Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Violence in Schools: A World Wide Affair

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Violence in Schools: A World Wide Affair

Article excerpt

ERIC DEBARBIEUX [1]

In all countries, schools are magnets for strife in society. Dealing with these tensions calls for extreme caution, for fear of making matters worse

Violence in schools is a worldwide problem: it exists in rich and poor countries alike. It's chiefly a male phenomenon, hitting a peak when boys turn 16 years old in some countries and 13 in others. Experts agree at least on one point: this violence cannot be pinned to a single cause. Instead, they point to complex patterns linked to family situations, socio-economic conditions and teaching methods.

Tackling segregation

But these are just indicators and do not justify any deterministic explanations. When researchers say that 10 to 20 percent of risk factors are linked to single parent families, this suggests that 80 to 90 percent of such families are not the source of any violence. A child from a black slum area with a teenage mother or a father in jail will not automatically be violent! Likewise, experts say there is a "hard core" of violent children--about five percent of the total. But in comparing several schools in similar problem French neighbourhoods, I've found that this figure can vary between one and 11 percent. The school itself can be an aggravating factor, through high staff turnover or "ghetto classes" to which poorly-performing students are relegated. These "hard core" groups, then, cannot be deemed "inalterable." On the contrary, something can be done about them.

Should they simply be expelled, as some advocate? …

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