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Let’s celebrate education’s power to spread tolerance

On the eve of International Day for Tolerance, celebrated on November 16, we highlight evidence for education’s unique ability to boost tolerance and reduce discrimination.

One of the fundamental roles that education plays is to increase tolerance. Tolerance, in turn, underpins democracy and strengthens the bonds that hold peaceful communities and societies together.

Education’s contribution is especially vital in regions and countries where lack of tolerance is associated with violence and conflict. And the more equal the education, the greater its power to increase tolerance. As we show on our Education Transforms website, in sub-Saharan Africa the risk of conflict in the areas with the highest education inequality is almost double that of the areas that have the lowest education inequality.

The human toll of intolerance can be catastrophic. UNESCO pushed for the establishment of International Day for Tolerance in 1995, a year after more than half a million people were killed in the genocide in Rwanda. On November 16, 1995, the 50th anniversary of the signature of UNESCO’s constitution, UNESCO’s 185 member states adopted a Declaration of Principles on Tolerance, whose Article 4 begins: “Education is the most effective means of preventing intolerance.”

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Secondary education plays a particularly powerful role in increasing people’s tolerance towards those from other social groups. In Latin America, for example, those with a secondary education are 47% more likely to express tolerance to those of a different race than those who have only reached primary school; and in the Arab States, those with secondary education are 34% more likely to express tolerance to those speaking a different language. We have captured this impact in an infographic for our Education Transforms booklet.

Lack of tolerance rebounds on education: it leads to discrimination that keeps some children out of school, including those from minority ethnic, linguistic and religious groups. The EFA Global Monitoring Report’s World Inequality Database on Education shows how disparities in education affect ethnic and religious minorities. In Nigeria, for example, the proportion of those aged 7 to 16 who had never been to school was 27% on average but 72% among the Fulani ethnic group. In Thailand, 1% of the Thai have never been to school, but this goes up to 55% among the Myanmar minority (2008 figures).

Intolerance towards the needs of children with disabilities and with HIV means their access to education is often restricted. In Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania, having disabilities doubles the probability of children never having attended school. In India, 58% of women and 43% of men from households not affected by HIV and AIDS would not send their children to a school with an HIV-positive child.

To tap education’s power to boost tolerance, it is vital that policy-makers commit to building more inclusive schools, recruiting and training teachers from disadvantaged groups, facilitating learning in indigenous languages, and ensuring universal secondary schooling.



  1. Education is a very powerful medium indeed. The ability to make people understand without using any kind of forcefulness is what education does. It can be used to propagate tolerance, consideration and several such things on a large basis.

  2. Education is very important – no doubt – but aren’t we sometimes expressing intolerance for the ones of ‘lesser education’? I support that people will be challenges with views different from their own, new theories and experiences (my basic idea of education). But we must also tolerate those less tolerant if we want to make the world a more peaceful place. We don’t have to agree to some judgemental opinions but to be open to people of all kinds of background does not mean to enforce them to become like yourself.

  3. Our school is a well to do school and our students come from wealthy homes that in most cases show segregation and intolerance. We have decided to create an eLearning platform where we post all our classroom work and engage the students to pick their holiday work from this website.
    It is a free resource open to anyone who has internet. Our ability to share with the other students who did not get chance to come to our school is the first step in teaching our students and parents about the need to share and love all the other people as you love your self. Our students contribute video productions of the subject content they know very well and this is also another step towards providing for any other student out there even when you do not know them. Please visit our site at
    Teaching tolerance to the rich or middle class in Uganda is going to be a real battle because some people and richly rich and we have to innovate strategies. We believe this is one of them.

  4. Education should be taken seriously,because it’s the Key to the Future Generation and it’s the number one teacher that enables us to develope our Nations and our lives. Though we are in or having PEACE, we and all Organisations we should respect and take Education Seriously.

  5. This is very good blog which is very help for the young generation especially for the student. Student can gather huge knowledge about education which is very much essential for their student life. Education should be necessary for any kind of nation to live comfortably and establishing yourself in life. The more information will be available about education in this link

  6. Right now I am working on my thesis and tracing the roots of intolerance in Pakistan with special reference of education all four reasons are present in Pakistan different ethnic groups are further divided due to diarchy in education system, wrong interpretation of religion and History paved the way for further disaster.

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