Discrimination is a breach of human rights that may harm all students, but particularly those who are the target. By encouraging democracy, respect for human rights, and citizenship among students, schools help combat prejudice.
Schools must prioritize gender equality, multiperspective in history, and linguistic and cultural competency to guarantee that the needs of all pupils are served equitably. Students may develop these skills for democratic culture to reach their full potential in society and at school.
Statistics & facts
In Europe, early school exit rates are greater for disabled students than for peers of the same age.
Compared to white children, black Caribbean kids are three times more likely to be excluded from English-speaking institutions.
According to a study of nine EU nations, 13% of Roma kids attended schools with just other Roma students, while 33% attended schools with a majority of Roma students.
Discrimination: what is it?
Discrimination is when someone is treated unjustly or unfavorably because of a personal attribute, such as gender, sexual orientation, language, religion, national, ethnic, or another social origin.
Two fundamental types of discrimination exist:
Discrimination can occur in almost any area of school life, including teacher attitudes and expectations, school rules and conduct codes, selection and grouping procedures, curricula, teaching methods, and instructional materials. It can also occur in facilities for changing, career counseling, canteen food, and the actual physical environment of the school.
The students who are subjected to discrimination will have a lower quality educational experience regardless of the form it takes, including parallel school systems for various ethnic groups, concentrations of a minority or disadvantaged students in the same institution, or differential access to educational services.
Why is it crucial for schools to address discrimination?
A breach of human rights is discrimination. Discrimination against any of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights is prohibited under Article 14 of the Convention. All people must have access to the state’s formal educational offerings, according to Protocol No. 1’s Article 2.
“No individual should be denied the right to education.” “The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set out in this Convention should be ensured without discrimination on any basis such as sex, race, color, language, religion, political or another opinion, national or social origin, connection with a national minority, property, birth or another status.”
Tackling prejudice is not merely an obligation put on schools by the European Convention of Human Rights, it is also crucial for student well-being and scholastic performance. Children and young people who are treated unjustly or discriminated against are more likely to have:
Feeling different or ‘less’ than others may be an alienating experience. Over time it undermines an individual’s capacity for participation in society, e.g., their sense of self-efficacy, openness to other cultures and beliefs, tolerance of ambiguity, and flexibility and adaptability – all of which lie at the heart of the Council of Europe Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture.
Lack of opportunity due to discrimination in school also hurts society. It widens social differences, feeds bigotry and intolerance, and weakens social cohesiveness.
“States should embrace a mix of robust anti-discrimination regulations and policies that foster more inclusive education systems where all students study together. This is not a utopian vision, but a feasible one that may assure more fair treatment of all children and, in the long run, strengthen societal cohesion”
What are the challenges?
One of the issues confronting the combating of prejudice in schools is a lack of statistics. European-wide statistics specifically focused on discrimination in schools are scarce. Children with disabilities, for instance, maybe “invisible” to decision-makers, service providers, and the general public and are not always included in national statistics. However, these kids are prone to discrimination and frequently receive segregated educational opportunities.
Other “invisible” minorities attend schools as well. For instance, LGBTI kids often believe they must conceal their sexual orientation at school to prevent discrimination.
The persistence of unfavorable perceptions about minority groups among teachers, parents, students, and other school stakeholders is another significant obstacle. Such stereotypes are often thoroughly ingrained in routine school activities and practices, to the point that they are accepted as “normal,” such as in textbook texts and illustrations that mirror stereotypical representations of the roles of women and men, girls and boys. Stereotypes encourage discriminatory and aggressive behavior among pupils, poorer standards for instructors, and unfavorable views from parents, such as refusing to let their children attend school with refugee or immigrant children.
Because its roots are in broader society, stereotyping is difficult to eradicate in educational settings. The contemporary prevalence of hate speech, false news, and conspiracy theories in digital media, particularly social media, exacerbates this.
When minority groups are underrepresented among school workers, the issue is made worse. Teachers lack access to knowledge about and understanding of various cultures and ways of life that come with working in a more varied profession, and students lack role models. They lack the intercultural competencies necessary to build inclusive, high-quality learning environments, such as an openness to cultural difference, ambiguity tolerance, multilingualism, and a critical appreciation of different cultures, faiths, and histories.
It is more difficult to combat prejudice when there is no communication between schools and parents. This is often due to language barriers, but it may also occur when parents of students who are studying abroad leave their kids in the care of older relatives or others.
How do schools get involved?
A whole-school strategy is necessary to guarantee that students of all ages have access to relevant, high-quality educational opportunities alongside their peers.
Schools must first recognize those who might be subject to discrimination, as well as what they can do to lessen it and how to support students who are at risk. An evaluation of the current situation, which identifies the school’s strengths as well as its needs and priorities, is a good place to start. It is crucial to consult with all parties involved in the school, especially the students and, when appropriate, the parents. There is a case for gathering information on people’s experiences of discrimination anonymously given the sensitive nature of the situation.
Based on an evaluation of the situation, it is possible to determine the top priorities for developing policies right away. The school’s priorities will differ, but they might include things like:
Initial priority-setting should coincide with professional development for teaching staff and senior leadership teams. To combat discrimination in schools, both personal and professional reflection is crucial. School staff must be able to reflect on their own values and beliefs regarding discrimination, including any unconscious biases and prejudices they may have.
The longer-term goal of fostering a culture of non-discrimination can then be taken up by schools. The challenge of negative stereotyping in classrooms and other school areas is essential to this process. There are many methods to do this, including:
Along with promoting inclusion and a recognition of the advantages of diversity in school life, challenging stereotypes is also important.