Wednesday, 28 August 2013

KiVa: A successful bullying intervention in Finland

What is KiVa?

KiVa is the name of a nationwide bullying intervention used in Finland which seems to have really positive effects. KiVa is short for Kiusaamista Vastaan, which means “against bullying”. The word kiva in Finnish also means “kind”. The programme was mandated by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, developed by the University of Turku, and began implementation in 2009.

According to the website, 90% of comprehensive schools in Finland are using the programme, which boasts improvement for 98% of victims. It claims to reduce anxiety and depression, and influences many types of bullying, including cyberbullying. I must admit I was dubious at first, but having read the scientific papers behind this intervention I am convinced that the programme is doing a great job.

Why is KiVa so successful?

The intervention is based on the idea that peer bystanders have a great deal of influence over the behaviour of bullies. The programme takes a whole-school approach, and instead of focusing on bullies or victims, it focuses on bystander reactions. Children who watch bullying but do not act to help, often reward the bully socially and make the victim feel isolated. Therefore, by influencing the behaviour of classmates who watch bullying take place, social rewards for bullies can be reduced, and the motivation to bully diminishes.

The programme is very comprehensive, and provides tasks for schools to carry out with their children, rather than simply providing guidelines. It looks like a lot of support is given to schools in implementing the programme. Activities include discussions, group work, short films, and role-play exercises, and are tailored to the age group. A later development was a virtual learning environment which helps to motivate students and enhance their learning process.

In addition to these classroom activities, specific actions are taken to tackle individual cases of bullying. The programme is therefore both preventative and interceptive in nature. There is also an online discussion forum for staff to share their ideas, experiences, and challenges. School staff receive face-to-face training, and can top-up their training with online resources and attending conference days throughout the year.

Overall, I think the main reason that KiVa is so successful is that it is based on thorough scientific research. There is no quick, easy way to reduce bullying. This is clearly a huge programme which requires a lot of training, resources, and time. It has been through randomised control trials, and appears to be regularly assessed and updated where necessary. It is not a one-off intervention, but is intended to be used by schools as an ongoing part of their efforts to improve student wellbeing. I am very impressed with what I have read so far, and look forward to seeing more whole-school approaches like these in other countries. Good work Finland!

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