Bullying news: U.K. and Japan share notes on ways to curb bullying

U.K., Japan share notes on ways to curb bullying
The victims and remedies differ but not the concern

Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007
By WILLIAM HOLLINGWORTH

LONDON (Kyodo) Bullying differs in British and Japanese schools, but both
countries can learn from each other in countering the problem, according to
academics and other experts.

Helen Cowie, director of the U.K. Observatory for the Promotion of Non-Violence
at Surrey University, gives a talk on bullying at a recent seminar at the Daiwa
Anglo-Japanese Foundation in London. KYODO PHOTO

A team of scholars sponsored by the education ministry in Tokyo was in Britain
recently looking at how the issue is dealt with by schools using the “peer
support” scheme.
Japan is particularly eager to curb bullying at schools given that it has led to
suicides, not to mention a high rate of truancy.
Over the last few years, both Britain and Japan have been at the forefront of
the “peer support” movement, in which schoolchildren themselves try to assist
their fellow students who are being bullied or suffering other social problems.
They use a variety of activities, including mentoring, mediating, tutoring and
befriending.
Experts realized kids can open up more to their peers, and other children are
perhaps better placed to resolve conflicts. This method has proved successful in
both countries, according to studies.
Tokuhiro Ikejima, a clinical psychologist from Nara University of Education, who
led the Japanese team, has been examining British counterbullying strategies.
Speaking through an interpreter after a seminar at the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese
Foundation, he said: “In Japan, bullying tends to happen between very close
friends, and the situation is often worsened because bystanders do not try to
intervene. The bullying often takes the form of social exclusion rather than
violence.
“We therefore need to look at how to improve children’s interrelationships. In
England, the bullying differs in that it involves more violence and tends not to
be among close friends,” Ikejima said. “We can learn from Britain’s techniques
in mediation and befriending.”
“Peer support” is now used in nearly half of all Britain’s schools but is less
widespread in Japan.
Helen Cowie, director of the U.K. Observatory for the Promotion of Non-Violence
at Surrey University, said many British schools can learn from practices in
Japan.
Cowie, who has visited Japan on several occasions, particularly likes the “Q&A”
approach, where the victim can reply to a series of questions in writing and the
advice from a student counselor is then circulated in a school newsletter.
This method protects the anonymity of the children and allows them to avoid
having to actually meet someone to discuss their problems, which can often add
to the trauma. It is similar to an “agony aunt” column in a newspaper or
magazine, and Cowie believes the “Q&A” approach can be used on the Internet.
She also believes there is a lot Britain can learn from the importance of the
group in Japanese society and the way people within those communities help each
other.
She said she considers Japan’s “peer support” system to already be
well-developed but could perhaps benefit from the “checkpoints” she gives to
schools. This is basically a list of tasks that teachers and students should try
to complete to create a more harmonious school environment. The “checkpoints”
have already been translated into Japanese.
Cowie said that “peer support” has developed over the years from being
predominantly one-on-one counseling in a special room to creating friendly and
supportive “communities” in school and also on the Internet. This includes
student-led bodies that are consulted by teachers on issues affecting the
school.
Her only note of caution is that Japan’s traditional tendency toward creating
hierarchical systems could make it harder when forming these consultative
bodies.

Japan Times

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