January 28, 2023

Nearly one-third of adolescents do not feel safe at school

French teachers walk out over Covid confusion


Photo: © POOL/AFP Thomas Frey

Educational inequality is about the disparity of access to educational resources between different social groups. This extends to the environment within which learning takes place. In turn, this extends to security and safety, both as actual measures and the perception of these measures as perceived by students.

A large international study found that on average 31.4 percent of adolescents reported feeling unsafe at school, based on findings across thirteen European and Asian countries. The result revealed inequality in securing a safe educational environment for students, as well as diversity between different countries.

The research included 21,688 adolescents aged 13-15, based on self-administered surveys completed between 2011 and 2017. The survey was conducted in the following countries: Finland, Norway, Lithuania, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Japan, China, Singapore, Vietnam and Russia.

There were large variations across the countries on the question of safety. This ranged from 11.5 percent (Finland) to 69.8 percent (Japan) of girls; and from 7.7 percent (Norway) to 68.2 percent (Japan) of boys feeling unsafe.

The study further found that there were large variations between schools in many countries, indicating inequality in the educational environment within the country.

The qualitative side of the data revealed that students who felt that their teachers cared about them were more likely to feel safe at school, indicating the important role of teachers in shaping students’ emotional sense of safety at school. Fair, clear, and consistent school rules are very important in producing safety in schools, according to our previous review. On the other hand, when students experience bullying victimization, this was reflected in a lower sense of safety.

The result showed that feeling unsafe at school was associated with mental health problems, which may persist throughout life. The results highlight the need for school-based, anti-bullying interventions and mental health promotion.

According to Yuko Mori from the Research Centre for Child Psychiatry, the University of Turku: “The interventions should include preventive initiatives such as psychoeducation, and social-emotional learning programs to enhance positive interaction of children and reduce behavioural problems. The findings showed a clear need for strategies to provide educational environments where all students can feel protected, regardless of their background, states researcher.”

The list of countries with a percentage of adolescents feeling unsafe:

                        Girls                Boys

1 Finland         11.5%              8.9%

2 Norway        13.9%              7.7%

3 Israel             14.6%              14.2%

4 Greece          18.2%              24.2%

5 India             17.8%              26.3%

6 Iran               25.6%              34.3%

7 Indonesia     30.3%              30.2%

8 Lithuania      31.4%              35.4%

9 Singapore     35.4%              34.3%

10 China          48.8%              44.1%

11 Russia         54.7%              45.9%

12 Vietnam     49.6%              52.6%

13 Japan          69.8%              68.2%

The researchers are based at the University of Turku is an inspiring and international academic community of 25,000 students and staff in Southwest Finland.