Report on “Gender Violence in School and Teachers Education” Conference. September 2002. Petrozavodsk. Russia.
by Tatiana Dyachenko


During socialization, an individual gets some certain social experience.  This experience, being subjectively learned, becomes an organic part of the personality and is actively repeated later.

A child’s socialization takes place in special institutions as well as in informal groups.  The most important institutions of socialization are family and school. Socialization can be purposeful and regulated as well as unregulated and spontaneous.

Upbringing and education are forms of socialization that are purposeful and regulated.  However, both in school and at home children learn not only the knowledge and norms declared by adults but also some concomitant socialization experience, which they see or go through themselves. (Реан 2000)

The Russian system of education and upbringing declares humanistic and democratic principles, but in reality shows the authoritarian, dominating approach to children, which is nothing but violence.  An authoritarian system is that which controls children’s behavior rigidly, requires them to submit to and carry out instructions of a teacher strictly, does not pay attention to children’s’ opinion, deprives them of their right to choose.  This system sets sometimes impossible norms and standards.

Psychological violence over children is a hidden phenomenon, which is not discussed in society and is supposed to be a normal thing.  It is not noticed by adults, but it is felt by children.  Violence is present in all the institutions of socialization: in the family, in kindergartens, and at school.

Looking at the system of education, one can say that there are two forms of violence:  formal and informal.  The formal one includes the contents of curriculums and school daily routine.  The informal one includes interpersonal relationships. (Дьяченко 2002)

The formal level was studied during a complex psychological and pedagogic study in Murmansk Region in 1996.  The study revealed that the average length of a senior student’s school day (including the time needed for homework) is 11.5 hours.  Very often this figure reaches 14 hours, and sometimes 16 hours.  And schoolchildren have only one day off.  Compare with it the fact that adults’ workday is 8 hours, and they have two days off.  27% of the interrogated do not have enough time and energy to do their homework.  44% of 8 to 11 graders answered the question “What hinders your learning?” saying “Too much work”. (Левитес 2002)

Under the Russian system of education, children have no free choice and no rights.  They cannot choose their curriculum or their teachers.  The only thing they can choose (that is, their parents) is their type of school program, their school, and teacher when they go to the first grade.  When parents have sent their child to school, they have no way to protect him or her from violence from the teacher’s side or to change the marking system or a number of classes.  The only thing they can do is to change their child’s school or class and teacher.  But as the system is the same everywhere, this can lead to no cardinal changes. 

Once at my psychology lesson I asked five-graders what rights and duties they had at school.  The list of duties was made very easily and included 19 points.  The list of rights hardly reached 5 points, among which was the right to free education.  A comparison of these two lists shows that the children were raised with the psychology of slaves that have mainly duties and almost no rights.  As we know from history, slaves, having reached power, do not become democrats; they become tyrants, starting yet another circle of violence.

Modern school programs, directed on early and accelerated intellectual development in elementary school, lead to physical and emotional overloading of children and are also an instrument of violence against them.  These programs are those by Zankov, Peterson, and others.  My studies in elementary school showed that children who learn by Zankov’s program have a higher level of anxiety, a lower level of self-estimation, a lower index of social adaptation and even intellect compared to those of children studying in esthetical forms.   Children in esthetical forms develop more harmonically, as they do such things that are preferred at their age:  they draw, paint, dance, sing, and play musical instruments.  Pupils in elementary school have creative and practical thinking and when they are forced to solve logical abstract tasks it is real violence against natural development. And after this students don’t want to study in senior grades and in university (Дьяченко 2002)

Children who cannot achieve goals set by school program suffer double violence both at school, when they are made do what they cannot do, and at home, when they are reproached for their bad marks and made study harder.  Often when children do their homework with the help of their parents, it comes to verbal abuse from the parents’ side or even to spanking.  According to my studies and the studies by Ludmila Besova in Kirovsk, the majority of seven-graders indicate bad marks as their parents’ main motive for punishments.  My studies of the reasons of gender violence at school among seven-graders showed that boys, whom the majority of their classmates think to be the most aggressive towards girls, suffer physical or painful psychological violence at home from their parents.  At the same time, girls, who most often suffer violence at school from boys’ side, also are severely punished by their parents at home.  No girl suffering from violence at home was named an aggressor towards her classmates by the children.  Boys suffering from violence at home are sometimes victims in boy groups.  Thus boys suffering from violence more often become aggressors towards the opposite sex, and girls become victims.  These results show how the formal level of violence, i.e. learning programs and standards, influences the informal one, i.e. interpersonal relationships of children with their parents (punishments for bad marks).  Violence from the parents’ side is the reason for violence among children in school groups.

        Also, there is an informal level which includes relationships between teachers and pupils.  Once in 10th grade, I taught a lesson directed on the development of communication skills.  The children answered my question about what worried them in relationships with their teachers in the following way:  “The teacher has all the power at a lesson”, “A pupil has no rights; the one who has all the rights is the teacher”, “Marks are given unfairly, based on personal likes and dislike”, “It is useless to argue about your mark:  the teacher will revenge”, “Pupils are objects of teaching; the teacher does not see their personalities”, “We want teachers to remember that their pupils are human”.  Pupils are afraid to tell the teacher about these problems; their parents are also afraid to do it, as it may make the situation worse.

During the psychological and pedagogic study in Murmansk Region mentioned above, in the course of study of motivation to learning it was revealed that 58% of the interrogated named fear as their major motive (fear of getting a bad mark, of failing at a test, not being accepted into an institute, fear of criticism from teachers and parents, etc.).  One’s own learning motives got only 4% to 12% in the answers. (Левитес 2002)  Thus the main lever used by adults in upbringing and teaching is the feeling of fear.  My studies in third grade showed that children believe fear to be good and necessary for them to study better.  That is, children conscientiously accept the role of victims as a thing needed for successful work.

The feeling of fear is the main feeling used by criminals persecuting their victims.  This feeling is actively planted by all the systems of upbringing and education and learned by children during the socialization process; later, growing up, they use this feeling as a means of control, a way to subdue another person and get power.

Fear as a lever of control is supported by such stereotypes of the society which set hierarchy in relationships between people and establish rules of socialization between people on its different steps.  One of the reasons for dividing people into different hierarchical levels is the age factor.  Adults are always higher and stronger; a child must submit to them.  Another factor, according to gender stereotypes, is one’s gender role.  A man is on a higher hierarchical step then a woman, so he has more power.  But the primary factor during one’s personal development is that of age.  It is on this stage of personal development that one learns inequality in relationships, criteria of distribution into different hierarchical levels and ways of interaction between people on different levels.  Being subjectively learned, this experience is actively repeated later.  People put themselves on some level according to the learned criteria and choose the role either of one at power or of one submitting to the power.

If children feel themselves equal members of the society with a right to their own opinion, to their own choice from their childhood, they will treat other people in the same way.  Becoming adults, they will not divide people into various levels of social hierarchy based on criteria of age, social status, race, or sex; then it will be possible to break the circle of violence, and also that of gender violence.



  1. Левитес Д.Г. Природа педагогического насилия. Материалы Международной конференции «Детство в эпоху трансформации», 25-27 марта 2002 года, Мурманск. Том 1 «Право детства на проблему». Мурманск 2002, с. 11-15.
  2. Дьяченко Т.М. Позитивная педагогика как альтернатива насилию в образовательном процессе. Материалы Международной конференции «Детство в эпоху трансформации», 25-27 марта 2002 года, Мурманск. Том 1 «Право детства на проблему». Мурманск 2002, с. 17-19
  3. Реан А.А. Что такое «социализация»? / Формирование личности/ Психология. Учебник. Под редакцией Крылова А.А.-М.: ПБОЮЛ Гриженко Е.М., 2000, с.241


Dyachenko T. (2002) Education and Upbringing System in Russia as a Factor of Reproduction of Gender Violence in Society. Gender Violence in School and Teachers Education Conference in September 2002. Petrozavodsk. Russia.