Building peace in the minds of men and women

What UNESCO does on school violence and bullying

School-related violence in all its forms, including bullying, is an infringement of children’s’ and adolescents’ rights to education and health and well-being. No country can achieve inclusive and equitable quality education for all if learners experience violence in school.

School violence and bullying

To ensure safe and inclusive learning environments, UNESCO advocates a comprehensive school health approach that encompasses policy and systems, skills-based health education, safe learning environments and links to health services. National education sectors must adopt and implement measures to prevent and address violence and discrimination, both because of their impact on education, health and well-being, and because they stop children and young people from achieving their potential.

UNESCO’s work in school violence and bullying is divided into four main areas:

  • To provide the most up-to-date and comprehensive global evidence on school- violence and bullying.
  • To support the development of effective policies to prevent and address school violence and bullying, including school-related gender-based violence.
  • To improve the measurement of violence and bullying within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  • To strengthen national responses to school violence and bullying, particularly education sector responses.

Actions include:

  • UNESCO Member States declared the first Thursday of November of every year, the International Day against Violence and Bullying at School Including Cyberbullying, recognising that school-related violence in all its forms is an infringement of children and adolescents’ rights to education and to health and well-being. It calls for the strengthening of partnerships and initiatives that accelerate progress to prevent and eliminate violence and bullying at school including cyberbullying.
  • UNESCO released the headline publication, Behind the numbers: Ending school violence and bullying at the World Education Forum in 2019. The publication presents the most up to date and comprehensive evidence on the school violence and bullying, analyzing global and regional prevalence and trends, the nature and impact, and successful national responses.
    - Overview
  • Together with the Institute of School Violence Prevention at Ewha Womans University, UNESCO organized the International Symposium on school violence and bullying: From evidence to action in Seoul, Republic of Korea in 2017. A publication was released by UNESCO at the Forum, Global Status Report on School Violence and Bullying, which looks at the scale, nature, drivers and consequences of school violence and bullying.
  • UNESCO works with partners to support international campaigns to engage stakeholders to respond to school violence. Examples include the Safe to Learn campaign against school violence in general and the Power of Zero Campaign against cyberbullying.

School-related gender-based violence

School-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) is a phenomenon that affects millions of children, male and female. It occurs in all countries in the world and cuts across cultural, geographic and economic boundaries. It includes physical and sexual violence, psychological abuse or bullying, and corporal punishment.

SRGBV violates fundamental human rights and is a form of gender discrimination which can compromise a child’s well-being, their physical and emotional health, as well as harming their cognitive and emotional development. It also negatively affects educational outcomes.

Until SRGBV is eliminated in and around schools across the world, many of the ambitious targets set by the global community through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to provide safe and supportive learning environments, to end violence against children in all settings and to achieve gender equality and eliminate violence against women and girls, will not be realized.

Download the Global Guidance on addressing SRGBV in English and in French.

Homophobic and transphobic violence

Schools and other educational settings are supposed to be safe places where children and young people can learn free from threats and violence. Yet data analysed for UNESCO’s Out In the Open report shows that, in some countries, up to 85 per cent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students experience violence, including bullying, at school, while students who are not LGBT, but are perceived not to conform to gender norms are also targets.

All forms of discrimination and violence in schools are an obstacle to the fundamental right to quality education of children and young people and no country can achieve inclusive and equitable quality education if students are discriminated against or experience violence because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.

Preventing and addressing homophobic and transphobic violence in educational settings is part of: a) UNESCO’s mandate to ensure learning environments are safe, inclusive and supportive for all, and: b) UNESCO’s contribution to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Download UNESCO’s Out In The Open report on education sector responses to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity expression in English, and find the Summary Report in English and French.

Measuring progress on SDG Education Target 4.a

A new SDG Thematic Indicator, developed under the leadership of UNESCO and endorsed by the international community in 2018, makes it possible to compare data on the prevalence of students victims of bullying collected through six international surveys in over 190 countries and territories. The indicator 4.a.2 measures “safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments” (Target 4.a): Percentage of students who experienced bullying during the past 12 months, by sex. 

As part of UNESCO’s work in coordinating efforts to improve measurement of progress towards Target 4.a, a dedicated webpage for the monitoring of school violence, data and reporting on all forms of school violence can be accessed and shared here. Target 4.a refers directly to the objective of providing safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.

This resource aims to improve the monitoring  of school violence at all levels, to ensure that all children and adolescents are able to fulfil their right to a quality education. It provides policy-makers, stakeholders, and education communities with access to data and key publications, and contributes towards the monitoring of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 and targets.