Education International
Education International

Ending homophobia in society begins in the classroom

published 17 May 2016 updated 23 May 2016

A new UNESCO report puts the focus on the protection of students’ mental health and wellbeing as crucial elements for quality teaching and learning environments to mark the International Day Against Homophobia.

The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) 2016 celebrated on 17 May highlights the fact that schools and other educational settings are supposed to be safe places where children and young people can learn free from threats and violence.

Violence at school

Yet the Out In The Open report, Education sector responses to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, reveals that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT-no data for intersex) students report a higher prevalence of violence at school than their non-LGBT peers.

The UNESCO report is to be launched at an International Ministerial Meeting at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, on 17-18 May.

It reveals how, in New Zealand, for example, lesbian, gay and bisexual students were three times more likely to be bullied than their heterosexual peers. In Norway, 15-48 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual students reported being bullied compared with seven per cent of heterosexual students.

Significant impact

According to studies reviewed for the Out In The Open report, homophobic and transphobic violence in educational settings has a significant impact on students’ education and employment prospects, with poorer academic performance and achievement. Victims often feel unsafe at school, avoid school activities, miss classes or drop out of school entirely. Victims of this violence are at increased risk of anxiety, depression, self-harm and even suicide.

Especially worrisome are the rates of violence directed at students who are, or are perceived to be, LGBTI, and others whose gender expression does not fit into binary gender norms, such as boys perceived as effeminate and girls perceived as masculine.

Role of education sector

The UNESCO report reiterates the responsibility of the education sector to provide safe learning environments which enable all children and young people access to education. The promise was made in 2015, at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit, where world leaders agreed to deliver inclusive, equitable and quality education for al l, and ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all by 2030.

No country will be able to meet this commitment however, while students are being discriminated against or experiencing violence because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, the report notes.

“The education sector should play a role in preventing and responding to the violence,” Out In The Open says, calling for a comprehensive approach, involving effective policies, relevant curricula and training materials, training and support for staff, and support for students, families and communities.


Out In The Open makes diverse recommendations for the education sector,to help fight hhomophobia and transphobia, such as : monitoring systematically the prevalence of violence in educational settings, including violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression; ensuring that curricula and learning materials are inclusive; providing training and support to teachers and other education and school staff to prevent and address violence in educational settings, including violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression; and ensuring safe school environments that are inclusive and provide support for students affected by violence, including violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, and their families.

You can read the summary report here

The full UNESCO Out In The Open report is available for download here

You can also find the RadioLabour show about IDAHOT 2016, featuring ways for educators to teach about the rights of LGBT people, here