SINGAPORE: Bullying in any form is not tolerated and every child has a right to feel safe and secure in Singapore’s schools, said Minister of Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng on Tuesday (Oct 3).
He was replying to a parliamentary question from Assoc Prof Daniel Goh on the extent of bullying and relevant measures undertaken for both teachers and students involved.
Last month, footage of a classroom brawl in St Hilda's Secondary School was circulated widely online. An adult “intern with an external agency” was present but did not have the “training or authority to manage the situation”, said the school.
But such cases are “less prevalent”, said Mr Ng, pointing to a global 2015 survey indicating 5 per cent of Singapore’s 15-year-old students experiencing physical bullying. This was compared to 10 per cent and 20 per cent for social and verbal bullying respectively.
“When students misbehave or make mistakes, schools will discipline and educate them so that there is learning and it will not be repeated,” he added. “School staff will also counsel students who are involved in bullying as well as those affected by it.”
Mr Ng said that to attend to “hurtful behaviours”, school personnel and teachers have been trained in classroom management strategies, positive classroom culture and other resources which provide practices to instil discipline.
Students, on the other hand, undergo Character and Citizenship Education to learn social skills, empathy, respect and awareness of the effects of mean actions on others, he noted.
“They also learn coping strategies, relationship management and help-seeking skills,” said Mr Ng. “Schools also actively create a positive and supportive environment for all our students.”
“They have strengthened peer support by equipping students with relevant skills such as befriending and active listening. The peer supporters will alert and seek help from their teachers when they observe situations that affect the safety of their classmates.”
“OUR STUDENTS ARE WELL-BEHAVED”
Later, in response to supplementary queries from other Members of Parliament (MPs), Mr Ng noted cyber-bullying as a growing area of concern which schools are in the midst of implementing measures to deal with.
He also said that in severe cases, parents would be called in by schools to also be involved in follow-up action such as counselling.
And Mr Ng acknowledged that a national hotline for bullied children would be a “useful medium” in the event of reservations over opening up to parents, teachers or friends.
Assoc Prof Goh also asked about the growing instance of bullying videos being posted online and the impact on the reputations of both school and individuals concerned.
“Video posting and actual filming using handphones is actually prohibited in classrooms,” said Mr Ng. “But the upstream measures I’ve described earlier are more important.”
Proactive methods such as teaching positive social behaviour will be the emphasis, he added.
“Generally, our students are well-behaved. Instances of bullying in our schools are few,” Mr Ng concluded. “On the whole, bullying has been stable and managed.”