Education for Tolerance and Peace

EDUCATION, 21 Dec 2015

Surya Nath Prasad, Ph. D. - Transcend Media Service

The author of these lines, Dr. Surya Nath Prasad, then President and currently Executive Vice President of IAEWP (International Association of Educators for World Peace), and Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Peace Education: An International Journal , delivered Keynote Speech at the Kerala State Convention of IAEWP on the theme: Education for Tolerance and Peace at Teachers Training Institute, Kannur (Cannanore), Kerala on September 07, 1995, which is published by Lund University, Sweden in 1996, and distributed by Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), Institute of Education Sciences of the US Department of Education, has tried to explain the concept of tolerance and the role of tolerance in educational efforts.

However, the theme is still very relevant because we all – the people everywhere need to be tolerant for peace. Hence this publication is very important and useful for everybody including law-makers and policy-makers of the nation-states who wish to set right the educational systems by introducing the course on education for tolerance in the educational institutions of their respective nation-states for making the future citizens and rulers to be tolerant to live in peace and harmony along with the people of different faiths, languages and of other differences.

Glimpses from the history of intolerance and tolerance were presented and various theories of tolerance were dealt with by Dr. Prasad. He told, “Tolerance means that we live in peace in harmony with people who differ from us in language, religion, race and custom, and that we appreciate people although they differ from us in many ways.” “Education for tolerance is seen as essential for the peace and survival of mankind”, He observed. He explained the work of UNESCO in the area of education for tolerance and peace. Pointing out towards ignorance as the main cause of intolerance, and stressing on knowledge and learning about others for making people tolerant towards each other and leading them to live in peace and harmony, Dr. Prasad elaborated, explained and discussed the concept of tolerance with reference to its education for peace and harmony under the different captions, viz. Introduction, History of Intolerance and Tolerance, Theories of Tolerance, Meaning of Tolerance, Need of Education for Tolerance, Education for Tolerance and Peace, How to teach Tolerance, UNESCO and Tolerance Education, UNESCO Prize for Tolerance, IAEWP and Education for Tolerance, and Conclusion.

In his speech, Dr. Prasad described selected theories of tolerance propounded and propagated by some distinguished personalities in the history, viz. Asoka’s Theory, Plato’s Theory, Spinoza’s Views, Lock’s Conception, Descartes’ Ideas, and Leibniz’s Opinion.

Dr. Prasad started his speech on the theme: Education for Tolerance and Peace citing a quotation from the ancient epic Mahabharata which teaches the ideal of tolerance in Sanskrit verse:

“Small souls inquire, ‘Belongs this man
To our own race or sect or clan?’
But larger-hearted men embrace
As brothers all the human race.”

“Hence all our thoughts and action should promote the development and happiness of all mankind, irrespective of caste, creed, race, and nationality,” Dr. Prasad advised the participants. He told them this was the reason before a renowned Indian writer Shri Jaishankar Prasad who advised all people on earth in Hindi poem:

“O man, sees laughing others, laugh and be happy.
To expand your happiness, make others happy.”

Dr. Prasad told the participants about the status of an individual among the large number of people saying: “Everyone is a very tiny part of the larger whole that is humanity. At present, each one represents about one of five and half billionth of humanity.” Hence he cited the prayer of Voltaire who prays to the God in his famous writing – Traité sur la tolerance:

“Oh, Thou of beings, of all worlds of all times (…) we pray (…)
That all the little differences in (our) clothes, in our inadequate
languages, in our ridiculous customs, in our imperfect laws, in our
Illogical opinions, in our ranks and conditions, which are so
Disproportionately important to us and so meaningless to you, that
these small variations that distinguish those atoms that we call men
one from another may not be signals for hatred and persecution.”

Dr. Prasad took the support of the ideas of Swami Vivekanada on the reason for tolerance as variation who wrote saying: “It is impossible that all differences can cease, it must exist; without variation life must cease.” He cited June 1992 issue of UNESCO Courier published on the theme: In Praise of Tolerance, in which Consultant Ehsan Naraghi of this Special issue observed and said, “Each of the five and a half billion human beings living on this planet today can have his or her own ideas and preferences, and, without denying those ideas and preferences, can admit that those of others are just as worthy of respect.” Dr. Prasad considers tolerance as constant attitude of nonviolence taking favor of Mahatma Gandhi’s views on tolerance as it can imply gratuitous assumption of inferiority of other faiths to one’s own, whereas Ahimsa (nonviolence) teaches the same respect for the religious faiths of others as we give to our own. Dr. Prasad told the audience, “A tolerant man makes allowances the defects he notices in others. He accepts people for what they are, together with their defects and qualities. A tolerant man is thoroughbred gentleman.” In this regard, he cited views of Cardinal Newman, who said, “a true gentle man…carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or jolt in the minds of those whom he is cast – all clashing of opinions, or collision of feeling, all restraint, or suspicion or gloom or resentment; his greet concern being to make everyone at ease and at home.”

Emphasizing on the need of education for tolerance, Dr Prasad told, “Education for tolerance is essential for peace and survival of mankind. Tolerance education is urgently needed because there were countless victims of political and cultural violence; and ethnic, religious and social intolerance.” He considered these were the reasons for the United Nations, which proclaimed 1995 United Nations Year for Tolerance in order to heighten public awareness of the threat to peace posed by lack of tolerance between nations, between communities and between individuals.

He cited the views of Bernard Williams who considers tolerance as necessary where different groups have conflicting beliefs – moral, political and religious – and they must realize that there is no alternative to their living together, no alternative, that is to say, except armed conflict, which will not resolve their disagreements and will impose continuous suffering. These are the circumstances in which tolerance is necessary. Stressing on the necessity of tolerance among the peoples of India, Dr. Prasad spoke, “India, from the very beginning, has been multi-lingual, multi-racial and multi-religious society. It has been the meeting ground of many races and cultures. The Dravidians, the Aryans, the Huns, the Pathans, the Moguls and the Europeans have entered India at different times and have made it their homeland. Therefore, education for tolerance is indispensable for the diverse peoples of India, who live together here as a nation, to prosper, and progress, and for peace.”

Dr. Prasad cited the views of Tahar Ben Jelloun who observes that tolerance does not come naturally but has to be inculcated until it becomes second nature to people, spontaneous, a kind of reflex – a difficult task, given all the resistance and all the temptations to be overcome, and he thinks tolerance as something that has to be learned.

In his speech, Dr. Prasad advised, “Education for Tolerance should be planned and structured in the curriculum of schools through university and continuing education throughout the world. Dr. Prasad informed the participants of the Convention about the pledge of 100 Education Ministers of different nation-states, who attended the 44th International Conference, held in Geneva in October 1994, pledged to promote education based on tolerance and respect for human rights. The ministers agreed to give “a major priority in education to young people, who are particularly vulnerable to incitements to intolerance, racism and xenophobia”, and to take steps to ensure that educational institutions become ideal places for the practice of tolerance. The framework of Action includes recommendations for incorporating into curricula at all educational levels – formal or informal – lessons on peace, human rights and the effects of racism. It includes an endorsement for improving textbooks to eliminate negative stereotypes and distorted views of the “other”. Religious textbooks should focus on themes and precepts shared by the world’s different religions, and presented in the most neutral way possible.

Dr. Prasad told the participants, majority of them were the teacher-educators, about the way to teach tolerance, “A good way to teach tolerance is practice of tolerance by the elders of different institutions the society, mainly parents, teachers, political leaders and religious preachers, apart from other senior members of the society. These elders should practice tolerance towards others in their respective houses, then youngsters may naturally learn from them the value of tolerance, and in the long run these youngsters would transmit the spirit of tolerance to younger people, and the continuity of learning tolerance will be preserved and maintained in the society. However, dialogue and discussion are the proper methods for teaching tolerance.” Dr. Prasad communicated to the audience about the UNESCO publication – Tolerance: The Threshold of Peace which was published to mark 1995 the UN International Year of Tolerance. It contains teaching guidelines for educating for tolerance. It focuses on education for tolerance in primary and secondary schools. There are five chapters in the guide which deals with questions of why it is necessary to educate for tolerance, how to diagnose intolerance and describe tolerance, the problems and opportunities, how schools themselves are a kind of laboratory for practicing tolerance, and, finally, how to include the concept of tolerance into every subject taught at every level and in every country.

Concluding his speech, Dr. Prasad advised to be capable of erasing the intolerance of the past and to learn mutual tolerance remembering being diverse people living on this planet today are the members of one human family, and the whole world belongs to all of us. He strongly suggested, “Hence we must contribute individually, collectively, and with mutual sharing in creating a Culture of Peace for survival of all mankind and perpetual peace.”

Dr. Prasad completed his speech by citing very appealing ideas on ‘erasing the past’, ‘mutual tolerance’ and ‘conciliation’ expressed by great teacher John Amos Comenius, who observed almost 300 years ago:

                     “If we want to develop humanity, we must seek untiringly the means of achieving that end. The means are three-fold: first, people must recognize that it is unworthy of them to burden themselves and each other with hate for futile reasons; they must, in general way, forgive past disputes, injustices and injuries. We shall call this, erasing the past. Second, none shall impose his or her philosophical, theological or political principles on any other person; on the contrary, everyone must allow everybody else to uphold their opinions and to enjoy in peace that which belongs to them. We shall call this mutual tolerance. And third, all people must endeavor, in a common effort, to find the best way of behaving and, to that end, must join their thoughts, their aspirations and their actions. And this we shall call conciliation …”       


Dr. Surya Nath Prasad is M. A. (Sociology), M. Ed. (Experimental Education), M. Phil. (Nonviolence and Peace Studies), and Ph. D. (Education). Dr. Prasad is a recipient of Honorary D. Lit. (Peace Education) at the hands of Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma then Former President, Government of India. . Dr. Prasad has taught for three decades as Assistant and Associate Professor of Education in India.  He is Former Visiting Professor of Peace Studies at the Graduate Institute of Peace Studies in Kyung Hee University, Republic of Korea. He is Former President and Currently Executive Vice President of International Association of Educators for World Peace. Dr. Prasad is Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Peace Education: An International Journal. One may reach him at:

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 21 Dec 2015.

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