This is the first post of the series. 

The recent cases of bullying at Shuqun Secondary School and death of of a Spectra Secondary female student due to possible bullying sparked a huge furore and widespread concern among the local parents. What was interesting for the first case was that there were the victim apparently knew martial arts but chose not to retaliate. Rather, he was painted as someone of mental strength as he ‘chose to suffer’ rather than to return blows to hurt the boy. The second interesting tidbit was that the adjunct teacher was actually present all along … so why did he let the bullying take place?

There are many factors that take place here but it is difficult to explore all in one post.

Thus, this is a series of posts on the perception of bullying in Singapore. 

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Bullying is one of the hardest things children have to go through. It seems to take place everywhere… from preschools to universities and even at work.  I’m sure that you may know someone, or even yourself, to be a victim of bullying. When I was teaching, I encountered several cases of bullying reported by both students as well as teachers. In the past, bullying was confined to the physical environments such as schools. Now, with the explosion of social media, cyberbullying has become extremely rampant among the students and adults.

When I spoke to the victims involved, I realised that there are generally 3 categories they would fall in. They would be:

(a) believing that bullying is a norm

(b) learning to cope or live it as they happen to be ‘sway’ (unlucky)

(c) feeling tormented by it

When bullying occurs, there are usually bystanders involved. What is interesting is that teachers are usually oblivious to most of the bullying in schools – sometimes by choice (but more on this on a later post).

Types of Bullying

What are the types of bullying that take place in primary and secondary schools? The bullying tactics would be:

  • made fun of, insulted or be called names
  • rumours spread about them
  • threatened with harm
  • pushed, shoved, trupped, slapped or spit on
  • forced to do things they do not want
  • excluded from activities on purpose
  • had their property destroyed or stolen on purpose
  • cyberbullying

Why do Schools not Notice the Bullying? 

There are many reasons why bullying occur and sometimes they just slip past teachers. Here are some case studies:

Student A was always deemed as the troublemaker in Secondary 1. He tried to get attention by doing strange things or even not handing up homework. Needless to say, he incurred the ire of both his form teacher as well as students. The teacher started picking on him for small matters as he was irritated by Student A and the male students in class began to follow. Unsure of what to do, Student A continued his tirades and only smiled in response.  By Secondary 2, Student A decided to clean up his act but the form teacher and classmates did not let up. However, as the year went by, the jeering became too loud and it was only then he seek help from the new co-Form Teacher assigned to his class. Only when the new teachers spoke to the class and they admitted he had improved that they let him off. 

Student B had always seen herself as the “big sister” of the school as it was amusing and to protect herself. She would cut queues of younger students or make them buy things for her. She claimed that she was not a bully as she had never believed in harming people physically. She believed that differences among her friends and those outside her clique should be settled via ‘slaps’ or ‘catfights’. While teachers were aware she could be a handful, she made sure never to let the teachers find out of what she had done. 

Student C was a very pretty but quiet girl. When she unwittingly attracted the attention of a boy which an extremely popular girl had her eye on, the latter made sure to spread rumours, excluded her from activities and called her mean names. What was worse was that  they were from the same class. When Student C told her parents, she was told to ignore it. However, as time went by, Student C started skipping classes so as not to face them. Somehow, Student C never thought of looking for a teacher. Her friends did not suggest it even though they were aware of her problems. 

Student D had many issues at home. Angered and overwhelmed, he changed for the worse when he was in Secondary 2. For some reason, he felt the thrill of hitting students. He hung out with another student and they hid in the dark corners to pounce on unsuspecting students to punch them squarely on the jaws to show a strength of might. It was not until the victim’s parents saw the bruises that the school was notified. 

These cases are very common. In fact, it can be found across the globe. In the next post, we take a look at the statistics of victims of bullying in Singapore.