School climate

Research has shown that a positive school climate not only decreases student absenteeism and dropout rates (Center for Social and Emotional Education, 2010) but it also has a significant incidence in students’ academic performance (OREALC-UNESCO, 2008). School climate encompasses all aspects related to how members of the school community perceive and experience the school. For example, how welcomed, valued, and respected they feel. Bias such as discrimination, racism, sexism, and homophobia create negative school climates and ultimately undermine students’ learning experiences (Greytak et al., 2016). School climate also refers to all the institutional aspects (such as values and norms), the interpersonal relationships established between school members, the teaching and learning practices, and safety inside the school.

Policies meant to enhance schools’ climate –particularly for groups who have been traditionally excluded and marginalized– is essential to build equitable and inclusive education systems.

References
Centre for Excellence in Universal Design NDA (National Education Authority). 2014. What is Universal Design. Accessed 19 February 2019: http://universaldesign.ie/What-is-Universal-Design/

Faour, M. 2012. The Arab World’s Education Report Card: School Climate and Citizenship Skills. Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved from: http://carnegieendowment.org/files/school_climate.pdf

Greytak, E.A.; Kosciw, J.G.; Villenas, C.; Giga, N.M. 2016. From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited, A Survey of U.S. Secondary School Students and Teachers. New York: GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network). Retrieved from: https://www.glsen.org/research/teasing-torment-school-climate-revisited-survey-us-seconda

IIEP-UNESCO Learning Portal. 2018d. Brief 3: The psycho-social school environment. Accessed 27 September 2018: https://learningportal.iiep.unesco.org/en/issue-briefs/improve-learning/the-psychosocial-school-environment

López, V. 2014. Education and Development Post-2015: School Climate. Notes Nº4. Santiago de Chile: OREALC-UNESCO (Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean). Retrieved from: http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/FIELD/Santiago/pdf/APUNTE04-ING.pdf

Mkumbo, K. 2013. Does School Environment Affect Student Achievement? Dar es Salaam: HakiElimu. Retrieved from: https://learningportal.iiep.unesco.org/en/library/does-school-environment-affect-student-achievement-an-investigation-into-the-relationship

OREALC-UNESCO (Oficina Regional de Educación para América Latina y el Caribe). 2008. Los aprendizajes de los estudiantes de América Latina y el Caribe. Primer reporte del Segundo Estudio Regional Comparativo y Educativo, SERCE. Santiago de Chile : OREALC-UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0016/001606/160660s.pdf

UNESCO Bangkok. 2016. Happy Schools! A Framework for Learner Well-being in the Asia-Pacific. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002441/244140e.pdf

Promising policy options

Institutional reforms to enhance school climate

It is necessary for decision-makers at the national level to consider school climate as part of their educational policies. Multiple initiatives have been developed in many countries around the globe, with some countries passing laws to enhance school climate (e.g. Colombia’s School Climate Law, Law 1620 of 2013), and with other countries implementing policies that aim to create ‘Happy Schools’ (UNESCO Bangkok, 2016).

Other examples of this include the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index in Bhutan, designed to include measurement of various aspects of educational well-being (UNESCO Bangkok, 2016); Japan revising its School Education Act to emphasise the importance of ‘Happy Schools’ (UNESCO Bangkok, 2016); Singapore’s Ministry of Education introducing Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in schools (UNESCO Bangkok, 2016); and Vanuatu’s National Curriculum Statement that aims to promote happiness in schools (UNESCO Bangkok, 2016).

National policies must be complemented by school actions. Planning interventions for school climate improvement is essential to optimize the use of resources and generate lasting effects. This is one of the school heads’ major tasks. However, the school climate will only improve if the planned interventions are accepted and supported by the school community (teachers, students, parents and guardians, among others). The following strategies facilitate the school’s climate improvement process:

  • Create a ‘School Climate Planning Team’: this team must be made up of multiple stakeholders who represent the diversity within the school’s community. For example, people from different ethnicities, religious groups, people with disabilities, women, sexual minorities, people from different socioeconomic statuses, among others. They should be in charge of coordinating, leading and monitoring the efforts related to school climate improvement. Although the school heads must be either directly involved or constantly updated about the actions, it is essential to foster the team’s autonomy. To do this, team members must have sufficient time and resources, as well as knowledge of school climate, and support from key district authorities and school leaders.
  • Define the school’s climate vision: the vision describes what the school’s stakeholders comprehend by school climate. Each school will have a different definition depending on the components they consider fundamental. The vision, accompanied by an action plan, will guide the process to improve the school’s climate. School-level interventions must be in line with ongoing policy efforts at the national and district level. For example, the initiative ‘Classrooms in Peace’ –Aulas en Paz– in Bogota, Colombia, aligned the efforts done at a national level, concerning the integration of citizenship skills in the curriculum, with whole-school strategies (López, 2014).
  • Engage stakeholders: parents, community members, teachers, students, school and district staff must feel welcome to engage in the school’s climate transformation. For instance, in Akita Prefecture, Japan, a policy has been developed to ensure that the schools are always open for parents, relatives, or community members who wish to participate or offer their support to the school (UNESCO Bangkok, 2016). To help them participate effectively, stakeholders must receive appropriate training and support, as well as communications concerning the school climate interventions. Stakeholders should be encouraged to give their input and feedback about the efforts being done.
  • Put in place an effective communication plan: ensuring continuous communication with stakeholders is crucial to help them understand the importance of school climate as well as their role in improving it. For this reason, the ‘School Climate Planning Team’ must define a strategic communication plan to disseminate information on the interventions. For instance, schools in the Akita Prefecture, Japan, display colourful and informative posters on the walls to raise awareness on various issues concerning school climate (UNESCO Bangkok, 2016), and in Canada and the United States of America parents and guardians receive communications concerning the implemented initiatives through newsletters (Pepler and Craig, 2014; United States of America, 2016). As part o the communication plan, it is also essential to prepare and publish an annual report about the overall improvement of school climate. This allows stakeholders to decide whether to continue, modify, or include more practices in the ongoing interventions.

*For more information on parental and community involvement in schools consult Policy page School community relationship.

References
Cohen, J.; Pickeral, T.; McCloskey, M. 2009. ‘The Challenge of Assessing School Climate’.  In: Educational Leadership. Vol. 66. No. 4. Alexandria: ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development). Accessed 3 October 2018: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/dec08/vol66/num04/The-Challenge-of-Assessing-School-Climate.aspx

Faour, M. 2012. The Arab World’s Education Report Card: School Climate and Citizenship Skills. Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved from: http://carnegieendowment.org/files/school_climate.pdf

Greytak, E.A.; Kosciw, J.G.; Villenas, C.; Giga, N.M. 2016. From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited, A Survey of U.S. Secondary School Students and Teachers. New York: GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network). Retrieved from: https://www.glsen.org/research/teasing-torment-school-climate-revisited-survey-us-seconda

IIEP-UNESCO Learning Portal. 2018d. Brief 3: The psycho-social school environment. Accessed 27 September 2018: https://learningportal.iiep.unesco.org/en/issue-briefs/improve-learning/the-psychosocial-school-environment

López, V. 2014. Education and Development Post-2015: School Climate. Notes Nº4. Santiago de Chile: OREALC-UNESCO (Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean). Retrieved from: http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/FIELD/Santiago/pdf/APUNTE04-ING.pdf

Ontario. n.d. Creating Safe and Accepting Schools: Information for Parents about the Accepting Schools Act (Bill 13). Ontario: Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Retrieved from: https://www.hwcdsb.ca/catholicschoolcouncils/?fileID=4482

Pepler, D.; Craig, W. 2014. Bullying Prevention and Intervention in the School Environment: Factsheets and Tools. Kingston: PREVNet (Canada’s authority on research and resources for bullying prevention). Retrieved from: https://www.prevnet.ca/resources/bullying-prevention-facts-and-tools-for-schools

Salmon, A. 2015. What makes a School Happy? Perspectives from Six Schools. Accessed 28 September 2018: http://www.unescobkk.org/education/news/article/what-makes-a-school-happy-perspectives-from-six-schools/

UNESCO Bankok. 2016. Happy Schools! A Framework for Learner Well-being in the Asia-Pacific. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002441/244140e.pdf

UNESCO-IICBA (UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa). 2005. School Management: A Training Manual for Educational Management.  Addis Ababa: UNESCO-IICBA. Retrieved from: http://www.iicba.unesco.org/sites/default/files/School%20Management%20B.pdf

United States of America. 2016. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Healthy Students. Quick guide on making school climate improvements. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Healthy Students. Retrieved from : https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov/sites/default/files/NCSSLE_SCIRP_QuickGuide508%20gdc.pdf

Monitor and evaluate school climate data

Schools will not be able to improve their climate without having sufficient information on their progress and what still needs to be improved. This is why defining and organising assessments must be a top priority for the ‘School Climate Planning Team’ mentioned above. This team must determine the type of data that will be collected, analysed, and reported as well as who will participate in the data collection process. Measuring criteria must assess all school climate components, such as school relationships, norms and goals, involvement of all school actors and level of collaboration.

Research shows that school climate is best evaluated through valid and reliable surveys that collect data consistently across members of the school community. For example, the California School Climate asks students and staff about their ‘level of agreement’ with various statements concerning ‘academic expectations, the relationships, the opportunities for meaningful participation, the connectedness and school supports for SEL’ (Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey, 2018: 37). It is key to ensure that data is disaggregated by subpopulation of students (race, sex, disability, etc.) and by stakeholder group (students, teachers, school staff, parents, and community members).

To achieve a comprehensive understanding, it is important to complement surveys’ data with other methods such as focus groups, observational methods, interviews, and study circles. Data will provide evidence of how stakeholders perceive the school climate. Discrepancies in perceptions among various stakeholder groups are very important as they illustrate what needs to be improved. For example, depending on the culture or ethnicity, school climate may be perceived differently (Lea et al., 2021; Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey, 2018) (for more information coReferences nsult the Minority populations’ section below). Importantly, discrepancies may appear among different stakeholders as well. For example, certain issues, such as school violence can appear to be a mild problem for the staff in one school while being a severe problem for the students. All of these divergences must be evaluated and taken seriously as they provide key insights on important issues to be addressed through the school climate policy.

To effectively improve school climate interventions, it is necessary to know the school climate’s strengths and challenges. This is why ongoing monitoring of interventions is essential. For example, in Ontario, school climate surveys are filled out by staff, students and parents at least every two years (Ontario, n.d.). It is also recommended to provide a final summary report of the data analysis. The reports must be clear and actionable, and they must be able to guide school improvement efforts.

It is also essential to complement the school-level assessments with those done at a national level by specialized observatories. For instance, in Argentina an Observatory of School Violence exists, Observatorio Argentino de la Violencia en las Escuelas.

Based on the data and the evaluations, the ‘School Climate Planning Team’ must define the school climate interventions to be implemented. In this process, stakeholders must take into account strategies that have already been implemented and compare them with the needs identified through the data collection process.

To explore further

For specific of school climate surveys examples:

References
CalSCHLS. 2022. California School Climate, Health, and Learning Surveys. Accessed 2 February 2022: https://calschls.org

For low-cost practical strategies to examine school climate consult:

References
O’Malley, M.; Poynor, L. 2014. Climate connection toolkit: Low and no–cost activities for cultivating a supportive school climate (2nd ed.). San Francisco: WestEd. Retrieved from: https://data.calschls.org/resources/ClimateConnectionToolkit_2ndedition.pdf
References
Berkowitz, R. 2020. ‘School Matters: The Contribution of Positive School Climate to Equal Educational Opportunities among Ethnocultural Minority Students’. In: Youth & Society. Retrieved from: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0044118X20970235

Darling-Hammond, L.; Cook-Harvey, C.M. 2018. Educating the Whole Child: Improving School Climate to Support Student Success. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved from: https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/educating-whole-child

Lea, C.H.; Jones, T.M.; Malorni, A.; Herrenkohl, T.I.; Beaver, J.K. 2021. ‘Centering racial equity in measures of school climate: Perspectives of racial and ethnic minoritized students’. In: Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research. Retrieved from: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/713474

O’Malley, M.; Poynor, L. 2014. Climate connection toolkit: Low and no–cost activities for cultivating a supportive school climate (2nd ed.). San Francisco: WestEd. Retrieved from: https://data.calschls.org/resources/ClimateConnectionToolkit_2ndedition.pdf

Ontario. n.d. Creating Safe and Accepting Schools: Information for Parents about the Accepting Schools Act (Bill 13). Ontario: Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Retrieved from: https://www.hwcdsb.ca/catholicschoolcouncils/?fileID=4482

Payne, A.A. 2018. Creating and Sustaining a Positive and Communal School Climate: Contemporary Research, Present Obstacles, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/250209.pdf

PREVNet (Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence); Networks of
Centres of Excellence; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. n.d. Bullying and School Climate. Retrieved from: https://www.prevnet.ca/sites/prevnet.ca/files/fact-sheet/PREVNet-SAMHSA-Factsheet-Bullying-and-School-Climate.pdf

Interpersonal relationships shape school climate

School climate takes into account the relations between its members (students, teachers, school staff, families, and community members). It is essential to create a sense of family within the school, where relationships between the school community members are characterised by respect, openness, and listening. Actions as simple as greetings and smiles can improve school relations and climate (Hough, 2015).

Building better teacher-student relationships is essential. Research shows that positive student-teacher relationships improve academic achievement, attendance and prevent dropout. Students develop positive relationships with teachers who listen to them, support them, and treat them fairly. Investments in improving the quality of such interactions can be beneficial for all, and for vulnerable students in particular (IIEP-UNESCO, 2018). Indeed, an evaluation done in Chile found that ‘the quality of teacher-student interactions was “positively correlated with the performance of low-income students”.’ (Bassi, Meghir, and Reynoso, 2016 as cited in IIEP-UNESCO, 2018: 232-233).

Moreover, the school must enhance values such as kindness, enthusiasm, fairness, creativity, love, compassion, acceptance, and respect. Visual illustrations and ‘dual-purpose learning’ (highlighting values through academic subjects) could be used to enhance school climate (e.g. Happy Schools Project (UNESCO Bangkok, 2016)). At a national level, it is recommended to study the possibility of encompassing aspects such as personality, values and ethics, as well as listening and intercultural communication methods during teacher training (UNESCO Bangkok, 2016).

Building better relationships between students is also key. Create a sense of belonging within the school and foster good relationships between all the students including those from different ethnic, cultural groups, LGBTQI students and those with disabilities. This can be done by motivating students to get involved in inclusive and cooperative extracurricular activities (sports, art, music, etc.) or in school events. Additionally, it is possible to foster students’ interaction through shared learning activities. For example, in Gachang Elementary School, the Republic of Korea, group learning activities and ‘ice breakers’ promote student collaboration (UNESCO Bangkok, 2016).

In addition, build better relationships within the school community. Parents and community members involved in the school should be actively sought, as is the case in Pemagatshel School in Bhutan, where the school organises collective picnics to gather the school community together (UNESCO Bangkok, 2016).

*For more information on parental and community involvement in schools consult Policy page School community relationship.

References
Faour, M. 2012. The Arab World’s Education Report Card: School Climate and Citizenship Skills. Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved from: http://carnegieendowment.org/files/school_climate.pdf

Greytak, E.A.; Kosciw, J.G.; Villenas, C.; Giga, N.M. 2016. From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited, A Survey of U.S. Secondary School Students and Teachers. New York: GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network). Retrieved from: https://www.glsen.org/research/teasing-torment-school-climate-revisited-survey-us-seconda

IIEP-UNESCO Learning Portal. 2018d. Brief 3: The psycho-social school environment. Accessed 27 September 2018: https://learningportal.iiep.unesco.org/en/issue-briefs/improve-learning/the-psychosocial-school-environment

IIEP-UNESCO. 2018. Learning at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Science, Measurement, and Policy in Low-Income Countries. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000265581

López, V. 2014. Education and Development Post-2015: School Climate. Notes Nº4. Santiago de Chile: OREALC-UNESCO (Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean). Retrieved from: http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/FIELD/Santiago/pdf/APUNTE04-ING.pdf

Ontario. n.d. Creating Safe and Accepting Schools: Information for Parents about the Accepting Schools Act (Bill 13). Ontario: Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Retrieved from: https://www.hwcdsb.ca/catholicschoolcouncils/?fileID=4482

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). 2013a. Pisa in Focus: What do students think about school? Paris: OECD. Retrieved from: http://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/pisainfocus/pisa%20in%20focus%20n24%20%28eng%29–FINAL.pdf

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). 2017a. Are students happy? PISA 2015 Results: Students’ Well-Being. Volume III. Pisa in Focus #71. Paris: OECD. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264267510-en

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). 2017b. Pisa 2015 Results (Volume III) : Students’ Well-Being. Paris: OECD. Retrieved from : http://www.oecd.org/pisa/PISA-2015-Results-Students-Well-being-Volume-III-Overview.pdf

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). 2018b. Teachers in Ibero-America: Insights from PISA and TALIS. Paris: OECD. Retrieved from: http://www.oecd.org/pisa/Teachers-in-Ibero-America-Insights-from-PISA-and-TALIS.pdf

Pepler, D.; Craig, W. 2014. Bullying Prevention and Intervention in the School Environment: Factsheets and Tools. Kingston: PREVNet (Canada’s authority on research and resources for bullying prevention). Retrieved from: https://www.prevnet.ca/resources/bullying-prevention-facts-and-tools-for-schools

Teaching and learning policies that enhance school climate

Teaching, and overall, the entire education system, should be designed to meet the needs of all pupils. Education systems must be able to sufficiently cater to every child, providing each one of them with the opportunity to adequately learn. When children experience any learning difficulty, it is the responsibility of the system to respond and provide support, without isolating them from other students. Multiple strategies can be explored by planners and decision-makers in this regard, leading to a positive school climate.

Educational stakeholders must adopt inclusive education practices, which aim to ‘eliminate social exclusion resulting from attitudes and responses to diversity in race, social class, ethnicity, religion, gender and ability’ (UNESCO, 2008: 5). Inclusive education emphasizes the participation of all learners, understanding that every learner matters and matters equally (UNESCO, 2017a). Differences between children and their learning capabilities are not seen as problems, but rather as opportunities that can benefit and enrich the education of all children (UNESCO, 2017a).

Provide supportive and productive classroom environments, where diversity is valued and open discussions are encouraged. A balance between teamwork and independent work is important to make pupils feel comfortable inside the classroom.

Civic knowledge and skills such as active listening, problem-solving, social responsibility, and peaceful conflict resolution should be enhanced, as is the case in Colombia, where they integrated citizenship skills into its curriculum (Lopez, 2014). Teaching useful, relevant, and engaging content is also essential as it ensures students’ motivation and purpose to learn. Throughout the process, it is key to be inclusive and provide additional support to students who need it (for more details consult the section concerning Children with disabilities below).

Teachers should encourage students’ positive emotions towards learning, such as enjoyment and excitement, through interesting learning activities. Teachers must learn to understand and deal with the emotions experienced by students (Pekrun, 2014). In a positive school climate, students’ wellbeing must be a top priority, as exemplified by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea, which launched a policy to improve students’ mental health (UNESCO Bangkok, 2016).

Value mistakes as part of the learning process. Teachers should subtly correct mistakes while focusing on what students did right. It is also recommended that teachers provide feedback on students’ learning improvements through performance assessments, like in Daegu Gachang Elementary School, Republic of Korea, where students are evaluated through performance assessments (UNESCO Bangkok, 2016).

* For more information on student assessments consult Policy page Student learning assessments.

Teachers should analyse the students’ capabilities and the time they need to complete assignments, keeping in mind a balance between homework and playing time (e.g. in Vidyashilp Academy in India, homework has been replaced by optional, meaningful, and enjoyable activities, particularly for younger students (UNESCO Bangkok, 2016).) Additionally, school leaders must monitor the workload given to students, as overload can negatively affect students’ experience in school.

References
Ainsow, M. 2004. Special needs in the classroom: A teacher education guide. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://www.eenet.org.uk/resources/docs/135116e.pdf

Centre for Excellence in Universal Design NDA (National Education Authority). 2014. What is Universal Design. Accessed 19 February 2019: http://universaldesign.ie/What-is-Universal-Design/

Faour, M. 2012. The Arab World’s Education Report Card: School Climate and Citizenship Skills. Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved from: http://carnegieendowment.org/files/school_climate.pdf

Greytak, E.A.; Kosciw, J.G.; Villenas, C.; Giga, N.M. 2016. From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited, A Survey of U.S. Secondary School Students and Teachers. New York: GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network). Retrieved from: https://www.glsen.org/research/teasing-torment-school-climate-revisited-survey-us-seconda

IBE-UNESCO (International Bureau of Education). 2017c. Training Tools for Curriculum Development: Personalized Learning. Geneva: IBE-UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000250057

IIEP-UNESCO Learning Portal. 2018d. Brief 3: The psycho-social school environment. Accessed 27 September 2018: https://learningportal.iiep.unesco.org/en/issue-briefs/improve-learning/the-psychosocial-school-environment

IIEP-UNESCO. 2018. Learning at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Science, Measurement, and Policy in Low-Income Countries. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000265581

Mariga, L.; McConkey, R.; Myezwa, H. 2014. Inclusive education in low-income countries: A resource for teacher educators, parent trainers and community development workers. Cape Town: Atlas Alliance and Disability Innovations Africa. Retrieved from: https://www.eenet.org.uk/resources/docs/Inclusive_Education_in_Low_Income_Countries.pdf

Pekrun, R. 2014. ‘Emotions and Learning’. In: Educational Practices Series-24. Geneva: IBE-UNESCO (UNESCO International Bureau of Education). Retrieved from: http://www.ibe.unesco.org/en/document/emotions-and-learning-educational-practices-24

Rieser, R. 2012. Implementing inclusive education: A commonwealth guide to implementing article 24 of the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. London: Commonwealth Secretariat. Retrieved from: http://www.globaldisabilityrightsnow.org/sites/default/files/related-files/346/Implementing_Inclusive_Education_Article_24_in_CRPD.pdf

Salmon, A. 2015. What makes a School Happy? Perspectives from Six Schools. Accessed 28 September 2018: http://www.unescobkk.org/education/news/article/what-makes-a-school-happy-perspectives-from-six-schools/

UNDESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs), DSPD (Division for Social Policy and Development). 2016. Toolkit on disability for Africa: Inclusive education. UNDESA, DSPD. Retrieved from: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/documents/disability/Toolkit/Inclusive-Education.pdf.

UNESCO Bangkok. 2016. Happy Schools! A Framework for Learner Well-being in the Asia-Pacific. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002441/244140e.pdf

UNESCO. 2005c. Guidelines for inclusion: Ensuring access to education for all. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001402/140224e.pdf

UNESCO. 2011a. Consultative expert meeting report: Accessible ICTs and personalized learning for students with disabilities: A Dialogue among educators, industry, government and civil society. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002198/219827e.pdf

UNESCO. 2015f. The right to education for persons with disabilities: Overview of the measures supporting the right to education for persons with disabilities reported on by member states. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002325/232592e.pdf

Ensure a safe and healthy school climate

To enhance school climate, schools must foster a safe and secure environment in all their facilities. SDG 4 Target 4.a. calls for governments to ‘provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all’ (United Nations Division for Sustainable Development Goals, 2015a). Safety includes prohibiting corporal punishment and preventing any physical injury or harm due to bullying, pushing, punching or beating. Schools must also prevent social and emotional violence, such as verbal abuse, harassment, and social exclusion.

General constructive disciplinary interventions, as well as specific anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies, can be applied to ensure a positive and safe school climates.

*For specific policy recommendations consult Policy page School-related violence

The school’s physical infrastructure also plays a fundamental role in improving school climate. A healthy physical environment, which is child-, disability- and gender-responsive, as well as conducive to learning, is essential.

*For more details consult the sections Gender and Children with disabilities below.

References
Chaux, E. n.d. Conflictos, bullying y violencia escolar: Estrategias de prevención y manejo. Bogotá: Universidad de los Andes. Accessed 11 October 2018: https://www2.congreso.gob.pe/sicr/cendocbib/con4_uibd.nsf/B7BD4EFC43375FB70525807C00824B00/$FILE/CM-2.pdf

Faour, M. 2012. The Arab World’s Education Report Card: School Climate and Citizenship Skills. Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved from: http://carnegieendowment.org/files/school_climate.pdf

GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network). n.d. Enumeration. New York: GLSEN. Retrieved from: https://www.glsen.org/sites/default/files/Enumeration_0.pdf

GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network). n.d. Model School Anti-Bullying and Harassment Policy: Ensuring Safe and Effective Schools for All. New York: GLSEN. Retrieved from: https://www.glsen.org/sites/default/files/Model%20Policy%20-%20School%204.12.13_0.pdf

GLSEN(Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network). n.d. Model District Anti-Bullying & Harassment Policy: Model language, commentary & resources. New York: GLSEN. Retrieved from: https://www.glsen.org/sites/default/files/Model%20District%20LGBTQ-Inclusive%20Anti-Bullying%20%26%20Harassment%20Policy.pdf

Greytak, E.A.; Kosciw, J.G.; Villenas, C.; Giga, N.M. 2016. From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited, A Survey of U.S. Secondary School Students and Teachers. New York: GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network). Retrieved from: https://www.glsen.org/research/teasing-torment-school-climate-revisited-survey-us-seconda

Hough, L. 2015. ‘Does It Have To Be So Complicated?’ In: Harvard ED Magazine. Summer 2015. Accessed 10 October 2018: http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/ed/15/05/does-it-have-be-so-complicated.

IIEP-UNESCO Learning Portal. 2018d. Brief 3: The psycho-social school environment. Accessed 27 September 2018: https://learningportal.iiep.unesco.org/en/issue-briefs/improve-learning/schools-and-classrooms/the-psycho-social-school-environment

López, V. 2014. Education and Development Post-2015: School Climate. Notes Nº4. Santiago de Chile: OREALC-UNESCO (Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean). Retrieved from: http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/FIELD/Santiago/pdf/APUNTE04-ING.pdf

Ontario. n.d. Creating Safe and Accepting Schools: Information for Parents about the Accepting Schools Act (Bill 13). Ontario: Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Retrieved from: https://www.hwcdsb.ca/catholicschoolcouncils/?fileID=4482

Pepler, D.; Craig, W. 2014. Bullying Prevention and Intervention in the School Environment: Factsheets and Tools. Kingston: PREVNet (Canada’s authority on research and resources for bullying prevention). Retrieved from: https://www.prevnet.ca/resources/bullying-prevention-facts-and-tools-for-schools

Saito, M. 2015. SACMEQ Gender Series Contribution: Assessing School Climate towards Sustainable Learning for All in Sub-Saharan Africa: Perspectives from Unstable Health to School-Related Gender-Based Violence (SRGBV). No. 6. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://hivhealthclearinghouse.unesco.org/sites/default/files/resources/assessing_school_climate_sacmeq_brief_6_ver3.pdf

UNESCO Bangkok. 2016. Happy Schools! A Framework for Learner Well-being in the Asia-Pacific. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002441/244140e.pdf

UNESCO. 2014d. Teaching Respect For All. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002279/227983E.pdf

United Nations Division for Sustainable Development Goals. 2015a. Sustainable Development Goal 4. Accessed 11 October 2018: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg4

United States of America. 2016. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Healthy Students. Quick guide on making school climate improvements. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Healthy Students. Retrieved from : https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov/sites/default/files/NCSSLE_SCIRP_QuickGuide508%20gdc.pdf

Universidad de los Andes. 2013. Aulas en Paz: Historia. Accessed 11 October 2018: https://aulasenpaz.uniandes.edu.co/index.php/com-docman-submenu-config/aulas-en-paz/historia

Ensure the well-being of students and teachers

A positive school environment must guarantee its members’ well-being (Osher and Berg, 2018). Students, teachers, and staff must be cared for and supported, particularly in challenging situations. This can be done by providing the necessary context-based, inclusive and culturally-responsive social and emotional learning programmes and training for students and teachers, and ensuring good working conditions for teachers.

Students must be provided with adequate socio-emotional learning (SEL) opportunities. This allows them to learn different skills, create habits and mindsets to help them develop interpersonal relationships, collaborate with others, embrace and value diversity, manage difficult situations, learn how to communicate and think critically, among others (Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey, 2018; PREVNet, Networks of Centres of Excellence and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.). SEL is defined as ‘the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions’ (CASEL, 2020: 1). The CASEL framework defines five aspects of social and emotional competence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making (CASEL, 2020). Helping students develop social and emotional competence must be a priority in positive school climate policies. This requires comprehensive policies which are implemented in practice and continuously evaluated and improved.

Research shows that teachers’ well-being can be fostered through socio-emotional programmes that teach them coping mechanisms, self-care strategies, mindfulness, and stress management, among others (UNESCO, 2019; Falk, Frisoli and Varni, 2021). These strategies can help them recognize and know how to deal with difficult situations (UNESCO, 2019; Falk, Frisoli and Varni, 2021). Additionally, teachers must be provided with appropriate support, particularly by enhancing peer-to-peer relationships which can bolster their commitment and success in the classroom and the school (Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey, 2018). Mentoring and induction sessions can also boost teachers’ fulfilment in their jobs (Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey, 2018). General working conditions such as ensuring teachers’ adequate payment, continuous professional development opportunities, among others are also essential (for more information on policies related to those topics see Policy pages Teacher incentives; Teacher content knowledge; Teaching skills.) Overall, teachers’ perception of school climate plays a critical role, which is why all of those strategies should be taken proactively to help teachers feel valued and satisfied in their school’s environment.

To explore further

To learn about each of the five aspects of the CASEL framework consult:

References
CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning). 2020. CASEL’S SEL FRAMEWORK: What Are the Core Competence Areas and Where Are They Promoted. Chicago: CASEL. Retrieved from: https://casel.org/casel-sel-framework-11-2020/
References
CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning). 2020. CASEL’S SEL FRAMEWORK: What Are the Core Competence Areas and Where Are They Promoted. Chicago: CASEL. Retrieved from: https://casel.org/casel-sel-framework-11-2020/

Darling-Hammond, L.; Cook-Harvey, C.M. 2018. Educating the Whole Child: Improving School Climate to Support Student Success. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved from: https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/educating-whole-child

Falk, D.; Frisoli, P.; Varni, E. 2021. ‘The importance of teacher well-being for student mental health and resilient education systems’. In: Mental Health and psychosocial support, FMR Review 66. Retrieved from: https://www.fmreview.org/sites/fmr/files/FMRdownloads/en/issue66/falk-

Osher, D. Berg, J. 2017. School Climate and Social and Emotional Learning: The Integration of Two Approaches. Edna Bennet Pierce Prevention Research Center, Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved from : http://prevention.psu.edu/uploads/files/rwjf443059.pdf

PREVNet (Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence); Networks of
Centres of Excellence; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. n.d. Bullying and School Climate. Retrieved from: https://www.prevnet.ca/sites/prevnet.ca/files/fact-sheet/PREVNet-SAMHSA-Factsheet-Bullying-and-School-Climate.pdf

UNESCO. 2019. Education as healing: Addressing the trauma of displacement through social and emotional learning. Policy Paper 38. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000367812

Policy options for improving Equity and Inclusion

Gender-responsive policies

Promising policy options

Gender mainstreaming

In order to make all of the previously recommended policy options gender-responsive, educational planners and decision-makers, as well as school stakeholders, must consider gender norms, roles, and relations throughout the process.

Ensure that the multiple measures are taken actively aim to reduce harmful effects such as gender-bias, stereotypes, and sexism within the school (GPE and UNGEI, 2017).

As part of the school’s climate policy, it is important to accept and encourage gender diversity (UNESCO Bangkok, 2016). For instance, raise awareness about LGTIQA+, provide a supportive and safe environment for them (Greytak et al., 2016).

It is also recommended to mainstream gender in policies aimed at providing a safe and nurturing environment for all. Indeed, preventing and responding to any school-related gender-based violence within schools is of utmost importance (for more information and specific policy options consult Gender section in Policy page School-related violence).

References
Greytak, E.A.; Kosciw, J.G.; Villenas, C.; Giga, N.M. 2016. From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited, A Survey of U.S. Secondary School Students and Teachers. New York: GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network). Retrieved from: https://www.glsen.org/research/teasing-torment-school-climate-revisited-survey-us-seconda

UNESCO Bangkok. 2016. Happy Schools! A Framework for Learner Well-being in the Asia-Pacific. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002441/244140e.pdf

GPE (Global Partnership for Education), UNGEI (United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative). 2017. Guidance for Developing Gender-Responsive Education Sector Plans. Washington D.C.: The Global Partnership for Education. Retrieved from: https://www.globalpartnership.org/content/guidance-developing-gender-responsive-education-sector-plans

Policies for children with disabilities

Promising policy options

Tackle down institutional barriers against the education of children with disabilities (broader institutional reforms)

Enhancing a school’s climate for children with disabilities goes hand-in-hand with a broader institutional reform aimed at developing equitable and inclusive education systems, which have an intrinsic commitment towards respect and value of diversity.

In order to build an inclusive and equitable education system, educational policy-makers must recognize that ‘students’ difficulties arise from aspects of the education system itself’ (UNESCO, 2017a: 13). Thus, it calls for the implementation of concrete reforms to tackle institutional barriers down. This can be done through appropriate and supportive legal and policy frameworks.

Regarding the legal framework, numerous conventions and declarations exist at the international level outlining the right for children with disabilities to be provided with quality regular education opportunities (e.g. Salamanca Statement and Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).).

Ratify and implement such conventions to ensure that the education laws are in congruence with them (UNICEF, 2014a). For example, Viet Nam, with the support of UNICEF, strengthened its legal framework to promote the rights of children with disabilities, and, in particular, two government circulars were issued concerning their education (UNICEF, 2014a).

As for policy framework, integrate the principles of equity and inclusion into the education policy (for specific details consult UNESCO, 2017a: 13). Address the question of the education of children with disabilities through the Education Sector Plans and policies. Through ESPs, governments can ensure that sufficient capacity, leadership, and resources are allocated to the establishment of inclusive education systems. Some policy examples are:

Tanzania’s Education Sector Development Plan (2008-2017): ‘wherever possible, all children with special educational needs should be educated in “normal” classes in “normal” schools: this inclusive approach necessitates teachers being appropriately trained together with “disability-friendly” school buildings and community awareness-raising as necessary’ (Tanzania, 2008: 20). Cyprus, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, and Portugal also encourage inclusive education (UNESCO, 2015a).).

Guarantee that the curricula, learning materials, learning processes, and assessments, among many other aspects, are accessible to all children, including children with disabilities (UNICEF, 2014a). This is essential to ensure that children with disabilities are not only accessing the school but are also effectively participating and learning.

Keep in mind that although having an inclusive education system is the recommended goal, it is also a process. Accordingly, many countries in that process have hybrid policies in place –which may include special and integration strategies. As long as the general movement leads towards more inclusionary practices and is geared towards meeting all children’s needs, hybrid policies can be taken advantage of (UNESCO, 2015a). 

Provide clear legal and policy frameworks to tackle down discrimination against children/persons with disabilities and entitle them to protection (UNICEF, 2013).

References
Tanzania. 2008. Education Sector Development Programme 2008-2017, Revised Edition. Retrieved from: https://www.globalpartnership.org/sites/default/files/2008-01-Tanzania-Mainland-Sector-Plan.pdf

UN General Assembly. 2007. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities : resolution / adopted by the General Assembly. A/RES/61/106. Retrieved from: https://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/convention/convoptprot-e.pdf 

UNESCO-Global Education Monitoring Report. n.d. GEM Report summary on disabilities and education. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://en.unesco.org/gem-report/sites/gem-report/files/GAW2014-Facts-Figures-gmr_0.pdf.pdf

UNESCO. 1994. The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Educational Needs. Salamanca: Ministry of Education and Science Spain and UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://www.unesco.org/education/pdf/SALAMA_E.PDF

UNESCO. 2015a. Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and challenges. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002322/232205e.pdf

UNESCO. 2017a. A guide for ensuring inclusion and equity in education. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002482/248254e.pdf

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2013. The State of the World’s Children 2013: Children with Disabilities. New York: UNICEF. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/SWCR2013_ENG_Lo_res_24_Apr_2013.pdf

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2014a. Conceptualizing­ Inclusive Education and Contextualizing­ it within the UNICEF Mission: Webinar 1 – Companion Technical Booklet. New York: UNICEF. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/eca/education

Tackle down attitudinal barriers against children with disabilities

The provision of inclusive, equitable education requires much more than institutional reforms. Indeed, Inclusive education lies in the common vision that all children have the right and, thus should have the opportunity, to attend school, participate and learn. The school’s climate and social ethos should reflect such vision by enhancing positive relationships, valuing diversity, and providing a positive, safe and supportive environment for all children and school members, including persons with disabilities (WHO, 2011).  

Community mobilization and advocacy campaigns to foster a common vision on the importance of an inclusive education system that welcomes supports and caters to the needs of all children, including children with disabilities (UNICEF, 2014a).

Mobilizing positive attitudes and support from families, students, teachers, school leaders, and policy-makers is a key pillar to creating inclusive education systems (UNICEF, 2013).

Comprehend disability as a social challenge. The social perspective of disability understands it as the absence of opportunities for specific groups to develop their full potential and participate in society, rather than looking at disability as the ‘lacking’ of skills or abilities (Save the Children, 2002). For example, the Government of Montenegro launched in September 2010, with the support of UNICEF, the advocacy campaign ‘It’s About Ability’ to address social exclusion and discrimination against children with disabilities. After the campaign, the percentage of citizens who found it adequate for children with disabilities to attend mainstream schools raised from 35 percent in 2010 to 78 percent in 2015 (UNICEF, n.d.).

Use inclusive media to mobilize portrayals of children with disabilities, disseminate positive messages and thus tackle down stereotypes (UNICEF, 2013). An example of a successful campaign was done in Nepal, with the support of Save the Children UK, where stories of children with disabilities who accessed schools all over the country were publicised and helped raised awareness on their right to education (Save the Children, 2002).

Provide training opportunities on inclusive education to school personnel. The Ministry of Education should provide training opportunities to all school members, not only to improve knowledge related to disabilities but also to enhance positive attitudes and values towards them (WHO, 2011; Save the Children, 2002). In fact, multiple studies have revealed that positive attitudes towards children with disabilities are higher when the schools’ personnel has received training on inclusive education (UNICEF, 2014a; Milsom, 2016). Examples:

In India, ‘participation of pre-service teachers in a nine-week university course on inclusive education reduced their concerns about inclusion and improved their efficacy in, and attitude towards, inclusive classrooms’ (Sharma and Nuttal, 2016 cited by UNESCO New Delhi Office, 2019: 65). In another example, in Mongolia, 1600 teachers received training on inclusive education, which helped them build positive attitudes towards the inclusion of children with disabilities. Following that initiative, the percentage of enrolment of children with disabilities doubled (WHO, 2011).

Foster interpersonal relationships. Teacher’s and school staff must set an example of how to establish positive interpersonal relationships with students with disabilities (Milsom, 2006), fostering interpersonal relationships between children with and without disabilities. Students must be informed about each other’s abilities and difficulties since a lack of understanding may impede positive relations among students (UNESCO, 2014).

Through inclusive and accessible leisure activities, teachers can facilitate the interaction between children with and without disabilities, leading them to build quality relationships (UNESCO, 2014; Milsom, 2006). Studies reveal that students who have had a friend or classmate with disabilities have more positive attitudes towards disabilities (McDougall et al., 2004, cited by Milsom, 2006).  

References
IIEP-UNESCO. 2019. Technical Round Table: Inclusion of children with disabilities in education sector planning in French-speaking Africa. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. [Unpublished document]. 

Milsom, A. 2006. ‘Creating Positive School Experiences for Students with Disabilities’. In: Professional School Counseling Journal, 10(1), 66-72. Retrieved from: https://www.readingrockets.org/article/creating-positive-school-experiences-students-disabilities

Milsom, A. 2006. ‘Creating Positive School Experiences for Students with Disabilities’. In: Professional School Counseling Journal, 10(1), 66-72. Retrieved from: https://www.readingrockets.org/article/creating-positive-school-experiences-students-disabilities

Save the Children. 2002. Schools for All: Including disabled children in education. London: Save the Children. Retrieved from: http://www.eenet.org.uk/resources/docs/schools_for_all.pdf

UNESCO New Delhi Office. 2019. N for Nose: State of the Education Report for India 2019 Children with Disabilities. New Delhi: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000368780?posInSet=29&queryId=2f8aaaf5-3719-4fde-b471-321a56f7f8b9

UNESCO New Delhi Office. 2019. N for Nose: State of the Education Report for India 2019 Children with Disabilities. New Delhi: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000368780?posInSet=29&queryId=2f8aaaf5-3719-4fde-b471-321a56f7f8b9

UNESCO. 2014. Teaching Respect for All. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000227983?posInSet=14&queryId=22b2a46b-56be-4c43-af7f-d33a4b018b99

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2013. The State of the World’s Children 2013: Children with Disabilities – Executive Summary. New York: UNICEF. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/SWCR2013_ENG_Lo_res_24_Apr_2013.pdf

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2014a. Conceptualizing­ Inclusive Education and Contextualizing­ it within the UNICEF Mission: Webinar 1 – Companion Technical Booklet. New York: UNICEF. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/eca/education

UNICEF. n.d. It’s about ability (implemented in 2010-2013). Accessed 23 August 2019: https://www.unicef.org/montenegro/en/its-about-ability-implemented-2010-2013

WHO (World Health Organization). 2011. ‘Chapter 7 Education’. In: World Report on Disability (pp. 203-232). Malta: WHO. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/report.pdf.

Inclusive teaching and learning

Inclusive education emphasizes that every learner matters, and matters equally. Differences between children and their learning capabilities are not seen as problems but rather as opportunities that can benefit and enrich the education of all children (UNESCO, 2017a).

In order to build equitable, inclusive and accessible schools where children with disabilities feel welcomed, valued and supported, special attention should be geared towards the teaching and learning process. Even though all of the policy recommendations in the general section of the present Policy page apply, the following strategies are particularly important when it comes to the teaching and learning process regarding pupils with disabilities:

  • Teachers should observe the student’s emotional well-being and promote a culture of support in the classroom (Save the Children, 2016; IBE-UNESCO, 2016). This is important for all students, but particularly for those with emotional or behavioural disabilities (Inclusive Schools Network, 2015).
  • Teachers should have a positive attitude towards students with disabilities as well as the same kind of expectations for all (IIEP-UNESCO Learning Portal, 2018c; Milsom, 2006).
  • Teachers must foster constructive interactions among learners. This could be done by enhancing cooperative learning groups, cooperative problem solving and leisure activities (UNESCO Bangkok, 2016; Milsom, 2006).
  • Teachers and students should have adequate knowledge and skills to respond to any attitude or commentary meaning to label, stereotype or bully children with disabilities (Save the Children, 2016).
  • Teachers and schools should provide additional support to students who need it. Some strategies are employing a wide range of teaching techniques, addressing common learning difficulties, designing an accessible and flexible curriculum, as well as Individual Education Plans or personalized learning strategies, creating support centres, and provide additional staff to support students with specific learning needs.

*For specific details about each strategy, consult the following Policy pages Classroom practices; Teaching skills; Content knowledge; Inadequate curriculum and Individual learning needs.

  • Provide accessible and inclusive teaching and learning materials in Braille, audio, large-print and digital text.

*For more information consult Policy pages Availability and content of textbooks; and Teacher guides and lesson plans.

  • Provide technology and assistive devices to support student’s learning, and make education more accessible for all students, especially learners with disabilities. Some tools may include computers, smartphones, gaming systems, assistive technologies (hearing aids, adaptive keyboard, screen readers, etc.), accessible media and formats (DAISY- Digital Accessible Information System), learning software, e-books. Additionally, special education centres can help in providing assistive devices for special needs learners.

*For more information about these policies consult Policy page Availability of teaching aids.  

  • The school’s physical infrastructure also plays a key role in improving school climate. A healthy physical environment, which is child-, disability- and gender-responsive as well as conducive to learning is essential. It is therefore necessary to conceive facilities regarding pupil’s size and physical abilities. Implementing the concept of Universal Design, allows the school’s ‘environment to be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability’ (Centre for Excellence in Universal Design NDA, 2014:1). For example, ensure access to schools for children with disabilities (e.g. build ramps). It is also important to have firm, durable, smooth and slip-resistant floor surfaces, wide doorways and adequate corridor space for children in wheelchairs, adapted toilets, and accessible outdoor spaces. In addition, whenever possible, construct clear signage for partially sighted children, and tactile floors for blind children.

*For more information about this specific topic consult Policy page School physical infrastructure.

References
European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education. 2017. Inclusive education for learners with disabilities. Study for the Peti committee. Brussels: European Union. Retrieved from: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2017/596807/IPOL_STU(2017)596807_EN.pdf

Grant Lewis, S. 2019. ‘Opinion: The urgent need to plan for disability-inclusive education’. Devex. 6 February 2019. Accessed 4 November 2019: https://www.devex.com/news/opinion-the-urgent-need-to-plan-for-disability-inclusive-education-94059

Humanity & Inclusion. 2015. Education for all? This is still not a reality for most children with disabilities. Retrieved from: https://hi.org/sn_uploads/document/Education-pour-tous_un-mythe-pour-la-plupart-des-enfants-handicapes_en_1.pdf

IBE-UNESCO (UNESCO International Bureau of Education). 2016.Training Tools for Curriculum Development – Reaching Out to All Learners: a Resource Pack for Supporting Inclusive Education. Geneva: IBE-UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000243279?posInSet=26&queryId=583170d7-cb0d-430f-bc8e-c0ced5165649

IIEP-UNESCO Learning Portal. 2018c. Brief 3: Effective and appropriate pedagogy. Accessed 1 April 2018: https://learningportal.iiep.unesco.org/en/issue-briefs/improve-learning/teachers-and-pedagogy/effective-and-appropriate-pedagogy

Inclusive Schools Network. 2015. Together We Learn Better: Inclusive Schools Benefit All Children. Accessed 23 August 2019: https://inclusiveschools.org/together-we-learn-better-inclusive-schools-benefit-all-children/

Milsom, A. 2006. ‘Creating Positive School Experiences for Students with Disabilities’. In: Professional School Counseling Journal, 10(1), 66-72. Retrieved from: https://www.readingrockets.org/article/creating-positive-school-experiences-students-disabilities

Save the Children. 2016. Inclusive Education: What, Why, and How – A Handbook for Program Implementers.  London: Save the Children. Retrieved from: https://www.savethechildren.it/sites/default/files/files/uploads/pubblicazioni/inclusive-education-what-why-and-how.pdf

UNESCO. 2017a. A guide for ensuring inclusion and equity in education. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002482/248254e.pdf

A safe and positive school climate

Research shows that children with disabilities are highly vulnerable to many forms of violence. Fear of bullying and violence is also highly prevalent among them. The World Health Organization highlights that ‘Children with disabilities may prefer to attend special schools, because of the fear of stigma or bullying in mainstream schools’ (WHO, 2011: 216).

In order for children with disabilities to access and actively participate and learn in schools, it is essential to provide a safe school climate where all children, including children with disabilities, are welcomed and where specific school-based interventions, supported by national-level policies, address school-related violence and bullying against children with disabilities (Devries et al., 2014; Banks et al., 2017).

*For specific policy recommendations consult Policy page School-related violence

References
Banks, L.M.; Kelly, S.A.; Kyegombe, N.; Kuper, H.; Devries, K. 2017. ‘“If he could speak, he would be able to point out who does those things to him”: Experiences of violence and access to child protection among children with disabilities in Uganda and Malawi’. In: PLoS ONE, 12(9). Retrieved from:  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0183736

Devries, K. M.; Kyegombe, N.; Zuurmond, M.; Parkes, J.; Child, J.C.; Walakira, E.J.; Naker, D. 2014. ‘Violence against primary school children with disabilities in Uganda: a cross-sectional study’. In: BMC Public Health, No. 14, p. 1017. Retrieved from: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/14/1017

WHO (World Health Organization). 2011. ‘Chapter 7 Education’. In: World Report on Disability (pp. 203-232). Malta: WHO. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/report.pdf.

Policies for displaced populations

Schools must enhance student learning, development, and well-being by providing a supportive, healthy, and safe environment. All students and educators should feel respected and welcomed, and meaningful interpersonal relationships must be fostered. To reduce inequities and enable students to thrive, the school climate must promote inclusion, as well as the social and emotional development of all.

To improve the school climate for displaced students, the policy recommendations addressed in this section are a complement to those mentioned in the general section of the present Policy page.

Promising policy options

Fostering an inclusive and welcoming school climate

Enhancing schools’ climate for displaced children goes hand-in-hand with broader institutional reforms aimed at developing an inclusive and equitable formal education system. Legal and policy frameworks must be geared towards respecting, protecting, and fulfiling the right to education of all, regardless of nationality or legal status (UNCHR, UNICEF and IOM, 2019). Indeed, as expressed by the Incheon Declaration (paragraph 11) and Education 2030 Framework for Action (paragraph 57), SDG4 will not be achieved unless the needs of displaced populations –and other marginalised populations– are met (GEM Report Team and UNHCR, 2016; UNESCO, 2016).

The schools’ climate and social ethos should reflect a common vision in which all children must be provided with the opportunity to attend school, participate, and learn (Save the Children, 2018). All school members must demonstrate a commitment to respect and value diversity, and must ensure that everyone feels welcomed (UNESCO, 2018). This ‘can create a sense of security and belonging’, which is essential for displaced children, who in many cases have suffered traumatic experiences (Cerna, 2019).

School heads must foster a positive school climate (Cerna, 2019). They can do so by ‘providing instructional leadership, setting a climate of high expectations, and mobilizing resources’ (Lockheed and Verspoor, 1991:43-44, as cited in UNHCR, 2001: 96). With the support of the school community, school heads can implement various strategies to ensure all children feel appreciated, such as (Save the Children, 2018, UNESCO, 2019):

  • Organising welcoming events and welcome packs;
  • preparing welcoming posters in displaced population’s native languages and displaying them around school grounds;
  • promoting inspiring portraits of refugee students within the school and the wider community;
  • encouraging displaced populations to speak in school events and share their experiences;
  • fostering discussions about displaced children’s and host community’s culture, music and traditions, among others;
  • embracing diversity through various mediums, such as art.

All of these strategies must aim to ensure everyone feels welcomed in school, but also foster the school’s social cohesion (Dryden-Peterson, 2015). For instance, in Victoria, Australia, to boost social cohesion and ensure that displaced students adapt to the school, various strategies have been implemented, such as the creation of ‘Refugee well-being committees’ (UNESCO, 2019: 5). The different actions employed must not lead towards isolating, stigmatising or singling displaced populations out –rather they must be ‘seen as a part of the multicultural fabric of schools’ (Arnot and Pinson, 2005 as cited in Cerna, 2019: 30).

Educational stakeholders must be engaged in addressing any issue of exclusion, discrimination, xenophobia, prejudice, and stereotype towards displaced children and communities (Dryden-Person et al., 2018; Caarls et al., 2021). It is essential to provide all relevant stakeholders with training opportunities to learn to recognise those issues and strategies to address them (for strategies on how to address implicit and explicit biases, consult Policy page Teacher behaviour). All school stakeholders must understand that those issues not only affect the school’s social cohesion, but also have deep repercussions on displaced populations’ feeling of belonging, wellbeing, and learning outcomes (UNCHR, UNICEF and IOM, 2019).

References
Caarls, K.; Cebotari, V.; Karamperidou, D.; Alban Conto, M.C.; Zapata, J.; Zhou, R.Y. 2021. Lifting Barriers to Education. Improving Education Outcomes for Migrant and Refugee Children in Latin America and the Caribbean. Florence: UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/Lifting-Barriers-to-Education-Improving-Education-Outcomes-for-Migrant-and-Refugee-Children-in-LAC.pdf

Cerna, L. 2019. Refugee Education: Integration Models and Practices in OECD Countries. OECD Education Working Paper No. 203. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Retrieved from: https://www.oecd.org/officialdocuments/publicdisplaydocumentpdf/?cote=EDU/WKP(2019)11&docLanguage=En

Dryden-Peterson, S.; Adelman, E.; Alvarado, S.; Anderson, K.; Bellino, M.J.; Brooks, R.; Shah Bukari, S.U.; Cao, E.; Chopra, V.; Faizi, Z.; Gulla, B.; Maarouf, D.; Reddick, C.; Scherrer, B.; Smoake, E.; Suzuki, E. 2018. Inclusion of refugees in national education systems. Background paper prepared for the 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000266054

Global Education Monitoring Report Team; UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). 2016. Policy Paper 26: No more excuses: provide education to all forcibly displaced people. Paris: UNSECO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000244847

Save the Children. 2018. Safe and Enabling Elementary Education Environment for Refugee and Asylum Seeking Pupils. Research Summary. Belgrade: Save the Children North West Balkans. Retrieved from: https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net/pdf/safe_and_enabling_school_environment_for_refugee_and_asylum_seeking_children_in_serbia_research_summary_web.pdf/

UNCHR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees); UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund); IOM (International Organization for Migration). 2019. Access to Education for Refugee and Migrant Children in Europe. Retrieved from: https://www.iom.int/sites/g/files/tmzbdl486/files/press_release/file/access-to-education-for-refugee-children.pdf

UNESCO. 2016. Education 2030: Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. ED-2016/WS/28. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000245656

UNESCO. 2018. Global Education Monitoring Report 2019: Migration, Displacement and Education – Building Bridges, not Walls. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000265866

UNESCO. 2019. Education as healing: Addressing the trauma of displacement through social and emotional learning. Policy Paper 38. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000367812

UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees). 2001. Learning for a Future: Refugee Education in Developing Countries. Retrieved from: https://www.unhcr.org/4a1d5ba36.pdf

Positive relationships

Research has highlighted that fostering positive interpersonal relationships is crucial to ensuring displaced population’s wellbeing and sense of belonging (Cerna, 2019). Displaced students must be supported in building friendships with people from the same ethnic or cultural backgrounds as well as with members of the host community (Cerna, 2019). Making friends ‘across ethnic groups is challenging’ particularly in schools with a ‘lack of structures…to support making friends’, among others (Wilson-Forsberg, 2012, as cited in Cerna, 2019: 30). Schools must devise different strategies to promote friendship-building inside and outside school grounds. For example, in New Brunswick, Canada, a programme known as ‘Lunch with a Bunch’ has been established so that new students and host community students gather once a week to have lunch outside the school (OECD, 2018 as cited in OECD, 2019). This initiative aims to foster long-lasting relationships among students (OECD, 2018 as cited in OECD, 2019). (For information on other initiatives of this kind please consult the general section of the present Policy page).

Building better teacher-student relationships is also essential. Indeed, ‘teachers can play an important role in strengthening feelings of connectedness to schools, creating encouraging and inclusive classroom environments because they can respond to the students’ needs for education, belonging and safety’ (Cerna, 2019: 30). To do so, teachers must be well prepared as well as interested in getting to know and understand displaced students’ backgrounds, culture, and language, among others (Cerna, 2019; UNESCO, 2019). They must enhance students’ sense of ‘stability and predictability’ which is necessary for ‘affected students to build positive relationships’ (UNESCO, 2019: 5), as well as hold the same kind of expectations and attitudes towards all students (Cerna, 2019). It is key to keep in mind that for all of this to be possible, teachers must be provided with adequate support and training.

References
Cerna, L. 2019. Refugee Education: Integration Models and Practices in OECD Countries. OECD Education Working Paper No. 203. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Retrieved from: https://www.oecd.org/officialdocuments/publicdisplaydocumentpdf/?cote=EDU/WKP(2019)11&docLanguage=En

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). 2019. ‘Chapter 4. Address the unique needs of refugee students’. In: The Road to Integration: Education and Migration, OECD Reviews of Migrant Education. Paris: OECD Publishing. Retrieved from: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/13fbd649-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/13fbd649-en

UNESCO. 2019. Education as healing: Addressing the trauma of displacement through social and emotional learning. Policy Paper 38. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000367812

Ensure students’ well-being

A positive school environment should guarantee students’ welfare, in particular, they must ‘feel cared for, supported, engaged and stimulated’ (UNESCO, 2019: 5). This is essential to help them manage their trauma, as well as ease their learning processes (UNESCO, 2019). This can be done by providing the necessary context-based, inclusive and culturally-responsive psychosocial interventions as well as social and emotional learning (SEL) programmes (UNHCR, 2001; UNESCO, 2019).

Research shows that school’s SEL and psychosocial interventions can help displaced students ’build self-confidence, resilience and emotional regulation skills’ (Betancourt et al., 2013 as cited in UNESCO, 2019: 2). Various SEL programmes can be established for this purpose, including ‘those based on creative expression through art, music or drama’ (UNESCO, 2018). Regardless of the medium, SEL programmes must help students gain skills ‘related to self-awareness, self‑management, social awareness, relationship building and responsible decision-making, all areas that can be particularly damaged by the uncertainty and dangers of migration or displacement’ (INEE, 2016 as cited in UNESCO, 2019: 4). Psychosocial support must also be provided by specialists, this can be done for instance through ‘cognitive behavioural therapy’ (UNESCO, 2018: 72).

*This sub-section was focused on students, yet teachers’ well-being is also essential. For information on how to promote it consult the general section of the present Policy page.

To explore further

To learn more about the different levels of interventions to address students’ traumatic experiences consult (pages 4-5):

References
UNESCO. 2019. Education as healing: Addressing the trauma of displacement through social and emotional learning. Policy Paper 38. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000367812
References
Falk, D.; Frisoli, P.; Varni, E. 2021. ‘The importance of teacher well-being for student mental health and resilient education systems’. In: Mental Health and psychosocial support, FMR Review 66. Retrieved from: https://www.fmreview.org/sites/fmr/files/FMRdownloads/en/issue66/falk-

Save the Children. 2020. INTERNAL DISPLACEMENT and CHILDREN. Submission to the High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement by Save the Children. Retrieved from: https://www.un.org/internal-displacement-panel/sites/www.un.org.internal-displacement-panel/files/published_save_the_children_submission.pdf

The World Bank; UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). 2021. The Global Cost of Inclusive Refugee Education. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank. Retrieved from: https://thedocs.worldbank.org/en/doc/660941614188209887-0090022021/original/2020GlobalCostInclusiveRefugeeweb.pdf

UNESCO. 2018. Global Education Monitoring Report 2019: Migration, Displacement and Education – Building Bridges, not Walls. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000265866

UNESCO. 2019. Education as healing: Addressing the trauma of displacement through social and emotional learning. Policy Paper 38. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000367812

UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees). 2001. Learning for a Future: Refugee Education in Developing Countries. Retrieved from: https://www.unhcr.org/4a1d5ba36.pdf

UNICEF-IDMC (United Nations Children’s Fund- Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre). n.d. Equitable access to quality education for internally displaced children. Retrieved from: http://www.internal-displacement.org/sites/default/files/publications/documents/Education%20for%20Internally%20Displaced%20Children_web.pdf

Monitoring and evaluating school climate strategies

All of the previously mentioned school climate strategies must be monitored and evaluated to understand their real impact on teachers and students, and inform future policies.

*To learn more about how to monitor school climate, consult the general section of the present Policy page.

Policies for minority populations

A wide multitude of research has found significant effects of school climates on minorities’ learning achievements (Berkowitz, 2020; Dimitrova, Ferrer-Wreder, and Ahlen, 2018; Voight, 2013). To breach existing learning gaps, it is decisive to create safe and inclusive school environments, where all members feel welcomed, valued, and supported. To ensure school climate strategies are having the expected results, it is essential to monitor and evaluate minority populations’ perceptions regarding the school climate itself (Voight, 2013).

To improve schools’ climate for minority students, the policy recommendations addressed in this section are a complement to those mentioned in the general section of the present Policy page.

References
Berkowitz, R. 2020. ‘School Matters: The Contribution of Positive School Climate to Equal Educational Opportunities among Ethnocultural Minority Students’. In: Youth & Society. Retrieved from: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0044118X20970235

Dimitrova, R.; Ferrer-Wreder, L.; Ahlen, J. 2018. ‘School Climate, Academic Achievement and Educational Aspirations in Roma Minority and Bulgarian Majority Adolescents’. In: Child Youth Care Forum, 47(5), pp. 645-658. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10566-018-9451-4

Voight, A. 2013. The Racial School-Climate Gap. A report from the Region IX Equity Assistance Center at WestEd. San Francisco: WestEd. Retrieved from: https://www.wested.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/138134503120131001_Racial_School_Climate_Gap_Synopsis-3.pdf

Promising policy options

Provide a safe and inclusive environment that enables learners from minority ethnic groups to flourish

A culturally responsive, inclusive school climate must ensure all school members feel welcomed, understood, and respected (Center for Urban Education, n.d.; Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey, 2018). Fostering cultural pluralism in schools is indispensable to ensure everyone’s sense of value, appreciation, and belonging (Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey, 2018). Cultural pluralism is ‘based on an appreciation for and encouragement of cultural diversity through simultaneously acknowledging cultural differences, promoting cross-cultural relationships, and encouraging the maintenance of the unique cultural identities of groups of students’ (Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey, 2018:21). Research shows that cultural pluralism in schools ‘may mitigate many of the educational issues faced by students of color by helping improve their overall school climate perceptions’ (Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey, 2018:21).

Diversity, tolerance, and ‘racial equity’ must be enshrined in all school climate policies and measures (Lea et al., 2021; Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey, 2018). School resources must reflect the diversity of the school and the community. The curriculum, teaching and learning materials, and classroom practices must value students’ cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity. School messages must acknowledge different beliefs, customs, practices, and identities. Those strategies must be put in place with the support of all relevant stakeholders, such as school staff, teachers, students, families and community members (Center for Urban Education, n.d.). School climate measures should be complemented by open, honest, and respectful discussions about cultural, ethnic, religious differences on school grounds, with the support of school heads (Association of California School Administrators, n.d.).

To ensure an inclusive school climate, all issues of discrimination, prejudice and stereotypes must be addressed as a matter of priority (Center for Urban Education, n.d). Indeed, ‘no school can expect to have a positive, inclusive environment when subgroups feel threatened, marginalized, or ignored altogether’ (Austin, O’ Malley and Izu, 2011: 13). In particular, when it comes to minorities, many suffer discriminatory practices not only on school grounds but also in the society at large. Many of them feel ‘social identity threats’, such as the ‘stereotype threat’ that ‘occurs when one fears being judged in terms of a group-based stereotype.’ (Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey, 2018: 19). Identity threats produce significant physiological effects, such as high-stress levels, the release of adrenaline and cortisol, depression and anxiety, among many others, undermining students’ learning experience and their sense of safety and belonging (Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey, 2018). Thus, schools must not only address any discriminatory practices but also put in place affirmative actions to ensure that all populations, particularly minorities, feel safe, understood, and valued.

If you wish to learn more about specific strategies to address implicit and explicit biases, consult Policy page Teacher behaviour.

References
Association of California School Administrators. n.d. School Climate and Implicit Bias. Accessed 31 January 2022: https://content.acsa.org/school-climate-and-implicit-bias/

Austin, G.; O’Malley, M.; Izu, J. 2011. Making Sense of School Climate: Using the California School Climate, Health, and Learning (Cal–SCHLS) Survey System to Inform Your School Improvement Efforts. Los Alamitos: WestEd. Retrieved from: https://data.calschls.org/resources/S3_schoolclimateguidebook_final.pdf

Center for Urban Education. n.d. Strategy 6. Foster Positive School Racial Climate. Accessed 31 January 2022: https://cehs.csuohio.edu/cue/strategy%206

Darling-Hammond, L.; Cook-Harvey, C.M. 2018. Educating the Whole Child: Improving School Climate to Support Student Success. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved from: https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/educating-whole-child

Lea, C.H.; Jones, T.M.; Malorni, A.; Herrenkohl, T.I.; Beaver, J.K. 2021. ‘Centering racial equity in measures of school climate: Perspectives of racial and ethnic minoritized students’. In: Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research. Retrieved from: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/713474

Positive relationships

Research has highlighted that promoting positive, cultural-responsive interpersonal relationships is key to ensure minority populations’ sense of belonging within schools (Center for Urban Education, n.d.). Thus, peer-to-peer and teacher-student relationships must be promoted.

Minority students must be supported in building intercultural, ‘cross-racial’, intergroup friendships (Center for Urban Education, n.d.; Youth-Nex, n.d.). Structures must be in place to support meaningful interactions among students and help them make friends across different ethnic or cultural groups. Different strategies to promote friendship-building must be developed inside and outside school grounds (for strategies consult the general section of the present Policy page).

Research has shown that culturally-responsive and caring teacher-student interactions are essential not only to foster a positive school climate but also to enhance minority students’ learning achievements (Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey, 2018; Voight, 2013; Austin, O’ Malley and Izu, 2011). Indeed, a study conducted by Smith, Atkins and Connell (2003) found that students ‘who expe¬rienced higher levels of racial-ethnic trust with teachers and per¬ceived fewer barriers due to race and ethnicity also show more trust and optimism, and higher academic performance’ (as cited in Austin, O’ Malley and Izu, 2011: 13).

Teacher-student relationships must be marked by fairness, warmth, acceptance, equity, respect, and support (Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey, 2018; Austin, O’ Malley and Izu, 2011). All teachers must have high expectations for all students and this must be actively communicated to all students (Brown and Medway, 2007; Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey, 2018). Research illustrates that teachers’ perceptions and beliefs regarding students have significant effects on students’ academic outcomes. For example, studies show that ‘some teachers attribute inaccurate characterizations of academic ability and behavior to students based on race and ethnicity, and may have lower expectations of Black and Latinx students and interact with them less positively than with White students.’ (Kaplan, Gheen and Midgley, 2002 and Tenenbaum and Ruck, 2007 as cited in Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey, 2018: 19). Thus, teachers must support all students, use affirmations in the classroom, and implement culturally-responsive teaching practices to guarantee all students feel valued, enhance their self-trust, and ensure their success (Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey, 2018; Austin, O’ Malley and Izu, 2011; Douglas, 2019).

References
Austin, G.; O’Malley, M.; Izu, J. 2011. Making Sense of School Climate: Using the California School Climate, Health, and Learning (Cal–SCHLS) Survey System to Inform Your School Improvement Efforts. Los Alamitos: WestEd. Retrieved from: https://data.calschls.org/resources/S3_schoolclimateguidebook_final.pdf

Brown, K.E.; Medway, F. J. 2007. ‘School climate and teacher beliefs in a school effectively serving poor South Carolina (USA) African-American students: A case study’. In: Teaching and Teacher Education 23, pp. 529-540. Retrieved from: https://home.csulb.edu/~arezaei/EDP520/Brown.pdf

Center for Urban Education. n.d. Strategy 6. Foster Positive School Racial Climate. Accessed 31 January 2022: https://cehs.csuohio.edu/cue/strategy%206

Darling-Hammond, L.; Cook-Harvey, C.M. 2018. Educating the Whole Child: Improving School Climate to Support Student Success. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved from: https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/educating-whole-child

Douglas, S. 2019. Creating an inclusive school environment. London: British Council. Retrieved from: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/sites/teacheng/files/J157_Creating%20an%20inclusive%20school%20environment%20report_FINAL_web.pdf

Voight, A. 2013. The Racial School-Climate Gap. A report from the Region IX Equity Assistance Center at WestEd. San Francisco: WestEd. Retrieved from: https://www.wested.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/138134503120131001_Racial_School_Climate_Gap_Synopsis-3.pdf

Youth-Nex. n.d. ‘School Climate & Culture – Facilitation Guide’. In: Remaking Middle School Learning Series. Charlottesville, VA: The University of Virginia Center to Promote Effective Youth Development. Retrieved from: https://education.virginia.edu/sites/default/files/files/Youth_Nex_files/School%20Climate%20and%20Culture_Facilitation%20Guide.pdf

Monitoring minority students’ perception of school climate

As expressed in the general section of the present Policy page, monitoring minority students’ perceptions of the school climate is indispensable (Reginal, 2021; Lea et al., 2021; Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey, 2018; Dimitrova, Ferrer-Wreder, and Ahlen, 2018; Youth-Nex, n.d.; Center for Urban Education, n.d.). Research has found gaps in the perception of school climate depending on the student’s identity (Reginal, 2021). For example, in the United States ‘Black and Hispanic students often report that their schools’ climates are less positive than do their white and Asian counterparts’ (Reginal, 2021: 1). This evidence has also been found in general school climate ratings; schools that serve a majority of White and Asian students have higher positive school climate rates than schools serving a majority of African American and Latinx students (Voight, 2013). It also extends to teachers, indeed a study found that ‘[i]rrespective of the racial demographics of their school’s student body, White and Asian staff were more likely than African American and Hispanic staff to report that their school provided a positive, supportive, and safe learning environment for students’ (Voight, 2013: 4).

To guarantee that everyone can experience a positive school climate, it is key to understand what that means and entails for all, in particular for minority students who are usually the most affected populations (Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey, 2018). Schools must be supported to regularly collect data on the perceptions of different ethnic, cultural, racial and religious groups (Voight, 2013; Reginal, 2021). Measuring tools must integrate minority students’ optics to ensure it adequately capture their perceptions (Voight, 2013; Reginal, 2021). This can be done with cognitive interviews, for instance (Lea et al., 2021).

Data can be collected through surveys and interviews where comprehensive qualitative information is gathered (Reginal, 2021). School climate data must be ‘disaggregated, cross-tabulated, accurate, timely, and broadly and publicly available without personally identifiable information’ (The Leadership Conference Education Fund, 2019: 4). Decision-makers must keep in mind that divergences in school climate perception are the reflection of students’ experiences (Lea et al., 2021). Data must bring to light aspects in which minority students experience school climate differently, in particular, highlight the ‘factors that influence (in)equitable school climate outcomes and experiences, especially for REM [racial/ethnic minoritized] students’ (Lea et al., 2021: 5).

Monitoring data should be used within the schools, as well as at a local and national level, to inform policies and strategies supporting the development of a positive, culturally responsive, and equitable school climate (Lea et al., 2021; Youth-Nex, n.d.). Relevant educational stakeholders, and in particular school community members, must be involved throughout the process and have access to monitoring data and evaluations to ensure that measures meant to improve school climate are implemented in practice (The Leadership Conference Education Fund, 2019; Lea et al., 2021).

References
Center for Urban Education. n.d. Strategy 6. Foster Positive School Racial Climate. Accessed 31 January 2022: https://cehs.csuohio.edu/cue/strategy%206

Darling-Hammond, L.; Cook-Harvey, C.M. 2018. Educating the Whole Child: Improving School Climate to Support Student Success. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved from: https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/educating-whole-child

Dimitrova, R.; Ferrer-Wreder, L.; Ahlen, J. 2018. ‘School Climate, Academic Achievement and Educational Aspirations in Roma Minority and Bulgarian Majority Adolescents’. In: Child Youth Care Forum, 47(5), pp. 645-658. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10566-018-9451-4

Lea, C.H.; Jones, T.M.; Malorni, A.; Herrenkohl, T.I.; Beaver, J.K. 2021. ‘Centering racial equity in measures of school climate: Perspectives of racial and ethnic minoritized students’. In: Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research. Retrieved from: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/713474

Reginal, T. 2021. Providing Better Support to Students of Color: The Importance of School Climate, Belonging, and Well-Being. Washington: Urban Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/103465/providing-better-support-to-students-of-color_0.pdf

The Leadership Conference Education Fund. 2019. Civil Rights Principles for Safe, Healthy, and Inclusive School Climates. Washington: The Leadership Conference Education Fund. Retrieved from: http://civilrightsdocs.info/pdf/education/School-Climate-Principles.pdf

Voight, A. 2013. The Racial School-Climate Gap. A report from the Region IX Equity Assistance Center at WestEd. San Francisco: WestEd. Retrieved from: https://www.wested.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/138134503120131001_Racial_School_Climate_Gap_Synopsis-3.pdf

Updated on 2022-07-01

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