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Promoting access to quality, safe, and relevant education for all persons affected by crisis

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.

The United Nation’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, which aims to tackle the root causes of violent extremism, lists education as a tool against extremism and the violence that can result from it.  

However, 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.

To support efforts to better understand the role of education in preventing violent extremism, the INEE has gathered resources on education and violent extremism, which can help policy-makers, teachers, principals, trainers, and researchers understand better the link between education and violent extremism and help promote the positive ‘face’ of education.


Key definitions

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 very little evidence of exactly whether, how, and in what way these push or pull factors influence may 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.

Key Activities


Resource Pack: Education and Preventing Violent Extremism

The INEE Education Policy Working Group (EPWG) has created a resource pack to introduce the relationship between Education and PVE. The pack includes a video (in all INEE languages) and a catalogue of published resources on the subject. These resources are available for individuals or groups to engage with education and PVE.

INEE Thematic Paper - An introduction to education and preventing violent extremism

This paper, conceptualized by the INEE subgroup on Youth, Violence and Peacebuilding, looks at working definitions relating to prevention of violent extremism, and education's role therein. The paper presents current thinking and up-to-date research, and provides some examples of how education can contribute towards preventing violence. 

Click to access the paper in English, français, español, português, العربيه.

Video: Preventing Violent Extremism

The 5-minute video -- available with subtitles in English, Arabic, French, Spanish, and Portuguese -- looks at some definitions of PVE and education’s role in fostering inclusive and equitable environments, encouraging critical thinking, promoting tolerance and respect for diversity, and thereby contributing to wider social cohesion and the reduction of violence in all forms.   

Click to watch the video with subtitles in the language of your choice. You can also download the video files to watch and share offline.

Catalogue of Resources on Education and Preventing Violent Extremism

This database contains over one hundred resources (articles, studies, research reports, books) on education and violent extremism. The aim of this catalogue is to make resources on PVE and education readily available to practitioners, academics, and all those working in the field of education in fragile and crisis-affected contexts.

For the user’s convenience, INEE has organized the information by searchable fields including year of publication, author, organization, region/country of focus (if any), and keywords.  While the catalogue includes a thorough list of existing literature in this field, it is by no means exhaustive. This is a live database, and INEE encourages those interested to continue feeding into the catalogue by sharing valuable resources via email: [email protected].

Click to access the catalogue of PVE resources (Google Sheet).

Round Table: Role of Education & Youth in Preventing Urban Violence & Violent Extremism

On October 21, 2015, the INEE Education and Fragility Working Group (EFWG) held a Round Table/Symposium on "The Role of Education & Youth in Preventing Urban Violence and Countering Violent Extremism"

The aims of the round table were: 

  • to share research and experience on the intersection of education, urban violence, and violent extremism;
  • to articulate priority areas for research and programming, and discuss possible INEE engagement in the fields of education, urban violence, and violent extremism.

Click to find out more about the Round Table, including the organizers and presenters, and to download the presentations and other resources.

In the News


Key Resources


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