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Education and

Public Safety

Key message

Investing in safe and inclusive schools promotes safer communities.


Schools can help disseminate information about safety while also creating safe environments for young people. Communities that invest in such schools tend to have less crime and violence and greater social cohesion. Building bridges between schools, community organisations and opportunities for young people can ensure a pipeline for positive civil, social and economic participation.
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Key challenges
  • Education in a child’s early years yields crime prevention benefits in their older years. Children who did not attend a government preschool programme in Chicago were 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by the age of 18
    (Lochner, 2011).
  • Education reduces crime and increases earnings. 
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  • Education creates a safer and more inclusive society. Better educated individuals are more trusting and tolerant of strangers and those they know
    (Borgonovi & Burns, 2015).
  • Education in a child’s early years yields crime prevention benefits in their older years. Children who did not attend a government preschool programme in Chicago were 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by the age of 18
    (Lochner, 2011).
  • Education reduces crime and increases earnings. A US study calculated that a 5 percentage point increase in male high school graduation rates would have nearly US$20 billion in total benefit to the US economy via reduced crime and higher earnings
    (DeBaun & Roc, 2013).
  • Equitable education reduces the likelihood of violent conflict. Greater education equality between male and female students decreases the likelihood of violent conflict by as much as 37%
    (FHI 360, 2015).
  • Unequal access to education seriously raises the probability of war. Unequal access to education doubles the possibility of conflict, after controlling for wealth, political regime, and geography
    Østby, 2008  FHI 360, 2015
  • Increased levels of education reduce a country’s risk of armed conflict. Each additional year of schooling decreases the chance of a young person engaging in violent conflict by 20%
    (GPE, 2015).
  • Government commitment to expanding education helps reduce the risk of conflict. Ensuring universal primary enrolment globally would decrease the probability of war by one-third. Increasing educational expenditure from 2.2% to 6.3% of GDP would decrease in the probability of civil war by more than half
    (Thyne, 2006).
  • Education reduces the likelihood of young people joining armed groups. Youth in Sierra Leone with no education were nine times as likely to join rebel groups as those with at least a secondary education
    (Humphreys & Weinstein, 2008).
  • The greater the number of young people enrolled in school, the less the probability of civil war. A 50% increase in secondary school enrolment would reduce the probability of civil war by almost two-thirds. If average male secondary school enrolment increased by 10%, the risk of war would decline by a quarter
    Thyne, 2006  Collier & Hoeffler, 2004
  • Education minimises the risk of imminent conflict. Regions in sub-Saharan Africa with a very low average education had a 50% probability of conflict within 21 years, while regions with a very high average education experienced the same probability within 346 years
    (Østby et al., 2009).
  • Schooling reduces most types of crime committed by adults and adolescents. In the UK, secondary school drop outs are three times more likely to commit crimes than those who stay in school. In Italy, more than 75% of convicted persons had not completed secondary school
    Lockner & Moretti, 2004  Belfield et al., 2006  Buonanno & Leonida, 2006
  • Early childhood development provides the base for violence prevention. Children who have received proper stimulation and care exhibit healthy biological stress systems, secure early attachment, and healthy socio-emotional and cognitive development, leading to decreased propensity to violence in their older years
    (Leckman et al., 2014).
  • Educating boys makes us safer. The higher a young man’s educational attainment, the less the probability they have participated in criminal behaviour, been involved in a physical altercation, or been imprisoned
    (ICRW, 2011).
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Key talking points
  • Education systems have the potential to engage in social transformation as agents of change. A peaceful society is characterised not only by freedom from violence but also by tolerance of diversity, in which education plays a key role.
  • When young people are provided education and opportunity, they are less likely to enter the criminal justice system.
  • Safe schools are an investment in strong, safer communities that promote opportunity and growth.
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