Observing the International Day of Tolerance


The 16th of November marks a special day in the calendar – it’s the day that the United Nations have declared to be the International Day for Tolerance. UNESCO wants to generate public awareness about the dangers of intolerance in all its forms.  

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that 'Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion' and also 'of opinion and expression', and that education 'should promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups'. The United Nations have also noted that education is the most effective means of preventing intolerance so it does seem to be a perfect occasion to set aside some classroom time to raise awareness of what tolerance is and why respecting the rights of others is important. For young people, learning to work with and tolerate others is a key life skill that will help them while at school and later in life.

There are many ways of approaching this topic and we’ve put forward the following ideas to help primary and secondary school teachers plan activities during the school day relevant to the theme of tolerance.

  • Explain the concept of tolerance to your class. Give examples of intolerance and why such behaviour is wrong.
  • Talk to your pupils about why having a tolerant attitude is important, how it can help them become better people and how it benefits society as a whole.
  • Initiate a class discussion about the value of differences. Ask them to write about people who are in some way different from them and why differences should be celebrate.
  • Ask them to sing songs about the subject. You could suggest Imagine by John Lennon or Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson. Can your pupils think of any other songs?

Devoting class time to teaching future generations the importance of being a good citizen is something that will benefit society generally and will help create a more tolerant world in the future. What could be a better aspiration for any dedicated teacher?