We thank Mr Kelvin Seah (Better for all parties to work together to address bullying, March 20), Mr Timothy Liau (Teach students to develop empathy for others, March 20), Ms Florence Beckmann (Schools can't manage cases involving special needs kids, March 23), Ms Amy Loh (Don't wait for schools to teach empathy, March 23), Ms Sophia Tan (Teachers' moral right to teach empathy eroded by bullying parents, March 25), and Ms Joanne Pereira (Parents are the ones who determine kids' attitudes, March 25) for their feedback on tackling bullying in schools.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) and schools take a serious view of all incidences of hurtful behaviour, including bullying, regardless of whether the students involved have special educational needs (SEN). Schools take appropriate measures to address unkind behaviours and bullying.
Reports of alleged bullying are investigated promptly and appropriate disciplinary actions carried out.
Schools adopt an educational and restorative approach to help both victims and perpetrators learn from the incident and mend relationships. Parents, too, are engaged, and students involved are counselled.
Through the Character and Citizenship Education curriculum and school-based awareness programmes, schools guide students to be kind and caring. This extends to appreciating each other's strengths and needs, while being sensitive and understanding.
School-wide programmes that raise awareness of SEN also teach students to empathise with the challenges that others may face in school and in the community.
Dedicated personnel overseeing student well-being work together with teachers to establish a peer support culture where students are taught to help and support those who have been bullied, and the safe channels available to report bullying.
For example, initiatives such as the Circle of Friends aim to build an inclusive culture where students actively look out for one another, especially their peers with SEN.
All schools have teachers trained in special needs and allied educators (learning and behavioural support) to help students with SEN integrate into the school environment.
Where more specialised support is required, schools consult MOE psychologists and professionals for advice on supporting their students.
We agree with the writers that the work of instilling good values in our children must be a team effort, an iterative process which requires the close partnership of parents, schools and the community.
Thus, our schools work closely with parents to reinforce the values of respect and kindness, and instil in our children a deeper awareness of the needs of others and how their words and actions affect others.
Tan Chen Kee
Divisional Director, Student Development Curriculum Division, MOE
Divisional Director, Special Educational Needs Division, MOE