SAFER Curriculum


We educators and other professionals working in schools need more know-how and competence in tackling discrimination in its different forms. We must be able to recognise, manage and transform our classrooms and schools into safer spaces for all. What we are doing now unfortunately is not enough. To meet these timely development needs, we created a training course and a learning material, Tackling Discrimination, My Learning Diary, to be able to address the topic better and to support all professionals working in schools in their anti-discrimination work. The materials are freely available in English, Finnish and Swedish.

The material is based on an Erasmus+ project, Safe Schools for All: Teachers Transforming Societies. In the early stages of the project, it was given a new nickname, “SAFER”, which stands for Schools Act for Equal Rights. This is what we are aiming for – to build a safer school for all children and youth. 

The project was organized in cooperation with partners from Estonia, Slovenia and Finland: Peace Education Institute (main coordinator), Mondo, Noored Kooli, Ljubljana Pride, Kokkola city, Nove Fužine and Tamsalu schools. The learning material was built based on the pedagogical team’s (Tadeja Pirih, Eeva-Liisa Kiiskilä, Amiirah Salleh-Hoddin) insights on the project’s theme and the training courses held in 2019–2021. 

The participants consisted of different professions working in schools: teachers, administrative staff, school psychologists, school social workers, headmasters, etc. The content of the course and the learning material were created for the school environment but can be used in other contexts as well. The core of the thinking behind the material and the course is the importance of reflection combined with the knowledge learnt and applying this to the learner’s own context.

The curriculum of the course was modified to support the usage of the learning material (My Learning Diary) in future learning processes. The aim of this document is to make the learning goals as well as the methodological and pedagogical approaches transparent and easily oriented. This document also might help to assess whether this approach could be useful for different organisations or individuals to support their equality and equity work.

Triangle infographic demonstrating the 3-step changing process
Change process of recognising, managing, and transforming.

Learning Goals

The general aim of the SAFER project is to equip educators to tackle hate speech and discrimination in schools. This is done through more specific learning goals that are underlined by the 3-step change process of recognising, managing, and transforming:

As the topic of discrimination is a complex societal phenomenon, it is necessary for educators to understand the history and mechanisms behind discrimination and systems of oppression operating in their societies. The discrimination that we often read or hear about tends to be explicit cases that are interpersonal in nature. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Through having this knowledge of the history and mechanisms of different systems of oppression, as well reflections on our own role in these systems, it would be possible to recognise structural and institutional discrimination and inequalities that exist in their surroundings beyond the overt interpersonal instances.

There is no magic formula or simple checklist in dealing with instances of discrimination since it is always context-dependent. However, there are certain things that people can keep in mind when encountering such incidences. This includes a self-awareness of what they bring to the situation, identifying what was behind the discriminatory incident, as well as what they would like to achieve at that moment while considering the longer-term impact for change.

In order to bring about long-term and lasting change, it is necessary to move beyond recognising and managing individual instances of discrimination. A more proactive approach to transforming the operational culture of the working environment is needed to address the root causes of discriminatory incidents. Transformation is about planting seeds of equality and justice to replace the seeds of hate and letting them grow via the cumulative effect of the transformation processes and practices from the individual level to the workplace and to the larger society.


All discrimination is based on similar mechanisms, whatever the reason behind them is.   Discrimination has many forms and can arise from many kinds of backgrounds. To be able to tackle discrimination efficiently and effectively, all its forms must be processed in their context and history. We must support and work as an ally in all anti-discriminatory work whenever we can; this solidarity and cooperation advances all anti-discrimination work. At the same time, it is necessary to focus and make more specific research and actions. In this learning diary, we are concentrating on tackling racism and discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

The learning goals of the SAFER project are addressed through the following content that is divided into 5 main goals:

Tools for learning: how to approach your learning process in anti-discrimination topics.
Learning to understand the continuity of recognising, managing and changing mechanisms and possibilities when aiming for a change in the society.

Transforming societies to be more equal is not possible if people are not able to recognise the discriminatory elements. Managing is part of the process towards a safer learning environment, but it is not enough to enable the transformation of societies.
Also learning to recognise different feelings during your learning process. The idea of reflecting on your feelings and learning process through learning zones (comfort zone, learning zone, danger zone) supports the learning process and helps to handle and reflect on these feelings during the process.

Self-reflection is a significant part of the learning process. It is important to reflect on your thoughts, biases, the environment or society you live in, privileges, structures, and discriminatory factors in the working environment or society in general. The hypothesis is that you cannot properly be part of building a safer school environment if you have not reflected on your thoughts on various levels. Being aware of the norms, stereotypes, privileges or discriminatory factors in your environment is necessary for everybody and the learning material guides you in this process. This is where the creation of a safer learning environment starts with educators; recognising your models of thinking.

Defining, understanding and practising different concepts, building your vocabulary and understanding the importance of inclusive language and what this means in practice. Comparing different languages supports the process of recognising exclusive elements used in our language.

Deepening the knowledge about discrimination mechanisms, identity and intersectionality. The material concentrates on tackling racism and discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It is necessary to focus to be able to make more specific research and focus the actions properly.

  • Systems of oppression
  • PPP: Power, Privilege, Power
  • Social identities and categories
  • Racism
  • Intersectionality
  • Equality and equity

The material provides different aspects and ideas on how you can approach the process of transformation in the work on equality and equity. Good practices shared by training course participants are also introduced.

The main approaches are:

  • Feelings and needs
    Introducing and practising using the framework connecting feelings and needs that is based on non-violent communication theories.
  • Empathic listening
    Introducing the concept of empathic listening and practising empathic communication methods.
  • Safer spaces
    How to create, maintain and re-establish safer and inclusive learning spaces.
  • Solidarity and allyship
    Importance of solidarity and how to be a good and an active ally and understanding your privileged position.
  • Examples of good practices in schools.
  • Me and my identity
  • Challenges, strengths and resources in my work
  • Aspects to inclusive schools
  • Setting the goals on an individual and organisational level

Methodology: Learning Environment & Culture

To more effectively and efficiently go through the content, it is important for the learning culture to properly reflect the kind of safer learning environment that we wish to cultivate and foster. Throughout the SAFER training programme, various methods were used and trialled to learn more about their impacts on the learning processes.

These were our pedagogical choices in addressing the learning goals in the lead-up to the Learning Diary:

Having participants who occupied different roles in schools offered a more comprehensive perspective and a good starting point for using a cooperative multipronged framework in tackling discrimination in schools and in building more equal and safer school environments.

Acknowledging the different levels of knowledge and experiences amongst the different groups of participants, and that some of the topics covered might be new to most, one of the concepts that participants were first introduced to was the Learning Zone Model. It illustrates the experience of learning situations that everyone goes through and consists of the comfort zone, learning zone, and danger zone. The training programme had been designed to guide participants out of their comfort zone and into the learning zone. Outlining this at the beginning of the training programme is meant to assure participants that while some topics and discussions might make them uncomfortable, it is necessary to reflect on this discomfort and overcome it as a learning moment, and to trust the pedagogical trainers not to push participants into the danger zone where learning shuts down.

In order to have this trusting environment, participants also go through the process of group building and constructing a collective agreement on ways of interacting within the group. This is done through a shared discussion and understanding of what each person needs to be able to learn well, participate well, and feel respected in the group setting. This needs-based approach makes explicit and acknowledges the different ways people interact with others and receive information and ensures that each person feels safe and assured that their best learning interests are taken into consideration.

In relation to having a safe learning environment with participants’ abilities and interests taken into consideration, language was a variable component of the training. As this was an international project with participants from 3 different countries, the common working language was English. However, we recognised the importance to think through this topic and related issues in the participant’s own mother tongue and societal language in the 3 countries. This included Finnish, Swedish, Estonian, Russian, and Slovene. Therefore, opportunities for group discussions and reflections in these different languages were built into the programme during some of the exercises as well as during the group reflections at the end of each training day. For example, the participants were guided to reflect on their mother tongue to recognise elements of inclusive and/or exclusive language during the whole process. Comparing other languages to one’s own mother tongue gave a fruitful starting point for this recognition process.

Different exercises with various methods were used to meet the different learning needs and learning styles of the participants. This included lecture-style theory sessions, creative hands-on activities, as well as working in pairs, groups, and as individuals. The end of each session is always marked by a moment of group discussion and reflection on the activity they had just done. This is to see in what ways the learning element has been received by the participants, and if there was a need for follow-ups on the session/topic.

Individual and group reflections were a large component of the training programme. This is because in any learning process, being able to reflect on the learning material that had just been presented is key to the process of synthesising the information for ourselves. In addition, when it comes to anti-discrimination work as covered in the SAFER programme, one of the core elements of the learning process is to reflect on our own thoughts, biases, and the environment that we work in and the society that we live in. As educators, there is a need for constant self-reflection and first recognising our own thinking, privileges, and the unquestioned norms and discriminatory factors in our working environment and the larger society, in order to be able to build and provide a safer school and learning environment for our students and fellow educators.

Empty notebooks were provided to each participant to use as their personal learning diaries for the duration of the programme. It is used as a tool in the self-reflection process and to support the learning process of each individual and make visible the progression in their thinking and knowledge over time. Allowing for creativity in how they choose to personalise their notebooks also gave a sense of ownership of their own learning in the process.

As part of having ownership of their own learning and transformation processes, participants were also guided in making their own action plan at the end of the training programme. This personal action plan consisted of their personal goals for their continued learning and practical plans to promote anti-discrimination and inclusive practices in their working environment.

Another component of the SAFER training programme was the provision of a mentoring system. As the process of transforming the participants’ work, operational culture and the larger society is not always an easy task, having a support system to share struggles and learnings as well as to find common solutions is appreciated. This system can take form in multiple ways depending on what is most feasible in their context, taking into consideration the needs of the school/organisation: with mentors trained in the SAFER programme or through peer mentoring, and can take place at the national level or locally, or even just within one school.

Text by Amiirah Salleh-Hoddin & Eeva-Liisa Kiiskilä


The project was funded by Europe for Citizens Programme of the European Union. 

Animated Neu and Nor are standing on top of a colourful globe.