Unions advance peace education for a brighter future in East Asia

published 5 September 2023 updated 8 September 2023

The Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU), the Japan Teachers’ Union (JTU), and China’s National Committee of the Educational, Scientific, Cultural, Health and Sports Workers’ Union (ACFTU) came together on August 8th and 9th 2023, in Seoul, Korea, for their 11th biennial assembly for practical exchange on peace education.

Since the first assembly was held in Beijing, in August 2006, the educators of China, Japan, and Korea have continued to work together to advance peace education, even during times when relations between the nations had cooled down and during the global COVID-19 pandemic. A strong sense of solidarity across borders has helped educators focus on their shared mission to teach the truth and educate for peace.

The latest assembly offered a rich learning experience for educators, providing a space for each delegation to share their practice of teaching peace.

A middle school teacher representing KTU highlighted the need to learn from the past but always aim to build a better future. A broader look at modern history from multiple perspectives is necessary: “While facing the history of pain and violence, we must treat it as a history of solidarity to restore human rights and dignity”. The Korean teacher emphasised the importance of “educational practices that allow students to explore peace, human rights, and democracy in East Asia, find solutions, and share them in class”.

On behalf of ACFTU, a junior high school teacher shared her practice of peace education in history class. She emphasised that the goal of education is to help students understand that neither violence nor war solve problems, and that their price is the lives of younger generations. The teacher stressed that by remembering history, we can ensure fascism does not rise again, and world peace can be achieved.

Two elementary school teachers from JTU reported on their practice of peace education using a school trip to Okunoshima, where poison gas was produced during World War II. The teachers explained that “there are many students who think that atomic bombs are terrifying, that war is wrong, and that the world should be at peace, but few students think about why the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima”. Okunoshima was chosen to show students that Japan has a history not only of being harmed, but also of harming other countries. The teachers underlined the importance of teaching the truth without hiding painful history in order to learn from the past and build a peaceful future in East Asia.

War is the worst violation of human rights and it continues to destroy millions of lives. Educators in East Asia and across the world are committed to teaching for peace and building a better future that embraces equity and diversity.