School education needs to reflect religious, linguistic and ethnic diversity as an important part of both history and contemporary society. Learning from and about this rich diversity may help prevent atrocities and other human rights violations.
A common identity as humans and as citizens who respect diversity could be useful for constructing an inclusive national identity rather than pose a threat.
Societies – and not least nation-states – need at least one common language. An official language is often the language spoken by the linguistic majority in a country or region. This does not, however, preclude other languages being spoken or even taught in public or private schools. Different models for bilingual and mother-tongue education may be such a supplement to the common language education according to local needs.
Reflection of religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity in school education is crucial to creating conditions for co-existence. Still, there are challenges in developing such curricula and training material.
All traditions and groups are internally diverse and evolve over time. Attempts to determine what defines a certain group risk rejecting the plurality of opinions and practices within a group. It may also cover up how a group evolves over time.
Schools may contribute to constructing rather than combatting stereotypes if simplistic or static versions of a certain group’s identity are presented in school education, textbooks, etc. Development of appropriate curricula and teaching material therefore requires sound knowledge of and constructive dialogue with different representatives of religious or cultural groups. No single person represents the entire history or identity of a group.
When teaching about diversity, it is also important to underline how all individuals have a complex set of identities, and that minority-majority relations are contextual. Having a religious identity for instance as a Yazidi, Muslim or Christian does not preclude the ability to identify with the larger community as citizens with equal rights. One can be in a minority position when emphasizing one’s religious identity but at the same time belong to the ethnic majority, such as Christian Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan. Similarly, one can be an ethnic minority at the national level, but in the majority at the regional or local level, such as the Kurds in Iraq or the Arabs in Kurdistan, to take one example.
One important aspect to consider when developing curricula is interdisciplinary teaching. Treating the topic as an integral part of different subjects instead of as a separate topic can increase cultural understanding. In particular, if knowledge about minorities is taught as a separate topic and not as part of the national narrative, including the majority traditions, it may consolidate a view of minorities as “the other(s)”. This can in turn sustain and nourish existing prejudices. Instead, teaching about religious and cultural diversity could be integrated into a various subjects, such as history, social science, music and art, and history of religion.
Some guidelines that may be useful when teaching about diversity and co-existence, is available here.
An exercise on reflections about identity and stereotypes to be used in the classroom or for students, is available here.
Here you find some questions for reflection and discussion on the cases and topics addressed in the films and interviews relevant to inclusive education.
More information about prevention work in schools, identity and belonging, prejudice, critical thinking and building democratic citizens in a school context can be found here.
Here are a few selected recent reports and films addressing issues related to the Yazidi case. In the case and topic sections you will find links to other relevant external resources.