“Post-Conflict Education: Time for  Reality Check?”

By Peter Buckland, The World Bank’s Senior Education Specialist

I was able to track down, digest, and provide some commentary and critique on Peter Buckland, The World Bank's Senior Education Specialist's report on post conflict education. In this report, the initial focus is on the practicalities of early education response.  School systems are “surprisingly resilient and that disruption caused by conflict offers opportunities as well as challenges for social reconstruction.” The biggest challenges in a post-conflict arena are those of a weakened state and a lack of resources, as well as the lack of accountability that occurs even without conflict in many fragile states. Yet, according toe Buckland, there are a few advantages in the post-conflict situation in the educational realm: “New political authorities are more likely to
 seek education reform to distance themselves from the previous regime, particularly where international aid provides additional incentives. Weakened bureaucracies are less able to resist reform. Civil society often focuses on education as an activity around which it can coalesce. Publicity around the end of conflict and getting kids into classrooms often attracts an injection of external resources to kick-start reform.” Adding to this, in many fragile states with barely functioning public sector institutions, education is weak to the point of non-effectiveness. Time and time again, the lack of quality in the sector has both turned off minds to education and has created a net-loss effect for enrolled students stuck in non-effective learning environments, who could be contributing to their families well-beings through work/agricultural output. Thus, an ineffectual educational system does more harm than good in many cases. The biggest challenge in education development in post-conflict societies, as well as in education development in the entire global south, is that of teacher quality and teacher training. Obviously, in post-conflict situations, human resources have been scattered and killed by the fighting; government workers can also be an easy target for armed rebels forces,  making rural teachers especially vulnerable.  Thus, the most important work to be done and the most critical issue to be tackled is that of teacher training and teacher incentivization in these post-conflict situations. It is only when quality teachers have been trained and made accountable can the educational system in these environments begin to do its work.  According to Buckland, secondary education is especially vulnerable to lack of support in these situations; “This is despite evidence that secondary and higher education suffer a more rapid decline during conflict and a more gradual recovery from it.” Secondary and higher level students are also the ones who are most likely to turn back to armed violence if the peace cannot hold in these situations, adding another critical factor to the pressing need to action. Thus, one cannot build a strong society without educated citizenry; strong civil society cannot be developed, a free and open press cannot be effectual, and thus, the entire democratic process faces insurmountable challenges if the basic issue of educational quality is not addressed as a primary, post-conflict goal.

Another area of post-conflict education that Buckland touches on is the area of refugee education. In any post-conflict environment,  this is a very difficult and particular issue to address; language barriers, cultural barriers, and home-accreditation are all critical variables. Again, the biggest challenge is seen with secondary education in these environments. According to Buckland, “Only 6% of all refugee students are
in secondary education. In both refugee and IDP camps this creates significant problems in terms of motivation for primary students, supply of teachers for the primary schools and cohorts of youth who
are frustrated, unemployed and unemployable.” Thus, the issues of teacher training, teacher retention, accreditation for refugee teachers who gain qualifications while teaching in displaced-situations, and prioritization for both primary and secondary school integration are critical measure that need to be addressed. Buckland concludes, “Education does not cause wars, nor does it end them. It does, however, frequently contribute to the factors that underlie conflict and also has the potential to play a significant role both directly and indirectly in building peace, restoring countries to a positive development path and reversing the damage wrought by civil war. Early investment in education is thus an essential prerequisite for sustainable peace.”

Thus, the same issues and principals that arise in all educational development situations are especially pronounced in the post-conflict environment. Public goods, their lack, and their effective implementations are seen under s dynamic microscope. And this, the microscope must be focused on quality, and not quantity, as the answer to this essential question. Quantity of educational delivery without the related quality is, quite simply, a waste of valuable and scarce resources that can be better used elsewhere.