Preventing Violent Extremism
The number of violent extremist attacks committed across the world has increased sharply in recent years. And there are more attacks on schools and students than ever before.
An important step to prevent violent attacks in the future is to examine and tackle the root causes of violent extremism. Preventing violent extremism (PVE) is complex and involves various actors and stakeholders. While education is frequently the target of violent extremism, it can also be part of the solution to reducing forms of violence.
There are two ‘faces’ to education: education can promote inclusion, strengthen social cohesion, and develop a more engaged citizenry. Conversely, education can exacerbate existing tensions and divisions, reproduce structures of exclusion and inequality, and promote harmful practices and violent behaviour. Education initiatives must therefore look both within and beyond the classroom to address the root causes that contribute to forms of violence and violent extremism.
Violent extremism refers to the use of violence in line with an ideological commitment to achieve political, religious, or social goals. These violent acts can be carried out by any individual or group from a range of beliefs and ideologies.
One way of conceptualizing the factors that may lead to violent extremism is the idea of ‘push’ and ‘pull’ influences:
- ‘Push Factors’ may include: marginalization, inequality, discrimination, persecution or the perception thereof, the denial of rights and civil liberties; and environmental, historical or socio-economic grievances, whether actual or perceived.
- ‘Pull Factors’, by contrast, might nurture the appeal of violent extremism at the individual and psycho-social level. For example: violent extremist groups may be a source of services and employment. Groups may attract new members by providing outlets for grievances, the promise of hope, justice, and a sense of purpose. This social network can be a significant pull factor for youth as extremist groups can offer a sense of acceptance and validation (UNESCO, 2016).
- However, there remains limited evidence of exactly whether, how, and in what way these push or pull factors may influence people's choices to join extremist groups or commit violent acts.
Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) refers to an approach which aims to address the root causes of violent extremism through non-coercive approaches.
Some examples of how education can contribute towards preventing violent extremism and address “push and pull factors” are:
- Curriculum: Curricula should encourage multiple viewpoints and develop critical thinking skills.
- Teachers, schools and educational institutions: Teachers should be recruited to represent a diverse range of social and ethnic groups and differing views within a society. Schools should create an atmosphere of tolerance and harmony, and engage with the community, religious and political institutions, and provide a safe space to everyone, including minorities.
- Children and Young People: Education should include the voices of children and young people and give them power over their own lives. Education should support each child as an individual with opinions, needs, and aspirations.
- Safe Places: schools should be safe places to discuss differing opinions, and safe environments to learn new ideas and skills.
- Access: Access to education should be universal. Socioeconomic status should not be a barrier to a quality education. Nor should gender, ethnicity, or language.
This collection was developed with the support of Peter Simms, Plan International Canada, and Laura Davison, INEE.