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Countering Violent Extremism through Education

Wed, April 17, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Bay (Level 1), Bayview B


The role of education in countering violent extremism (CVE) has gained increasing attention among policymakers and development practitioners in recent years. This reflects a broader shift among international development agencies to explore the role they might play in strengthening security and preventing terrorism. That said, attempts to establish a clear body of evidence and practice around education within Countering Violent Extremism programs (Ed-CVE) are largely absent, or in their early stages.

As Ed-CVE is a relatively new area of focus for development agencies, evidence on what works is limited. Nevertheless, USAID is considering the role education plays within contexts where children and youth are vulnerable to recruitment by violent extremist organizations. Drawing on UNESCO’s definitions and guidance for preventing violent extremism through education, USAID currently defines Ed-CVE Programs as those drawing on the potential for education – and education institutions – to foster a sense of individual and communal identity, to build resilience and skills to counter violent extremist narratives and ideology, and to change attitudes and behaviors towards violence. It encompasses the spectrum of CVE-relevant and CVE-specific education programming. Ed-CVE programs can cover a wide range of activities that seek to shape the teaching-learning environment, what is taught to students, and how it is taught to them – both within and outside of formal education. We theorize that based on a detailed analysis of the drivers of violent extremism and the two-way interaction between these drivers and the education system, education programs should build specific learning outcomes (e.g. critical thinking skills, tolerance) and target children and youth that are particularly vulnerable to recruitment. For example, in a context where youth are recruited using an ideology of social marginalization, economic marginalization and desire for respect, education programs have the potential to build young people’s sense of respect, self-efficacy and livelihood skills.

In this round table presentation, we will discuss a theory of change and pose specific questions to participants about how best to measure and operationalize findings. We will seek input and feedback on the specific knowledge and skills that children and youth need to be resilient to and counter violent extremist ideology and narratives. We will also seek feedback on the most important questions to answer in order to influence programming.