Striving for schools free of bullying and absenteeism
Japanese version is here.
Problems with school education involving the bullying and absenteeism of pupils are being closely monitored. In the background, there are various important factors that are being considered such as social trends, home-life and the counseling that is available in schools. The City Board of Education is consequently actively promoting the provision of schools which are popular with the pupils, where the children think to themselves, “Today, I want to go to school!”.
I believe that school bullying and absenteeism will be completely eradicated. In truth, bullying and the subsequent abscondance of pupils is, as far as children are concerned, a “last straw” measure. I feel that their not going to school has appeal only as a last resort. In this scenario, however much slogans like “Bullying will not be tolerated!” are used, the end result will always be the same.
The measures employed to combat these problems vary from school to school and I think there are limits to what schools can do anyway. I would therefore like to see the implementation of more specific measures to combat these problems. Furthermore, I do not think that the burden should be placed solely on the shoulders of teachers. We also have an obligation to get involved. For example, we are currently trying to get children and teachers to participate in role-playing exercises to practice a number of scenarios, both from the teachers angle and that of the children. For the children these include circumstances where they are forced to lend their comics to someone even though they don´t want to, or when they are bullied by someone and want to tell the teacher but do not know how they should go about it. Teachers then do practice drills so that they can learn the best ways to deal with a situation when a child approaches them about a particular problem. It takes a lot of nerve for a child to say “No!” to something, so I would like to encourage them to be stronger and to speak out and, although this is asking a lot of teachers, I think they should try as much as possible to establish one-to-one relations with pupils.
(The opinion of a mother whose child is currently a second year pupil at one of the city’s elementary schools)
The city is currently trying to establish elementary and junior high schools with a happy environment, where the pupils actually want to attend. In Chiba’ s central region, Innai Elementary School was designated a “Student Guidance Research School” in 1993 and it is currently implementing measures both to provide firm support to children who are not fitting into school life and to encourage a happy school atmosphere. To counter bullying and the factors that contribute to a pupil’ s inability to adapt to school life, the school considers it of paramount importance for teacher-pupil and inter-pupil relations to be as open as possible in order to create a happy environment for the students.
One of the ways that the school tackles the problems is by getting the pupils to participate in “group encounters” (activities which promote mutual understanding between pupils), where each student in a class is encouraged to feel that “I am an important member of this class” in a variety of activities. Furthermore, pupils are made aware of the pleasures of friendship and mutual respect for fellow pupils is emphasized.
For example, the second year students at this school play games like “Scissors, paper, stone” and the loser has to carry the victor on his back. In so doing the child who has lost is able to say things like, “I may have lost the game but I gave a stronger boy a piggy-back!”, or “I’ve made friends with other children who I’ve hardly ever spoken to before”, or “I felt great playing this game!”. So it is possible to create a happy atmosphere within the classroom.
In addition there is an internal system whereby support is given to children who are not fitting into school life by encouraging them to voice their problems so that appropriate solutions can be found. As far as finding these solutions is concerned, above all else it is considered important for “the form teachers who deal with these children to be concerned about their pupils, for if teachers can change by helping children on an individual basis then the children will change as well”. To illustrate this let us consider the case of Johnny who was forever making up excuses for missing school – he had a headache, a bout of flu or just felt ill. This child was a nervy, sensitive boy, who found it difficult to make friends and generally gave the impression that school was a boring place. However, the attempt was made to point out the good aspects of school life to him, such as swimming and club activities, and he was encouraged to think positively by making enjoyment his target at school. Furthermore, because this child said that he liked the small talk he had with his form teacher he was gradually brought out of his shell using kind words. His form teacher also consulted with his parents to discuss the problem and gradually these efforts began to produce results and the boy was seen to improve little by little.
As a result of these education methods, Innai Elementary School has seen a dramatic fall both in the numbers of absentees and the length of absenteeism. Moreover, the measures that have been employed to combat bullying have similarly produced significant results. Also, because teacher awareness of these problems has changed, the sharing of information between teachers is more commonplace and teachers other than form teachers speak to the children and encourage them.
Naturally, since the causes of these problems are many and diverse, the methods that have thus far been used cannot be said to be all-encompassing. However, happy schools where laughter can be heard are being promoted and research is underway into finding creative ways of encouraging friendly relations between children so that all children can enjoy a happy time at school.
Similar activities are underway at junior high school level. From 1995 Izumiya Junior High School was appointed a “Student Guidance Research School” and there are a variety of things being done such as case studies, theoretical research, and specialist teachers are being employed. Also, while making the teachers more aware of the problems, specific measures are being taken. “In order to make schools happy places it is important that one see students on an individual basis and interact with the children during school hours” say the teachers.
The Izumiya region is a rapidly developing residential area and so is consequently both an area where there are a lot of transfer students and also it is an area with a high child population. These factors thus make junior high school education a more complicated issue in comparison with other areas. However, in spite of the fact that it has only just been implemented, the orthodox student guidance which is provided at Izumiya Junior High has already resulted in the rapid reduction of school absenteeism and it continues to bring in steady results. Furthermore, children are voluntarily greeting each other in school and the school has a happy atmosphere.
Apart from Innai Elementary School and Izumiya Junior High School, attempts are being made at other schools to promote awareness by getting children to write essays on how best to tackle these problems and by encouraging discussions about bullying during moral discussion and social study periods. In addition, panel discussions and anti-bullying campaigns & appeals are conducted at school assemblies.
The City Board of Education is currently developing posters to promote happy schools and is coming up with acceptable slogans in a bid to combat bullying and school absenteeism. Here children are encouraged to submit their own work, a practice which provides students with an opportunity to think more carefully about these problems and they are therefore encouraged to be more thoughtful and supportive.
Furthermore, in addition to increasing the number of “educational consultants” who visit the households of problem children and help to wipe out any of their fears, specialist school counsellors are being assigned to schools.
The Guidance Section of the Board of Education also provides a “free-dial” telephone service targeted at children who find it difficult to communicate directly with their parents or teachers.
As we approach the twenty-first century, then, the Board of Education is working in earnest to combat school bullying and absenteeism in order to produce a society where children are raised to be robust!
Japanese version: http://www.city.chiba.jp/news/960715/960715j.html