Minister blasted over schoolyard bullying

The China Post News Staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Legislators expressed their rage yesterday over the ignorance of the Ministry of Education over a schoolyard bullying incident which occurred in Tainan last week. They claimed that the ministry’s information network has problems with reporting immediate bullying events. During a meeting of the Education and Culture Committee of the Legislative Yuan, Legislator Lo Shu-lei played a videotape of group bullying at Yungkang Junior High School in Tainan, in which a student was pressed onto the ground with a flute stuck into his mouth. The onlookers waved knives to exaggerate their uproar, shouting “To hell with him.”

Lo added that this incident was disclosed to the school and the public after the victim’s parents handed the video to the media. The principal of the school denied that it was bullying when interviewed. Neither the Ministry of Education nor the Tainan City Education Bureau had knowledge about it. Minister Wu Ching-ji, present at the meeting, admitted that he had not been notified of the incident, but promised to investigate the case. Coincidentally, the Teacher Chang Foundation held a forum called “care about bullying, everyone together,” at the Sungchiang office of the China Youth Corps on the same day, yesterday. The foundation intends to provide professional counseling to young people to adjust to rapid social changes. The forum tried to collect different ideas from scholars, principals and teachers to deal with schoolyard bullying.

Chang Te-tsung, the chairman of the Teacher Chang Foundation, said that students usually go to their classmates instead of parents when they run into problems at school. Parents and teachers should try to become their peers and be good listeners. Students involved in bullying need counseling, rather than being labeled as “bad students” with humiliating punishments when they violate school regulations. Labeling would force them to form subgroups, and those who do not join them will become the target of bullies, said Chen Chung-liang, the chairperson of the Chinese National Association of Parent Education. Regarding school counseling, statistics from the Ministry of Education shows that only 13 counties and cities in Taiwan have counseling personnel on service to schools, and the total reaches 106. KMT legislator Chao Li-yun said that the ratio is 1 to 25,000, far too less than adequate. She suggested that there should be at least one full-time counselor in each school.

Minister Wu said that some of the revenue coming from military and educational personnel taxes would be appropriated to city or county governments to employ professional counselors. The number of counseling personnel will be decided by the total sum of the students, financial conditions and sizes of the cities or counties. Yen Pei-hua, chief supervisor of the Taipei Teachers’ Association, said that schoolyard bullying is hard to eradicate, but every child should be well protected. An intermediary mechanism between the school and the judicial system is required, where the bully can receive proper counseling and go back to school after that, he explained.

Wu Wu-tien, Emeritus Professor of the National Taiwan Normal University Department of Special Education, indicated that anti-bullying has become a national movement. It is also a good time for us to think about problems in our education system.