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Codes of conduct

Last edited: November 15, 2016

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What are codes of conduct?

A code of conduct is a set of guidelines that detail the set of recognized ethical norms (or values) and standards of acceptable conduct and behaviour. Codes of conduct are typically developed at national level and rolled out among schools to ensure institutional and legal back-up. They usually apply to teachers and school staff, but can also extend to learners and parents in a school. Codes of conduct should also involve a clear and transparent procedure for reporting violations, reviewing incidents and related due processes.

A code of conduct is important for SRGBV to:

Guide and support education practitioners:

  • · Help members of the education profession solve ethical dilemmas they are confronted with
  • · Stipulate explicit professional rules to guide teachers in their everyday conduct

Codes of conduct should include the unacceptability of violence against a pupil in any form (physical, verbal, psychological or sexual), sexual harassment, abuse and misconduct within schools, and sexual contact with students (coercive or consensual). The code should also cover mechanisms for reporting misconduct, as well as appropriate responses to students experiencing or witnessing violence. They should also stipulate the consequences of breaching the code, clearly showing how implementation of the code is supported by the law.

Developing a code of conduct involves a number of key steps, including: consulting a wide range of stakeholders; including teachers, school officials, parents and students; training and awareness-raising so teachers, school staff, parents and students know about the code; reporting and sanctioning misconduct; and regularly monitoring and reviewing the code (see checklist below[V1] ).

 [V1]Note for designer: please place practical action on codes of conduct here




Practical action – How to develop and implement a Code of Conduct to address SRGBV? An illustrative checklist



Note: For student-to-student codes of conduct, the checklist below should be amended to look at overall school rules, not only for teachers and school staff. 

Defining a code of conduct

The objectives of the code are clearly stated.

The public targeted by the code is clearly identified – the code should focus on teachers, but also include other school staff and anyone invited to work on school property (e.g. head teachers, administrators, support staff, school-board members, contractors and inspectors).

Formulating the content

The code takes into consideration essential themes and questions around SRGBV.

The code is applicable to the daily working life of teachers.

The code is formulated in specific terms.

The code addresses gender and SRGBV issues. 

Developing the code

Adequate resources, sufficient time and local expertise are provided to develop the code.

Major players are consulted on the design of the code. Students should be involved in the formulation of the code of conduct, where possible.

Major players agree to be involved in the process, including teachers and teachers’ unions and school communities (parents, pupils etc.).

Much effort has been put into reconciling the different views of the parties involved.

The code does not only reflect the government’s perspective.

Adopting the code

The implementation of the code is supported by the law.

Primary and secondary school teachers officially adhere to the code.

Disseminating and promoting the code

The code is easy to understand, with visual illustrations (e.g. posters with key messages) and local language translations. The code should be distributed widely (e.g. through workshops, drama, songs, radio, the internet, newsletters etc.).

There are sufficient resources for wide circulation of the code.

Primary and secondary school teachers know about the code.

The general public also knows that there is a code, what it says and how to hold teachers and other school staff to account. It is particularly important that students of different ages can understand the code – it should be worded in an age-appropriate and child-friendly way.

Implementing the code effectively

The implementation of the code is supported by public authorities and by teachers (or their representatives).

There are no bureaucratic delays or biases in the application of the code.

The necessary resources for the implementation of the code have been mobilized.

Reporting and sanctioning misconduct

The code is considered effective, with complaints investigated and appropriate sanctions and penalties.

Violations of the code can lead to legal proceedings.

The general public knows (or is familiar with) the procedures for lodging a complaint (see Section 2.4 for reporting mechanisms).

Plaintiffs are not afraid to file a complaint. Risk assessments to ensure protection of both parties during an investigation.

Appropriate and sufficient sanctions are applied in a format that is understandable to them. 

Reviewing the code and evaluating its impact

The revised version of the code is available to all stakeholders.

Assessment reports on the implementation of the code are made public.

Investigation reports on cases of breaches of the code are available. 

Source: Based on UNESCO recommended guidelines and checklist for codes of conduct (Poisson, 2009)




Country example – Developing a code of conduct, Sierra Leone


In 2008–2009, the Ministry of Education and Sierra Leone Teachers’ Union worked closely together to develop a national Code of Conduct for teachers, with key partners such as UNFPA, UNICEF, Council of Principals, Council of Head Teachers, academic institutions and NGOs. To inform the development of the code, multistakeholder consultations were organized in all regions and districts of the country. In parallel, UNICEF supported the development of a training manual on the content and role of the Code of Conduct for school stakeholders, with training on how to implement the code taking place in every school.

Key lessons include:

•                value of close collaboration between Ministry of Education and the teachers’ union in developing the code

•                importance of a broad consultation to raise awareness about SRGBV among education stakeholders

•                key role of teachers’ unions in implementing and enforcing the code at national and local level – in Sierra Leone, the teachers’ union was proactive in presenting the code as a tool to support the professionalization of teaching, and

•                recognizing the links between poverty and SRGBV, so that enforcing a teachers’ code of conduct is accompanied by efforts to improve teachers’ pay and working conditions.


Source: Antonowicz (2010)