Eskil Franck from the Forum for Living History. Photo: Johan Engman/SCANPIX

More education needed to fight prejudices

One out of five senior high school students has negative attitudes towards the Roma, Muslims, gays and Jews, according to a new study by the Swedish Living History Forum, an organisation set up by the government which works with issues on tolerance, democracy and human rights.

Much of their work is based on teaching students and schoolchildren the lessons learnt from the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity, and in the latest survey they asked almost five thousand senior high students about their attitudes towards minority groups. In general they found that the class of 2010 was more positive towards the various groups than in the last study in 2003.

In general, more were positive than negative, and more than half the students had positive attitudes towards gay and lesbians, better than last time, but less than a quarter had a positive attitude towards Roma or gypsies or travellers. Eskil Franck, head of the Living History Forum, says much of this can be put down to visibility and education.

"We think that it's because of education, and the fact that homosexuals are much more visible in society in a different way, there are more faces in society now. But the Roma aren't visible, they don't exist, so they are very much the victims of prejudice and stereotypes", he told Swedish Radio.

The Forum also looked at what students were most positive and negative towards minorities, the most negative were those studying practical subjects with parents with a lower level of education. Students with friends belonging to the different minorities were in general more positive.

So what needs to be done to fight the prejudices that still exist among Sweden's youth? Well, according to Eskil Franck it's all down to education.

"Only education can take away prejudices and stereotypes. You find out how things actually are, not just how you think they are. Also, social contacts make a difference too. We have to get people to meet one another, at school, at work, where they live. If we could get people to meet, I think it would make quite a good start", Eskil Frank told Swedish Radio's Ingrid Forsberg.

The Living History Forum

Photo: Thomas Karlsson/LHF

Has its roots in a parliamentary decision in 1997, following a survey that many young Swedes weren't convinced that the Holocaust had actually occurred. Formed in 2003 following The Stockholm International Forum on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research. Teaches young people and school children about the Holocaust and crimes against humanity.

Has distributed the book “…Tell ye your children …”  about the Holocaust to over 1 million school children, in 9 languages. Aims at increasing understanding of contemporary events in relation to past crimes against mankind.

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