Group solution eyed for bullying / Hopes rest on teacher training, psychological tests for children (Nov.20 Yomiuri Shimbun)
To counter the concern that school bullying is becoming more serious, the government is considering instituting a training program for teachers to address the problem.
According to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, the program will stress the importance of cooperation between teachers and schools in dealing with bullying, as it can be difficult for teachers to handle the problem on their own. The ministry plans to finish a draft training program by the end of March.
Meanwhile, schools have begun psychological testing to examine children’s mental states so classroom problems can be detected as early as possible.
Some schools have already reported positive effects. Observers stress the first step in dealing with bullying is for adults to notice when children are having emotional difficulties.
The education ministry is taking to heart the recent suicide of a sixth-grade primary school student in Gunma Prefecture, when preparing the training program, sources said.
The child, Akiko Kamimura, reportedly received constant harassment from her classmates, but the school reacted slowly and reluctantly to the problem.
The education ministry is planning a training program to teach teachers to handle psychological issues in a systematic way, such as by organizing teams to deal with bullying, the refusal to go to school and other problems. Teachers will also be taught how to work with hospitals and the police, the sources said.
Primary school teachers in particular are said to avoid consulting others about classroom management problems, as one teacher handles one class in all subjects at primary schools. The ministry said it will stress the need for a collective approach toward bullying to primary school teachers.
“We plan to nurture teachers who can lead others to tackle bullying as a group,” a senior education ministry official said.
Questionnaire ‘helpful’
The psychological test schools have begun introducing was developed by Waseda University Prof. Shigeo Kawamura, a psychology specialist, in 1996.
The test asks students about 40 questions, such as “Do your classmates encourage you when you make a mistake?” and “Have you experienced unpleasantness because of your classmates, such as being physically attacked?”
The answers are plotted on a graph in which the degree of harassment a student experiences is the x-axis, and the degree to which the student feels accepted by classmates and teachers is the y-axis. The graph helps teachers grasp the condition of the children in their classes.
Taimei Primary School, a 300-student public school in Minami-Alps, Yamanashi Prefecture, introduced this test last academic year. The school said it had been helpful in detecting bullying, as teachers talk personally to students whose test scores show dissatisfaction with their lives at school. The school brings in other teachers not directly in charge of the children to help deal with problems, the school said.
Kazuhiko Fukasawa, a teacher at the school, said: “There is no one teacher who can completely grasp the whole situation concerning the children they teach. The test is useful in finding problems we might have overlooked.”
It is estimated about 2.2 million students took the psychological test in 2009. The number of schools that have introduced the test has increased rapidly since 2006.
“Recent changes in society and the family have meant older teachers tend to have more difficulty understanding children than younger teachers. This test gives an objective measurement to help teachers grasp the reality of their classrooms,” Kawamura said.
(Nov. 20, 2010)