Dembra (Democratic preparedness against antisemitism and racism) offers development programs for schools and teacher training institutions to prevent prejudice and exclusion. Dembra covers various challenges to democracy, such as racism, islamophobia, antisemitism, hate speech and extremism.
Six centers for peace and human rights in different parts of Norway offer Dembra: The Rafto Foundation in Western Norway, ARKIVET Peace and Human Rights Centre in Southern Norway, Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue in Eastern Norway, Falstadsenteret in Central Norway, The Norwegian Center for Holocaust and Minority Studies (The HL center) in South-Eastern Norway and The Narvik War and Peace Center in Northern Norway. The HL center manages Dembra, offers online courses and is responsible for the cooperation with teacher training institutions (Dembra LU).
Dembra for Schools offers school-based development programs over a year and a half. 139 schools with around 4100 teachers have participated in Dembra since its first implementation in 2013. Between 25 and 40 new schools are now recruited annually in Norway.
Dembra for teacher training (Dembra LU) collaborates with teacher education institutions on the development of students’ professional competence. Eleven teacher training institutions have participated since 2018, with a total of 52 participating teacher educators in 11 programs and 12 different subjects.
Dembra.no is a comprehensive free learning resource for schools and teacher training that is maintained by the HL center with contributions from Dembra’s partners.
Principles of prevention
Dembra’s concept is based on the knowledge that democratic culture, based on participation and critical thinking, provides the best prevention of attitudes that threaten democracy – such as group hatred and anti-democratic ideologies.
A comprehensive perspective where different challenges are seen in context follows from this starting point. Schools can hardly deal with all individual challenges one by one, they need a comprehensive framework.
Five principles summarize Dembra’s approach to prevention in schools:
- inclusion and participation
- knowledge and critical thinking
- intercultural competence
- ownership and long-term involvement
- a whole-school approach.
Dembra for schools
Schools at all levels, from primary school to upper secondary education, can participate in Dembra.
Local development processes are carried out at the school over one to one and a half years. A Dembra supervisor follows up a Dembra group/resource group at the school, with the participation of both management and teachers. Together, they work through five phases: 1) mapping of the situation at the school, 2) selection of focus areas, 3) planning of measures, 4) implementation of measures, 5) evaluation and continuation.
The schools are guided to implementing measures at various levels in a whole-school approach: The work is linked to education and acitivites in the classroom, but also to teachers’ competence, school management, school culture, parents and the local environment.
Courses for the entire staff are held at the school on current topics such as prejudice, racism, language use, democracy and critical thinking.
Dembra for teacher training
The cooperation with teacher training institutions (Dembra LU) aims to strengthen the students’ professional competence related to the prevention of prejudice, group hostility and discrimination. The work takes place on several levels:
- Development of teaching which is tested with students and published on dembra.no
- Implementing Dembra topics in the subjects and programs at the institutions
- Multi- , interdisciplinary and program-wide collaboration in the participating institutions
A network of teacher educators with an interest in the role of teacher education in prevention of group-based hostility is maintained by Dembra.
Dembra.no is a comprehensive online resource that ties together information about phenomena, pedagogical and didactic reflections and concrete exercises that teachers and teacher educators can use in teaching and in their own professional development.
Increased investment in the website has yielded results. From 2020 to 2021, the number of users on the website increased from 15,000 to 21,000, and the aim is to further increase usage.
Dembra and the Norwegian school curriculum
Dembra builds on the values of “promoting democracy, equality and scientific thinking” as stated in the objective clause of the Educational act. Dembra supports the schools in fulfilling Section 9a of the Education Act , not least when it comes to the requirement for continuous and systematic work for health, environment and safety.
Through the National Curriculum for primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education implemented in 2020, Dembra’s anchoring in the school’s governing documents has been strengthened. The emphasis in LK20 on an inclusive learning environment, the link to the work in the subjects, interdisciplinary themes, student participation and development in the professional community are elements that correspond to Dembra’s approach to prevention.
Dembra has been developed in response to the Directorate of Education’s mission in 2012 to develop a program to support the school’s work in preventing antisemitism, racism and undemocratic attitudes.
Dembra is financed by the Directorate of Education with funds from the Norwegian Ministry of Education. A number of action plans include Dembra , including the action plan against antisemitism (2021-2023), against radicalization and violent extremism (2020), against racism (2020-2023) and against discrimination and hatred against Muslims (2020-2023).
Dembra was developed by the Norwegian Center for Holocaust and Minority Studies, the European Wergeland Centre and the Department of Teacher Education and School Research at the University of Oslo. The Norwegian Center for Holocaust and Minority Studies, the Rafto Foundation, The Falstad Centre, The Narvik War and Peace Center, Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue, and ARKIVET Peace and Human Rights Centre are tasked with implementing Dembra in different parts of Norway.
The centre conducts research-based work on anti-Semitism and racism with children, students and teachers. Creating teaching materials and training teachers are at the heart of its work. Every year the centre welcomes more than 8,000 children for various educational programmes. The centre has extensive experience of managing and supporting projects of a similar size.
The Rafto Foundation is a non-profit, non-political organisation working to promote human rights. Its core activities include the annual Rafto Prize, ongoing projects involving the prizewinners, and the teaching of democracy and human rights. The Rafto Prize is given to persons and organisations who stand on the front line in the fight for human rights and democracy. The foundation was established in 1986 to commemorate the human rights work of Professor Thorolf Rafto.
The Falstad Centre is a centre for education and documentation. It is based in the main building of the former SS camp Falstad from World War II. The Falstad Centre develops and disseminates information about prisoners of war and human rights through documentation, research and teaching.
The Arkivet Foundation is a national research and education centre which develops, disseminates and uses information to promote human dignity based on the events of World War II. The foundation is located in the former national archives building in Kristiansand, which served as headquarters for the Gestapo in Southern Norway during the war.
Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue is a knowledge center and a meeting point for dialogue and peaceful conflict management. The center conducts peace and dialogue work both in Norway and internationally, and has experience from, among other places, the Western Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and Poland. In Norway, Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue guides schools and municipalities in conflict resolution, as well as teaches and facilitates dialogue. The center promotes peace, human rights, dialogue and reconciliation through training, documentation and dissemination of experience-based knowledge. The venue is the Nansen School in Lillehammer.
The Narvik War and Peace Centre is a non-profit foundation that researches, documents and disseminates on issues related to war and conflict. The story of the Centre starts with the German attack on Narvik in 1940, the battle of Narvik and the occupation that followed. However, we also work with issues not related to the Second World War (WWII). The Centre has a particular focus on the rules of war (IHL) and human rights. The Narvik War and Peace Centre was founded through a merger of the Nordland Red Cross War Memorial Museum (est. 1964) and Nordnorsk fredssenter (est. 1990). It is the northernmost of seven Norwegian peace- and human rights centres funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Education.
The EWC offers both specialist expertise and general organisational support for a wide range of activities. Every year the EWC plans and conducts professional development projects with a holistic approach to democratic school development.
Department of Teacher Education and School Research, University of Oslo
Key personnel at the Department of Teacher Education and School Research are involved in teaching subject didactics and possess significant expertise on curriculum design, analysis and implementation. They have also been central to the planning, implementation, analysis and reporting of ICCS 2009 (International Civic and Citizenship Education Study).
Contributors to this website
Jan Alexander Brustad
Elise Grimsrud Christensen
Cora Alexa Døving
Kirsten Hagen Meadow
Ingvill Thorson Plesner
Ida Cathrine Ruud