Bullying ‘second highest in world’


Bullying ‘second highest in world’

By MARTIN KAY – The Dominion Post | Monday, 15 December 2008

Kiwi children have reported the second highest incidence of bullying in the world, according to a major international report.

But the primary school teachers’ union is urging caution over the findings, which show New Zealand second only to Taiwan when it comes to children saying they have been hit, teased, stolen from or picked on.

Educational Institute president Frances Nelson said New Zealand had a high-profile focus on bullying, meaning Kiwi children were more likely to disclose incidents.

The Trends In International Mathematics and Science Study, which covered the equivalent of Year 5 pupils in nearly 40 countries, including 5000 from New Zealand, found Kiwi children reported incidences of bullying behaviour at twice the international average.

One in three Kiwi children said they were the victim of at least three of five tests to gauge safety in schools.

These were that during the past month:

Something of theirs was stolen.

They were shoved, hit or kicked by other pupils.

They were made to do something they did not want to.

They were made fun of or called names.

They were left out of activities.

Answering yes to three of the questions placed children in the low safety category. Taiwan, with 35 per cent, had the worst record, followed by New Zealand (33 per cent), Qatar (31 per cent), Tunisia (28 per cent) and Kuwait (27 per cent).

New Zealand also had the second lowest proportion, 25 per cent, of children in the high-safety category – those answering no to all five questions. Only Tunisia was lower.

The research was in a 2007 study conducted by the Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. It examined safety in schools to put maths and science achievement into a wider context.

It found New Zealand Year 5 pupils were doing worse in the subjects than more than half the other countries surveyed.

Miss Nelson said she was wary of reading too much into the safety findings though she stressed bullying was unacceptable.

“I do think that we need to be cautious about saying that we’re one of the highest bullying countries in the world, because I’m not sure that we are. I just think that we address it more regularly and kids are much more aware.

“I would strongly expect New Zealand children to report more frequently because they are encouraged to do so.”

Education Minister Anne Tolley said she wanted to see the report and the data it was based on. She did not think the previous government had done enough to deal with bullying, and planned to gather information from schools on what they were doing to spread best practice.

Labour education spokesman Chris Carter said the findings were a “shocking wake-up call” for the new government, and showed he had been right to boost anti-bullying resources for schools.

The move, which included check lists on how children could keep safe in schools, were criticised by Ms Tolley at the time. She said she stood by those criticisms.