.
Learning materials in particular can serve as instruments through which this division is accomplished. In Afghanistan, schools have, (from the beginning of the 40-year conflict that is still ongoing) continuously served as a battleground for conflicting and violent ideologies. Since 2003 however, Afghanistan has been working on the development of new primary and secondary school curriculum to help promote values of peace, justice and inclusion, and to help equip learners in fighting against all forms of discrimination. This presentation will focus on the newly developed Social Studies textbooks to examine how they promote and/or reinforce values of peace, equality and justice.
Spogmai Akseer, International Consultant
Dr. Spogmai Akseer has over 16 years of experience working in the field of educational development and research in Canada and internationally. She is currently working with UNESCO as a consultant on the drafting of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa, and supporting the Ministry of Education, Ontario, Canada, in monitoring its anti-oppression and anti-racism directives across primary and secondary schools.
Previously she worked with UNICEF for over 4 years as an international consultant, supporting various projects that focused on educational development in lower-income countries including those affected by conflict. Spogmai also supported USAID in the development of new graduate degree programs across 5 public universities in Afghanistan.
Spogmai's research focuses on gender, conflict, education and development and she has published in a variety of leading academic sources. She co-founded a project that examines the role of textbooks in transforming as well as exacerbating inequalities in conflict-affected contexts. Spogmai has a PhD in Education and Comparative, International Development Education from the University of Toronto.