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Lebanon

In the 1980s, PSP leader Walid Jumblatt argued that the civil war, as a struggle over identity, could only end after agreement on a consensual history for Lebanon.37 Chapter 3 has shown that before and during the war history books emphasised Arab identity in Muslim schools, Phoenician roots in Christian schools and ‘unclear’ allegiances in state schools, where neither narrative prevailed.38 The conflicting narratives conveyed by schools had partly contributed to citizens’ ‘confusion about their identity’ and to the violent conflict over the state’s identity and destiny.39

Fortunately, the Taif Agreement preceded consensus over Lebanese history. It attempted to reconcile two visions of Lebanon: that of Lebanon as an Arab state and that of Lebanon as a historical refuge for persecuted religious communities which coexisted and shared power.40 In Taif, Lebanese deputies advocated the unification of history curricula and textbooks to ‘develop the national spirit’.41 Rather than embracing the suggestion of some scholars to present multiple narratives of the past in schools, Lebanese deputies favoured a ‘best story’ approach. They maintained that a common history book would strengthen allegiance to the state at the expense of religious and political alignments, mend the fractures caused by the war, and reflect the new inter-communal power equilibrium.42

Frayha sees the decision to employ history, alongside civic education, to promote reconciliation and social cohesion after the war, as a shift in ‘the role of schooling from one of institutionalised divisions to one endeavouring to construct national identity’.43 The 1995 New Framework for Education in Lebanon appears to confirm this view: it reiterated that the education system was to contribute to building trust and a cohesive society and that history education was to instil understanding of a common Lebanese history, highlighting the negative impact of conflict among Lebanese citizens and ‘establishing an awareness that the needs of the present and ambitions [for] the future rely on the promotion of national unity’.44 Yet the Ministry of Education allocated only one hour per week to history education at the post-primary level and only two weekly hours of social studies at the primary level.45 This suggests that in fact ‘the socialisation of students along national unitary lines’ was not a political priority in post-Taif Lebanon.46

 
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