Education International
Education International

Global movement to eradicate violence and bullying in schools

published 27 January 2017 updated 2 February 2017

Education unions made significant contributions during discussions at the International Symposium on School Violence and Bullying on the roles and abilities of teachers to combat the issue.

Bullying, cyberbullying and violence in schools were the main focus of the International Symposium on School Violence and Bullying: From evidence to action, organised by UNESCO in Seoul, South Korea, from 17-19 January. That’s according to Pathma Krishnan from the Education International (EI) Asia-Pacific Regional Office, who was one of over 270 participants at the event. Attendees represented education ministries, civil society organisations, teachers’ unions and other organisations working in the education sector in 70 countries.

The symposium is one of a series of international meetings organised by UNESCO to address school violence and bullying. Its aim was to promote evidence-based action by educators, policy makers, professionals and practitioners in the education, health, and other sectors.

The symposium was particularly relevant as data compiled from 19 low and middle-income countries found that 34 per cent of students aged 11–13 reported being bullied in the previous month, with eight per cent reporting daily bullying. The figures were contained in a new Global Status Report on School Violence and Bullying, produced by UNESCO and the Institute of School Violence Prevention at Ewha Womans University, Seoul, and launched at the symposium.

Long-lasting effects of violence and bullying

“All forms of violence and bullying in schools infringe the fundamental right to education and unsafe learning environments reduce the quality of education for all learners,” said UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education Qian Tang. “No country can achieve inclusive and equitable quality education if learners experience violence in school. School violence and bullying can also seriously harm the health and wellbeing of children and adolescents with the adverse effects persisting into adulthood.”

Need to train and empower teachers

Education International’s Krishnan participated in the working group on the role of teachers, and moderated a working group on priority actions at national level, focusing on the capacity of teachers and staff.

Participants discussed the implementation of policies, prevention, counter measures and how the families, schools and communities must work together to curb bullying and violence in schools, she said. They acknowledged the need to look at a holistic approach to education, pedagogy, curriculum and inclusive education, and that teachers must be trained to identify and be empowered to deal with issues of bullying and violence as they too are victims. There is also an urgent need to engage young people who are being bullied or perpetrating the bullying, Krishnan said.

Professionalism and the code of conduct were also discussed at length in the working groups, Krishnan noted. Discussions revolved around ‘zero tolerance’ to bullying and violence, early detection of and early intervention to bullying.

Cyberbullying and gender-based violence also relevant

Participants also discussed ways to raise awareness of the dangers of cyberspace, and identified priority actions in terms of justice intervention, establishing partnerships, teachers’ capacity building, and effective responses to this issue.

“We further agreed that we cannot leave the gender aspect out and school-related gender-based violence has to be included in the curriculum,” Krishnan stressed.

“The Symposium gave us a great opportunity to share our experiences and many ideas to be incorporated into our national level actions,” insisted Juliet Wajega from the Uganda National Teachers Union.

For Uganda, together with Ministry of Education and civil society’s representatives who attended the event, we agreed to play a key role in reviewing policies, especially the Education Act, so as to include major issues around school violence and bullying and other national actions, as proposed in the UNESCO report, she added.

Presentations and handouts from all plenaries and concurrent thematic sessions, as well as films shown during the symposium are available here