We refer to recent letters on managing incidents of bullying in schools, and the concerns raised by the writers (Take concrete steps to end bullying, by Mr Ang Kwang Yong, March 1; Cane bullies to send strong message, by Mr Paul Chan Poh Hoi, and Teach kids to be more assertive to fight bullying, by Dr Thomas Lee Hock Seng, both published on March 5).
Schools are places for students to learn and grow. Students learn well when there is order and discipline. They also need care, encouragement and space to learn from mistakes and improve. A judicious balance creates an environment conducive for youth to develop positively.
Discipline in schools is an educative process that promotes positive student behaviour. It pairs discipline measures as a proxy for consequences of the poor choice made, with corrective counselling by trusted adults that helps students understand the consequences of their actions and take responsibility to not repeat their mistakes.
MOE provides schools with guidelines to formulate their discipline policies and school rules based on the student profile and needs. Caning is a disciplinary option for boys for serious offences. Other options such as detention, suspension and corrective community service are considered in combination or separately, depending on the circumstances of each case.
For young children, it is best to address the misbehaviour within the school, with strong support from their parents and teachers who know them better and can adopt developmentally appropriate measures to help them.
Our schools educate students on bullying through formal curriculum and school-based programmes.
Students learn social skills, empathy, respect and the impact of their actions on others. They are also taught that they have the responsibility as bystanders to speak up and support their peers who are bullied.
Our teachers also build positive and supportive relationships with their students. This encourages students to report bullying cases and seek help from their teachers. Reported cases of bullying are promptly investigated and the school will follow up with appropriate disciplinary actions, provide counselling support and engage the student's parents.
Instilling good values in students is a shared responsibility among parents, schools and the community. MOE will continue to work with other government agencies, community groups and parents to strengthen efforts in educating youth against bullying.
Liew Wei Li (Ms)
Deputy Director-General of Education (Schools) and Director of Schools
Ministry of Education