The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Education, Science and Technology Ministry has decided to increase the number of school counselors at primary schools from next academic year as a countermeasure against an increase in child suicides caused by bullying and other problems.
To date, the ministry has mainly assigned school counselors to public middle schools. Seventy-six percent of middle schools boast school counselors, but only seven percent of public primary schools benefit from their expertise.
School counselors include clinical psychotherapists, psychiatrists, and university teachers specializing in psychology. They are dispatched to individual schools about once a week.
The former Education Ministry began dispatching such counselors in 1995, with the government paying prefectural governments half the personnel costs since 2001.
At present, about 5,800 school counselors are dispatched to 10,000 public primary, middle and high schools.
In one case, the ministry received a report of a middle school counselor who helped a student who found it difficult to attend school after being bullied. The counselor was able to help the student return to classes.
In another case, a school counselor consulted with teachers and parents about a bullying problem and proposed at a school staff meeting that the school as a whole tackle the problem.
A primary school counselor uncovered a case of child abuse after noting the appearance of a student. The school was able to deal with the case in cooperation with a child consultation center.
So far, the assignment of school counselors to middle schools has taken precedence over primary schools due to the many cases of bullying and truancy.
However, a conference of experts set up by the ministry to discuss the issue pointed out that there are many cases of bullying and truancy at primary schools.
In the ministry’s spring survey of principals at about 660 primary, middle and high schools across the country that have school counselors assigned, 72 percent of prefectural education boards said it was desirable for school counselors to be assigned to primary schools wherever possible.
The ministry will increase the number of school counselors visiting primary schools, aiming at a dispatch rate of 70 or 80 percent–the same level as at middle schools.
School counselors likely also will liaise with staff and parents. Presently, school staff increasingly have to contend with unreasonable complaints and demands from parents, and the ministry expects school counselors to offer advice in such cases.
It has been pointed out that if the number of school counselors increases rapidly, the quality of school counseling will go down due to an increase in the number of inexperienced counselors.
(Jul. 6, 2007) Daily Yomiuri