Preventing discrimination


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Discrimination means the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex. In other words, discrimination means treating people differently, negatively because of their racial and ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.

Discrimination is simply wrong and against the law. Both children and adults experience discrimination at different levels but discrimination against children can be more severe than that against adults – because children often have less social power.

Children face discrimination in most societies in comparison to adults because of their dependence on adults; and adults’ reluctance to give them more decision-making power as they develop the ability to exercise it themselves. In addition to experiencing discrimination as a group, children face discrimination on other grounds, such as their race, gender, immigration status, disabilities, or a combination of such factors.

Discrimination – simply defined as harmful actions toward others (because of their ethnicity, nationality, language ability and accent, or immigration status) may take place at an institutional or individual level, and can have considerable consequences for the developmental outcomes of young children and what the psychological and educational consequences are.

Taking action about discrimination in education: The proactive approach follows strategies to prevent discrimination and creating an Anti-Bias Learning Environment. Teaching diversity skills is defined as the ability to learn about differences, talk about them, accept them and (if conflict is involved) peacefully resolve them.
Some tips:

  • Talking with pupils about Diversity and Bias
  • Expose pupils to a variety of people and environments.
  • Let pupils pursue their interests.
  • Ensure that cultural learning goes beyond parties.
  • Discuss the way race/ethnicity, religion, culture, geography and socioeconomic status intersects, resulting in vastly different life experiences for different groups of people.
  • Help kids get “below the surface” with those from other cultures.
  • Implement explicit lessons about racism and conflict resolution.
  • Reinforcement: teach about social justice and tolerance.
  • Intervention: be prepared to respond to purposely-directed acts of bias. Control their own response to the acting-out person. Not overreact to the acting-out person. Find positive outlets for the negative energy they absorb during a crisis.
  • Life Experiences: provide opportunities for pupils to share life experiences; choose literature that will help students develop empathy. Integrating Children’s Own Experiences.


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Title: “Self-exploring in promoting Anti-Bias Learning Environment”

Objective: To raise teachers’ awareness about how they can promote effectively a bias-free educational environment.

Contents: In this activity assess yourself in how effective you are in promoting a bias-free educational environment. Answer the following questions and think about what you can do.

  1. Do you know the cultural background of your pupils? How many nationalities do you have at your school? What kind of disabilities and special needs? Are you updated about the particular needs and concerns of pupils and families from different cultures in your school?
  2. Do you participate in professional development opportunities to enhance your understanding of the characteristics of different cultural groups in your country/region/city?
  3. Do you listen to all pupils and colleagues with an open mind, even if they have different perspectives and understanding than yours?
  4. Do you use an inclusive language?
  5. Have you evaluated your classroom materials and textbooks to ensure they do not reinforce stereotypes and that they provide fair and appropriate treatment of all groups?
  6. Have you also evaluated your materials and the curricular content to ensure that they reflect the perspectives and experiences of different cultures?
  7. Have you taken specific actions against offensive based on stereotypes or prejudiced behaviours in your classroom?
  8. Do you use classroom methods to meet the needs of pupils’ different learning styles (small group discussions, cooperative learning, role-playing…)?
  9. Do you use different resources and pedagogical materials to respond the different styles and rhythms of learning in your classroom?
  10. Do you consider different testing methods to assess the different styles of learning of your pupils?

Materials: paper, pen.

 Case studies

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Since the beginning of the school year, you’ve been a little concerned about Rachel, a 9-year-old in class.

She has a sweet smile, but you’ve rarely seen it.  She talks about Jehovah and her religion (she and her family are Jehovah’s witnesses) and her classmates generally tease her rather than talk to her. She seems to have no close friends.

When you confer with her mother, Marie, you tell her that Rachel is doing good work, but that you’re sure she can do better.

Marie appears as a loving mother, if one with too little time (as a single mum, she works a lot); she tells you that Rachel likes to write poetry, play her flute, walk with her dog, and read her religious books. Over the next months, Rachel is alone more and more, and most students call her, “that witch girl” even when you reprove them.

Questions for reflection:

  • Would you set clear rules in regards to how people should be treated?
  • What kind of resources with multicultural and religion themes would you use in the classroom?
  • Would you talk directly in confidence with the pupil? If yes, what would you choose to talk about?
  • Would you inform to Department of Family Guidance and Counselling and why?
  • Would you engage another’s class pupils as support and if yes in which way?