In a Yahoo Singapore report dated 3 October (Tuesday), it is reported that Minister of Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng has said in Parliament that Singapore students are generally well behaved and there have been “very few” incidents of bullying in schools.
The Minister was responding to a question from Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh in Parliament on whether bullying is prevalent in schools and the preventive measures to deal with such incidents.
Mr Ng said, "Based on a student-perception survey conducted by OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in 2015, about 10 and 20 per cent of our 15-year-old students reported they had experienced some form of social and verbal bullying, respectively. Physical bullying was less prevalent, at about 5 per cent. This is quite similar to MOE’s findings and other local studies."
The Minister also stressed that the Ministry of Education (MOE) does not tolerate bullying in any form and when students misbehave or make mistakes, schools will discipline and educate them.
The comments by the minister came three weeks after a video was circulated online of a group of boys from St Hilda’s Secondary School who was fighting in a classroom while an adult looked on.
In the video, the boys were seen throwing punches and shouting obscenities at each other.
The Minister then stated that schools have put in place bullying prevention and intervention measures such as providing avenues for safe reporting of bullying cases, investigating and following up on reported cases.
He stressed that school personnel have been trained to counsel students who are involved in bullying as well as those affected by such incidents, adding that through counseling and education, students learn about relationship management, and values including empathy and respect for others.
According to the Minister, one area of concern, however, is cyberbullying.
Responding to a question from Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong on the definition of bullying, the minister said hostile or aggressive messages communicated online can cause hurt to victims as they can be seen by many people.
Without citing any data, he stated, "We understand that this is a growing area of concern and schools are dealing with it."
In contrast to what the Minister has stated, many readers upon reading the news report, wrote that bullying is still something easily found in schools of the country and that schools have been hiding the facts from the Ministry.
Gaya Arulpakrash wrote, "My son constantly got bullied in primary 1 and even now in primary 2. But, his form teacher chooses to ostracize him and victim shame him instead. So, trust me. The numbers are not low. It is happening in every school. It is how well the schools cover their backside to MOE."
Hong Ming Koo wrote, "Air dropped off his taxpayer's F-15 still clueless to his half an education minister job role by his master. Schools will cover up bullying cases if possible to avoid the record of KPI not hit by MOE!"
Sam Quah wrote, "Bullying must be stopped. The toll and loss of self esteem suffered by the victims are unimaginable. And to some, a crippling struggle to even have a normal life."
Luther Sloan wrote, "What is really alarming is that both this and the Straits Times report are true. How? Simple: The figures in both reports are the same. That means that the third highest rate of bullying globally is considered by Ng Chee Meng to be "very few". Yes. Third worst in the world and our Minister of Education still says that's "very few"."
Clent Low wrote, "Very few? I believe he stays under the well. Cases not reported to school or police will stand at 90% at least in cases of bullying in school. Not to mention the bullying which expands to outside compound of school."
Ming Chuen wrote, "In this era of advanced education n proficiency, there should be zero tolerance of school bullying.
Wake up MOE! I can be your Director of correct teaching and discipline."
Melvern Lee Azure Kaze wrote, "I was a bully victim when I was in Primary one and it lasted for at least a year I think. Heck, what I was told from other is to get over it and move on. Well, of course I took it well enough to be toughen up.
But still bullying is wrong and many people may not take it well and some can even lead to PTSD maybe. Not all of us are capable to endure this type of trauma."
Joseph Tan wrote, "This is BS my kid always got bullied and come back crying all the time. The teacher and counselor cannot do anything about it. Worst still, I have to pick her up everyday because she is scared of getting ambushed outside school."
Chng Louis wrote, "Singapore schools report ' very few ' incidents of bullying : Ng XX. Anybody with some form of intelligence and common sense will tell you this is obvious. Would any individual or institution report something that is detrimental to their future advancement? Only Ex-paper generals don't think at all."
Vani Gunasegaran wrote, "My nephew is also being bullied for his skin colour . When the matter was brought up to teacher, she ostracised him further, for example, when he goes to the teacher to clear his doubt, she tells him to get back to his seat and not going to entertain him. When we want to bring it up to the Principal, my nephew begs us not to. In fear that he has to go through worse treatment. So even teachers are bullies. A few incidents from each school will pool to a large number. I really hope there will be some help from such bullied students because it is really pity them for having to go through this at a very young age."
Edward Tan wrote, "Hello, Minister Ng Chee Meng! How few is very few and why is it only very few.? Come on you are being paid to do everything about this report about only very few!"
司徒凱文 wrote, "Because there is no proper channel of reporting bullying incident for school.
Most of the time the school discipline community just settle it internally and sweep it under the carpet.
Open your eyes It's everywhere."
How Keen Meng wrote, "Code of conduct is the same. What is the problem now is that teachers today, some only, are not like teachers of old days. Why yah? It seems the ministry just talk talk. No experience I assumed."
Ryan Ong wrote, "Are you sure? I got bullied for 4 years from students and teachers alike (including the principal, just so you know). If not for the fact that my family prefers treating the school like a god than their own blood and forced to sign a ridiculous contract to not post anything that happened to me in school on Facebook. I am pretty sure that I would have been able to bring us "silent victims" an accurate limelight of this issue."
PEter Liew wrote, "Social media report more accurate then reserved/elected/dictated figures they want you to know. Student suicide rate - alarming if you know the answer but hush hush - go find out yourself quietly."
Lao Mengrai wrote, "Very few reported? Yeah lah, because the victim is scared to report while bystanders/classmates bo chiap or scared kana whack also."
Doris Seah wrote, "Most school do not report out when there is a school bully unless someone post in on social media. School normally want their reputation so definitely cover up. MOE will not be informed so "very few"? Because MOE does not know about it unless social media report it then."
芩欢喜 wrote, "No report doesn’t mean no incidents happen. We’re not fools."
Cheng Kim Seng wrote, "See no evil hear no evil and everything will be swept under the carpet."
However, Mr Beng Chye Koh remind parents to do their part too. He wrote, "上梁不正下梁歪.
If the parents can teach and educate their kids for proper manner, there is no need for MOE or SPF to educate them. If everything leave it to the civil servants, then what does the parent do?"