As the dust settled after the 9/11 atrocities, countless questions arose. Education and radicalization was one of the central themes.
After the attacks, Peter Bergen and Swati Pandey collected data on the academic profiles of seventy-five terrorists who had carried out acts of extreme violence in the West between 1993 and 2003. They showed that some terrorists completed their higher education in western institutions, usually with a focus on science or engineering. This study deconstructed the stereotype of uneducated criminals perpetrating extreme violence.
In spite of this contribution, the writers of the final report of the official national commission on 9/11 highlighted the importance of continuous support to public instruction to prevent the expansion of Islamic terrorism. It also emphasized the role of the memory and transmission of national unity when facing the horror in order to ensure a safer future for the next generations (9/11 Commission, 2004).
Since then, the quantity of digital resources has soared. The priority is to educate students to develop critical thinking, enabling them to assess the quality of online information and helping them to develop as tolerant citizens enlightened by the duty to remember.
It is no simple task. For example, Education World, an online platform for teachers offering different resources to facilitate the implementation of these learning objectives has been criticized for including resources without ensuring their reliability or relevance (Department of Education, 2011).
In the wake of the wave of terrorist attacks in France and other countries in Europe and Africa, terrorism has become inseparable from the process of radicalization. Indeed, unlike the attacks that took place on US soil, the recent attacks have been spearhead and coordinated by natives. Therefore, specialists and experts trace back their paths and compare profiles, including academic records, in order to find a secret code, a key that could enable them to identify the next terrorist of the 21st century with some ease. Schools are seen as a stage for preventing extreme violence, tackling socio-economic exclusions, and using new technologies to build knowledge and skills.
France is in the thick of it. In January 2015, just weeks after the Paris attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the government announced 11 measures designed to mobilize the educational community around the values of the French Republic. The measures were introduced by this preamble (emphases added):
Schools reveal the tensions that course through French society and the inequalities that mark it. The disintegration of the social fabric over the course of thirty years of economic crisis has not spared the schools. The feeling of despair, the increase of inequalities, the prevalence of social determinism, and the collective incapacity to prevent an endemic dropping out trend among a part of our youth have eroded the egalitarian mission of schools. Discrimination, the gap between proclaimed values and lived realities, identitarian withdrawals, vague and unrealized communitarian desires, and the logic of being with one’s own have weakened schools’ ambition of fraternity.
In a society that has lost its landmarks and that is characterized by a certain form of ambient relativism that favors amalgams and indifference, today it is a struggle for schools to advance the missions that the Republic has assigned to them, to transmit knowledge, to be a crucible for citizenship, and to inspire trust from students and families.
After the attacks that have targeted the core of our Republican values, the general mobilization of the French people presents a requirement to society as a whole, and specifically to our schools, whose role and place in the Republic cannot be separated from their capacity bring life to secularism and transmit it.
Schools are and will be in the front line of the challenge to the Republic, with firmness, discernment, and pedagogy, because that is the identity and profound mission of the school. Schools and the Republic are inseparable. They must remain so.
The great mobilization for the values of the Republic is mobilization for all schools, including agricultural training and private contract-based education.
The education sector (and indirectly teachers) is presented as a body weakened by the economic crisis, powerless to live up to its missions, and out of breath as it races to connect people and gain trust. This matters – schools have to take on challenges as defined by society and act to embody the values of the Republic. Education is the core surgeon, chosen to revive the exhausted French social body.
The issues France is facing are not its own. All of Europe is wrestling with the challenges. In fact, just a month after the French measures were announced, national government members at an informal meeting of the European Council declared that initiatives needed to be undertaken in the field of education and training to “prevent radicalization and protect values.” Two weeks later, two attacks took place in Copenhagen.
Three weeks later, on March 17 2015, the European Commission and the Ministers of Education reiterated the values of the European Union and the responsibility schools have to share and communicate “humanist and civic values” at the local, national and European levels. Facing an uncertain world, schools were perceived as places where knowledge is transmitted but also as one of the levers to promote active, responsible and tolerant citizenship:
The first objective of education is not only to transmit knowledge, skills and fundamental values and shape attitudes. It is also its responsibility to help the youth, working with their parents and extended families, to become active, responsible and open-minded members of society.
On May 19, 2015, during the 125th session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, an “action plan” for addressing “The fight against violent extremism and radicalisation leading to terrorism” was agreed. It was based on the values listed in the European Convention of Human Rights. Education plays an important role in the prevention of radicalization, the ministers noted:
Action is needed to prevent violent radicalisation and increase the capacity of our societies to reject all forms of extremism. Formal and informal education, youth activities and training of key actors (including in the media, political fields and social sectors) have a crucial role in this respect. Schools, prisons and detention centres, vulnerable neighbourhoods, places of worship all require tailored measures, mostly at local level.
The best way to develop an understanding of “democratic culture” is through education. The Council of Europe is currently developing key competences for democratic citizenship for use in school curricula across Europe.
The starting point for this project is the assertion that preparation for life as active citizens in democratic societies is one of the major purposes of education. To make this a reality, European education systems need to be able to specify what students at different levels of formal education should know, understand and be able to do in this respect, and what attitudes they should develop. The project will aim to describe the main competences citizens require in order to participate effectively in democratic society and in intercultural dialogue.
The main target group for the project will be education policy makers and practitioners, including ministries, schools and universities, teachers, teacher trainers, educators and curriculum developers.
The objective will be to ensure that young people acquire values, knowledge, understanding and the ability to act as responsible citizens. Upon the instruction of the Secretary General, this work has been given a high priority in order for it to be completed by the end of this year.
One month later, during a press conference on the prevention of radicalization leading to violent extremism, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Tibor Navracsics added this observation: 
Education, whether inside or outside the classroom, is at the heart of this. It is not the only solution. But there is no solution without education. Teachers and youth workers are vital in transmitting our shared values and building relationships that help young people become engaged citizens.
Ten months after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the Council of Europe reaffirmed the central role that education has to play in preventing violent extremism: 
Education and training, especially formal, non-formal, and informal vocational training are all efficient tools to promote common values, through an education to Human Rights and citizenship for example, curricula aiming at drawing conclusions from the past, and an inclusive learning environment facilitating the participation, mobility and social inclusion that enable societies to be endowed with stronger democratic foundations.
The role of education in the prevention of violent extremism and radicalization is also seen as key at the level of supranational organizations. UNESCO is promoting education for global citizenship and the OECD is encouraging the development of global competencies.
The official line developed by the UNESCO promotes a bleakly realistic yet confident approach: education cannot prevent someone “who wants to perpetrate a violent act in the name of a violent and extremist ideology… nor can it stop violent extremists nor can it be used to identify individuals who could potentially become violent extremists, but it can help create conditions that will enable any learner to reinforce his defenses against violent extremism and to reaffirm his involvement in favor of peace and non-violence.” Facing the threats targeting particularly vulnerable young people, new technologies should be used to “develop platforms of positive involvement, promoting peace, respect of human rights and dignity. Our role is to educate and train a new generation of digital citizens worldwide, using education as a means to develop new intercultural skills, media and information literacy.” Learning solutions should “develop knowledge, skills and attitudes to help build resilience and resist propaganda. These competencies can only be developed by confident, well-trained and respected teachers.’
For his part, Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education and Competencies at the OECD, considers that the fact that some terrorists and extremists can follow an ordinary school path “…is not a reason to renounce education, which still remains the most efficient tool to build a fairer, more human and more inclusive world.” 
*Fabrice Fresse is an expert at the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 and an expert on Quality Assessment at the National Agency Erasmus + France. He is also the Head of International Relations / Life Long Learning for the non-profit organization EvalUE in Bordeaux. He is an Alumnus at the Transatlantic Educators Dialogue, an educational diplomatic initiative spearheaded by the European Union Centre of the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. Fabrice specialized in the study and analysis of national and supranational policies designed to prevent violent extremism and radicalization in the field of education.
 The fundamental values and Human rights mentioned are the ones that “are the core of the European Union: solidarity, liberty, and notably freedom of speech, of pluralism, of democracy, tolerance and human dignity. Informal meeting of heads of states and governments, February 12 2015 – Declaration of the members of the European Council. Brussels.
 The values mentioned in this Declaration are: « respect to human dignity, freedom, (especially freedom of speech), democracy, equality, rule of law and the respect for Human Rights. These values are common to all member states where pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between men and women prevail. » Declaration Promoting Citizenship and the common values of Freedom, Tolerance and Non-discrimination through Education. March 17 2015. Paris.
 European Commission, June 14 2016, Remarks by Commissioners Navracsics and Avramopoulos at the press conference on the prevention of radicalisation leading to violent extremism. Brussels.
 Council of Europe, December 15 2015, « Conclusions du Conseil et des représentants des gouvernements des États membres, réunis au sein du Conseil, sur la prévention de la radicalisation conduisant à l’extrémisme violent. » Journal officiel de l’Union Européenne, Brussels.
 Schleicher, A et Ramos, G. Mai 2016, Global Competency for an Inclusive World, OCDE, Paris.
 UNESCO. 2017. La prévention de l’extrémisme violent par l’éducation Guide à l’intention des décideurs politiques, Paris. p 23.
 Irina Bokova. Les jeunes et l’Internet. Combattre la radicalisation et l’extrémisme. UNESCO. Paris. Juin 2015.
 UNESCO, 4 mai 2016. A teacher’s Guide on the prevention of violent extremism, Paris, p 9.
 Schleicher A., 2016, Comprendre la lutte contre l’extrémisme, Paris. Voir également l’expertise autour des relations paradoxales entre éducation et extrémisme produite par Ratna Ghosh Ashley Manuel W.Y. Alice Chan Maihemuti Dilimulati Mehdi Babaei, Fevrier 2016, Education and Security. A Global Literature Review on the Role of Education in Countering Violent Religious Extremism, Londres. McGill University, p 5 -34.