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How to Prevent Radicalization in School?
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How to Prevent Radicalization in School?

The school's role in the broader preventive work against radicalization, through democracy, room for critical thinking and avoiding exclusion.


  • Radicalization and Violent Extremism
  • Pedagogy and Didactics

The school's role is linked to broad preventive work aimed at all students. It is primarily about creating a democratic culture where everyone is involved and can participate, and where there is room to be critical and engaged without resorting to exclusion, hate speech, and suspicion.

Prevention and De-radicalization

Both radicalization and affiliation with extreme organizations are complex processes. De-radicalization, meaning the rehabilitation of already radicalized individuals, is therefore a job for specialists with expertise in areas such as religion, sectarianism, political ideologies, and identity formation.

Without an inclusive environment that can identify and provide vulnerable individuals with an opportunity to participate, they have no place to be rehabilitated to.

The efforts of teachers for the general school environment are also essential where specialists see the need for more targeted efforts towards individuals. Without an inclusive environment that can identify and provide vulnerable individuals with an opportunity to participate, they have no place to be rehabilitated to.

There are several reasons to keep de-radicalization and prevention separate. The main danger is the stigmatization of vulnerable individuals, for example, by singling out some as extremists because of their ethnicity, religion, or behavior . For example, a visible and outward change of identity, such as the use of religious clothing, can be misunderstood as a sign of radicalization. This can be perceived as suspicion and contribute to further discrimination. Such stigmatization can also contribute to a radicalization process and thus reinforce it in the wrong direction.

Identity Formation

Teachers' contribution to prevention should be to strengthen students' worldview based on democratic principles. Interaction in the classroom should therefore aim to provide students with training in democratic rules and opportunities.

Research shows that young Norwegian Muslims who are well-equipped with a mindset rooted either in democracy or in a traditional religious understanding are more resistant to radical thoughts and ideas . Therefore, preventing radicalization in schools should be about shaping a common democratic identity that also allows for diversity.


Through open and inclusive communication, teachers can create an atmosphere conducive to addressing difficult issues related to religion, worldview, and politics. It is important that teachers facilitate a dialogue that does not hinder students from expressing and exploring their views. Through conversations, teachers and students will gain knowledge of different thoughts, ideas, and attitudes. It is crucial that the school addresses controversial topics such as the refugee crisis or the Israel–Palestine conflict in a way that allows for different perspectives and disagreement.

An open and inclusive classroom environment can prevent exclusion.

The teacher's challenge is twofold: on one hand, ensuring that students speak to and about each other with respect. This can be maintained through the design of rules for how we speak in the classroom. On the other hand, diversity of opinions and otherness must be openly presented. Such an open and inclusive classroom environment can prevent exclusion, suspicion, and a negative feeling of cultural weakness.

The classroom should provide a safe atmosphere where students can express their opinions.

Students must be able to speak openly with teachers about their thoughts and feelings. The classroom should provide a safe atmosphere where students can express their opinions

Arun Kundnani argues that a real alternative to terrorism is a democratic process that involves opinions and thoughts that the majority perceives as offensive or uncomfortable being heard . To do this correctly, it is important for students to learn to distinguish between criticism and personal attacks (including group hostility), while also developing a form of resilience to tolerate insults

It is also important that some basic rules rooted in human rights and national and international laws are used as a framework for expressions, communication, presentation, and discussions in the classroom and elsewhere in the school.

Participation and Civic Engagement

It is important to build students' belief in the use of legal democratic channels to bring about changes in society. In this way, it is also emphasized that illegal means such as violence or hateful speech are not preferable.

Perceiving the world as unfair and feeling a desire to change it can also be seen as a sign of health. Therefore, teachers should emphasize that students are familiar with means and channels to influence and bring about change.

To prevent radicalization, the UN Security Council in 2015 encouraged all member states to increase the participation of young adults in decision-making and peace processes at the local, national, regional, and international levels (United Nations 2015). In line with this, the classroom should be a space where young people are encouraged and trained in participation and civic engagement, and democratic preparedness must be an important part of the worldview students learn in school.

The classroom should be a space where young people are encouraged and trained in participation and civic engagement.

For this to be possible, students must be able to express themselves, raise their voices, negotiate, and influence decisions. Teachers must play an active role in facilitating this for students and not be an obstacle to this process .

Active participation in the classroom and at school should serve as a springboard for engagement and participation in society. In the work against radicalization, it is especially important to teach how political decisions are made. It is important to show young people that democracy offers many channels of influence.

Critical Thinking

For students' engagement and idealism not to develop into thoughts and actions that are harmful to society, students need education and training in critical thinking.

This includes tools that can help students ask simple questions, such as how and where to obtain information, and who the sender is. This will stimulate the critical sense of students and skepticism towards radical thoughts and ideas. The same should apply to the use of images and video.

An education that promotes the ability to think critically involves understanding that there are multiple realities, truths, perspectives, and understandings . Such insight should increase tolerance for others' opinions but not acceptance of the extreme. Critical thinking rooted in democratic values is the way to counteract the radicalization of Norwegian youth.

Read more about critical thinking.


Ahmed, Uzair (2015). Sectarian Identities and Relations – A Case Study of 40 Norwegian Muslims. M.A. thesis. Aas: Norwegian University of Life and Sciences.

Davies, Lynn (2009). Educating against Extremism: Towards a Critical Politicisation of Young People. I: International Review of Education, 55 (2): 183 – 203.

Davies, Lynn (2014). Interrupting Extremism by Creating Educative Turbulence. I: Curriculum Inquiry, 44 (4): 450-468.

Kundani, Arun (2009). Spooked: How not to prevent violent extremism. Institute of Race Relations, hentet 14.02.2017. http://www.irr.org.uk/news/spooked-how-not-to-prevent-violent-extremism/

Veldhuis, Tinka, Staun, Jørgen (2009). Islamist Radicalisation: A Root Cause Model. Danish Centre for International Studies and Human Rights, hentet 14.02.2017. https://www.diis.dk/files/media/publications/import/islamist_radicalisation.veldhuis_and_staun.pdf