THE Education Ministry is to be commended for finally appointing a high level Action Committee on Bullying, to adopt measures to ensure that bullying in schools does not worsen.
According to ministry statistics, 2.03% of students were involved in various disciplinary issues. Last year alone 111,895 students had disciplinary problems and 95,046 of them were from secondary schools. These are the students who are likely to be recruited as future gangsters. Is that what we want? Surely the figures are alarming enough to come up with more drastic measures to combat bullying in schools and curbing the number of future criminals being churned out from our education system?
It is laudable that a Key Performance Indicator has been set to reduce disciplinary problems among students from the present 0.4% to 0.02%. However the time frame has to be clearly stated and pursued relentlessly. Otherwise we will carry on with the same old apathy that has led to this bad situation!
I would propose that a report card should be presented to the public annually (or more frequently), on the Ministry’s progress in reducing bullying. Let the parents, students and people know. Complacent school heads should be penalised.
It’s reported that there were 2,906 bullying cases in 2014 and 3,448 cases in 2016. This could indicate a rising and worsening trend. I understand from my discussions with those in the know that there is some reluctance on the part of some heads of schools and teachers and even parents and especially students, to report on bullying. They often fear reprisals and revenge. Can the police provide more protection and confidence to teachers, parents and pupils?
Indeed, it is felt by many that bullying in schools and now even some universities, has become not only alarming but a destructive and debilitating issue of critical national significance. It affects the quality of school and college graduates and can have a negative impact on our future leaders. No wonder our education system is rated poorly by international standards. How can students perform well when there is fear and insecurity in so many of the 402 schools that the ministry has identified for its watch list for poor discipline? Why not name and shame these schools? I recall that at my school, Victoria Institution Kuala Lumpur, when we had problems of gangsterism we identified and shamed the culprits. This strategy worked very fast. But there has to be a strong will to beat the problem and no prevarication or politics in matters of discipline please.
Although the setting up of a ministry-level Action Committee on Bullying is welcome, it is not sufficient. There are, I suspect, some deep underlying socio-economic and even structural problems that must be addressed as a matter of high political will. We need a more comprehensive and holistic strategy to curb the bullying culture from growing.
Thus, I would propose that the Action Committee expand its terms of reference and scope of work to prepare a White Paper for Parliament. The White Paper could review the problem to Government and the people and their elected representatives, and propose various ways and means to reduce bullying in our education institutions.
Please listen to the people’s deep concerns over bullying in all its forms in our country today, and act fast to provide a better Malaysia for tomorrow!
TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM
Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies