Student Protests Around the World

Education

Activists demonstrate against soaring tuition, police brutality, and education reform.

Protesters walk under a giant net and with their hands painted red during a massive march in Mexico City, Nov. 20, 2014. Dario Lopez-Mills / AP

Please consider disabling it for our site, or supporting our work in one of these ways

Subscribe Now >


Students have a legacy of activism, spearheading protests against the Vietnam War and sit-ins advocating for civil rights. Their rallies, marches, and boycotts have been vital to conquering the status quo and advancing conversations on issues ranging from LGBT equality to financial reform.


In doing so, student protesters—in the United States and around the world—have frequently clashed with government and police: the fatal 1970 anti-war demonstration at Kent State University, the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square, and the more recent conflict between officers and pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, to name a few. Law enforcement’s use of weapons such as pepper spray and Tasers to quell to student protests at University of California, Davis and the University of Warwick, among others, has caused public outrage.


Although American student activism seems to have waned since its heyday a few decades ago, at least one analysis suggests it’s experienced a renaissance in recent years—and that it’s as powerful as ever. In the past year, students in the U.S. not only led #BlackLivesMatter walkouts and “die-ins,” they’ve also tackled a spectrum of other issues, including high tuition costs, university divestment, and campus sexual assault. Roughly 160 protests occurred on U.S. college campuses in the 2014 fall semester alone, according to the analysis.



Unsurprisingly, student protests often highlight the failures of the education system, both domestically and abroad. Ballooning education costs in countries such as the United Kingdom have led students, and oftentimes their teachers, to condemn institutions focused on profits. Last year in Chile—where students have been protesting, mostly peacefully, since 2011—thousands gathered in Santiago to demand that President Michelle Bachelet prioritize education reform and include them in the decision-making process. Recently, two students died after police used teargas and water canons on a crowd fighting for the right to free and quality education in the country, where the postsecondary system is privatized.



A protester reacts as police use water cannons during a demonstration in Santiago this June to demand changes to Chile’s education system. (Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters)
An Al-Azhar University student, member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and supporter of the ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi dances during a protest against the country’s military and interior ministry in October 2013. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters)
A student demonstrator takes part in a march in Mexico City this past July to mark the 10-month anniversary of the disappearance of 43 teachers-in-training who were abducted and reportedly murdered by a drug gang working with corrupt police. (Reuters)
Student activists at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, stage a “die-in” last December as part of the nationwide “Hands Up, Walk Out” protests, demanding justice for the fatal shooting last year of the 18-year-old Michael Brown. (Adrees Latif / Reuters)
Students chant anti-government slogans during a rally in central Athens last November protesting changes to Greece’s high-school exam system. (Kostas Tsironis / AP)
Students attend a June 2015 protest in Santiago to demand changes to the Chilean education system. (Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters)
Georgia Haynes of the Mistory Dance Co. waits before a protest in Ferguson, Missouri last week, one year after the police shooting of an unarmed black teen thrust the city into the national spotlight. (Rick Wilking / Reuters)
A student lights fireworks amidst clashes last month with riot policemen in La Paz, Colombia, during demonstrations protesting the industrialization of the region. (David Mercado / Reuters)
A student at the University of Cape Town takes part in a protest this past March against a statue of the British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes on the university’s campus. (Schalk van Zuydam / AP)
In Yangon, Myanmar, student protesters and police officers push each other as the students try to pass a police line during a June 2015 protest against the appointment of military representatives to the country’s parliament. (Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters)
Pakistani Shi’ite supporters of the Imamia Students Organisation (ISO) hold signs and chant slogans during an anti-Israel and anti-U.S. rally in Karachi, Pakistan, on May 16, 2015, the anniversary of the day Israel was formed and recognized.  (Akhtar Soomro / Reuters)
An Indonesian student holds a poster of the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a May 2015 protest in front of the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta against what they say is the killing of Muslims in Myanmar. (Beawiharta / Reuters)
Students covered in body paint dance during a protest in Valparaiso in November 2011 against the Chilean government to demand changes in its public education system. (Eliseo Fernandez / Reuters)
Students occupy the area near Taiwan’s Ministry of Education in Taipei earlier this month protesting against changes to their curriculum and decorating the streets with white flowers to mourn for a student leader who killed himself. (Chiang Ying-ying / AP)
Demonstrators burn tires to block a street during protests against a bomb attack last month in Suruc, in the Kurdish-dominated southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey. (Sertac Kayar / Reuters)
Activists of the left-wing All India Students’ Association shout slogans against the Madhya Pradesh state Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan during a protest in New Delhi last month against a job scam. (Saurabh Das / AP)

Social movements like #BlackLivesMatter and the ongoing battle for LGBT rights continue to shape American politics. They even came up during the recent Republican debate when the moderator asked candidates if they believed racial targeting by police was the “civil-rights issue of our time.”


For students entering college, some of them as young as 17, activism is one of the most effective ways to to influence public policy. Despite widespread skepticism of the feasibility of protest in effecting change, students are effectively harnessing it as a way to engage officials in conversations about the value of education and more.