From Countering to Preventing Radicalization Through Education: Limits and Opportunities
In recent years, Western societies in particular are witnessing an unprecedented emphasis on the need to find sustainable and effective strategies to tackle radicalization. This has led to an increase of interventions within the framework of education. Studies have shown that the relationship between education and radicalization is ambivalent, and there is no evidence that access to education may decrease the risk of radicalization. The limited understanding of radicalization processes has so far led to ineffective and even detrimental policies.
This paper contributes to the current policy debate by shedding light on the advantages and limitations of formal education as a platform for preventing radicalization.
Interventions mainly at the level of secondary and higher education have primarily sought to identify early signs of radicalization and to target vulnerable individuals, who often belong to the same religious or ethnic groups. These approaches have weakened social cohesion by demonizing certain communities and underscoring stereotypes.
Relying on evidence identified by research in the fields of education and peacebuilding, the paper argues that schools should be a forum in which values are questioned and openly discussed, in which critical thinking and the exchange of different ideas and perspectives are encouraged. Because education is paramount to shape values and behavior and to favor identity formation, this paper also advises shifting the focus of such preventive policies from secondary to primary education.