SINGAPORE – Last year, there were two bullying incidents per 1,000 primary school students, and five such incidents per 1,000 secondary school students, said Minister of State for Education Sun Xueling on Tuesday (May 11).
These proportions were the same in 2019, she told the House in response to a question from MP Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh) on the prevalence of hazing and bullying in Singapore’s schools.
Exact figures were not provided by the Ministry of Education (MOE). According to its latest Education Statistics Digest, there were a total of 235,039 primary students and 161,831 secondary students enrolled in 2019.
Last year, a case of bullying at Mee Toh School, involving Primary 5 pupils picking on a classmate, was widely shared and eventually condemned by then Education Minister Ong Ye Kung.
“MOE takes a serious view of bullying and hazing, and works with schools to send a clear message to all students that hurtful behaviour has no place in our schools,” said Ms Sun.
She noted that schools also monitor cyberspace to the best of their abilities.
“When schools come across incidents of hurtful behaviour online, they take immediate action to investigate the incident, carry out appropriate disciplinary actions, and provide counselling support for the students involved,” said Ms Sun.
“Peer support leaders also help to keep online spaces safe, positive, and alert teachers when needed. All students are taught the safe channels to report serious incidents, inappropriate practices or hurtful behaviours.”
She agreed with Mr Saktiandi that every bullying incident was one too many, and noted that it could warrant a range of penalties from corrective work orders to suspension.
“And if the student perpetrator is a source of threat and danger to other students, they (the schools) can consider expulsion, if necessary,” Ms Sun added.
In March this year, the Institute of Technical Education said it would expel a student caught on video physically and verbally bullying a fellow student.
The same month, a video of male students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) urinating on fellow students in a hazing ritual led to a police investigation.
Nominated MP Shahira Abdullah asked if MOE would consider teaching concepts of consent to youth at a younger age.
Ms Sun replied that there was no place for degrading behaviour in Singapore’s schools and institutes of higher learning (IHLs) – “even if the students were to find it fun”.
Instead, schools – from primary through to the IHLs – encourage and emphasise character and citizenship education, where students are taught the values of respect, care and empathy.
Ms Sun said students are also taught to recognise boundaries, and are reminded that should their actions and behaviour “overstep”, there can be disciplinary and even legal consequences.