Contribution to Knowledge

This study aims to contribute to the academic debate on conflict regulation through consociational power-sharing. It looks at how formal education furthers the stability and legitimacy of consociations, thus redressing past consociational focus on ‘political (executive and legislative) issues’.41 By examining the curricula and structures of education systems, it adds an internal factor to the list of variables facilitating the persistence of consociations and their re-establishment after conflicts: the coherence between state values and the values conveyed by schools.

This work also elaborates on the education system as an instrument for conflict transformation and long-term reconciliation in deeply divided societies. Advocates of consociation admit that communities tend to further separate after the establishment of power-sharing, but argue that the stability and legitimacy provided by consociation may facilitate conflict resolution and the emergence of overarching identities.42 Critics point out that conflict resolution is not an endogenous outcome of constitutional reforms, but should be consciously pursued through, for example, initiatives for social integration.43 Recent conceptualisations of the practice of ‘complex consociation’ bridge these two positions and propose mechanisms to encourage long-term conflict resolution within a consociational framework.44 Yet they overlook the potential contribution of non-political institutions, such as schools, to stability and long-term conflict manage?ment. This is surprising, as consociational agreements, such as the Taif, Belfast and Ohrid Agreements, often present education as an instrument for long-term peace-building. Accordingly, education reforms can facilitate the transition from a conflict to a post-conflict society. This study opens a debate on the most effective approaches to education reform in post-conflict consociations.

As far as the specific literature on education for peace is concerned, this is the first study of the reform of structures and curricula in the compulsory education systems of three consociations. It finds that political and constitutional structures influence formal education: consociations generate consociational education systems, which reflect the tension between pluralism and parity of esteem at the heart of power-sharing. This study proposes that successful initiatives for education reform generally acknowledge and accommodate both the fostering of group equality and the promotion of overarching allegiances. Thus, it provides valuable insights on the factors constraining the formulation and implementation of education reforms in these three societies, and in deeply divided societies more generally.

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