Bullying cases come to light due to new definitions of bullying

EDITORIAL
The reality of bullying

A new education ministry survey shows that elementary, junior high and high
schools saw about 125,000 bullying cases in fiscal 2006 – up 6.2 times from
2005. The increase is mainly attributed to the ministry’s making the definition
of bullying less strict.
The ministry has dropped descriptions such as “continual” and “serious” and put
more emphasis on how victims of bullying feel. If they suffer emotionally from
physical and psychological attacks from a person with whom they have a certain
relationship, these attacks are now regarded as bullying.

Efforts to get a truer picture of bullying by adopting a looser definition marks
a step forward for the ministry. Many schools also have made efforts to
understand bullying by sending questionnaires to students and arranging meetings
between teachers and students. The ministry should seriously consider that its
past definition was so strict that it left the ministry and school authorities
unaware of the real situation. Apparently due to the old definition,
bullying-related suicides were reported as zero for the past seven consecutive
years – a far cry from the reality. Under the new definition, of fiscal 2006’s
171 suicides, six were found to be related to bullying. Education officials must
rid themselves of the mind-set that the fewer the reported cases of bullying,
the better the situation.
Although the survey method has been improved, the findings remain suspicious.
The survey says 81 percent of bullying cases acknowledged by schools have been
solved. Some people have doubts about this figure. Due attention must be paid to
recurrences of bullying. The survey also shows no cases of bullying at 45
percent of the schools. This is very unlikely.
In fiscal 1997, teachers are reported to have noticed 33.8 percent of all
bullying cases. The figure for fiscal 2006 was 26.6 percent. This is a worrying
trend as it indicates that the distance between teachers and students is
widening. Measures are called for that would allow teachers to spend more time
with students.
Source: Japan Times Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007

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