Fighting bullying at school: the Finnish example

How to recognize the faint signs of bullying at school? How do you avoid the packet effects that continue to occur online? How can we put an end to this and support the victims? Teen suicides – like Dinah’s in Mulhouse (Haut-Rhin department) at the beginning of October – are a regular reminder of the devastating consequences of this phenomenon. One in ten students is a victim of bullying at school every year. Or between 800,000 and 1 million. The estimate has hardly changed since the topic was introduced through public education around ten years ago.

The authorities can no longer turn a blind eye to the tragedies that regularly strike the educational institution. Two parliamentary reports have taken up the issue in one year, and Brigitte Macron has made it one of her major concerns. Since the beginning of the school year, the Ministry of Education has been implementing a national program called Phare (Program to Combat Bullying at School). And although symbolic actions are increasing, such as the National Day Against School Bullying on Thursday November 18th, the means of action are still not very efficient. “The consciousness is new. France has fallen behind its European counterparts in the fight against this scourge.”notes Jean-Pierre Bellon, professor of philosophy and one of Phare’s designers.

In order to be inspired by a pioneering country, State Secretary for Priority Education Nathalie Elimas visited Finland at the beginning of November. Since 2003, every institution has been required by Finnish law to adopt a strategy in this area. The KiVa program developed by the University of Turku has been based on this commitment since 2006. Nine out of ten schools adopted it before it became chargeable five years ago. It is now used by half of Finnish schools and exported to around twenty countries, from New Zealand to Italy.

Continuous efficiency assessment

This method is based primarily on prevention. “The goal is not to transform the student victims to make them less vulnerable or to directly target the attackers, but rather to change the context so that the group’s new behaviors discourage the harassers.”, emphasizes Christina Salmivalli, researcher and designer of the program. Students receive ten hours of instruction per year in classes equivalent to CP, CM1, and middle school. It’s first about working on emotions and your place in the group before talking specifically about harassment.

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