THE Education Ministry must be commended for appointing an action committee to adopt measures to ensure that bullying in schools does not worsen.

In a press conference earlier this week, Deputy Education Minister Datuk Chong Sin Woon revealed some disturbing statistics on the matter.

He said 2.03 per cent of students were involved in disciplinary issues. Last year, 111,895 students had disciplinary problems, with 95,046 from secondary schools.

These students are likely to be recruited as gangsters, who will bully the public and even become full-fledged gangsters and criminals.

Is that what we want? Are the figures not alarming enough to urge the ministry to come out with more drastic measures to combat bullying in schools?

It is thus laudable that a key performance indicator (KPI) has been set to reduce disciplinary problems from 0.4 per cent to 0.02 per cent. However, the time frame has to be clearly stated and pursued relentlessly.

Otherwise, we will continue with the same old apathy that has led to this situation.

I also propose that a report card be presented to the public on an annual or frequent basis on the ministry’s progress in reducing the number of bullying cases.

Let the parents, students and people be aware. Heads of schools who are complacent should be penalised.

It has been reported that there were 2,906 cases of bullying in 2014 and 3,448 in 2016. This could indicate a rising and worsening trend. But these figures could be higher.

From my discussions with those in the know, I understand that there is reluctance on the part of some heads of schools, teachers and even parents and students to report bullying. They often fear reprisals and revenge.

The problems are often exacerbated in schools where the teachers and principals are of the gentler gender. They understandably dare not risk taking tougher actions against errant students for fear of being attacked by these cowardly bullies and gangs.

Can’t the police provide protection and confidence to teachers, parents and pupils?

Indeed, many believe that bullying in schools, and even in some universities, is not only alarming but also a  issue of national significance.

It affects the quality of school leavers and graduates, and can have a negative impact on our future leaders.

How can students perform well when there is fear and insecurity in the 402 schools that the ministry has identified as having poor discipline?

I recall that in my school, the Victoria Institution, we identified and shamed the culprits involved in gangsterism. This strategy worked well.

But there has to be a strong will to solve the problem.

Although the setting up of an action committee is welcomed, it is not sufficient.

We need a more comprehensive and holistic strategy to stop the bullying culture.

Thus, I propose that the action committee expand its terms of reference and scope of work to prepare a White Paper for Parliament.

The White Paper could review this rising problem and recommend to the government, and the people and their representatives, through Parliament’s support, ways and means to reduce bullyng in educational institutions.

 

TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM

Chairman, Asli Center of Public Policy Studies

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