'Tackle bullying by teaching empathy in our schools'
A child research centre is calling for empathy classes to be made part of the school curriculum.
The Unesco child and family research centre at NUI Galway is advocating the inclusion of empathy as a taught topic in school.
Director of the centre Prof Pat Dolan says providing children with the capacity to understand what others are experiencing would have a major impact on young minds and lead to a reduction in bullying.
Prof Dolan said the centre was doing a lot of work on empathy development in children.
"There is a role for learned, value-based empathy education in schools. When kids go to school, we assume they need to learn to read and write. We need to assume children need to learn empathy. Other than a small number of schools implementing the Roots of Empathy, we are not ensuring that children learn this," he said.
He believes one way of tackling bullying is to promote empathy education.
"Empathy education will help children understand diversity and difference. It would have a dramatic effect on bullying," he said.
The centre is getting young students to complete documentaries on issues facing their peers, from mental health to sexuality to caring for ill parents.
The project is supported by actor Cillian Murphy who will narrate the pieces.
"We're getting teens to research other young people who have serious issues in their lives. It's a way of educating others. One of the pieces looks at kids caring for parents. This is never talked about. We should be celebrating them. We shouldn't just be honouring students for sporting prowess or academic ability, there are other ways to shine," he added.